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Welcome to the second installment of my “Fitness in Kampala” series. This week, I’m taking on the big daddy of modern workout classes… yoga! No matter where you live in the world, you’ve at least heard of this ancient Indian practice created around breath, balance, and strength.

If you’ve never tried a yoga class, you don’t know what you’re missing. Before you write it off as merely an hour of breathing and deep stretching, know that yoga fits well into any workout routine. Whether you’re a hard-core CrossFit buff or an occasional neighborhood walker, you need to remember to take care of your body so that it can continue to perform well for you.

This is where yoga comes in. With classes ranging from gentle, restorative yoga, to the more intense, physically demanding Ashtanga-style class, there’s truly something for everyone!

The good news is that there’s no shortage of yoga classes in Kampala. In fact, I’d say that there is quite a large yoga community in this city. While the more mainstream studio classes are easy to find, there are several incredible, independent instructors around the city. This week, I researched various styles and classes, making it my mission to try two completely unique classes that are off-the-beaten path.

Restorative Yoga

First up, a restorative yoga class in the Kisementi area of town taught by a sweet Indian woman named JayJay. I don’t know about you guys, but the Kampala I live in can be incredibly hectic. Long boda rides work permanent knots in your back and the daily inefficiencies of handling simple tasks can drive an expat crazy! If those symptoms sound familiar, you need to de-stress and take a restorative yoga class from my new friend, JayJay.

She has been teaching yoga for 30 years and trained at the Bihar School of Yoga in India. Her class focuses on breathing patterns, a series of sun salutations, and leaves a little time at the end for yoga nidra, the practice of yoga relaxation where your body enters a meditative, sleep-like state helping rid the body of tension and anxiety.

JayJay teaches classes at her home in the Kisementi Shopping Center above The Crocodile Café on Tuesday nights from 5:45-7:15 p.m.  The top floor of her apartment is a large, open-air patio that allows you to practice yoga with continual fresh breeze while fixing your gaze during balance poses on the surrounding palm trees. Not too shabby!

Classes are 15,000 UGX for a 90-minute class. Because she teaches as more of a hobby and lifestyle, all proceeds from her classes go towards individual efforts to improve and support girl child education in Uganda. Yoga for a good cause? Why, yes, please!

I really enjoyed JayJay’s Tuesday night class. If you want a sweaty, intense workout—this is not the class for you.  However, I highly recommend trying out her class with the purpose of relieving stress, regaining balance and focus in your life, and a nice, deep stretch. Afterwards, I felt completely relaxed, refocused, and unwound and let me tell you this: I. Slept. Like. A. BABY!  JayJay will be traveling during July so her Tuesday night class will resume on August 6th.  In the meantime, she recommends her colleagues’’ classes (see complete schedule below).

Ashtanga Yoga

The second class I visited this week was Joyce’s Ashtanga Vinyasa class on Thursday mornings from 8:30-9:45 a.m. in Bukoto. Joyce teaches at different venues around town, but this particular class was at AnnaE’s studio across the road from Kampala International School.

Joyce has lived in Kampala for four years now but has only recently begun teaching yoga. During a break in between jobs, she spent a month livin’ the dream and getting certified as a yoga trainer in Southern India.

Her class proved to be a great strength workout and I found it pleasantly challenging (note the emphasis on pleasant. Her Thursday morning class is usually quite small, which enables Joyce to give individual attention to each yogi in her class. You feel like you’re in a personal training session because she offers helpful corrections and keeps a close eye on your form!  Joyce is great at assessing the skill level of each of her classes and customizes the session to fit the students. In other words, you won’t be doing the “upside-down, full-body pretzel” as a beginner.

Joyce’s classes are 75-minutes and cost 25,000 UGX.  While this is on the high-end of yoga pricing in Kampala, I really think it’s worth it for the workout you receive.  For some, this may easily fit in your weekly budget and, for others, it may have to be an occasional treat!

Finally, as a gift to you for reading my long article, I’ve put together a weekly list of current yoga classes in Kampala. Hopefully, this will be a resource that provides the motivation you need to get off your couch and onto the mat! I found all of the instructors to be easy to reach by email or phone so contact them with any questions.

In the words of a true yogi: “ I’ll see you on the mat!