TEACHER FEATURE: Joanne

Joanne Quek

1) When and how did you first start practising?

I first found yoga from watching TV when I was 12 years old, Yoga for Health was the name of the program. My favourite pose was the Shoulder Stand, which I teach very carefully now after YTT and learning anatomy.

2) How you feel or what did you think after that first time?

I was intrigued by how good I felt after the practice – I guess it was the beginnings accessible yoga. I am never athletic and I am not good at sports and games, so yoga is the only form of ‘exercise’ available to me.  Life started taking over when I started working and I did not get to practice for a good 30 years. In my 40s, I started getting aches and pains, felt a loss of energy and general weakness – especially after having 2 kids (whom I adore).  I started taking yoga classes with Pure Yoga in Hong Kong – regularly 3 times a week. The practice was my safe place. I found that by coming to practice I could access parts of my body and my mind that are helpful to help me navigate my life both personally and professionally.

3) What inspired you to teach? And why do you continue to teach?

It was Patrick Creelman and Rinat Perlman – whom I will forever acknowledge as my foremost teachers. There have been many teachers along the way of course, and each one has brought their own wonderful knowledge and generously shared about their practice. They taught me how to be authentic and to act from the position of authenticity which is something that I struggled with. I have spent the better part of my life being an executive, friend, mother and wife, and feeling out of control. The teachers seemed very calm and clear-headed about what they were teaching and I got especially drawn to classes where the teacher gave clear and specific anatomical instructions and cues that I could follow. Somehow that idea of order felt reassuring. I love the feeling of stripping and sanding away all the layers and layers of conditioning and expectations that others (and even myself) have of me to behave a certain way and to deliver certain things. To uncover and reveal who I am and what I bring to this little life that I have now.

I teach to help people understand that true happiness is not attained by running around, rushing around and doing more.  I hope to help them see that they really only need to slow down and start from their own bodies – the one and only ‘vehicle’ we have to move us around and manifest our contribution to this beautiful world.

4) How has your practice affected your life and perspective on it?

I was living the dream life, a career in one of the largest IT companies in the world, traveling, enjoying parenthood, a great husband.  It was all good but I was feeling disconnected from everything.  Everything I had to do seemed to require more and more effort over time, when they should actually be getting easier. When we moved to Hongkong, I lost my usual ‘structure’. While that was assuring, it was also a burden to maintain. I started taking regular classes in Pure Yoga, near my office and took any class that fitted my free time. I found that it did not matter the style of yoga or the teacher, I had the same experience after – calmer, things seemed more organised, and I was able to make good decisions easily.

I found that the clear, mindful asana instruction improved my focus (on the right / important things) and sense of connectedness with my mind and body. But on a greater scale, the daily practice showed me the value of acting deliberately. I learned that, on the mat, patience and focused intention translated into more precision in poses; off the mat, those qualities resulted in living in a more deeply satisfying way. When you hold poses for a while, you have time to get where you want to be, she says. “That’s how I feel about life now. If you are slow and mindful, you tend to be more focused on your goals and intentions.”

Tantra scholar, Rod Stryker, once said, to truly understand why yoga is so transformative, you first have to understand the concept of transformation. The idea that yoga changes you into someone better than the person you were before is something of a misconception, Stryker says. It is more accurate to say that yoga helps you remove the obstacles that obscure who you really are, that it helps you come into a fuller expression of your true nature. “We’re not transforming into something we aspire to,” he says. “We’re transforming into the very thing that we are innately: our best Self.” I realised that for the most part of my life, I had been living other people’s idea of a successful life. The only way to measure success was how much money I could make.

Most importantly, my yoga practice allows me a glimpse of the joyful and free person you can be. Practising asanas allow me to accomplish things I never thought I could or even want to. Before YTT, I  always thought that there’s no way I am going to be able to do a Handstand, I’ll just leave that to the younger practitioners.” However, I started gaining confidence with constant practice during YTT, and one day, I was doing a handstand.” I love that feeling of joy and freedom when lying in savasana at the end of a yoga practice, after having worked hard and felt thoroughly present and connected to my body. It feels raw and simple, like I have been stripped down to my essence – thoroughly clean, shining even. It may be fleeting, but I know I can always come back to it whenever I need to.

5) Share something fun about yourself.

It’s not really fun but I donated one of my kidneys and am a living example of how strong and capable our bodies are at adapting and thriving. I also happen to love eating, and am always happy to be invited to eat (I really will eat almost anything).

Joanne teaches on weekly Tuesday morning and Sunday afternoon. Check out her schedule here