Interviews » Practicing Yoga in Lisbon: A Q&A with Zoe Taylor

October 3, 2017 by Ellis Dixon

Practicing Yoga in Lisbon: A Q&A with Zoe Taylor

When it comes to keeping in shape, sometimes you just need to down your dog, exalt your warrior, and follow it all up with a Namaste. We were curious to find out what kinds of yoga studios there are around Lisbon, what makes them different, and what we could expect if we joined one, so we went straight to a pro for guidance.

Former Australian banking guru, Zoe Taylor, traded her briefcase for a yoga mat five years ago, and hasn’t looked back. She founded the Ministry of Yoga near Rossio Square and has since gained a following of dedicated yogistas and has become part of a growing community of studios within the city. Aside from telling us her story, she gave us some helpful tips on what’s out there and how you can find them.

How and why did you start practicing yoga? It started after I moved from Hobart (Tasmania) to Melbourne in 2010. I made the move to the bigger Australian city to gain more experience in life, pursue my banking career, study an MBA, and shift out of my comfort zone. I joined a gym to keep in shape by trudging a treadmill four days a week and decided to restore with two weekly yoga classes. I soon discovered yoga wasn’t just restorative, it strengthened the legs, core, arms, and shoulders, improved cardio (I could run and swim better), increased flexibility AND most importantly, it gave me an hour twice each week where I could de-stress.

Yoga made me feel good inside and out. It’s fair to say my weeks began to revolve around my yoga practice. By 2012, it had become an enjoyable part of my everyday life. It was then my teacher suggested a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with YOGA NRG Australia where I studied for over 12 months in 2013.

What brought you here to Lisbon? During that year of training I took a three-month career break from the bank and travelled Asia and Europe for yoga and leisure (interchangeable) until I arrived in Portugal for a retreat near Coimbra. Afterwards, I caught up with friends in Porto and Lisbon and I soon decided I wanted to live in Lisbon. I asked myself, “but what would I do here?” The answer was pretty obvious: what I loved most, YOGA. I arrived here in July 2015 and started teaching yoga the following January.

What is the most practiced type of yoga in Lisbon? Lisbon has some fabulous long running traditional Hatha yoga practices set up here, including Ashtanga, Sivananda, and Iyengar as well as some modern-day yoga of Vinyāsa, Yin, and Hot Yoga. It would be hard to say which one is the most popular, however it’s safe to say that there is a growing interest in experiencing the benefits of yoga. So, whether you try a number of styles or a number of teachers, eventually you will find one that fits.

I heard Hot Yoga was actually a bit dangerous. What are your thoughts on it? Hot yoga is a growing trend and I did give it a 2 month trial whilst I was living in Melbourne. I feel if you are going to form an opinion on something, its always best to try it firsthand. I can only speak of personal experience rather than medical research into hot yoga practice. For me it was a way of emulating the sweaty hot experience of yoga in India. When I was last in Rishikesh, (India) the temperature soared to 42 degrees daily, no aircon just the river to cool off in. Every practice was in extreme heat— it really felt like I had a sweat “detox” daily, purifying from inside and out.

The downside was I would become dehydrated and often, headaches and nausea would follow. What I found when practicing Hot Yoga in Melbourne was the same feeling of sweat detox but if I didn’t drink 2-3 litres of water prior to practice I would walk away feeling sick. I decided to not continue with Hot Yoga as I wanted the practice to be enjoyable and leave me feeling good regardless of my daily water intake.

What’s the most frequently asked question you get from a new client? “I am not that flexible, can I do yoga?” My response is, “Perfect! That is a great motivator to begin doing yoga — to gain mobility in the body.” Everyone’s body is unique. We all have things we are naturally good at and things that challenge us, not just physically. Yoga helps us to discover these. Building self esteem and reducing the ego are by-products of yoga. Being your best unique self is the ultimate goal.

Where do you practice yoga when you want to be outside? I like to practice yoga on short grass outside. The beach is fun, but soft sand is not practical for the feet, ankles, hands and wrists. If I’m at the beach, I choose a level spot with harder sand and only use a towel rather than a yoga mat as it can be a little too slippery and the rubber disintegrates faster from salt and sand.

Ministry of Yoga headquarters near Rossio Square

What are studios you could recommend around town? I have met a number of teachers around town and attended a few of their classes during my first six months in Lisbon. There is Arjuna Yoga Anjos (Sivananda Style), Casa Vinayasa and Yoga Lisboa (both Ashtanga), Hot Pod Yoga Lisboa (Hot Yoga), Foodprintz Café (Jivamutki), and Little Yoga Space (various styles). There is also a group of Acro Yogis who practice in the parks of Lisbon called Acro Monkeys Lx.

Yoga is a lot about finding your breath. Where do you go to find yours when you just need to sit and meditate for a while? Anywhere, anytime! For me, my meditation can be conducted in my studio between classes, out on the street in and amongst the sounds and vibrations of Lisbon, up at the top of a miradouro, or on a windy beach with the crashing waves. I would have to admit my favorite place is in Alentejo at my friends’ house— it’s something about the country air.

What do you eat before and after yoga? Any place in particular you would recommend going to nurture your body with food? I try not to eat anything 1hour before yoga, however, if I need to I will buy some in-season fruit (I am lucky there is a fruitaria near the studio). Then for lunch I have my main meal of the day, often with beans, lentils, or chickpeas, greens such as broccoli, spinach, or zucchini, some brown rice or pasta, then some more veggies such as beetroot, carrot, or avocado. I started a vegetarian Instagram account to help people find affordable restaurants catering for vegetarians and vegans, there’s a growing trend of these popping up in Lisbon. I keep track of the places I find on my Instagram account.

Want to practice with Zoe?

There are up to four classes per day and growing. Timetables, the booking app, and general information can be found here.
Unlimited three-month membership €135 (one month option available too).
Drop in/casual classes start at €7.50
Contact Zoe at ztaylorministry@gmail.com for private and group class information. Classes in the studio or at your home start at 40€.

Related Post:  Hitchhiking From Lisbon: Day 3 — Braganca to Salamanca (well, almost)

Events are posted on the official facebook page, if you are interested in advanced practice or donation classes.

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