My experience of yoga is based on a lifetime of practice, teaching, learning and applying its principles to the practical demands of modern living. Alongside a busy secondary school teaching career, teaching science and modern languages, I ran yoga classes during evening and weekends.
I am now in a position to concentrate solely on teaching yoga and its five principles - meditation, pranayama (breathing techniques), postures, relaxation and diet – emphasising its therapeutic effects and employing yoga as a practical tool to enhance all aspects of one’s life.
I first discovered yoga at the age of 19. Trained in ballet, I easily took to the discipline of yoga, at once recognising the powerful interplay between the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of yoga and its benefits.
At the age of 22, I attended the funeral of my father-in-law, who had become a Buddhist monk late in life in Singapore. There, I spent two solid months learning the art of mediation at the Kwong Meng San temple under the guidance of Vimalananda, a resident monk. My mentor helped open “my third eye” and guided me in a conscious out-of-body experience, deepening my connection with spirit and moving my life path inexorably in the direction of teaching and healing.
The Master of the temple, Hoong Choo, went into a long period of meditation before giving me my Chinese name, Poh Lien Huah, which means “Precious Lotus Blossom”. He felt the natural characteristics of the Lotus flower, as stated in Buddhist teaching, personified my character and personality, and especially my ability to move and change with any situation.
Thereafter, I immersed myself in the study of yoga philosophy and its different forms. I finally settled on teaching Hatha yoga, guided by Swami Vishnu Devananda (Founder of the international Sivanandas Yoga Vedanta Centres), always bearing in mind my students’ individual needs, recognising and emphasising the therapeutic healing effect of yoga and applying it to myself and others.
After having my two children, I gained a Masters degree from the University of London, where I read, education, psychology and social biology, and went on to teach.
By this time, the study and practice of yoga had become a daily part of my life and in addition to the stresses and strains of teaching, I set up a yoga studio and began teaching the discipline in earnest, running small evening and weekend classes.
Life throws us countless obstacles to overcome. Some easier, some harder, but I am a firm believer that all can be achieved with the varied tools of yoga. As well as all the usual hurdles I have had to cope with in my personal and professional life, I have also suffered from grand mal epilepsy during my adult life. While I took the prescribed medication, I am in no doubt that a healthy lifestyle, meditation, mindfulness, positive thinking and self-healing played a part in controlling the condition. I have now been free from fits for the last 30 years.
In 1997, I developed cervical spondylosis, suffering chronic nerve pains emanating from my neck, which seriously interfered with my work, personal and social life. Despite the fact that the condition is chronic, I conquered my pain through a mixture of meditation, relaxation, visualisation and changes in thought processes and behaviour. By understanding the “Gate Control” Theory of Pain (Melzack and Wall, 1965) I began to view my condition differently, which finally enabled me to control my pain, rather than the pain controlling me.
In 2006, I contracted breast cancer. At this point, I decided to retire from teaching while I endured two operations and a month of radiotherapy. I continued with my daily practice of yoga, meditation and deep chakra breathing, which gave me a positive frame of mind and the healing energy to secure a speedy recovery.
After this experience, I realised I had to start teaching yoga again and proceeded to set up my in-house studio and have not looked back since.