Alli Kuschel focusses on Yoga Joy Saigon and their mission to create a space in District 7 for everyone to improve their lives, and communities. Photos by Vinh Dao.

Yoga and mindfulness practice seems to be on many people’s radars lately. Often life in Ho Chi Minh City can feel extremely stressful, if not overwhelming for many of us. Especially those of us not yet accustomed to the ‘Saigon way of life’.

Considering the pressure and stresses from nearly every aspect of our lives these days, it is important to take time to care for ourselves. A yogic practice is not only a great way to exercise our bodies, but also to feel better mentally. The right yoga studio can be tough to find, however.

Yoga Joy Saigon is a new studio in town, offering something for the whole family, and it is totally worth checking out, whether for you personally, your newborn baby, older child, teenager or even pregnant Mums looking for a way to keep spry and prepared for childbirth and the effort thereafter.

Yoga Joy Saigon is a small, family-based yoga studio and wellness center located in District 7 – Phu My Hung neighbourhood.

What sets this place apart is the variety of classes on offer, as well as the strong community feel the studio creates. It honestly feels as if one is coming over to a good friend’s home.

The space sports a nice lounge area next to the studio, allowing students and family members to come together after or before classes. A relaxing space fit for chit-chatting and connecting on anything that students feel passionate about. While many yoga studios have morphed into physical fitness-focussed dens, Yoga Joy Saigon is much more than a place to stop in for a workout. It’s like a relaxation and recharging station for your body and mind.

The idea of opening a yoga studio came to owners, Alison Lockwood and husband, Vanh Nguyen, after the birth of their twin boys.

Alison is an expat from Boston and has three children. She really felt, after living in Vietnam and feeling a bit isolated, that she was missing out on an important opportunity to bond and connect with her children, as well as with other parents in her community.

“My sister and my friends back home would talk about all the mummy-baby classes and activities they were attending, and I really felt sad, like I was missing out on an irreplaceable time with my children,” Lockwood said. “I couldn’t find any activities like that for me and my family here in District 7.”

Lockwood had been teaching yoga for children in some of the international schools around town, and had great success with these classes, but she still felt a strong desire to create a place where parents and children could connect with each other and other families in a positive way.

I was curious as to how Alison got involved in teaching yoga in Vietnam.

“Well, after working in public schools for a long time as well as international schools here, I decided I wanted to get back to working with kids, but not quite in the typical classroom setting. So, about a year and a half ago I started teaching kids classes at my daughter’s preschool, and the kids and parents loved it. The response from the kids was basically.. amazing.”

So, Lockwood, with the help of her family, as well as a strong support system of friends and fellow yogis, decided to get the ball rolling on a space for the local community that she felt was really missing: Yoga Joy Saigon.

Lockwood graciously thanks her husband, Van, for all of his support and continued help. She also attributes a lot of her confidence and better understanding of a personal practice to Hang Nhan and Sarah Martin of Saigon Om, a wellness training group based out of Ho Chi Minh City.

“Two great mentors I have had here [in Saigon] are Hang and Sarah of Saigon Om,” Lockwood says. “They really have helped me grow a lot on my journey. They have showed me so much about the importance of acceptance and tranquility in my yoga practice, and I love to pass that down to my students as well.”

Most recently, Yoga Joy Saigon has been steadily offering a wide range of classes for future and new mums.

Alison really placed importance on this aspect of her studio because of how much yoga helped her after pregnancy.

“I began practicing after giving birth to my twin boys, who are just 18-months younger than my daughter. So, understandably so, I was feeling really run-down, overwhelmed, and tired. So, I googled “chair-yoga” because I was too scared, too tired to even try a standing pose. Eventually it progressed to a much stronger home practice.”

Prenatal classes, breastfeeding support classes, baby massage classes and storytime yoga for mums and babies. There are so many options for new mums or dads to come and bond with their child in a new way. This space really allows new moms and dads to come together as a support system for each other, which can be difficult in a big city, especially one you don’t originally call home.

Recently, Alison and her team have expanded their yoga offerings to include adult classes as well as teen mindfulness classes. As the communities interests and needs change, Lockwood feels it important to grow and change with it.

As time goes on, and families are getting more comfortable with yoga, and as their children are growing older, Yoga Joy Saigon is offering new and ever-changing ideas to fit their needs.

As far as future plans, Alison will continue to grow her prenatal programme, as well as strengthening the newly offered adult classes. Basically, she hopes to involve the entire family unit at her centre in the best ways possible.

“I took up yoga in my late 30’s, so I hope to be a positive influence for mums or dads here in Saigon, because I want people to know that you don’t have to do any of the advanced poses to feel amazing after a yoga class,” Lockwood assures.

“You don’t have to fit any of the stereotypes that we assume about a yogi. It’s really for everybody. And the benefits are so amazing for us all. Baby steps brought me here.”

And perhaps baby steps will bring you to the front door of Yoga Joy Saigon with an interest in physical, mental and spiritual health for you and your family in District 7.

Drop in to Yoga Joy Saigon at No. 14, P Street, Panorama, Phu My Hung, District 7. Ho Chi Minh City or check out their website: yogajoysaigon.com.