It's no accident that Yong Pei Lin was born in the Year of the Tiger. She's physically powerful, brave, independent and courageous. She's protective of others—especially those seeking answers to fitness, health and weight issues. She is a living example of someone who has conquered mountains. As a chef, she gained more than 10kg, but it wasn't her career that caused her weight gain. She needed exercise. Friends got her started on the path to a slim and healthy body, and when she enrolled in Bokwa classes in 2012, she found her calling. These days, Pei Lin still cooks, but it's clean food and her heart belongs to the Bokwa movement. As a certified 1, 2, 3 and 4 level instructor, she takes her passion for this dance/exercise method to high-profile special events—like helping to organise a Bokwa flash mob and participating in “We Will Dance,” a 10-hour, non-stop marathon. This tiger morphed from unhealthy to healthy and found her life's mission. If you hear someone growling, that's Pei Lin motivating and training others to be the best they can be!
RS: Why do you favour Bokwa over other fitness programs?
Pei Lin: This dance program is ideally suited to my body and I love the level of intensity one can attain during a Bokwa class. Unlike other dance programs requiring pre-training or conditioning, anyone can learn it. I have taught 75-year-olds and 4-year-olds! How many dance fitness programs can make that claim? And since my personal story includes my struggle with weight, I often convince people to try Bokwa by telling them that one can burn up to 1,200 calories during class!
RS: Can you tell us more about what Bokwa is?
Pei Lin: It's a new and different approach to group exercise that has won fans around the world because it's clever, inventive and fun. Bokwa participants draw letters and numbers with their feet while performing energetic, addictive cardio workout routines to popular music. It's fun and easy. Unlike other dance movements, there's no choreography to learn, either. Anyone who knows the alphabet and can draw letters and numbers can jump right in. If your readers want to know more about Bokwa, they can check out this link.
RS: Is Bokwa popular in Singapore—has it already attracted a community?
Pei Lin: Bokwa has been on the international fitness scene for a years, it didn't arrive here until 2012. These days, I can't believe how fast it's catching on. I think Singaporeans who discover this energetic way to stay fit like it because the steps are structured, it's easy to learn and nobody feels like they're working out because it's so much fun. In Singapore, we love new iterations of dance fitness workouts and Bokwa is attracting legions of fans because the music, energy and excitement suits our national, collective commitment to fitness.
RS: You are now a level 4 Bokwa instructor. Can you explain what the different levels mean?
Pei Lin: When one learns Bokwa essentials, different letters and digits are introduced at graduated levels so moves are introduced gradually. One must achieve mastery of level 1 before she can move on to 2, 3 and 4. Steps get more interesting as one accelerates from level 1 to 4 but the fun is never removed from the equation.
RS: Where do you conduct your classes?
Pei Lin: I hold Bokwa sessions at the DeFITnation Gym (next to Nex Shopping Mall) on Wednesday from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and on Saturday between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. I invite all of your readers to drop by and catch the Bokwa fever on either of these days!
RS: What else do you do in addition to teaching Bokwa classes?
Pei Lin: I work with corporate clients, teaching Bokwa to people who might not otherwise be exposed to this terrific dance fitness movement on their own.
RS: You used to be a runner—do you still run? If so, where do you run and how do you train?
Pei Lin: I run on Sunday morning with my running group, the Ridge Runners. They motivate me to show up at Mount Faber Carpark D—even when I don't want to get out of bed! We run between 10km and 15km through Hort Park, Kent Ridge Park and the Science Centre, before returning to the car park. Sometimes we climb stairs, too. We go to Block 79D Toa Payoh Central, which is 40 storeys high, but we don't quit after one run up the stairs—we try for three to five times up those stairs. We motivate each other to keep going no matter what!
RS: Do you think Bokwa is beneficial to runners? Why?
Pei Lin: I do. I couldn't imagine not running in addition to doing Bokwa since the two harmonise beautifully. Bokwa builds endurance—we move non-stop for an hour, toning our muscles while expanding our lung capacity. The two are definitely a good fit.
RS: Is Bokwa suitable for everyone? Would you advise runners to try Bokwa classes?
Pei Lin: As I mentioned earlier, Bokwa suits 4-year-olds, 75-year-olds and everyone in-between because it's not complicated. Of course, every person has a unique experience. Some of my Bokwa students ache after a session, just like other workout classes. Others say they are ready to go running after class. Everyone's body is different and Bokwa respects individual limits at any age.
RS: You have successfully slimmed down. How did you do it?
Pei Lin: Once I discovered exercise, I began to pay more attention to what I put into my mouth. You might say that I'm more discriminating these days. I strongly believe that anyone wishing to slim down must watch what they eat and avoid processed foods. I practise what I preach and cook my own meals most of the time, which allows me to control what I consume. A healthy dish would be a balance diet. Of course, anything with sauce, gravy and seasoning has more calories.
RS: Maintaining a clean diet isn't easy. Is it okay to eat anything one likes before undertaking physical activities?
Pei Lin: Clean diets are not easy to follow—even for me; remember I used to be a chef! I never recommend eating freely just because someone exercises. There's a saying in the computer industry: “Garbage in, Garbage out.” The body works the same way; put unhealthy food into it and performance suffers. Besides, people who ignore their diets put their health at risk—even those who get plenty of exercise. A poor diet can lead to cancer, diabetes and other ailments. In my opinion, healthy eating goes hand in hand with a good fitness program.
RS: Speaking of eating, as a former chef, do you have a signature dish?
Pei Lin: I worked at many restaurants featuring western cuisine—like Astons, Botak Jones and Lawry's Prime—so I cooked a lot of steaks!!! These days, I prepare foods with body-healthy ingredients like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fruit. I don’t have a speciality so I let the pictures do the talking!
RS: You have overcome a weight issue, launched a fitness career and become a great example of mind over matter. Who inspires you the most when you're feeling down?
Pei Lin: The close friend of mine who made the remark about my weight years ago and encouraged me to do something about my body while I was still young is probably the person I admire most. He's always there when I need him and I'm truly grateful to have him in my life.
RS: Did you make goals and resolutions for 2015?
Pei Lin: Nothing that's dramatic. I will continue to help others as they set off on their journeys to achieve physical and mental health through the right mix of Bokwa, running and healthy eating. I also have a daughter who turns 11 this year so my biggest goal is to be the best mum to her. I intend to take courses in food and nutrition so I can say that I've achieved a Level 4 in nutritional wisdom as well as Level 4 Bokwa mastery!
RS: After catching glimpses of your tattoos during this interview, we can't let you go without asking about them. How many do you have and are you comfortable sharing their meaning or are they just pure art?
Pei Lin: (Laughs) I have four tattoos. The ones on my back are art done by a German tattoo artist and the side one by a local tattoo artist. The Chinese characters on my right wrist spell "Rat," an homage to my grandma who passed away three years ago. She was born in the year of the Rat. You didn't think I could go without a tiger tattoo, did you? My personal astrological sign is etched on my left wrist! That tiger reminds me to live up to my potential in all endeavours. So far, I think I've done just that.
A close friend took Pei Lin aside and turned her world around by gently suggesting that a lifestyle change was necessary to get healthy. Not every close friend has the courage to risk giving such advice, so we would like to pose this question: Did one person in your life take a big risk by giving you advice that changed your life, too? If your life story includes this type of experience, how about sharing it with us?
Pei Lin is also involved in her latest fitness class call Piloxing, a combination of boxing, dance and Pilates. Interested to take up Bokwa fitness and Piloxing? You can find out more from her at PeiLin Bokwa Singapore.