Known for longevity, happiness, and well-being, Icelanders rank amongst the healthiest peoples in the world. Fresh and unpolluted air, one of the cleanest water sources on earth, and a healthy diet of fresh fish and vegetables have long contributed to the island nation's overall wellness. But now a craze, that recently swept Icelander's of their feet, perhaps has the greatest impact on national prosperity: Icelanders have started practicing yoga at a feverish pace.
See also Health in Iceland
Most Icelanders exercise on a regular basis and due to their experimental nature, they tend to adapt to new fitness trends quickly and wholeheartedly. More often than not, however, the newest wrinkle lasts for but a season and is forever forgotten when yet another craze takes the nation by storm.
But sometimes, a new found passion sticks around and gradually makes it way into the Icelandic national character.
The latter can now be said about yoga. In the last few years, numerous variations of the eastern dicipline—from hot and cold yoga to rope and bungee yoga—have been introduced to Icelanders, with every gym offering a variety of classes and each small town and village opening at least one yoga studio of its own.
Needless to say, Icelanders have well and thoroughly conformed to the vast variety of yogic paths that have been laid before them, and Iceland is now home to an ever-growing community that revolves solely around the study and practice of various yoga traditions.
Below is our list of yoga and well-being practices to try out in Iceland. Despite some of them being rather typical in the yogic category, Icelanders have somehow managed to come up with their very own versions that reflect the many peculiarities of this country's people.
Yoga in nature
The ever present proximity to nature makes Iceland a paradise for anyone who treads the yogic path. It is much easier to fill one's mind with peace and tranquility when surrounded by mountains and magnificent landscapes, than it is in the midst of the roaring havoc of a buzzing city.
Breathing in the fresh and clean air fills you with Prana, the life force of every yogi, and simply taking a walk in Iceland's nature while consciously breathing in and out can be all you need to achieve a moment of inner peace or enlightenment.
There are also plenty of guided tours on offer, that include yoga lessons with a certified instructor out in nature, often combined with hiking and visits to natural baths.
See also Breathe Iceland Yoga Tours
Yoga in water
Iceland's rich water supply not only provides its nation with the planet's cleanest drinking water, but also one of the greatest geothermal energy sources on the planet. The abundant access to this valuable resource has resulted in a number of great swimming pools being built all around the country.
The pools and public baths play an important role in Icelandic culture; they are community centres where people from all walks of life catch up with friends or chat up complete strangers, relax after a hard day's work, or rejuvenate after a night of excessive indulgence.
For centuries, Icelander's have known that the warm water softens the muscles and joints and makes the body more flexible. Therefore it comes as no surprise that yoga in water has become extremely popular, as it brings together the new found eastern practice and one of Iceland's most rooted cultural elements.
A unique contribution was added to Iceland's aqua-yoga scene with the introduction of The Floating Hood, an aqua-meditation contraption that was designed by Unnur Valdís Kristjánssdóttir when she was a student of the Icelandic University of Arts.
The designer was eager to base her work in Iceland's vibrant swimming culture and eventually her research led her to discover the amazing benefits floating has on people’s health and spiritual well-being.
The Floating Hood has become increasingly popular amongst Icelandic aqua-yoga enthusiasts, to the point of regular meet-ups of floaters in the Seltjarnarneslaug swimming pool.
At these conjunctions, it is possible to borrow a floating hood and experience the weightlessness produced by floating first hand. You can also buy the hood in Systrasamlagið, a small café outside the pool, or simply go on a floating tour in the Secret Lagoon in the Flúðir village, where guests float in the warm water while listening to relaxing Icelandic music via an underwater speakers system.
Yoga on the beach
While most people are familiar with the idea of a yoga retreat on a tropical beach, not many know that Iceland has its very own beach yoga community that rivals its counterparts in the tropics.
At the man-made beach of Nauthólsvík, just outside of central Reykjavík, beach yoga and gong ceremonies are held regularly. These events are followed by a dip in the ice-cold North Atlantic ocean where natural hydrotherapy is at its best.
Swimming in the cold sea is a healthy way of stimulating the glandular system and providing the body with necessary minerals, and afterward, it is of course mandatory to relax and rejuvenate in the local hot tub and enjoy the beautiful seashore view.
Pop Up Yoga is a movement that was initiated by two Icelandic yoga instructors, Helga Ólafsdóttir and Lilja Haraldsdóttir, who shared the vision of making yoga accessible to the public and turning Reykjavík into a vibrant city of spiritual fulfilment and happiness.
During summer, the movement offers yoga classes that unexpectedly pop up in various places at unpredictable times. Pop Up Yoga sessions are both held in conventional locations such as public parks and unorthodox venues such as in the middle of Laugavegur, Iceland's main shopping street.
The pair's aim is to demonstrate that yoga can be done anywhere, at any time while offering fun-packed and flowing classes that appeal both to the novice and the veteran.
Their events are usually very popular, drawing a fun crowd composed of people of all ages and professions and are known to establish a warm, inviting, and unusual atmosphere.
Additionally, there are a great number of yoga studios to be found in Reykjavík.
There is, therefore, no need to leave your good habits at home when vacationing in Iceland. Just be sure to pack your yoga mattress, swimsuit and hiking boots before you make your way down the long and winding path that is the way of the Icelandic yogi.