Many people confuse yoga with physical contortion. Some think it is a religion.
But to yoga instructor Ms Soon Li Ling, yoga is “a way of life that enables one to coordinate the body, mind, consciousness, which in turn keeps the body healthy and the mind relaxed”.
“Yoga to me is not just the physical practice of asanas (sitting), pranayamas (breathing), kriyas (cleansing techniques) or attaining a certain level of spirituality, it is about imbibing and improving one’s way of life,” she says.
Ms Soon is an active person “who is always seeking out activities to do”.
She played netball during her junior college and university days, and till today, she continues to play competitively with Netball Super League Singapore.
She took up yoga 10 years ago to complement her netball routine and to help her recover from the high impact nature of netball which left her with backaches, knee joint issues and tight muscles.
Over time, she got deeper into the practice of yoga and became more aware of herself physically, spiritually and mentally.
“I discovered which parts of my body were stronger and which were weaker; and I learnt to observe my mental state of mind during as well as after practice.
“Besides a healthier body and a clearer mind after each session, yoga also taught me how to deal with life’s challenges.
“When dealing with work and office politics, it helped me to stay grounded, re-centre my focus and to be grateful for what I had achieved in life,” she says.
Following her heart
In April last year, she signed up for a 200-hour yoga teacher training programme, intending to upgrade her skills.
Her training in Ashtanga yoga further fuelled her love for the practice, so she decided to give up her 10-year career in communications to teach yoga full time. “I took a big leap of faith, an 80 per cent pay cut, and convinced myself that I can survive with a lot less. But I knew I was doing the right thing by following my heart,” she says.
The biggest obstacle for her was finding her first break into the teaching scene. Fortunately, a group of very supportive friends started off as her “guinea students”.
She wanted more exposure to teaching, so she wrote to yoga studios. Eventually, Ms Kate Porter from Kate Porter Yoga Studio and Ms San Lai from Anahata Yoga engaged her as an instructor in their respective schools.
She conducts beginner and restorative yoga classes at Gym N Tonic as well.
Earlier this year, she set up her own studio, My Yoga Mat. “I wanted to create a cosy place where yogis from all walks of life could feel safe, supported and intimate enough to share their yoga journey with me,” she says.
She ploughed in several thousand dollars to do up the studio and invest in mats and blocks.
Focus on benefits
She described her yoga style as one that is neutral and more secular and focuses more on conveying the benefits of the different asanas and stilling the mind.
It is important for her that students feel better about themselves after each lesson and leave the class in a better state of mind.
That is why she insists on teaching all the classes herself. “This is the only way I can get to know all my students personally, know their ailments, if any, tailor the practice according to their needs and challenge them to improve,” she explains.
Most of her students are in their 20s to 30s. The oldest is a lady in her 80s.
She knows all her students’ names and regularly puts herself in their shoes to help her create an enjoyable ambience. She says: “Sometimes people come for yoga not for exercise or restorative purposes but simply to feel loved.”
She also teaches one-on-one, holds corporate team bonding events, as well as community events like Sport On Kids organised by the Singapore Sports Council.
“If I can just help impact another person’s physical and mental health like what yoga does for me, it will bring me a great sense of meaning and happiness,” she says.
For details, visit https://www.facebook.com/myyogamat.sg.