Written by Sashai Yhukutwana
Photographs by Sashai Yhukutwana and courtesy of Valentin Nerding
Life in Gwangju City came as a pleasant surprise after having lived in Seoul for five years. The vibrant expat community is very active on the local scene, from volunteering to stage performances and a whole lot in-between. Whatever the reason you are in Gwangju, there are many things to fill your time in ways you stand to gain. Perhaps one of your resolutions is to love your body more and take better care of it? Well, the new Yoga/Pilates class at the Gwangju International Center (GIC) might be just the thing for you! Gwangju News (GN) caught up with the instructor, Valentin “Valle” Nerding, to chat about the class.
GN: Are you originally a yoga or Pilates instructor?
Valentin: I’m actually a certified physiotherapist! Although, physio actually already includes aspects of both yoga and Pilates for general and chronic treatments, and most treatments are usually done one-to-one with patients. So these classes are also something new and exciting for me to explore.
GN: Have you led a class like this before?
Valentin: Maybe not on a platform like a usual instructor. But the experience I have is that of a coach. Before working full time, I used to coach volleyball teams consistently from my teens to my university years. I had a lot of fun and also learned a lot about leading a group that was a different age from mine. With this class now, I think the difference will be in leading a class and doing the exact moves, while speaking and performing the breathing simultaneously. I think it will be a challenge at first, but it will be smoother as time goes. It’s about knowing how to be in control appropriately.
GN: Tell us briefly about your student years and earlier work experience.
Valentin: Well, I’m originally from Germany. After high school, I had a gap year, which is common in Germany to do. I went to Canada for about a year, and France too, traveling and doing part-time jobs. For university, I studied physiotherapy in the Netherlands for four years and trained for another year in Spain. After this, I worked in Switzerland, which is where I worked until June last year as a physiotherapist.
GN: What inspired you to pursue physiotherapy as a profession?
Valentin: While I was teaching and coaching a volleyball team, I also liked the medical aspect of sports. I also met a physio-massage therapist in Canada and learned a few things from them, so I would say I was kind of drawn to it naturally. I never personally needed a physio myself, it just seemed natural that I become one.
GN: So is this going to be a classic yoga class or should we expect something a little different?
Valentin: Basically, I’m more into strengthening routines. Being a trained physiotherapist, I include a lot of Pilates and yoga in patient treatments. But we don’t call it yoga or Pilates. We just call it physio. The exercises we will do here will bring both yoga and Pilates together. So I guess it will be a little different from yoga. Yoga has flowing, stretching movements that sometimes leave you overly relaxed. Physio aims to make stronger the inner muscles and helps with better posture, and stronger muscles help burn calories.
GN: What do you hope for the participants to gain from these sessions?
Valentin: To have a lot of fun and enjoyment! Physically, the most important thing to gain is body awareness. Being aware of things that cause stress on the body, discovering the body’s functioning, especially unknown muscles connected to your body’s strength. I hope participants will be able to avoid bigger problems with these things, especially in the back, neck, and core muscles.
GN: What else do you do or hope to do while you are in South Korea?
Valentin: I freelance by providing home visits for physiotherapy, medical and sports massage, and cupping therapies. I also write for a medical blog and try to explore other opportunities within my field. For example, I am currently taking online classes on happiness, traditional Chinese medicine, and yoga and Pilates. While I am in South Korea, I would like to learn more about Korean traditional medicine, and of course, travel around the country eating lots of “Korean-style sauerkraut” (kimchi)!
GN: Do you perhaps have a personal philosophy or motto that you live by?
Valentin: Live in the day, see what happens, and stay flexible. Go for happiness, but don’t pursue happiness! As you go for what you want, trust in life, and don’t bother about what others think, and things will come together for you.
What a perfect motto as the New Year is still unfolding. So there you have it, folks. Come and give the classes a go, Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and Thursdays at 10 a.m. Your body will thank you for it!
Sashai is an English teacher who enjoys reading and sleeping in, bible studies, cooking (sometimes), and a nice chat over tea with a friend.