The Yog’s Guide to Istanbul

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Are you in the mood for a little city trip? Istanbul is a fascinating city with a fresh yoga and dance scene, and the flights from Berlin are quite cheap…

Part European, part Asian, the metropolis is full of contrasts. Adorned by byzantine palasts and modern architecture, colourful bazaars and beautiful mosques, the city juxtaposes traditional Muslim culture with hypermodern architecture, clubs and shopping malls.

Enjoy the warm hospitality of the Turks and dive into the city with its many different districts and people. For instance discover the traditional turkish life in Üsküdar on the Asian side or hang out with the young creative Bohème in Beyoğlu on the opposite side of the Bosporus.

üsküdar market

The Mosques

I was especially impressed by the beauty of the interior of the mosques and the Hagia Sophia. Considering that people have prayed here for hundreds of years, it is not surprising that there is a strong peaceful vibration.

My favorite mosque is the New Mosque. I actually just stepped in to have a quick look and take some photos, but ended up sitting down on the floor to meditate and pray when I sensed the high frequency there. Here’s a little selection of some yogadance and health food places I came across.

new mosque interior

Yoga Places

Cihangir Yoga

Cihangir Yoga is named after the district where you find one of its two studios: Cihangir, a hip and expensive part of Beyoğlu near Taksim Square. The other one is in İstinye, an area on the northwestern shore of the Bosporus that is popular for its seafood restaurants and high fashion shopping mall in İstinye Park.

Cihangir yoga features mixed-style yoga classes (hatha, ashtanga, vinyasa, yin-yoga, shadow yoga), workshops and teacher trainings, partly also English-speaking. There is a health food café in the İstinye venue. A drop-in class is 40 TL (ca. €14).

cafe karma kadikoy

Yoga Shala

Yoga Shala is a mixed-style yoga chain with one studio each in Nişantaşı, Etiler and Bağdat Caddesi. Featuring local and international guest teachers such as the Ashtangi Chuck Miller or Jivamukti senior teacher Yogeswari, it offers hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, meditation and yoga sutra classes, ashtanga yoga, yin yoga, pilates and ayurveda sessions. A drop-in class is 45 TL (ca. €16), there are some cheaper classes for university students.

Yogatime

Yogatime offers Reiki sessions next to yoga and pilates classes. Unfortunately, they don’t have an English website, but the prizes are very reasonable! It’s in Şişli, a district in the northern part of the European side that is famous for the “Cevahir Istanbul“, Europe’s biggest shopping mall.

bliss koaför

Mindbodyfestival

Since three years every june, the Mindbodyfestival takes place in Istanbul, a festival combining yoga, pilates, gyrotonics, dance and tai chi with bodywork, ayurveda, reflexology, philosophy lectures and nutrition classes. The festival organizers invite different internationally established yoga teachers as for instance the ashtangi Danny Paradise or the Jivamukti senior teacher Dechen Thurman.

Dance

Contact Dance Improvisation

Istanbul has a vibrant dance scene and the contact impro scene is growing. Every Wednesday at 7 pm and Sunday at 4 pm a young expressive contact crowd meets at “ÇATI Çağdaş Dans Sanatçıları Derneği, a dance centre in Beyoğlu near Tophane metro station, for a couple of hours of contact jam.

The studio has a soft rubber floor on which you can get really wild without risking a bruise or hurt knee. I also loved the experience of listening to the muezin’s song entering through the open window while we danced.

Contact Tango

There is also contact tango and milonga, a fast-paced, less dramatic form of tango, in Istanbul. You find info about classes and jams on the Contact tango website or on their Facebook page.

Istanbul Tango Marathon

Istanbul Tango Marathon is a dance festival. The next one takes place between October 31st and November 2nd 2014 in Istanbul. There is one in summer 2015 too, from June 19th to 21st. More info on Istanbul Tango Marathon.

Ecstatic Dance

You are in Istanbul and crave an ecstatic dance experience? No problem! The international movement has also conquered the turkish city at the Bosporus. You find info about ecstatic dance events in Istanbul on the Ecstatic Dance Istanbul Facebook group.

More information about dance events in Istanbul

Where are dancing tonight in Istanbul? is a Facebook group about mixed events including contemporary dance and contact tango.

Istanbul Dance Life gives mostly info about latin dance.

On the Çati Dans Facebook page you find information about contemporary dance and contact improvisation.

Mini Müzikhol

I only went to one club and immediately fell in love. Mini Müzikhol is the Turkish Kingsize Bar, just prettier – and smoke-free! Although almost everybody seems to smoke in Istanbul – it is also very cheap – they don’t allow it in the clubs, so we had a smoke-free dancing experience.

Vegetarian Food in Istanbul

Most restaurants specialize in meat or fish. But the Turkish cuisine also features many delicious vegetarian dishes. The most obvious are vegetarian mezze, hot and cold starters. I also loved the so-called Lokanta restaurants that offer a selection of different dishes – many of them vegetarian – of which you can pick your favourites.

lokanta taksim

In the more fashionable venues in Beyoğlu and Karakoy you get a good selection of salads for European prizes (ca. 10 Euros per main). Kumpir, yummy stuffed potatoes with butter, cheese, veggies and salads are a good vegetarian, though not vegan, option.

Here you find some recommendations for healthy vegetarian restaurants in Istanbul

http://www.theguideistanbul.com/news/view/1587/best-istanbul-vegetarian-options-top-7/ 

Feride, a restaurant with a great vegetarian selection in Cihangir, right next to Cihangir Yoga.

Çiğköfte

Due to some food intolerances I am currently gluten-free, sugar-free and cow dairy-free which can be a bit challenging in Turkey, a country famous for its delicious Baklava, yoghurt and wheat products. I was really sad that I could not try Çiğköfte, a supposedly delicious bulgur dish with pomegranate syrup, but I will sure come back once my wheat intolerance is gone. Also, I have heard that already the first Çiğköfte places have opened in Hamburg and Berlin, so I will try it back home then.

Gluten-free

You can buy rice flour, corn flour and oats flour in health food shops or the big shops for instance the Carrefour on Sıraselviler Caddesi near Taksim Square. They also sell rice milk, soy milk, and goat milk products. Crave some bread? At the food shops in Karakoy you can purchase gluten-free corn bread.

unter karakoy

Vegan Food

Export soy products are available in health food stores and the big supermarkets – but they are expensive. One liter is approximately 5 Euros (14 TL). Soy is not the healthiest choice anyways, rather go for rice milk. Unfortunately, it’s just as expensive. If you have a good grinder, purchase some almonds or cashews and make your own nut milk.

Sugar-free

If you want to stay sugar-free, avoid the super sweet baklava. (Oh, no!) Go for the fresh fruits instead or purchase some sugar-free dry fruits on the market. Mulberry and dates usually come without sugar. You can also relatively cheaply buy whole dry cocoa-like tasting carob fruits on which you can snack on when the sweet cravings hit you.

cihangir fruit shop

Health Food Shops

Balya Organic Health Food Shop

Balya Organic on Sıraselviler Caddesi has a good selection of organic gluten-free grains and flours, milk and dairy alternatives, organic local and imported fruits and vegetables, cheeses, spices and cosmetics. There is also a health food café where you can enjoy healthy salads, soups, sandwiches and sugar-free, gluten-free cakes and granola-bars.

balya organik

Vegan Dükkan

Unfortunately, Vegan Dükkan was closed when I came to visit, but I still want to mention it as it seems to be a pure vegan shop near Sıraselviler Caddesi.

vegan dukkan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit (Suleyman Mosque): Fèlix via Compfight

 

 

 

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