Sheeling is a fervent ashtangi who enjoys good food and a glass of wine. She prefers lazy Sunday picnics over fancy Saturday brunches because she thinks it is imperatively therapeutic to lay down on the grass after a meal. She secretly enjoys clicking the camera just to hear the sound of the shutter which is how she found her passion for photography.
As an animal lover, she strongly believes that dogs are created by God to show human beings what love is. Last but not least, Sheeling admires anyone who can bake because she is one of those people who can follow the recipe to the T and still burn a cake.
1. How did you shift from flying (as a flight stewardess) to a traveling ashtangi?
The shift came inevitably after almost 9 years of flying. The irregular hours and job demands have definitely made its toll on my health. The last few years of flying I was constantly ill. That was when I realised that if I’m serious about getting my health back I needed to quit my job. I never knew about Ashtanga Yoga back then. I did some form of yoga but it wasn’t a regular practise and certainly wasn’t as intense as Ashtanga Yoga. It wasn’t until I quit my job and moved back home that I tried my first Ashtanga Yoga LED class. I enjoyed it so much that I started researching places in Singapore that solely teach Ashtanga Yoga.
That was when I discovered The Yoga Shala Singapore. I went for my first mysore session within a week and I have never looked back since. Although my flying career ended but my love for traveling certainly did not! I continued to travel while discovering different shalas and practised with various teachers during my travels.
2. How has the practice of Ashtanga Yoga changed your life – e.g. the way you live, your priorities, your values etc.?
Not to quote Richard Freeman’s “Yoga ruins your life!”. But it had certainly “ruined” mine! The moment I started to prioritise my practice first everything else either have to follow suit or fall apart. I think a big part of my lifestyle change has got to do with me becoming more aware and conscious about how I spend my time.
I noticed myself withdrawing from my usual social circle, limiting to just family and close friends. Not that having a lot of friends is a bad thing but I just didn’t want to be around people who are there purely to absorb your energy. Through this priority shift, I have adopted a more simpler lifestyle. I gradually discovered that I actually didn‘t need a lot of things in life. Maybe also because I travel so much and I couldn’t afford to carry a whole house back!
Human beings acquire things only because we want to live and get accustomed to a certain lifestyle. But once you realise that you don’t need to acquire things to lead a happy life then it becomes very liberating. Because it is only then you will see what are the things that truly serve you or they are just there to weigh you down.
3. What inspires you to step on the mat each time?
The mat is where my home is and my home is where my heart lies. After almost 2 years of travelling, I realised that it is important to find an anchor point that keeps drawing me back to the mat and is that feeling of homeliness.
You don’t need a physical home to make you feel a sense of wellbeing, love and gratitude. It should come from within regardless of where you are, how the weather is that day or who is around you. Travelling is fun but is also brings uncertainty and stress. But just the fact that I can simply step on the mat, unwind and let the practise takes me where I need to be is simply amazing.
4. You have practiced with so many teachers, what are the qualities you think that a teacher should have and why?
I must admit I have practised with quite a few teachers. But only because I travel so much and each time I land somewhere I will find a Shala to practise in. I don’t actually advocate seeking out any particular teacher to practise with because in my opinion it is actually more detrimental for your practise.
It’s really difficult to pinpoint what I look out for in a teacher. In the Ashtanga Yoga context is even more difficult. That is because the Ashtanga Yoga method is distinctly intimate. It’s a very personal exchange between the teacher and the student. Which is why I think having chemistry between the teacher and the student is the most important.
You can have the best teacher in the world with years of experience and certified to the highest level to teach you. However if there is not even a slight bit of chemistry then it makes no difference for you to go to a gym and working out on an exercise machine.
5. What is your biggest AHA moment on the mat and how has it affected / influenced the way you practice?
The Ashtanga Yoga practise in its entirety is a never ending journey of self discovery. Even though it may seems like we do the same thing day after day but my practise still surprises me everyday . One of the biggest lessons I have learnt since I started practising Ashtanga Yoga definitely have to be the act of surrendering.
On the contrary, it is not about letting go or rather it is simply about letting it be. Surrendering to what the practise entails and what the practise may bring. For me this is what serves me the most in my practise.