We are all familiar with yoga. We always read about how yoga is good for us. We envy our yogi friends with their sense of calmness and balance. Heck, we even have people around us who are non-yogis, yet nudging us to try it out to manage stress, and start our journey to a healthier lifestyle. But still, somehow, we always find excuses on why we don't have time for it. We convince ourselves that we can never be that flexible, or that strong, and why it's too late for us to start.
If you can relate to any one of these, then this article is just for you.
We've sat down with the @theinflexiblefriends, Sin Yee, KC, LC, Yvonne and Jeremy to know what got them started in yoga, how they managed to stay in their practices, and what are tips they have for yogis, especially for those just starting on with their yoga journeys. We hope that their stories will inspire you to finally get on the mat, take your practice unto the next level, or just breathe through wherever you are now in your fitness journey.
From left to right: Yvonne (wearing Lyaya Freedom Lieggings), Sin Yee (wearing Lyaya Queen of the Night Leggings), Jeremy, KC (wearing Lyaya Lady and the Lion Leggings), and LC (wearing Lyaya Vibe Leggings)
Lyaya: Tell us a bit about yourselves. How long have you practiced yoga and what keeps you busy these days?
Yvonne: Hi! My name is Yvonne (hahaha). I started practicing yoga regularly in 2016 to cope with all the stress that came with my university life. It quickly became something more than just a form of exercise. I took a leap of faith last year and enrolled myself in a yoga teacher training course to deepen my knowledge, and to learn how I could guide others in a safe and mindful way. I currently teach yoga at Yoga+.
KC: I am Kai-Ching, 26 years old, born and bred in Singapore. I've been practicing Hatha and Vinyasa yoga for about 4 years now. What started off as a simple practice grew into passion and spurred me to complete my teacher training course. Currently, I teach public classes at Crossfit Mobilus, and I am excited about finding thoughtful and creative ways to continue to share yoga as a holistic practice.
LC: My name is LC and I love yoga, skiing, mountains and eggs. I can't live without my daily teh c kosong (sometimes 3x a day) and high heels. I showed up on the mat at my first yoga class 6 years ago, and I'm now a certified yoga teacher! Between my full time job, my practice and teaching, my life is pretty packed. I love it though!
Sin Yee: I have practiced yoga consistently for about 3.5 years now, and I am currently doing my yoga teacher training course – I will graduate this June!
Jeremy: I started practicing yoga in 2013. It’s surprising to think that that’s 6 years ago now. I took my yoga teacher training in April last year, and now I teach yoga at Nithya Priyan School of Yoga, on top of my day job. Teaching yoga is one of my passions. I enjoy connecting with the community and bringing the benefits of yoga to as many people as I can. And even though I’m pretty busy these days, I can say that it’s all worth it.
Lyaya: So how did yoga happen for you? What got you started and what made you stay?
Sin Yee: I used to be a runner. I ran a couple half marathons a year and did some form of running 5 days a week. I had a terrible habit of never stretching, so I had really tight hamstrings and IT bands. Yoga was something I always wanted to try because I thought it would be relaxing and would give me a good stretch to complement my running.
I signed up for a trial class, didn’t hate it, and bought a package on the very same day (because there was a promo). It tested more of my strength and core than I thought it would. So I thought that it would be a great way to “multitask” my workouts in addition to building my flexibility.
After a while, I got pretty encouraged by the positive changes in what my body could do and just stuck with it until now!
Now, my practice is much more different. I am more mindful and thoughtful in the way I approach my practice and my life. It’s no longer just something I have to think about staying with – it’s part of my lifestyle now.
KC: My very first yoga class was in 2015, in Taiwan and led by a local yoga teacher in Mandarin. It was very confusing (Mandarin is not my first language) and difficult! Initially, I practiced consistently with the aim of improving my movement and having more control of my body. The challenge of wanting to perfect my expression of yoga asanas kept me coming back on to the mat.
And after all those hours on the mat, I've come to realize that it was no longer about the asanas. My yoga sessions had become an appointment with myself - a dedicated time and space to check in with how I was feeling, both physically and mentally. The mindfulness and moving meditation that unfolded in my yoga practice helped guide me back to my breath when things were getting tough. I felt a shift happening in my body after all of those practices, a definite and positive change in my energy. This translated to a positive outlook when I faced challenges in my life (off the mat)!
LC: A cheap date idea turned out to be a life-changing routine for my husband and I. I realized that the mat, in a class full of fellow yogi warriors, was different from a self-practice at home - the energy and vibe weren't something you can replicate by yourself. I loved the solidarity - the sigh of relief after a release from an extremely long chaturanga or navasana hold. It soon became something to look forward to after work - hot vinyasa one day, power the next, sometimes a balance class, and sometimes two classes back to back.
Yvonne: I used to run track and field, and I had the tightest muscles so I was really wary of trying yoga out. At some point during my time at the university, I had to put off exercising for a while and thought that I should try something gentle and relaxing to slowly jump-start my fitness journey. And so, I signed myself up for my first basic yoga class...
And guess what? It was the MOST intense 60 mins of exercise I’ve had in a long time and I was sweating BUCKETS!! It was the most challenging and rewarding 60 mins, and I just kept going back for more. I was learning so many new and interesting poses and discovering things about myself that I didn’t know :-) I found myself calmer after class, more mindful of things I say to other people, more aware of my breathing when I’m about to let my emotions take control of me, and more forgiving of myself and of others. I enjoyed that I could take time out each day just to be with myself and do what felt good for the day, either pushing myself or taking it slow.
Jeremy: I started yoga when I was a broke student! My wife LC (then girlfriend) and I were looking for affordable ideas for dates. Thanks to the Groupon boom of those years, doing yoga became one of the most affordable dates we could do.
I did not realize then that it would be a life-changing experience. Doing yoga all these years has given me tremendous benefits in both body and mind. I love my increased strength and flexibility – I feel the daily impact of the mobility work that yoga makes me do. And on top of that, it makes my mind calmer and I am more in control of my thoughts. As my favourite athlete, the marathoner Eliud Kipchoge says, “If you do not rule your mind, your mind will rule you.”
Lyaya: Let’s talk about the different yoga styles. What’s your favorite and why?
Jeremy: I am fairly open to the different styles of yoga. Some days, I crave the fast-moving, high intensity Vinyasa style of yoga, and on other days I prefer to simply sit and breathe in a stretch class. I feel that regardless of the actual style of yoga, what matters most to me is the energy that the teacher brings to the class. This is what I resonate with the most.
Yvonne: My favorite style of yoga is Vinyasa. I enjoy moving around. Syncing movement with breathing and discovering new ways to enter different postures! I love faster-paced classes and Vinyasa-based classes are something I find myself returning to time and time again.
LC: I've always been a fan of Vinyasa style yoga. I love that you never know what to expect, and the precise cues a good teacher would give to help the practitioner move into the full expression of the pose, step by step. It also helps me find connection with my breathing, an awareness that is useful to me even off the mat, especially when I get struck by a bout of nerves.
KC: My favorite yoga style is Vinyasa yoga, known to some as Flow/ Power yoga. I've always leaned towards a strong, dynamic practice. Connecting your breathing with the movement in a Vinyasa flow class eases me in areas of compression and tightness, especially in my hips and chest.
Another favorite of mine is Yin yoga, this is a go-to option after a long day at the desk or just some loving self-care time!
Sin Yee: For me, it’s a tough choice between Vinyasa and Hatha. I enjoy Vinyasa for the funky flows and the dynamic movement – you can pack so much into one Vinyasa class!
However, as my YTT is on Anusara-inspired Hatha style, I learnt to appreciate the nuances and importance of proper alignment in every yoga pose. It’s actually very tiring to hold good alignment for the entire time that your teacher is giving adjustment cues! This style encourages a lot of body awareness thanks to the abundance of verbal cues and attention to alignment.
Lyaya: Ok, last question and maybe the most important of all... if new yogis come to you for advice, what do you want to tell them?
KC: It's common for all new yogis to conclude that they're "not flexible enough" or "not strong enough", and I'd like to assure them that no one else is holding on to that opinion. Yoga poses will eventually come to each yogi with practice. For that progress to happen, all you need each time you step on the mat is an open mind, the ability to observe without any judgment and awareness to be present with whatever comes your way.
So to all my new yogi friends out there, give yourself permission to put any worry or any problems that need solutions on hold so you can show up fully on your mat!
LC: The many different styles of yoga available out there means there is something for everyone! If you just started doing yoga and you didn't enjoy it, try a different style, studio or teacher! And it's best to arrive on the mat without expectations - just allowing the body to go where it can go, and keeping the mind open to trying new things! A regular and consistent practice will surely bring changes and that's a lesson we can apply in our daily lives too.
Sin Yee: Take it easy on yourself! If you feel like you're "very beginner" (and I hear this a lot), don't feel pressured that you can't do as much as the girl on the next mat can, or that you have no idea of what's going on. Everyone starts from somewhere! Small little micro-improvements will eventually yield a breakthrough. Perhaps, for many days or for many years, you hold a pose a second more each time, and before you know it, you're there!
Also, don’t forget to take care of yourself because it's actually really easy to overstretch yourself and injure yourself if you're not mindful and respectful of what your body tells you.
Jeremy: The message I wish I could tell every new yogi is - embrace your body as it is, and never blame your body for being any more or less strong or flexible than it is. Everyone is, exactly as they are, fully-deserving of love and compassion.
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