Behind a big white gate at the end of a narrow lane in Yangon’s most exclusive neighborhood lies a wide, green lawn surrounded by lush trees and dotted with quiet, wooden bungalows. Away from the noise of the city’s traffic is the Tree House Garden – a space for yoga, meditation, and connections between likeminded people.
Like the Golden Valley neighborhood itself, the Tree House Garden selects a certain type of person. However, unlike the real estate, it tries to attract guests based on their inner wishes and personal journeys rather than their net worth.
“The idea is to start a community where people can find themselves – people with the same intentions,” said Bear, the German yoga enthusiast and mindfulness trainer who runs the space’s events.
These intentions, Bear says, should be centered around a philosophy of “holding space,” which calls for being unconditionally present with another person, accompanying them on their own journey, wherever it may lead.
“I’m sure this place will choose the people,” he said.
The garden is owned by Golden Valley native May Phyu, whose Airbnb profile reads: “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” She and her family are primarily involved in the IT sector, and they also operate strawberry farms near Mandalay. They decided to build the garden to give their children a place to spend some time away from their smartphones and tablets and enjoy nature. Eventually, they decided that their oasis should be open to the public. When guests come by, there are often treated to fresh strawberries.
The Tree House Garden’s preference for personal connections over profit is evident in all of its business decisions. The two guestrooms overlooking the garden rent for just US$25 per night. Shaded bungalows, a tiny, elevated library, and fast Wi-Fi are free for public use. Daily yoga sessions and weekly mindfulness meditation sessions are also free, though donations are welcome.
The garden also tries to partner with likeminded local businesses by giving them a free space to sell snacks, juices, and crafts while families spend the day enjoying the greenery.
The relaxed, community-oriented attitude with which the Tree House Garden is run sets it apart from other yoga spaces in Yangon, for better or for worse. Instructors are not always certified, and classes are not always as structured as they might be among the city’s more corporate offerings. Bear is confident that while this format might not be to everyone’s taste, there is a need for it, so there must also be a space for it.
“Anyone can have a room with four walls,” he said. “But it’s more important to be in line with the essence of what is in nature, what is in line with our common intentions.”
TOP PHOTO: A morning yoga session at the Tree House Garden. (Credit: York Yoga Corner)