When did you first “find” yoga?
I actually was introduced to yoga as meditation, rather than as a physical exercise. While I was volunteering in Canada for Elizabeth Fry, an association for sexually assaulted women, part of the therapy was meditation. So I thought, ok, this is yoga. With my background in abnormal psychology and after seeing the effects of yogic meditation on these women, I began to think this must have a powerful impact on the brain. This was when I first started to become interested in yoga.
How would you describe your style of teaching?
Though I am Moksha trained, I would say I have a Hot/Bikram yoga foundation – Bikram was the first asana practice I tried..
So when did you make the switch to physical (asana) practice?
When I first tried Bikram in 1999, I hated myself! I just thought, “I’ll never do that again. These people are crazy, how can they do this to themselves!” But since it was one of those month-long student packages, I thought, “OK, I’m broke, I’ll go again.” And from then on I was hooked. It was basically Bikram for me for the next six years.
How has the yoga scene in Singapore changed in the last ten years?
Well, ten years ago when I started, people were very specific about what style of yoga they do, and in a way, they were more dedicated to that particular school of thought. If you practiced Ashtanga, you really studied the foundation of Ashtanga practice. These days, I feel that people choose their classes based on who is teaching and how it fits in their schedules.
How do you see yoga evolving in Singapore in the next five years?
In the next five years, I’m really hoping people will start asking questions again: “What is Ashtanga? Why is ujjayi so important? Why am I doing Bikram? Why is it so hot?!” I also hope to see more teachers who are very focused on their training, more workshops, and an overall ‘richening’ of the yoga scene here. Just to sidetrack a bit, it is very sad that Knot left Singapore (Yes, we agree!). He was a very inspiring teacher to have here, and I’m sure those in Thailand must be happy to have him!
Tell us about your first yoga class as a teacher
To be honest, I don’t remember my first few classes too well because they were just so different from what they have become today. They were terrible! I was just so robotic, monotone, and my class had very little energy. In my training, my teachers kept telling me “Find your voice, find your voice. Add your personality into the dialogue.” It took some time, but I am happy to say there is personality in my class now – I do crack the occasional bad joke, I take the time to adjust individual students – I guess I found my voice.
Who inspires you?
(James points at San) For me, it’s always San. Her ability to teach students of all levels in one class is something that I and all the other teachers here at Anahata look up to. If, for example, she has a class made up of 5 regular practitioners and 1 new student, she can somehow make sure that everyone leaves the studio with a great experience. That’s something that we all try to bring into our teaching. And though we probably won’t get mistaken for teaching like San, I hope that people can see a little bit of San in all our classes.
Are there students you don’t like?
(Laughs) Let’s put it this way… We like students who have self-awareness. You know, those who can say, “This is how I feel today” and can take a step back if necessary. The other side to that coin is those students who keep pushing themselves, no matter how many times you tell them, “Please don’t kick your leg out, you’re not ready.” These are the students we worry about because a lack of self- awareness is the main cause of injuries, and hinders your practice in the long run.
What do you both hope to achieve with Anahata?
Our main goal with Anahata is to make yoga affordable and thus accessible to everyone. We are not looking to make a profit here. Any money that comes in will be put back into the studio.
Finally, how did you meet?
We met at Zouk!
Ooh, who was spinning then?
This dispels all rumours that San picked James up in a hot yoga class!! And it now makes sense to us that their beautiful little angel is called Sasha! San is pregnant with her third child now, and moving into her third trimester – if you haven’t experienced her teaching style yet, pop into Anahata soon, before she takes time off to be a mother really soon.
We thank the both of them for allowing us the time to chat from their busy schedules; James: we wish you a fulfilling journey as a yoga teacher. San: we can’t wait to see your baby in the studio!