This International Day of Yoga, we talk to Hong Kong yogi ChauKei Ngai about her journey finding health through yoga.
Ngai, founder of YogaUP, wasn’t always healthy — in fact, born premature with breathing problems, she was a regular visitor to the emergency room up to her late 20s when she discovered yoga for the first time. Yoga helped Ngai deal with her health and helped her find balance. Healthier than ever before, you can find her teaching at YogaUP, her studio located in the heart of Discovery Bay with a 180-degree view of the ocean, a semi-retreat from the bustling city to recharge your soul.
Tell us about your yoga journey and how it changed your life?
I started yoga for my breathing issues, a problem I’d struggled with since I was born. I later found out the issues were related to stress and anxiety. Yoga helped me to stay away from the hospital for my breathing difficulties. Before yoga I used to go to emergency room every year.
On the physical side, most people want to do yoga to lose weight. There’s this idea that “the skinnier, the better”, but I was actually underweight before I started yoga. Yoga brings us back to ourselves, it cultivates balance, bringing our body to the optimal state and weight, which has nothing to do with perceptions of beauty. After years of yoga, I gained weight. Now, I look stronger and leaner. My general health is definitely better and the last time I had to see a doctor was more than 15 years ago. I have more confidence to do activities and general things in life.
Tell us about the style you practice and teach.
I love teaching flow classes with music, where the focus is on connecting your breath and movement, or confronting hot classes, where it’s just the mirror and you. I also love teaching alignment based Hatha classes that give guidance on turning inward.
Tell us more about your favourite pose and what it does for you?
My fave pose tends to change, some days it’s one-legged balancing, other days it’s inversions, and some days I feel like arm balancing. However, these days all poses help me to take time for myself, giving me space to retreat and be introspective.
How has the HK yoga scene changed in the last three years and what developments have you seen?
The yoga scene is always evolving, in the last three years I see that more young people and more schools are embracing yoga, which I think is what the future should lead to. I always say, yoga doesn’t cure everything, in fact, I think it’s irresponsible to say that. However, I see most people will benefit from yoga, with more frequency, consistency and accuracy.
How can yoga help with the main pain points in our hectic Hong Kong lifestyles?
Learning yoga equips us with the skills that helps us find our own identity, stability and strength in confidence in this changing world.
Yoga is both mental and physical, how does mindful movement benefit us?
Mindful movements help us to stay in present, where there’s no regret of the past, and no worries of what will happen in the future. In this space and state of the present, this is where all the magic happens.
What is the most important thing when you are teaching the practice?
Communication, connection and confidence. With all these, we have the tools to navigate and re-navigate ourselves, orienting ourselves towards a more positive direction in life.
Where are your favourite places to do yoga?
My favourite place to do yoga is my studio. We’re incredibly blessed to have a space with an unobstructed ocean view. Usually within only five minutes, my mind lets go of daily distractions on thoughts, and tunes in to present.