Living in Hanoi, the pollution is very real. It’s in your face and lying in our lungs. How does this affect your yoga practice you might be wondering? Let’s go through some of the things I focus on to overcome yoga in the city.
If you’ve never heard of Hanoi’s ‘Weatherdude’ you should check him out, he posts updates regularly on what’s coming over from China and what we’re dealing with on a daily basis. Sometimes, Hanoi is ranked in the top 10 of most polluted cities on EARTH?!?!
Things you can do to overcome this, unfortunately, include not taking your practice outside during these times. The air can be so heavy it limits your breath and even if you can overcome that, you don’t want to be inhaling deeply with so many pollutants in the air.
- Practise inside
- Use air purifying plants in your home (Aloe, Spider plants and Snake plants being some of the cheapest and easiest to keep alive)
- Have an air purifier in your home or use a studio that uses air purification systems
- Practice Pranayama and breath work in the early hours of the morning before the city has truly come to life
Driving far to work, or even just a few KM out of town, during rush hour especially, can send your heart rate and your nervous system out of whack.
- Prepare yourself if you know your journey is a stressful one. Take a few minutes before you leave home and guide yourself. Set your intention for your journey – I will drive with peace/ You’re not the only person in a rush/ Everybody makes mistakes – this ones a great mantra around 6pm!
- Listen to music. I realise this isn’t great advice but Hanoi is the land of the lawless: Happy Vibes = Happy Rides
- LEAVE EARLY!
You can’t escape it. Hanoi is in a boom phase and construction is on every street. Traffic is growing as more cars are imported into the city and it’s sort of customary to just shout when you could speak. Finding peaceful spots is possible though.
We have these beautiful lakes, the banana plantation, the dried up river banks in Long Bien and so many accessible places just outside of the city. Although, if you work 6 days a week like most of us do, those things aren’t always an everyday option so here’s a few alternatives:
- Find your style of ambient music, Tibetan Sound Healing/ Reiki/ Crystal Sound Baths. These things are all on Youtube and Spotify
- Pick a time of the day when the noise is at a low to reasonable level and practise observing your breath. If that’s too difficult with the chattering of the mind, control your breath using a simple Pranayama practice (Pranic Rhythmic Breathing is my recommended) and observe, how many times are you distracted with the outside world?
- Come back to your breath. Slowly start turning the music down as this practice continues throughout the weeks, until you can become aware of the outside noise without giving your attention to it,. Even if you break your concentration, you can just come back to the breath.
A lot of people I work with teach English and this can come with more unsociable hours than most would believe. Sleep is so important. We move quickly, the coffee in this city is like rocket fuel and being on the bikes all the time can lead to a lot of heart pumping moments. Your body needs time to eat and recover. Start building a bedtime ritual and aim for a good 7-9 hours sleep a night. Wake up and drink a full glass of water, then start your day.
Hanoi, like most of Asia, has a strong eat out culture. The food is cheap and delicious. If you live in the district of Tay Ho, we have everything imaginable at our fingertips but where do you spend your $?
Being vegetarian or vegan has never been easier with $2 buffets all over the place. However, keep in mind these places can also use a lot of oil and MSG. Try cooking at home, take a clean salad as an option once in a while, pasta bakes or check out your local market – it will have more than you know what to do with. If it’s kitchen equipment holding you back, check out Lazada.vn. You can get food processors for $7 and ovens for 500,000 VND. This is probably the cheapest place to become a domestic goddess, so don’t hold yourself back.
These are just a few things that come to mind when I think about how to overcome some of the issues city dwellers are dealing with. If you incorporate one or two new practices into your life, stay aware to the effect your day to day mindset, if it inspires you further on your wellness journey, or if you need to tweak the practice to better suit your situation.
Is the city becoming too much? Thinking about taking a travelling holiday or even just popping out of town? Yoga while travelling may seem difficult but there are ways to get around it.
Whatever you do, breath, laugh, love, enjoy the life you live in the place your feet are grounded.