I was working as a Cross Border Legal Consultant in Singapore, when I was first introduced to Yoga, in the end of 2015. I did not think too much of it at first. The classes were given in the office, and I needed to do something for my physical health. I was a new mum, and I had a very difficult birth that led to chronic and excruciating backache. No doctors, no medicine, no pain killers could take that pain away. It was exhausting. So, it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. Little did I know that this "thing" would open the door to health, self-love, and transformation.
In July 2016, after a family trip in Bali, Yoga became my weekly self-care rendezvous. It was non-negotiable. My daughter, nor my husband were able to change that. Was that already a hint? Surely, although, I did not see it back then. It was just something that I enjoyed doing and that slowly brought me back to life.
During those weekly outdoor yoga classes, I met amazing people, who introduced me to the Singapore yoga community. And that is where I deepened my practice and knowledge of yoga. I met incredible, thoughtful, generous people. So, it came as no surprise when one of my friends asked me to register for the Yoga Teacher Training with her. At this point I had been practicing yoga for less than a year and only once a week. But my husband – who got the hint and had clarity way before I did – pushed me to do it.
I did the training and became a certified Yoga Teacher in June 2017. In August 2017 I surrendered my consulting business and in October 2017, I became a full time Yoga Teacher. I have never ever looked back since. I was no longer in physical pain; I was self-aware of my limiting beliefs and my childhood wounds. I finally had the courage to feel, to see and to consciously listen to myself so I could start healing emotionally, physically, and wholeheartedly.
It may sound cheesy and repetitive, but this journey showed me that:
I had found my way from a fixed mindset: "you are a lawyer and expected to know it all to perfection" to a growth mindset: "follow your intuition – mistakes are allowed and welcome"’. It felt deeply liberating.
Curiosity and intuition are at the core of my teaching and freedom is my most cherished value in life.
I see movement as life. If you don’t move, you don’t feel. If you don’t feel, you get stuck. If you are stuck, you cannot move. If you cannot move, you are not alive. Life has its ebbs and flows. Life is never the same. I think that it is an illusion to think that perfection is a goal and that everything is permanent. On the contrary, everything moves and changes. I move to get unstuck, to feel my body and to connect with it. It doesn’t need to be intense, strong, or painful. It just needs to flow, to be in harmony with my needs. Sometimes, I need to push myself and get more intense in my physical practice, other times, I need more healing and slowing down and I will move slowly and mindfully. I guess movement is my conscious connection to life.
The greatest benefit of a regular yoga practice is self-awareness both in body and mind. Becoming more self-aware is the first step of personal growth and can lead to lasting changes and healing. This is a practice that can be very uncomfortable, because it takes humility and strength to allow yourself to open up, to dig deep and sit with what you see, feel and observe. The more aware you become, the more able you are to regulate your feelings, emotions, and reactions. This will clearly have a ripple effect through your behaviour and actions. It happens just as much on the mat as it does off the mat.
Yoga challenges your strength, your flexibility, your endurance as well as your thoughts, your behaviour and sense of self. When done consistently, you are better able to understand and regulate your emotions. You are able to connect on a deeper level and recognise what is going on, in order to be able to respond instead of just reacting. It creates opportunities for breakthroughs and space for setbacks. Hence, you can make the necessary changes you need.
Before setting up, the most important step is to create your intention: "where the intention goes, the energy flows", my teacher used to say. First you set a strong, clear and positive intention for your home practice, then you act on it with the set up. The setup is a place where you feel comfortable and free to be vulnerable, to move and to have fun. This is where you unroll your yoga mat (it helps if the yoga mat is one that appeals to you colour- and fabric-wise) and leave it there. Indeed, it takes only 5 seconds to get on the mat and start moving if it is already there. If you have to put in extra effort to set it up, chances are that you won’t.
So set it up and let it set!
There are so many rules and opinions on the frequency. Most of my teachers, for example, practice daily at home or in a studio. I practice according to my intention and intuition. It is not always consistent, but it is always aligned with what I feel and what I need. If your intention is to practice daily to reach a certain level, then that is what you have to do. Create your own practice, be proud of what you do daily, show up for yourself and keep stepping on your mat daily, weekly, or monthly. If yoga is what you need, you will find your way and – when you do – you will reap the benefits. If you are a beginner, the best exercise is to learn the Sun Salutations (A and B) and repeat them as many times as you want with or without music, fast or holding the poses. You have a great practice in these already. If you are more advanced and you don’t know where to start at home with no guidance, take the Sun Salutations A and B and add some hacks! Be creative with what you know. Use the foundation and add on with your favourite poses. When I practice at home, I use music to feel the beat and start moving. Sun Salutation is always a great place to start.
Before the practice, I would not eat food that is heavily digested like meat for example. I would usually make myself a smoothie with berries, spinach and dates. I would wait a bit after the practice before eating anything. I tend to feel and believe that the body needs time to process the energy flow that has been created through the practice. Once I feel that my energy is set, I'll usually eat what I want. I wouldn't really pay too much attention, as long as it's healthy, and I want it. It has also happened that after a practice I would have cravings (mine is usually chips). I would wait for it to pass, and if it doesn’t, I would give in or if I have time, I would sit with it to understand what is happening and what my body is telling me. Know that it is all part of the process and perfection does not exist. I'll usually follow my intuition and explore. This is how I know that before an intense practice in the evening I will have a smoothie and add protein in it. If my practice is in the morning and I want it to gently flow without pushing, I will fast. If my practice is in the middle of the day and I need energy, I will eat a meal 2 hours before and make sure I have protein such as lentils, quinoa, salmon, avocado and vegetables.
And sometimes, I don’t plan at all, and I eat what I want. This is how I experience and learn about what works for me and what doesn't. I wish there was a straight and exclusive answer to that, but I am afraid there is not. And that is why, the next and last question is very important.
I identify greatly with intuitive eating. As mentioned above, curiosity and intuition are at the core of what I do. It's also how I teach and how I live. This is why intuitive eating was such a powerful discovery for me. Connecting and listening to your body, your needs, your cravings. Enjoying any kind of food with no shame or guilt – that's freedom. Honouring my hunger, feeling my fullness, learning to cope with my emotions in other ways than with food, among other principles are some of the most powerful lessons. The last one in particular goes straight to my heart.
This is why self-awareness is the most important benefit of yoga! Being aware and being able to identify, listen and sit with emotions brings change! There are times I can’t deal with my emotions. Where perhaps they're too fresh and painful to sit and be with. In these moments I might give into the impulse and come back to it later on. The power of intuitive eating is that it is part of a process. There is no shame and no guilt involved. Do it with grace, with style and with kindness. Know that you are creating space for the reactions to happen and the awareness to come. This welcoming space will lead to compassion, love, and healing. This is not a diet, a quick fix. This is a lifestyle that requires practice, trial and errors. Building consciousness takes time. So be patient with yourself and connect on a deeper level.