Life Beyond The Mat

Turning Their Passion Into Their Life’s Work

/ June 20, 2021

Life yoga matImage source Ginny Rose Stuart

  • Yoga is an art that allows you to connect the body, mind and soul in a way that has existed for centuries.
  • Turning their passion into their life’s work, here are 5 yogis sharing their journey and what yoga means to them.

Close your eyes as you inhale and exhale. Relax your body and calm your mind. In the count of 5, open them and we shall begin.

1…2…3…4…5…

~

Yoga — The significance of uniting a harmonious community. The power it has to physically and mentally prime one’s body and mind when it’s done right. The beauty of having natural healing effects.

Yoga, the ancient art that refreshes the mind and soothes the soul.

Over the years, yoga has become increasingly popular in today’s busy society. For some, standing on a single leg or becoming a human pretzel isn’t their form of tranquility. However, for most, it provides a retreat from their busy and chaotic life and a process of finding peace.

Not only does it have the ability to promote relaxation, multiple studies have proven that by practicing the various types of yoga, you can improve your life wholesomely. From physically improving muscle strength, body flexibility, to mentally reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and helping with better breathing and supporting heart health from within.

Yoga is truly a gift of its own.

With that said, in accordance with International Yoga Day, it was our pleasure to get in touch with a few professional yogis who have spent most of their life perfecting the art of yoga. Turning their passion into their life’s work, here they are sharing their journey and what yoga means to them.

 

1. Sandra Woo

Sandra Woo, an extraordinaire who moves freely to the beat of her own life; Image source Malaysia Tatler 

 

How did you start your yoga journey and how has your life been since then?

The truth is, I found yoga purely by accident. I was experiencing chronic pains from scoliosis at the time, and I was told I couldn’t be physically active with only low impact movements as options. I found a yoga studio close to where I lived that had beginner classes within my student budget, showed up for one class and never looked back. I have had the great fortune of finding a great teacher, who taught me freedom in movement and wisdom in philosophy since.

 

What is your yoga philosophy? Such as, what are you practicing and your yoga style?

Yoga to me is the practice and experience of finding delicate harmony with the self and its nature, as well as what we perceive externally. These days my practice is much less physical, and a lot more spiritual. Yoga goes beyond the physical shapes we make with our bodies on the mat. It also provides clarity to how we choose our intentions and actions off the mat.

 

What are the values you hold dearly to yourself that you’d always share with your clients and the people around you?

Empathy and Integrity. I also try to surround myself with such people as I believe a common understanding of values begets the upholding of it collectively.

 

What are the common misconceptions about yoga?

That people need to be flexible and look a certain way or be a certain kind of person to do yoga. Yoga is for absolutely everyone, anyone, any body type, all genders, any person.

 

Does yoga help with elevating one’s quality of life? If so, would you care to elaborate? 

Practicing yoga definitely has the potential to bring an awareness of quality and clarity to how we can consciously move through life’s experiences. This is also highly dependent on the teacher who shares the yoga practice.

 

What are some therapeutic effects can yoga do to oneself?

Breath, and observe the breathing.

 

Could you describe what yoga is in one word?

“Union”.

Follow Sandra’s yoga journey on Instagram: @sandrawoo

 

 

2.Robyn Lau

 

Robyn Lau, a certified yoga instructor, sports medicine trainer, and a kind, free-spirited soul; Image source Robyn Lau

 

How did you start your yoga journey and how has your life been since then?

I started my yoga practice 16 years ago when I accompanied my mother to a Hatha Yoga class as a mother-daughter bonding activity. With the practice, I cultivated body awareness and that taught me how to love and accept my own body for what it can do. In 2015, I got certified to teach. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to be signed on as a brand ambassador for Under Armour. This opportunity allowed me to share yoga with a wider audience as a means to improve one’s physical, mental and emotional health.

What is your yoga philosophy? Such as, what are you practicing and your yoga style?

I’ve always believed that the human body craves movement. Not fitness, as fitness is a byproduct of movement. Personally, I have always loved a strong, energetic practice that involves a whole lot of arm balancing and inversions. Having said that, the yoga philosophy is that the body and mind are one and cannot be clearly separated. So there are days I feel mentally exhausted and my body feels “meh”. On those days, I understand what my body needs. A gentle, restorative flow, or to spend the day watching tv with a bucket of ice cream. I fully accept that a practice like that is okay too.

 

What are the values you hold dearly to yourself that you’d always share with your clients and the people around you?

You know the saying of “If you don’t love yourself, it is impossible for you to love others. You can’t give away what you don’t have”? Whether it’s to have a better figure, be a better mother or to be a stronger yoga practitioner. Listen to your body! Self-love and self-compassion are so important! There is no “perfect yoga pose”, so please listen to your own body and don’t force (and injure) yourself into an “insta-worthy pose” just because you saw something on the internet. And I tell all my mommy clients if that one hour away from the kids for some me-time is what they need to rejuvenate, find a way to make it happen and not feel guilty about giving themselves the love it deserves. It is totally okay to take time to enjoy things that really feel good to you.

 

What are the common misconceptions about yoga?

“I need to be flexible in order to practice yoga” and “Yoga is all about stretching…So boring!”. Yoga is great for building strength and increasing flexibility. If you are not flexible, a class that focuses on flexibility is meant for you. We call it a yoga practice because it’s work in progress. The more you practice, the better you are at it. As for yoga being just about stretching and so boring, I usually invite these people to my classes and they’d feel otherwise after.

 

Does yoga help with elevating one’s quality of life? If so, would you care to elaborate?

For sure! I have a fractured spine from a bouldering accident and a cervical slip disc due to a genetic degenerative disease. As I have opted out of surgical interventions, I’ve been managing the pain/symptoms by incorporating certain yoga poses into my rehab regime. The spiritual development of yoga practice is something I’ve enjoyed the most because it trains the mind to self observe and sharpens concentration.

 

What are some challenges that you went through and are still going through at the moment?

Like any freelancer, you don’t get paid if you don’t work. So this means doing everything in our capacity to take care of our own wellbeing. It’s been especially challenging since the start of the pandemic because not only am I worried about my own wellbeing, but because I see multiple clients a week. I’m worried about being an asymptomatic carrier and vice versa. Obviously classes have to be cancelled in the event that I am not physically able to teach and my income will be severely affected.

 

Could you describe what yoga is in one word?

“Mindfulness”.

Follow Robyn’s Yoga journey on Instagram: @itsrobynlau

 

3. Tissie Chan

Tissie Chan, a phenomenal yoga therapist, acupuncturist, a holistic fitness instructor, and a wholesome supermama; Image source Tissie Chan

How did you start your yoga journey and how has your life been since then?

I started through reading literature that had intertextuality with Vedic philosophy. It drew me to start reading Vedic texts — yoga being one of the 6 schools of Vedic philosophy. I was also struggling with some personal issues, and these things coincided. So, I started pursuing yoga in order to enact change in my life. Through my reading I realised that yoga is quite unique in the sense that it is philosophy in action, and so it provides very practical tools to help you feel better.

 

What is your yoga philosophy? Such as, what are you practicing and your yoga style?

I really dislike the whole stylisation of yoga. It’s a western phenomena, and not at all true to yoga’s roots. There’s yoga philosophy and that’s it. Everything else is a dilution and cultural appropriation. Yoga philosophy is dvaita. A dualistic philosophy. My lineage is through TKV Desikachar & Krishnamacharya. If you have to call it something you could call it “Vini yoga”, but all that means is that I practice in a way that is not about a style but fitting the tools of yoga appropriately to each unique situation and person.

 

What are the values you hold dearly to yourself that you’d always share with your clients and the people around you?

I think this is why yoga really spoke to me. Because before I found it, I was always really hung up on this idea of ‘purity of intention’, and that’s kind of what yoga is about. In the yoga sūtra-s, it talks about how suffering is reduced when your actions come from a place that is free of “kleśa” — which are obstacles such as desire and fear. So I think this idea that we should really rigorously interrogate our own motivations is really important. In other words, take responsibility for our actions and how things that cloud your judgement can create suffering for us and those around us.

 

What are the common misconceptions about yoga?

There are so many misconceptions: that yoga is about stretching, you have to be flexible, some kind of exercise, or that it’s inherently religious. I really could go on. It’s very hard to find a yoga class that is true to the philosophical teachings these days.

 

Does yoga help with elevating one’s quality of life? If so, would you care to elaborate?

That’s exactly what yoga is about. One of my favourite quotes from TKV Desikachar is:

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”

When you start any kind of change of relationship, between yourself and something else, it inherently has a knock-on effect into our lives. So it could be the change in relation to how I feel my breath or body. But that’s massive. How we breathe, for example, affects our nervous system, which affects our organ function and sleep. Which then affects our mood and emotional regulation. Followed by affecting our interpersonal relationships. I’m massively oversimplifying, but you get the idea. If you want a visual metaphor it’s that concept of throwing a pebble in the water and seeing how that one action creates so many ripples outwards.

 

What are some challenges that you went through and are still going through at the moment?

When I was younger from my teens to my early twenties I probably had bouts of undiagnosed depression. There was a lot of recreational drug use, and a lot of numbing pain. Yoga is what really got me out of that for good, brought me back to myself, and helped me understand what healthy interpersonal relationships should be like. That was over 10 years ago, and I never would’ve imagined back then how happy in love and having a family life. I got married last year and gave birth to my first child, and feel very lucky and fulfilled. But at the same time that’s my new challenge. I’ve never experienced anything so hard as becoming a mother.

 

Could you describe what yoga is in one word?

I would describe yoga as “clear action”. I was going to say “clarity”, but that just doesn’t cover it.

Follow Tissie’s Yoga journey on Instagram: @asubtlebreath

 

4. Elaine So

Elaine So, a courageous, kind-natured soul who dares take matters into her own hands; Image source Elaine So

 

How did you start your yoga journey and how has your life been since then?

I started my yoga journey 4 years ago. I quit my job as a cabin crew and flew to Rishikesh, India for yoga training right after my resignation. Over 5 years working as a stewardess, it had severely affected my physical and mental health. A friend of mine recommended yoga to me. Ever since, I never look back. I guess this spontaneous decision of flying to India has completely changed my life . Practising yoga helps me see life in a different perspective. I am always able to find peace to deal with things that are happening in my life.

 

What is your yoga philosophy? Such as, what are you practicing and your yoga style?

I practiced traditional ashtanga yoga back in yoga school, and applied what I learned into non-traditional yoga such as functional yoga that focuses more on body mobility and strength.  

 

What are the values you hold dearly to yourself that you’d always share with your clients and the people around you?

One that I would hold dearly and share with others would be “Do your best at the moment, always allow yourself to fall and learn to pick it up again, be grateful for yourself”

 

What are the common misconceptions about yoga?

People always think that they need to be flexible to do yoga. The fact is, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. Instead, it is the other way around. Yoga helps you to be flexible. That’s why we practise yoga. Besides that, yoga is not all about going upside down or being flexible. It is a mind and body practise, which can be in any form of activity. It is a form of meditation whereby doing anything that can help you keep your mind calm, that can be your form of yoga. For example, some people find peace when they are painting, then painting can be their type of yoga.  

 

Does yoga help with elevating one’s quality of life? If so, would you care to elaborate?

Yes it does. Yoga not only helps me feel stronger and healthier physically, but it is also helping me mentally. I used to struggle with depression, now I have learned to observe my thoughts. I know how to differentiate between what is good or bad for me and with this, it helps me make better choices in my life.  

 

What are some challenges that you went through and are still going through at the moment?

I have injuries on most parts of my right body due to weight training back then as well as being a fitness coach. There are many things I can’t do. However, yoga is a lifetime practice and as i’ve mentioned, has helped me through a lot. Thus, I will not stop practising  in this lifetime.

 

Could you describe what yoga is in one word?

“Peace”

Follow Elaine’s yoga journey on Instagram: @yilainitree

 

5. Atilia Haron

Atilia Haron, a full-time astounding singer as well as a full-time seeker of happiness and positivity; Image source Atilia Haron

How did you start your yoga journey and how has your life been since then?

I started my yoga journey at the age of 30. It was pretty late but I didn’t think I needed any physical activity because I didn’t have any problems with my health. But I was wrong. I realized my singing was getting worse and my breathing was getting shorter. So I started yoga to improve my breathing and life has been amazing since then. Life has been undoubtedly positive.

 

What is your yoga philosophy? Such as, what are you practicing and your yoga style?

I don’t have anything specific per say, but I do practice Ashtanga which I love because of the consistency and discipline of it. Apart from that, I also teach Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, as well as kids yoga. I love practises that use a lot of flow. Meaning that it engages my breathing and poses.

 

What are the values you hold dearly to yourself that you’d always share with your clients and the people around you?

I personally believe that we have to live by the simple mantra which is “be happy” and “be kind”. These are what I would always remind everyone at the end of my classes. You should always be kind to the people around you because when you do that you’ll become happy and as an effect of happiness, you become positive.

 

What are the common misconceptions about yoga?

That it would be religiously linked. There are people who believe that when one is to practice yoga, they are also practicing Hinduism. Of course you can if you want to, but that is all entirely up to you and for me, I take yoga as something that would help me with my overall mental and physical health. Additionally, some also have the perception that when you want to do yoga you have to be flexible, strong, and thin. However, that is completely wrong.

 

Does yoga help with elevating one’s quality of life? If so, would you care to elaborate?

Definitely. It has helped me in becoming a better person to which I love investing my life in yoga. As I would like to keep myself happy. This might make me sound selfish, but I believe sometimes being selfish should be considered because you have to be happy first and then your surroundings will follow suit.

 

What are some challenges that you went through and are still going through at the moment?

For me, it’s work. I miss singing and performing at events. I miss engaging with people as these are the ways I release myself. Before the whole pandemic happened, I used to perform a lot and that is the resource I use to fund my yoga business. Maybe most might not know this but, being in the yoga business does not create a lavish life but it does make me happy. So that would be my biggest challenge right now.

 

Could you describe what yoga is in one word?

Yoga for me is “passion”. It takes passion to be able to do it with discipline and it takes passion in wanting to make yourself better. It also takes passion to love your yoga journey and practice.

Follow Athilia’s yoga journey on Instagram @atiliaharon

 

In a Nutshell

Image source Oksana Taran

Yoga has helped and continues to help numerous people all over the world to improve inner peace and strengthen their physical health. Regardless of your age and gender, it is particularly guaranteed that it would have a positive impact on your life as well.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a fit or flexible person, fret not. As you can still enjoy yoga without having to split your legs far apart or balance yourself on your head.

So with that, take a chance on this international day and embark on something that you will benefit from for years and years to come.

Happy International Yoga Day Everyone!

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