A quick scroll through Jennie Cheung’s social media reveals countless photos and clips of her mesmerizing practice, as she steadily moves through the various inversions in an elegant dance. Cheung, who’s also a professional hand balancer, primarily teaches inversions at Pure Yoga, where her advanced classes are highly sought-after.
Tell us about the style you practice and teach.
I love handstands and every variation thereof. Who doesn’t like hopping up and landing with their world turned upside down? Three years ago I met my handstand coach and since then I’ve transitioned into my current path where I now consider myself as a full-time handstand practitioner and teacher. This path has led me to an ongoing exploration of the field of hand balancing. As a dedicated hand balancer, I now share what I’ve learned in my classes on a regular basis.
The handstand is my favourite pose for sure, partly because it looks pretty cool doing a handstand in the middle of the room! Handstands aren’t easy – consistency and persistence are non-negotiable. It requires lots
of core strength and endurance training, not to mention the benefits of increased circulation and lymph flow. You engage your whole body while using your shoulders, arms, core, and back.
What’s the most important thing when you’re teaching the practice?
Whether I’m practicing or teaching, the most important thing is to listen to your body and pay attention to your own intuition. To tune inward and get sensitive to yourself. That feeling in your body is where you’ll find your intuition and your capacity to act. As you practice more, your body sends you messages – core, gut feelings – all the time. You don’t need to reason them, logic them or intellectualize them. You just need to act on them. Also, everyone has their own practice, so never compare or let your own ego guide you. Just do what you can do.
Where are your favourite places to do yoga?
When I travel, I do handstands anywhere in a city, on a bridge, or on a mountain. A few of my favourite places to handstand are the Great Wall of China, Ginza in Tokyo, and Sausalito in California.
Tell us about your yoga journey and how it changed your life.
I took my first Bikram yoga class at university in Toronto. I got my teacher qualification 15 years ago and have been teaching hot yoga at Pure Yoga ever since. I developed the basis of my experience through time on the mat. The most important thing I can do as a teacher is practice, committing to a dedicated daily self-practice and sticking with it – this is the foundation of teaching. To sift my mindset from “teaching postures” to “teaching people” – for example, how to relax into change and never quit, especially in hot yoga. And the most effective way to do that is to learn to do it myself, to model it as a teacher. One of the greatest tools of yoga teaches me to listen: listening is a powerful skill that allows me to guide students – and my own life – with wisdom and compassion.
Yoga is both mental and physical, how does mindful movement benefit us?
Yoga is like a shield against many diseases and health disorders. It gives your body the power to protect itself from immunity-related diseases like cold and cough, viral fever, etc. I have never taken a sick leave in the past 15 years of teaching! Yoga also cures backaches, neck aches, arthritis, etc. The regular practice of yoga provides vitality to inner organs and improves their functions. In addition, yoga opens up the doors of imagination, creativity, and concentration.
Yoga promotes the overall fitness of your body and improves flexibility. Yoga incorporates many stretching movements that tone your body muscles and makes them stronger. The fitness of the body depends on the fitness of your mind. Yoga is not only a physical exercise, it is a mind and body connection. Our hectic HK lifestyles have led our generation to health disorders and emotional distress.
It can help you in innumerable ways, as it empowers your body, mind, and soul to fight the stress and everyday problems of life. Practicing the right kind of yoga religiously will help cleanse your body, mind, and soul. It is also a way of developing your mental ability and concentration levels.
How has the Hong Kong yoga scene changed in the last three years and what developments have you seen?
Last year was a tumultuous time for the fitness and yoga industry and no one could have predicted we would be working out from home. The online fitness and yoga industry will become even bigger in 2021 as virtual yoga and fitness classes are here to stay. One of the greatest areas of growth in 2020, which is set to continue into 2021, is the use of yoga and fitness apps which have been greatly realised and embraced worldwide.