In one of two upstairs studios at Moon Yoga, a dreamy Indian raga fades as the students take their places in preparation for a Wednesday morning ball yoga class. Magda Nowicka, owner and certified yoga expert, begins the class in a stance fit to rival an ancient Greek statue. Her feet are planted wide apart and she is raising a giant plastic ball above her head with both hands. Nowicka is small, but her muscle definition is prominent from head to toe. Even the firm grasp she holds the ball with shows her strength. Her voice is a mixture of warmth and rasp, like honey being poured over sand. “Inhale and lengthen the spine,” she says. “Exhale to feel more grounded. Inhale again and try to collect all your worries and tension in your mind. On your next exhale, let it all go and focus on your breath.”
Wise words for the start of any day, but particularly fitting for a ball yoga class, a series of strengthening and balance exercises which Nowicka expertly demonstrates over the next hour. The students obey her every directive, with a few giggles here and there when their balls escape and go bouncing away. They respond to their teacher’s energy, which is light and contagious. Nowicka is also playfully stern and doesn’t let her pupils get away with giving up. “I didn’t say to stop,” she scolds one student with just the right amount of sass. Said student about faces and snaps back into position.
Nowicka later explains that there is a method to the madness as she prefers to transition from easier postures into more difficult ones. In general, she wants students to explore classes at Moon Yoga in their own way. “I want them [students] to experience what they want to experience. If you want to get fit or get a flat belly, then come to core yoga or if you want to relax for a more mindful practice then come to yin yoga.”
Moon Yoga prides itself in offering a range of yoga styles including but not limited to Core, Yin, Ashtanga, Hatha, Restorative and Balance. It employs 12 qualified teachers and sits in an easily accessible location in the heart of Ba Dinh. Although the doors at this location have been open for over three years, the evolution of Moon Yoga itself was fairly fast. In fact, classes began in a spare room at her previous residence. It was just big enough for eight students though, and the growing demand soon outpaced Nowicka’s availability. Also, the daily crowd of motorbikes started to bug her neighbors, which was nothing to say of her husbands’ growing annoyance at a constant trail of budding yogis traipsing through their living room.
Luckily, push soon turned to shove and here we are at the Moon Yoga of today. The building strikes as all at once grand and inviting upon entry. Tucked at the very end of its alley, the bottom floor reads as a spacious living and dining area, the main differences being it houses a small shop and a salad bar which also serves little treats, teas and smoothies. There’s a large sofa for lounging, hanging plants, and even a piano. Students mill about the space looking relaxed and satisfied after having taken class. A smiling receptionist sits at the head of it all.
“Sometimes I feel so hectic coming from another place because driving here makes you so anxious. But the moment I get to class and ring the bell it calms me down and after the class I feel reset.”
Interior decoration goals already in the bag, it makes sense that Nowicka is now mostly concerned with providing the best classes possible and the challenges she faces as an instructor. She lists one such challenge as “teaching so many people from different countries and different bodies. (But), the biggest challenge is recognizing people’s needs. I try to see what those needs are, and then make recommendations.” Recommendations aside, Nowicka wants to make clear the overarching benefits to yoga: “I really believe that yoga can help people deal with anxiety, deal with personal problems and traumas and build confidence. If my students can feel that, that’s the biggest reward for me.”
Nowicka doesn’t just dole out the medicine though. She’s enriched by it too. “Sometimes I feel so hectic coming from another place because driving here makes you so anxious. But the moment I get to class and ring the bell it calms me down and after the class I feel reset.”
She views yoga holistically as she first fell in love with yoga in India, where in ancient times yoga ’seers’ used the practice as a way of joining the material with the spiritual world. These spiritual origins have aided Nowicka in gaining a deeper understanding of yoga and drives her to continue. She particularly remembers how one teacher during an Ashtanga certification course gave her a better understanding of how yoga can connect the mind with the body.
“The teacher was talking about the breath and the connection between the breath and the practice. Even without knowing much about philosophy then, I could feel that connection and I could feel that the breath through the movement changed the way my mind processed the practice. — From that time I dedicated my life to practice yoga … mostly every day,” she laughs.
It isn’t necessary to visit Moon Yoga every day to witness the good it provides for the community (especially the expat one). One student remarks on how the studio makes her feel at home and how the attendees have become “like a little family.” Yet, with the potential physical, mental and spiritual gains there are more than enough reasons to try it, and thankfully ample opportunities to do so. Nowicka is currently offering unlimited yoga for 3 months at 2.4 mil, 6 months at 4.2 mil and 12 months at 6 million. Her long term plan is to open another location in the city and even one in Hoi An.
Van Bao 49, House 8, Ba Dinh,
098 136 72