Sheela Cheong

In 2018, Art of Yoga would like you to get closer and much more personal with our teachers and what transpired their yoga journey, how it led them to teach the way they do and what they would love to share with you, our beloved students.

There is none other more perfect to kick start this feature than our own Sheela Cheong!

“This is a picture of me with my first & best yoga teacher, Julie Kimball taken this past January. Meeting her changed me and the course of my life. I first met Julie when I wandered into her class at the Uni of California. I was there for grad school and after a traumatic new year’s in hospital, my friends suggested I try a yoga class. The rest was magic (and disappointed parents.)

Julie studied with BKS Iyengar himself in India when they were both much younger. At the time, I knew little about him other than that he was really strict with his students. I grew curious because Julie was the complete opposite. She obviously respected him and his teachings, often describing his fierce demeanour with a twinkle in her eye. At present, I am still in the process of unravelling what of Iyengar’s yoga she kept, what was adapted, and what was mindfully set aside. It has taken me the last 10 years to understand why she teaches the way she does.

Over the next 2 years, I fell in love with the practice *as taught by her*. This last part is crucial. I believe that a good teacher is instrumental in guiding the student’s journey.

For proof, I only had to look at the faces around me. After our classes, I’d glance around the room. Everyone looked softer and in their own peaceful space. There was a sense of relaxed energy that enveloped me as I stepped out of the studio into the cool, misty mornings.

It wasn’t long before I knew that that was what I wanted to do for people. While I loved the intellectual challenges of writing a PhD, I knew in my heart that I did not want to be embedded in the “publish-or-perish” cycle that is academic life. I am still obsessed with news, politics and current affairs… but how amazing it is to be able to bring that peace of mind and quietness in the body to someone. They are two sides of me: the academic / critical thinker & the student of Yoga. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Following that, my advice for students is: THINK for yourself. Listen to the teacher, do the practice, and decide for yourself: Is what they’re teaching making sense? How does my body feel before, during and after the practice? Has it helped me become a better person (in whatever way you choose to define it)?

I am not into guru worship. I don’t have all the answers. Julie didn’t. And I don’t think that Iyengar himself did. Wisdom and knowledge need to be continually refined. The practice of yoga awakens us to what needs our attention. The question is: Are you listening?”