Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Mind Over Matter

The spiritual and emotional benefits of Pilates and yoga are as important as the physical

Words: Catharine Nicol
Photos: Nic Gaunt

While recent health trends have targeted extreme gyms and the competitive Crossfit community, the other end of the fitness spectrum shows the synergy of mental health with body awareness is picking up significant traction. While students of Pilates and yoga may be initially attracted to the physical practice, increasing numbers stay on for the opportunity to pause and tune in to their mental and emotional states. The benefits of listening in are long-term, and offer the perfect antidote to life’s daily pressures.

“Most people don’t listen to their bodies,” says David Leung, Pilates, Gyrotonic and Somatics instructor at the hotel. “The human body as a blueprint gives all kinds of instructions but sometimes we forget to listen and sometimes we don’t know how to, but the cultivation of body awareness is very important.”

So important the hotel is expanding its dedicated yoga and Pilates studios this year, to provide more space and equipment for the growing numbers of Hongkongers and guests seeking mental and spiritual calm, as well as body balance, posture and strength.

Yoga helps bring clarity, says instructor Yogesh Varun (top), while Pilates instructor David Leung (bottom) says we should listen to our bodies more

Benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach
Pilates is currently going through a popularity surge as city-weary citizens, increasingly men, turn to Josef Pilates’ practice to undo the desk-slouching, bag-carrying, sports-straining effects of their modern lifestyles.

Leung, who has been teaching for 13 years at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, is renowned for offering far more than simply a Pilates class. His life-long research into human wellness has led him to appreciate the similarities between modalities like Pilates, yoga, Gyrotonic (merging yoga, dance and tai chi), and the internal practice of Somatics.

“My class is new every time because I create the class as we move along and my students’ bodies are in a constant state of flux,” he says. “This takes interdisciplinary knowledge that comes from truthful movement research, rather than buying into trends.”

Over his two decades of teaching experience he has mostly seen neck, shoulder, lower back and knee issues. Today’s two most damaging habits? Sitting and using personal electronics.

“Look at Buddhism and Taoism; sitting is a practice,” he points out. “But prolonged periods of unaware sitting creates issues in the lower extremities, starting in the hip joints.”

And when it comes to smartphones and other gadgets, he says the overuse of muscles used for focusing, scrolling and texting on these tiny screens leads to a loss of dexterity and has repercussions on the thumbs and index fingers, as well as the shoulders, neck and spine.

Pilates and yoga equipment

Yoga’s body-mind-spirit connection
The studio’s yoga instructor, Yogesh Varun, emphasises the combination of both physical and mental benefits in his classes, pointing out, “Yoga keeps the body and mind flexible and stress-free, raising self-awareness and bringing clarity.”

He has been teaching in the city for 13 years and can’t help but notice the evolution in Hongkongers and guests, seeing they are in need of the spiritual balance yoga gives too.

Yoga may be an ancient practice, but he believes the time-honoured traditions of asana, breathing and meditation can help with the sometimes overwhelming demands of today’s world. “Yoga is a lifestyle that totally uplifts the spirit and has become more and more popular because of its holistic benefits,” he emphasises.

Both instructors help their clients move mindfully from a feeling of physical and mental stagnation to enhanced energy, mental peace and spiritual freedom – the ideal sanctuary in the city.

For reservations, please email or call +852 2132 0011


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