For a small city, Phnom Penh offers a diverse range of possibilities for yoga fans. Whether you’re a devoted yogini or yet to bend your limbs to anything resembling a cow pose, the scope is here to extend your practice or try out something completely new, safe in the knowledge that no one you know can see you.
The longest-running centre in Phnom Penh is Nataraj Yoga, on Street 322 between Street 63 and Monivong. It’s also an NGO and they run programmes providing yoga training and life skills for young Cambodians, and a yoga therapy programme. In the past, they’ve also run a yoga teacher training programme for victims of trafficking. We encountered first hand the results of that programme when we interviewed one of the graduates a few years ago and our minds were blown, completely, by the powerful, in control, resolute and centred young woman that we met.
For the public, Nataraj runs daily classes at the site on Street 322 and also at Samata, health and wellness centre (and spa), on nearby Street 306. The classes range from yoga basics, through flow, Iyengar, Kundalini and Ashtanga, and cost $9 for drop-ins, or you could try the unlimited one-week yoga class pass for just $30 to really kickstart your programme, or a 10-class pass costs $80. They host regular workshops here as well, so check out their website for information on any upcoming events.
The studios on Street 302 are open- or partially open-air, though protected from the elements, and quite simple. They provide yoga mats free of charge, but you should bring a towel and a water bottle — which you can refill for free. They have showers and changing rooms on site. If you require air-con, then the Samata site is much more upscale, and has a beautiful studio. Prices are the same.
On the other side of Norodom, a relative newbie — though the owners have been teaching in Phnom Penh for several years now — is Yoga Phnom Penh. Here they have completely remodelled the downstairs of a lovely Khmer villa to create a dedicated studio with space for around 16 people. We recommend getting there early during popular classes (such as Saturday morning) to secure your spot.
They teach regular weekday classes, a powerful Saturday morning wake-up session, and two classes on Sundays. The cost for a drop-in class is $9, or you can pick up a five-class pass for $40, or a 10-class pass for $75. The classes range from soothing hatha, yin flow or Vinyasa flow basics to more dynamic power core. They’re also the only studio in town that offer fly yoga classes, using ropes and swings to help you achieve deeper postures safely, and dynamically. Ashtanga is also offered.
The setting is modern, and fan-cooled. They provide yoga mats for free, and a small towel. You can bring a water bottle which you can fill for free. There are showers and changing rooms as well. They are on a small residential lane behind the trendy Bassac Lane and Street 308. If you turn on to 308 from Norodom, take the first right after the row of bars and restaurants, then you’ll do a quick right and quick left to take you on to Street 21, which is a lovely spot. Continue down for just over 250 metres, and it’s on your right side. Moto drivers will not know what you’re talking about, so carry instructions.
If air-con is non-negotiable for you, then you may want to consider The Place, the imposing three-storey gym on Street 51. This is where Phnom Penh’s hot shots go to sweat it out, some a little less effectively than elegantly, but it’s their money. And money is key here. The classes are $15. If you want to pay for a whole month, you can do so for just $180. A staff member helpfully explained that this is actually only $6 a day, if you come every day. We smiled. We’d just come out of the dynamic yoga class, which nearly killed us. Doing that every day for a month would reduce us to a whimpering, streamlined mess. They also offer hot yoga, flow, hatha, stretching, Ashtanga, power and gentle yoga classes.
And there’s a bit of a trick with the air-con. For the dynamic yoga class, the instructor, who must have had military training somewhere, turned it off. After five minutes, we were in a state of sweaty disgustingness. It’s one of the hottest non-Bikram classes we’ve ever taken part in. We did, however, feel great the next day; we just wish we’d remembered to bring a towel.
The Place is beautiful, as you would expect for those prices. The changing rooms are all polished dark wood and smoky mirrors that everyone looks good in and hairdryers and things like that. You can ease out your muscles in the 25-metre outdoor pool afterwards if you like. They provide towels — don’t forget to collect one at reception — and water, and yoga mats are included.
They also offer aerobics, Zumba and Khmer dancing. We can personally and strongly recommend the Metafit classes which somehow cram a whole lot of energy and work into a short but powerfully effective 30-minute class.
Nataraj Yoga: #52, Street 302, BKK1; T: (012) 250 817, (090) 311 341; www.yogacambodia.com.
Yoga Phnom Penh: #39, Street 21, Tonle Bassac; T: (012) 739 419; www.yogaphnompenh.com
The Place: #11, Street 51, BKK1; T: (023) 726 999; www.theplace-gym.com.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 16th February, 2016.