Why practice yoga? It’s often a love-or-hate thing, with many of its detractors citing its lack of pace. The benefits, however, have been well documents—flexibility, strength building, stress relief and improved cardio health, to name a few—but there’s a lot more to the practice than just the physical stuff. As we approach IRIS: Your Escape, Hong Kong’s biggest outdoor wellness festival, Compare Retreats chats with five veteran Hong Kong yogis about why they practice yoga every day.
Yoga Teacher, IRIS Programme Director, & Founder of Mentorship Workshop
“At first glance, the poses that we do on the mat are what we call ‘yoga’. But actually, what happens off the mat is the real yoga. I practice yoga poses five to six times a week, but after eight years of teaching and over 10 years of practising yoga, I can say that I really practice yoga all the time in my everyday life.
Yoga has taught me to be more focused. I have learnt how to share selflessly through my workshops and Mentorship Workshop to up and coming yoga teachers. I have learnt to meditate and most importantly, how to be grateful.
On bad days and stressful times, I pause and remind myself: what am I grateful for today? Who am I grateful for so that I can do what I do today? When my workshop sign up rates aren’t good, I would think, ‘I’m so fortunate to be able to teach yoga worldwide and I should be thankful for my students. How can I make it better next time?’ All these little things make up who I am today and why I do yoga. Being able to do a handstand myself is just cherry on top. Using handstand or yoga poses to help my students get stronger and overcome fear is why I teach yoga.”
Yoga Teacher & Founder of The Practice
“In this material world, people often regard self-care as doing a facial, shopping, having a manicure or pedicure, and so on… for me, it’s practising yoga. I don’t have to make an appointment or depend on someone else’s availability or pay extra and wait for the services to make myself comfortable: all I need to do is just put my feet on the mat and start moving.
Day by day we grow up. The quality of our time and how we spend our own time is crucial, and we often spend time making ourselves look very busy. We often think these things are important but most of them are actually insignificant and meaningless to our lives. Yoga practice allows us to have a space to slow down, experience emotions that come through during the practice, and helps us to observe and communicate with ourselves—what is the truth, what is the thing that we really need. I think knowing ‘who you are’ and ‘what do you want’ are the most important questions we should figure out in this confusing modern world. Getting the answers, or beginning your journey to find these answers as early as possible will saves you a lot of trouble and makes life much easier. Yoga practice is a very personal, affordable and nourishing way for me to get to know myself and take care of myself.”
Hema Mirpuri Aswani
Founder & Yoga Teacher at The Yoga Room
“My yoga journey started as a mere physical practice that helped me improve my flexibility, strength and of course, made me feel good. Yet, after a decade of practice, it became an invisible sanctuary that helped me stay grounded and present. Thanks to yoga I embraced the importance of breath during the practice inside and outside the studio and my life changed forever.
Founding The Yoga Room ten years ago was a natural step. The studio was born as a vehicle to share this intrinsic “yoga magic” with others. Suddenly yoga went from a passion to my livelihood. Providing a calm, judgement free and nurturing space to practice in the community was something truly needed in the middle of this vibrant and demanding city. Nowadays I start every morning knowing that on this particular day someone’s heart might be touched by yoga. And—regardless of typhoons and more metaphorical storms—this always keeps me smiling.”
Yoga Instructor, Mongolian Contortion Student & International Yoga Championships Gold Medalist
“My daily practice is my way of giving myself a personal reading on how my life is, or rather how life is happening to me. Whether I’ve been sleeping or practising too little, or seeing improvement in my strength and flexibility, or even when I am not willing to stay in the practice at all, the way my mind and body reacts says it all. I use a fixed sequence practice to maintain consistency in my observation, and also to spare myself the fuss of designing new flows every day. Some days my handstands are holding well, I push for variation drills. On days I can’t even fold forward without my hamstrings tensing up, I stretch along the myofascial lines to reset the response. It is a kind of daily self-care, and I can’t really hand it off to someone else.
In yoga, we learn that all things are impermanent, including our mental and physical states, down to each moment, and in the midst of constant change, our daily practice is a way to observe that range of change, be fine with it, and grow within it. After all, yoga is not about absolute stillness, but constant rebalancing.”
See also: The Ultimate Wellness Guide To Hong Kong
Pilates & Yoga Instructor & Reiki Practitioner
“My first ever yoga experience was many years ago at a 7am Bikram hot yoga class in the middle of summer in Vancouver. I recall going in with the intention that I could lose weight, but I came out thinking, yoga wasn’t for me. But since I relocated to Hong Kong, I became extremely homesick for the more active lifestyle that I grew up with in Canada. About three years ago I decided to give yoga another chance as I was desperate for a change. And little did I know, this time around, yoga changed my life. I attended the class with an open mind, without expectation and came out feeling full and abundant. That very same day, I decided to further explore yoga in depth and that passion has now turned into my lifestyle.
Yoga has reshaped me physically as I am much more balanced in flexibility and strength. Yoga has also helped me build self-awareness: I am more confident with my strengths and accepting of my weaknesses. Yoga has also sparked a drive to progress and achieve but, at the same time, patience and compassion to myself. But what I absolutely love the most is having the opportunity to teach and share with the people around me, in hopes of getting to watch them grow in a similar path that I did. They say, ‘It’s never too late to start yoga, you only wish you had started earlier.’ In my case, I’m just glad I gave it another chance because there’s not a day that goes by now where I am not grateful for what my yoga practice has offered and still offers to me.”