Fitness and Yoga Instructor
People come to yoga for different reasons. Many people come to yoga looking to fix a problem, e.g., to reduce stress and anxiety, to promote better sleep, to improve flexibility or to find peace. Some stumble across yoga not really looking for a solution but heard that it is ‘good’ for you. That was me. Twenty years ago, I was a first-time mother looking for post-natal exercises to get back into shape and desperately in need of some time to myself. Little did I know that 20 years later, yoga would become my life.
Exercise was never a huge part of my childhood or growing up. I was always the one who dreaded PE lessons in school. I was never flexible and could barely reach my knees, let alone my toes. I remember my very first yoga class, I positioned myself at the back of room, admiring or rather feeling rather intimidated by everyone making impossible shapes with their body. It didn’t put me off, I was just grateful to have a precious hour of ‘me’ time. I went back week after week until my maternity leave came to an end. I practiced yoga on and off the in coming years depending on how much time I could afford. Life was busy back then, juggling between full-time work and looking after three young boys.
I graduated from university with an Information Systems Design degree and spent 12 years working as a Business IT Analyst in consultancy, corporate banking and the financial sector. Work often involved travelling, being desk bound or hunching over a laptop in the least ergonomic settings. I had a poor posture and developed RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in my wrist. I suffered years of wrist pain which radiated to my shoulder and neck. Tightness in my shoulders and upper back was the norm and so were tension headaches. Trips to physiotherapy, acupuncture and deep tissue massages were a regular occurrence but the relief was often short-lived.
I also had my fair share of lower back injuries through carelessness or perhaps I was prone to them. Then in 2010, I woke up one morning with an intensely stiff and painful neck. I thought I had just slept badly but the symptoms never went away. Following a trip to my doctor and several X-rays later, I was diagnosed with cervical spondylosis (disc degeneration in the neck) in my thirties! The X-rays also revealed that I had scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) in the thoracic and lumber spine, and a rotated hip. This revelation explained why I was prone to musculoskeletal problems because my muscles were constantly working overtime to keep me balanced and aligned. I started a long course of chiropractic treatment in an attempt to alleviate my postural problems. Whilst it gave me some relief and I felt ‘straightened’ after each session, my joints and muscles would return to its original stubborn state well before my next visit.
Coincidentally, it was around this time, with all my boys now in school, I started going to the gym. Initially, I did low impact yoga style classes then added high impact cardiovascular classes to my routine. It wasn’t long before I was clocking up 15 classes a week and was loving the feel-good effect it was giving me. I was totally addicted. On top of that, I attended yoga regularly at a separate yoga studio. I saw changes in my body. Physically, I was getting stronger, fitter and more flexible. Mentally, I was more alert and more resilient to stress. I rarely fell sick, and every ache and pain in my body slowly eased off. I never felt more freedom and space in my body. The result may not have necessarily changed my existing conditions in a big way and I knew that my scoliosis, wrist injury and disc degeneration would never return to normal, but I could manage it because I had found my medicine: yoga and exercise.
Yoga has been a physical practice for me for a long time, it has opened my body. But the physical aspect is just one limb of yoga. Pranayama breath work is another important aspect. Yoga has allowed me to explore the power of the breath, which is often overlooked in daily life. It is one of the most valuable tools for coping with the stresses of life, anxiety and pain relief.
When I first started my yoga journey I had little interest in spirituality. I have met many great and inspiring yoga teachers along the way, some were more spiritual than others. Yoga can bring you into a deeper sense of relaxation physically and create space for you mentally and spiritually. Not before long, I started questioning my life choices and almost unknowingly it opened my mind and I became more curious with the whole meaning of yoga and its philosophy. Yoga has a tendency to sneak up on you like that.
In 2017, I decided to embark on the instructor journey as a means to share my passion with others. Having graduated in mind-body education with 200 hours of yoga training and Exercise to Music certification, it marked a new chapter in my life. I now teach Hatha, Vinyasa and Yin yoga as well as several yoga-inspired programmes in leisure centres, well-known private clubs and here online at Blue Phoenix Yoga. The name Blue Phoenix originates from my Chinese name.
I still enjoy other workouts but yoga is my core. It’s personal to me so I try to practice as often as I can. I am a teacher but I am still very much a student. There is so much to learn about yoga, it is a life long journey filled with many challenges and joy.