The Argentine OM factor

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Yoga in Argentina

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Riding a wave of US and European visitors since its 2001 economic crisis, Argentina is in the midst of a well-documented tourist boom. Trendy fusion restaurants, boutique designer stores, and uber-modern Puerto Madero clubs and hotels now augment Buenos Aires’s famous all-night tango milongas, French Architecture, and world-renowned beef. The cafes of Recoleta and Palermo are full of the sounds of English, German, and French guests, adding their voices to the ever-present buzz of Argentine castellano.

Now, Buenos Aires has added “OM” (pronounced, “Ohhh-emmmm”) – the universal sound of Eastern meditation practice – to its lexicon.

Yoga has officially taken flight.

Body-conscious porteños (the locals) have always been passionate about sports and dancing. Buenos Aires’ parks are full of running, biking, roller blading, and – during summer weekends – free aerobic classes. Countless clubs and public facilities offer clay court tennis, swimming, paddle sports and fútbol (soccer).

This convergence of seasoned travelers from the US and Europe, many of them experienced practitioners of yoga, with Argentina’s already sporty culture, made it fertile ground for the introduction of the global healthy lifestyle movement (Argentina banned smoking indoors in November 2006).

Yoga Argentina

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As a result, in step with the tourist boom, numerous integrated yoga centers have opened throughout the city’s more fashionable neighborhoods. Previously, yoga was thought of as light stretching – mostly recommended for the aged who couldn’t cope with anything more rigorous than a sideways bend. But now, with nearly all styles of yoga available in Buenos Aires, porteños and extranjeros are taking note and adding yoga to their already active lives.

You can, too – if you know where to look. Bring your Spanish dictionary or simply follow along with your neighbors. The majority of classes are taught in castellano (although some English classes can be found), but if you’re a veteran yogini, you’ll recognize the sankrit names, and have no trouble fitting in.

Below is a description of some of the city’s new centers. Another option is private instruction, which is often extremely affordable for the foreign traveler – a 1.5 hour one-on-one lesson frequently costs less than a group class in your home country! So if you visit a class and your instructor has buena onda (Spanish for “good vibes”), don’t hesitate to ask about private classes. Most group classes cost 30-40 pesos for a drop-in, or you can buy a one month pass for between 100-150 pesos depending on how frequently you want to go.

Options include:

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Center

Located in lower Belgrano a few blocks from Chinatown in a converted one story piache – a one story antique building that looks small from the front but extends way back towards the center of the block when you enter. They offer traditional Mysore ashtanga classes – some with an instructor present to offer tips and call out the postures and others where you flow through the series on your own. The vibe is serious and serene. Not for beginners but may be just what the practiced yogi mid-way through a harried vacation needs – a place and space.

Chakra Mio

Located in Palermo Hollywood and also housed in a newly renovated piache. The place is owned by two friendly Argentine women. Their goal is to create a community yoga center accessible to everyday Argentines (and expats and tourists) that may not be as familiar with Sanskrit chants and OM’s. Painted in inviting pastels and offering a range of yoga classes (in English and Spanish) along with pilates, prenatal yoga, yoga for children and massage.
Soler 5517, Tel: 4772-4123

Vida Natural

Located in Barrio Norte west of ritzy Recoleta, housed in a remodeled three-story French building with tall ceilings and glistening wood floors. They offer Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga style yoga (all taught in Spanish) and feature Tibetan drum performances once a month on Friday evenings. There’s a clean quiet zen atmosphere and the light filled studios make for peaceful practicing.

Valle Tierra

Just opened last fall. This starkly modern yoga centers sits in trendy Palermo Soho facing one of the most trafficked pedestrian squares. Its two story building sparkles with glass and concrete, waterfalls and a bookstore/gift shop of new age music, books and yoga accessories. They offer a range of yoga styles along with ayurvedic massage and meditation.

Ambi Alexander is a writer and teaches Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Prenatal yoga in Buenos Aires.

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