Ling’s Story: How One Woman’s Dedication to Yoga Started at Her Mother’s Knee!
Who needs two names when one will do? Consider Sting. Bono. Madonna. Time to add "Ling" to your list, because once you learn more about the spunky Yoga advocate (known to followers as Spice Sadhaka), you won't care if she has one name or six. Ling is a youthful, remarkable practitioner of Yoga with a warm and caring personal style. But it's her experience and extensive knowledge about all aspects of Yoga—from simple poses to Power Yoga, Moon Salutation and Spice Yoga aromatherapy—that make her a formidable authority on this ancient form of mind and body discipline.
Ling credits her mother for teaching her basics from the time she could understand simple poses and that nurturing has turned her into an aware, compassionate and wise woman. Her advice is important—particularly for runners. Short name. Big power. This young woman is someone every runner should get to know!
RS: When and why did you first discover the benefits of adding Yoga to your life?
Ling: I credit my mother. She introduced me to all things healthy and holistic as a child, so you might say that she's my personal inspiration. We spent time each morning doing breathing and stretching moves to keep our bodies lithe and limber. These sessions "enshrined" Yoga as a way of life for me, so it was never an esoteric practice. I walked into my first Yoga studio class about 10 years ago and from the moment I stepped inside, instant energy came over me, connecting me physically and spiritually to this practice.
RS: What style of Yoga do you teach—or do you teach all types?
Ling: I believe that every person requires a type of Yoga that's unique to what I call her "season of life". Sometimes, I suggest practising different types of Yoga on different days of the week! Some people think that Yoga is like a shirt with a "one size fits all" tag. I work with athletes, pregnant women, injured people and those in need of physical rehabilitation—adults, teens and kids. Each has a different need. I ask people this question, "Would you eat the same meal every day?" They say no, so I explain that, like your body, your soul needs variety and nothing nourishes like different styles of Yoga practice.
RS: Since our readers are mostly runners, which style of Yoga is most beneficial for our unique needs and goals?
Ling: I recommend Yin Yoga to runners whose muscles get tight. It emphasizes the lower body and includes long stretches that work the joints, increase muscular fascial flexibility, and strengthen knee muscles and ankle joints to help one's running form. I stress poses that open the hamstrings, hips and lower back and emphasize core conditioning and body awareness work. Some runners don't realize that they have acquired bad habits that impair their ability to run properly. The key to endurance is knowing how to run "from the core", but my most important advice to runners is usually about breathing: Yoga teaches runners to breathe correctly so lung capacity increases and runners perform better during endurance races. Additionally, Yoga teaches mindfulness. Pre-race visualization can mean the difference between reaching the finish line and not finishing at all.
RS: We understand that you were a triathlete before Yoga and coaching became primary focuses. What did you experience and achieve as a triathlete?
Ling: (Laughs.) I've swum enough, spun enough and run my knees to the ground qualifying for the Ironman World in the past. I learned that I was following the wrong road! Sure, I got faster, better and stronger training for races, but I never felt I was achieving anything beyond stroking my ego. I developed injuries from over-training and over-reaching. Making mistakes is a great education: When I started to pair Yoga with distance training, I realized that I had finally found a way to be kinder to myself, perform better and feel better! What a revelation.
RS: Do you still do triathlons?
Ling: I no longer race these days, but that doesn't mean I don't still challenge myself! I go rock climbing and mountaineering. Both require me to focus on inner peace, trusting myself and my instincts. Happily, just about all of my pursuits can be done outdoors where nature is my constant companion and a reminder of the deep roots I embrace to guide others in their path to enlightenment via Yoga.
RS: What Yoga moves are especially useful for triathletes and marathoners?
Ling: I encourage runners to adopt a Yoga programme that includes these poses: Dragon, Pigeon, Hero, Warrior, Boat and Side Plank for flexibility and to build core strength. Competitors must understand that Yoga is more than movement; emulating a pose is great, but if an athlete doesn't sync her mind and spirit to the pose, she only gets part of the benefits of Yoga. A well-trained Yoga professional can teach these techniques and I can't stress enough how important it is for a newbie to find the right instructor to experience the uplifting, energetic alignment resulting from being properly taught.
RS: Yoga remains a popular movement in Singapore, but the emergence of so many different types of Yoga can make things confusing. How can our readers pick the one that's right for each of them?
Ling: Sometimes, the best choice isn't necessarily the one that's obvious! That's why I encourage people to think outside the box. It is human nature for the mind to seek the path of least resistance, thus choosing an "obvious" Yoga style isn't always wise. For example, stressed people are attracted to the fast-flowing Vinyasa style. They try it and can't figure out why they don't feel calm afterwards! High-strung, easily-agitated people benefit more from the long-holding hatha style of Yoga. This quiets the impatient mind and helps this personality type to gain more mental control and become more positive. For those who suffer from inertia, I suggest energetic Ashtanga or power yoga because these styles force one to push harder to overcome that natural inertia.
RS: What advice would you give to a runner who wishes to take up Yoga as part of his training program?
Ling: Touch base with your instincts and personality and you will be true to yourself and discover what you need. Yoga is more than a fitness goal; it is part of a wellness goal. Practise physical yoga, but also apply a yogic mindset to all the training that you do. One of my favourite quotes is:
"Some people just get wet. Other people feel the rain."
Once an athlete takes a close look at their personality in the process of choosing a Yoga discipline, they learn to handle setbacks properly; embrace them as opportunities, learning experiences—personal growth. Feel the rain!
RS: How often should a runner practise Yoga once they find their signature style? Also, is it better to practise inside or outside?
Ling: Practise daily—and unless there is a compelling reason to stay indoors, make the outdoors your personal Yoga studio so you connect with nature. Remember that Yoga originates from within—so undertake poses with purpose, awareness and consciousness and you practice Yoga exactly the way ancient sages did. Once one stops being conscious of the body, spiritual thoughts flood the mind. One can even practise Yoga doing everyday actions like feeling the texture of one's hair while washing it and by listening mindfully and purposely to what your partner has to say. Runners who are in tune with their bodies can begin to identify this mind shift early into their exploration of Yoga. This may sound counter-intuitive, but runners who tread softly on their feet are more likely to have those feet carry them through more races over a lifetime of running.
RS: What are your plans and goals for 2015?
Ling: I take my mission to spread the word about the benefits of Yoga seriously, so I am looking forward to deepening my own practice. One can only be a good guide as long as one remains a keen student. I hope to share the transformational power of Yoga through more coaching, immersions and workshops. I want to be an inspirational leader. While my website and cards say that I'm a Principal Instructor, my role is so much more. Every time I lead Outta Hatha pop-up sessions, work with clients, design a corporate class or organise an event or retreat, I am an example of how to live a proper life in this crazy, fast-paced world. My job is to get people to slow down and live life purposefully. Daunting? You bet. But that's my mission and my destiny—has been since my Mum showed me how to do my first Yoga pose so many years ago!
Ling owes her direction, her spirituality and her life's mission to her mother, a rare and unusual woman for her time. This begs the question: Did you have an early start in life thanks to your Mum who set you on life's path and made you the committed athlete you are today? When Mother's Day comes in the late spring, we would love to share your story with readers, so get in touch with us and tell us how you were guided by the most important woman in your life—and we’re happy to read about grandmothers, too.
To learn more about Ling, you can check out Spice Yoga.