We first met Shan Shan at the Ashtanga Yoga Conference in Bali. We were attracted by her bubbly personality and enthusiasm towards the practice. After a decade of corporate world experiences, she started An Uplifted Day – an online boutique stocking curated essentials to help women have a better day.
She is one inspiring and dedicated Ashtangi who shows up on her mat with a zest for life. Here are her very real and insightful perspectives on the practice.
1. How did you discover Ashtanga Yoga?
I first started Ashtanga Yoga around March 2009. It was at The Yoga Shala Singapore where I still practice today and with the very same teachers I started with!
About 6 months before that I tried Hatha Yoga for the very first time at a studio near my home. I was hooked after the first class. I soon booked a trip to the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala, India for a yoga holiday.
I mentioned to my roommate at the ashram that I liked Sivananda because the practice was the same every time. She suggested that I also check out Ashtanga Mysore style. That was the first time I heard of Ashtanga.
When I got back to Singapore I googled some Ashtanga videos and found The Yoga Shala Singapore online. The rest is history!
2. How has the practice supported / changed your life?
I think one of the greatest benefits of having a dedicated Ashtanga practice is that it forces you to prioritize and focus on the things that truly matter and nourish you.
Having a dedicated practice takes up plenty of time and you become more discerning about what you choose to do, eat, who to spend time with and even what you watch on TV.
To sustain a practice, you realize that there is no space for time and energy-sucking situations and you gradually learn to detangle yourself.
The end-result is a more fulfilled life aligned with who you are and what you want. Your life will be filled with more of the relationships and activities which bring you joy.
3. What are some of the challenges you faced over the years of practice?
For me the mental challenge has always been harder than the physical challenge. There are some poses (ahem, kapotasana) that I just do not like. Every day it’s still a battle with the fear and reluctance to get into these poses.
I’m also trying to make my practice more meditative these days. I am learning to be present with each breath, to simply accept and not respond to all the emotions and thoughts which can arise during practice.
Unfortunately it’s not very fun on days when your mind decides to act like a tantrum-throwing toddler.
4. How do you find time to balance between work, practice and everything else? (We know you just launched your own business!)
Ha! I don’t! But I’ve come to a point where I’m starting to feel that it’s ok.
After a decade in the corporate world I started my own business www.anupliftedday.com, an online boutique stocking curated essentials to help women have a better day. It was inspired by how busy and fast-paced life is in Singapore and how having the right things can help you have a better day.
When it’s your business, it’s a little harder to separate between work and the rest of your life. There have been days where I’ve woken up to go the shala, gotten dressed and decided to respond to some emails. I got lost track of time and did not make it to the shala – all still in my practice clothes.
I think the key is not to be so hard on yourself if you have to skip a practice or even stop for a while. The practice should support your life and not the other way round.
Practically a good trick is to plan all evening work calls and social engagements on the eve of moondays or your rest day.
And above all, always be grateful. It is a privilege and a real blessing to be led to the Ashtanga Yoga (or any other spiritual practice or passion). When you find yourself being overwhelmed, be thankful that this is a good problem to have.
5. How do you keep yourself motivated with the practice?
Unless it’s a special occasion I don’t meet my friends or attend anything on evenings before I practice so that I can get to bed on-time. It’s taken some time to enforce this discipline but it really helps to develop a consistent practice and saves you from agonizing over whether you should be out or not.
I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t spending enough time with my friends and family but soon realized that practicing actually makes me a better wife, daughter, sister and friend even if I might not be able to hang out all the time.
I always pack my bag and clothes the night before so it’s easier to get up and out of the house in the mornings.
Having the right diet for your body type and not over-eating also helps as you will feel less sluggish and more energetic.
But the best way to show up consistently on the mat is to recognize that the days when I practice are always sweeter, lighter, kinder and more productive than the days I do not. If you want a joyful, fulfilled and compassionate life, keep this end-goal and feeling firmly in mind and you’ll naturally be guided to do what it takes to get there.
Ashtanga is not something we have to do. It’s something we’re blessed to do!