Publication: The Malay Mail Online
KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The Indian monsoon brings a lot in its wake. At first a cool respite after the usual four-month long blistering summer and as it progresses, melancholy shrouds the vast region as rapid floods bring about a swathe of destruction almost annually.
But for Angeline Liew and Raymond Lim, the monsoon — during their sojourn in Mysore, Karnataka — in October 2010 brought about an opportunity for the two successful corporate high flyers to try their hand at entrepreneurship in one of the oldest spiritual forms of well-being – yoga.
The duo came to know each other through a mutual friend, who is also a yoga instructor, in 2009 when they had expressed intentions to pursue professional lessons in Hatha yoga at a teachers’ training ashram in the royal city.
But when even the best of friends think twice, if not more, about striking a partnership, Liew and Lim — who had just become friends for about a year at that point — decided to take the plunge, leaving the rest to hard work.
Yoga practitioners, Liew and Lim — trained by Bharath Shetty, a direct disciple of BKS Iyengar, the yoga guru who helped take the ancient Indian spiritual practice to the rest of the world — decided to open up their own studio, aptly named Prana Yoga, not just as a platform to practise yoga but to cultivate mindfulness and acceptance.
“It was the rainy season and we had the day off from class… we were talking about where this is going in a few years from now and we thought it would be nice to have our own space so that we can really share what we believe in, and two years later the dream came true,” related Liew.
Liew dabbled in yoga after a forgotten back injury began bothering her in 2000 from stress at work, marriage preparations and moving into a new house; things came to a head onboard a longhaul flight to the United States, when upon arriving at her destination Liew could hardly walk.
“I realised then my spine was bad. I immediately saw a chiropractor but it didn’t help. A friend suggested I try yoga, I tried one class and I liked it. It felt good to stretch out and so I kept going back,” she said.
“Everywhere I went because of work and travel, I would pop into a class whenever I could and I made it a point to do that but the downside to that is that there is no fix teacher to guide you… I was window shopping for different styles just so I could get my yoga fix,” related Liew.
Having had a sedentary lifestyle for most parts of her career, yoga asanas or poses eased her lower back pain by gently stretching and strengthening the muscles of the lower back and legs.
“You are as healthy as your spine and we often try to fix things rather than to maintain what we already have,” she said.
Late 2008, Liew resigned as a regional marketing consultant for a multinational company and took off for a month discovering India, and at the near end of her impromptu tour Liew signed up for a yoga teachers’ training programme at Ananda Ashram in Mysore, and upon returning to Malaysia she discovered Lim had joined the same programme.
But unlike Liew, Lim’s draw to yoga started with a fascination for a tricky asana he spotted on a billboard five years ago.
Lim, who began his career as a chef at a five-star luxury hotel, too suffered from bad back due to poor posture from standing more than 10 hours daily.
He subsequently traded the demanding job in the kitchen, in 2007,for the front desk — in the food and beverages industry — but it not alleviate his back problems.
“I saw a billboard of a guy striking a yoga pose, a very fancy yoga pose and I thought to myself “so cool I also want to be able to do that” — that was my initial motivation. I signed up for yoga but even after a year I couldn’t achieve that pose.
“Nevertheless I started getting amazing results, not just did my back pain disappear but I started to have less instances of fevers. Before getting into yoga, I often came down with fever due to weak immunity and severe gastric all because of irregular eating hours from my days as a chef,” he said.
After two years, the chef-turned-yogi decided to take the teachers’ training programme to be able to convey how yoga had helped him.
“While I was in the F&B industry after a certain period I used to get bored and I always looked for something to inspire me and to motivate me to move forward but the cycle repeats itself.
“But doing yoga has been different… yes, we have to make some money from teaching — in order to survive — but most importantly it’s been a way of improving ourselves and others along the way, which is more rewarding than money,” said Lim, who signed up for the same course as Liew in 2009 and eventually quit his job to focus on yoga full-time.
In 2012, Liew and Lim opened Prana Yoga, which is located in Taman Tun Dr Ismail. The studio now holds 11 different programmes and more than 20 classes a week — suited for all levels — with six other teachers.
Among the unique features of their programmes are prenatal and postnatal exercises — which is one of their most attended class.
For both of them, yoga, which began as a therapeutic escape, is now a means to help others.
To make the experience all the more wholesome, the duo had concurrently initiated the Pledge A Ringgit, to encourage selfless service.
The studio donates RM1 to charity for every class an individual attends for a term ranging three months to a year.
In the first month after their launch, they collected RM1,000 in three months — which was donated to the National Cancer Council Malaysia (Makna).
“It is just sharing what you love and making that other person the priority and making that person live their best life by coming to terms with what the mind and body can or cannot do and being relatively okay with it,” explained Liew.
“What we teach you is what is relevant for your body and mind — you may come with an external objective, you may want to lose your muffin top, get a bikini body or improve your golf swing, or you are just someone who needs a break from a stressful job… whatever your objective is when you get on the mat we will make the class work for you, that’s the personal touch we deliver,” she assured.
Prana Yoga KL
Unit 2.3, 2nd Floor, Pusat Kreatif Kanak Kanak Tuanku Bainun, 48 Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur