gyms, spas, + yoga retreats: a wellness guide to Luang Prabang, Laos

Staying fit, healthy, and well while traveling is one of my biggest challenges. And, to be fair, I don’t think I’m alone in my struggle. Trying all the new food, fitting as much into a day as possible, and other life commitments {or excuses…} often get in the way. My body used to bounce back quickly from jet lag, double-digit hours spent on planes, and eating all the food any destination had for me to eat.

Now a days, I find myself making my well-being a top priority because when I feel like my best self, I act like my best self. I’m more patient, less anxious, and an overall happier traveller when I take care of my physical body. This means squeezing in physical activity, making time for meditation, hitting a local gym or the fitness center at my accommodation, and even an occasional spa treatment.

Committing to fitness and wellness in Luang Prabang can be a challenge. The heat gives us all an excuse not to go for a run and the juice bar scene hasn’t quite made its way here yet the way it has in Hoi An or Chiang Mai. You might be surprised to learn, however, that there is a growing yoga community as well as top-quality spas and affordable gyms in the area that make it easier and easier to make wellness a priority while you’re visiting the little UNESCO town of Luang Prabang!


Read on for my guide to staying well in Luang Prabang


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LUANG PRABANG YOGA

After I got my yoga instructor certification I did just about nothing with it. I helped teach a few classes at the local YMCA while I waited for my Chinese visa, but that was about it. It seemed like I earned it to deepen my own practice, which isn’t a bad reason at all if you put it to use.

Since my most recent trip to Vietnam, however, I was reminded that the mind-body-spirit connection is a seriously real thing. And I’ve jumped back into my “woo woo hippie” routine— running in the morning, showering, meditating {with the Simple Habit app}, and re-energizing myself with yoga in the evening. I sleep better. My anxiety has almost entirely dissipated. I feel so good. Having regular stretch and flow time is something my body desperately wanted. I can tell, because after just a single class with Luang Prabang Yoga, I felt instantly more in sync with myself.

Luang Prabang Yoga offers classes in the open air space at Utopia {MAP}, but what you may not know is that they also offer evening classes in the loft space above Sena Restaurant {MAP}. My friend Phout actually owns Sena and I still had no clue there was a beautiful loft space hosting yoga classes every evening! So, imagine my surprise when I was invited to be a guest of LPB Yoga and I walked up the wooden stairs of the main street steak house entering a beautiful room with twinkly lights and soft music.

Julie, one of the main instructors for LPB Yoga, taught a 90-minute Vinyasa class in the space above Sena. I loved the way she provided variations of each movement to accommodate different strength and experience levels. She moved around the room during the yoga flow and made minor adjustments to ensure my neck was aligned with my spine correctly. I emerged from Sena an hour and a half later feeling a year and a half younger.

LOOKING TO PRACTICE YOGA WHILE IN LUANG PRABANG? You can book a class with Luang Prabang Yoga on their website here.

LOOKING TO FULLY IMMERSE YOURSELF IN YOGI CULTURE? Check out the Yoga Retreats on offer through Luang Prabang Yoga here. Julie runs retreats in Northen Laos, as well as Myanmar and Indonesia.

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BURASARI HERITAGE SPA

Like most places in Southeast Asia, travelers on any budget can find a suitable “spa” along every alley way or road in Luang Prabang. The quality, care, and overall experience at these establishment varies greatly and there is almost no consistency. In a sea of spas, only the truly refined stand out and earn themselves the reputation of being worth the money.

ENTER BURASARI HERITAGE SPA.

Known as the place to get a spa treatment, the Burasari Heritage Spa in Luang Prabang offers one of the best signature spa treatments I’ve had anywhere in the world. Rooted in ancient remedies and Asian philosophies of the body/mind connection, each experience starts with a Purifying Ritual that involves sound therapy that made my spine vibrate and my back feel tingly.

First, I was made hot tea to drink while my spa therapist exfoliated my feet and legs with an all natural scrub and warm water. After I’d finished my drink, I was instructed to put my jewelry in a box, my clothes on the wardrobe, and slip into a beautiful linen robe and cloth underwear.

I then hopped onto the massage table and de-robed. Over the next 90 minutes, I was rubbed down with oil that smelled like a delicate mixture of vanilla and gardenia. My skin felt like butter. Every limb was stretched and kneaded, as if my body were made of dough. After my treatment, my spa therapist instructed me to shower or bathe in the giant tub, get dressed, and there were be tea waiting for me outside. I felt like a baby deer rising from the table and standing upright to hop into the mood-lit shower. As if I’d been given a fresh set of stems.

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MR. BIG MUSCLES GYM

In my attempt to “tighten up”, I’ve enjoyed Mr. Big Muscles Gym. Yes, that is the actual name of the gym. I know, it’s absolutely atrocious. There are swanky gyms and fitness centers at the posh resorts in and out of town. You can purchase annual memberships at most of these hotel gyms for around USD $250. The facilities are a bit cleaner, but Mr. Big Muscles has everything you really need at a much, much lower rate.

Mr. Big Muscles has free weights, bench, spin bikes, and outdated {albeit working} treadmills. The soundtrack at the gym includes Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, the tiled floor is in pretty rough shape, and there isn’t any air conditioning but Mr. Big Muscles provides a space to work up a sweat.

Day passes to Mr. Big Muscles Gym will set you back 15,000 kip {USD $1.75}. In true Lao fashion, day passes actually work out to be cheaper than month-long memberships. I don’t know, guys, take it up with management?!


Disclaimer: I was a guest of Luang Prabang Yoga and Burasari Heritage Spa, but all my opinions are my own and my experience is expressed authentically. 


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