While Yoga and Pilates have become popular forms of exercise for thousands of straight-backed, om-chanting Athenians, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Even as recently as 20 years ago, when Greeks were considerably more conservative and less (other)worldly, yoga was widely regarded with deep suspicion, as an outlandish practice that could brainwash people into leaving their traditional, preordained state of Greek Orthodoxy to become head-standing Buddhists overnight. While flocks of Greeks have become yoga fans, the Orthodox Church has remained steadfastly opposed to yoga, denouncing it as a fundamental part of Hinduism, by no standards “a form of exercise” and as “totally incompatible with our Christian Orthodox faith [with] no place in the life of Christians.” Pilates is not seen as posing any spiritual danger, however. Nowadays there are so many types of yoga and Pilates classes available in every neighborhood that it’s hard to know which schools are really worth visiting. Οur shortlist features some of the most reputable, centrally located and experienced schools in Athens, where you can drop in for one or more classes costing from €15–17 per session.
SHAKTI YOGA STUDIO
The studio runs two afternoon classes daily, based exclusively on the teachings of famous Indian guru BKS Iyengar, who brought yoga to the west in the 1950s. The emphasis is on precision and alignment in all postures, and in just one class students can learn about the fundamentals of yoga through this practice. The class includes the use of props designed by Iyengar, such as wooden blocks, belts, ropes and bolsters that help the student achieve the right stretch, breath and posture.
17–19 Lambrou Fotiadou, Mets
• Tel.: (+30) 210.756.9376
Getting there: 10 mins walk from Acropolis metro station, 5 mins walk from Vouliagmenis tram stop.
25 Nikis, Syntagma
• Tel.: (+30) 210.323.2030 or
Getting there: 5 mins walk from Syntagma Square (metro, tram, bus stops).
NYSY stands for Nous ygieis en somati ygei, the ancient Greek proverb meaning “sound mind, healthy body”. Throughout the day the studio offers classes by instructors of various backgrounds and yoga disciplines, but places special emphasis on Abhaya (“No Fear”) yoga, devised by owner Vivi Letsou, which rests on the principles of alignment, therapy, and dynamic movement. This well-equipped exercise studio offers popular daily Pilates classes as well as regular yoga/Pilates workshops hosted by guest international personalities.
SWAHA YOGA CENTER
Swaha is popular for its Jivamukti class (which focuses on compassion for reaching enlightenment) and Unnata Aerial Yoga, which has you doing traditional yoga postures while entangled in a soft silk fabric that hangs from the ceiling. This is one of the few quality yoga schools that starts early enough (07:00) and holds classes running until 21:00. There are also daily Pilates mat classes.
11 Kallisperi, Acropolis
• Tel.: (+30) 210.922.9251
Getting there: 5 mins walk from Acropolis metro station (just after the Museum.)
BHAVANA YOGA CENTER
Primarily dedicated to the Anusara yoga discipline, but also to the teaching of yoga swings, Yin, Restorative, Ashtanga and Prenatal yoga and meditation, the popular Bhavana center also offers private lessons, massage treatments and dietary consultations based on Ayurvedic principles.