1) When and how did you first start practising?
I started practicing in 2008/2009, during my undergraduate days in Vancouver, BC. I remember wanting to take up a physical practice – ballet, pilates and yoga were on my radar. After checking the pricing for all three practices, yoga proved to be the cheapest. Plus, accompanied with my student discount on monthly passes and (almost but not really) free bus card, I could go to classes without feeling a huge pinch. So, yoga it was!
2) How you feel or what did you think after that first time?
I remember filling up the sign-up form while sitting at the window seat. Without walking into the studio yet, I had this inkling that perhaps one day I’d become a teacher too. The room was relatively full when I stepped into class. The only spot was right in the front, second mat from the right. I recall having a mix of emotions – anxiety of being right in front, and excitement of starting something that I felt would be a beneficial practice for me in the long run. Thinking back, it was weird that I had such thoughts and emotions running through my body. I didn’t step out of class feeling super refreshed, but I was filled with curiosity. Something felt right – nothing I could explain then, or even right now.
3) What inspired you to teach? And why do you continue to teach?
Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, and Richard Freeman’s The Mirror of Yoga were huge inspirations to me. A combination of past experiences drove me to understand the practice of yoga through the subtle bodies. I was exposed to social justice and trauma work while working with my main teacher. in 2013, I faced the tough decision to come back to Singapore after living overseas for seven years. I decided to start a social organisation that utilises yoga-based tools to increase the mental and emotional resiliency within individuals. And with that, I took on my teacher training! I continue to teach because by combining my knowledge in yoga and social justice, I have witnessed the positive impact of this work. And I’m committed to continue growing as an individual, and to give back to my community.
4) How has your practice affected your life and perspective on it?
I don’t even know where to begin. My life has been ruined because of yoga! RE: https://www.shambhala.com/videos/richard-freeman-and-how-yoga-will-ruin-your-life/ I recall my teacher telling me that I was lucky to have found this practice at a young age, and to be doing this important work at 27 – the age when I started working with him. I believe that it’s this practice that has allowed me to come this far – in my personal and work life. It has taught me to constantly challenge my limited beliefs, and to see reality from a different set of lenses. I have overcame multiple mental hurdles, and made me a stronger individual. Everyday, I pray for courage to stay plugged into my own body, and to see beyond my limited beliefs, so that I can show up as humanly as possible and live life to the fullest.
5) Share something fun about Cheryl
I am a rock climber and a social entrepreneur. To keep life exciting for myself, I join boulder competitions from time to time because that adrenaline rush is exciting for me – the fear of embarrassing myself or falling of the wall, and the courage to push myself to the limits. I suppose living the life of a social entrepreneur is about the same. Everything exists on a spectrum, and it’s about finding the middle ground and staying present in my body. Currently, my social organisation, The Breathe Movement, is putting together the inaugural Singapore Mental Health Film Festival that’s happening in February 2019. I’m excited to be working with a committed team, but as well, about raising awareness about mental health in Singapore. This is an important conversation, and I hope we can lessen the stigma of mental health issues, and to create more supportive and safe spaces for everyone to thrive in mentally, emotionally and physically. Ask me more about SMHFF if you see me at the studio if you’d like to know more!
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