Urban Ashtangi : Fang Siyu

“Efficient” is the one quality Siyu would gladly use to describe herself as a person. With an unanticipated health challenge, she quickly picks herself up and regains her life again. 

Leaving her job as a financial risk manager to pursue a Master’s Degree in IT, she found her routine of twice weekly practice at The Mysore Haus since she first began yoga practice 5 years ago. 

With this demanding practice, she is still able to experience some fun from doing the chakrasana (backward roll). Other times, we can either find her all geared up with her headset and PS5, immersing into the virtual world or hiking into nature.

1. Why and how did you land yourself on the Ashtanga mysore method?

I had my first yoga class in a gym where all kinds of fitness classes were offered. My favorite yoga teacher in the gym does a modern style of yoga with indie music and fluid flow. It was a really good experience and almost felt like dancing. After that, I started going to yoga class every week in addition to body pump and zumba class.

After a few years of practicing yoga, I felt that my strength was still lacking so I was interested in building strength by practicing a more challenging sequence. 

Practicing the Ashtanga mysore method is perfect for me as I did not have any prior experience and the sequence is pretty challenging. Therefore I think it is helpful to be able to slowly get used to the sequence at my own pace.

With everyone doing the sequence at different paces, it is also less distracting as I would not compare myself with others and be able to focus on myself.

2. You started this practice at quite a young age, what does this practice mean to you at this stage of your life?

I started doing yoga because I enjoyed doing arm balances and inversions. But as time goes, the meditative aspect of yoga becomes more important.

I am the kind of person who is always thinking about stuff, so my mind hardly gets any rest. After my first yoga class, I found that my mind is able to focus on the sequence itself instead of worrying about other things and therefore I can always leave the class with a calmer mind than when I went in.

In sum, yoga is my moving meditation during which I could reset my exhausted mind to be a little bit emptier.

3. With the unexpected health challenge, how did you overcome your darkest moment?

I was diagnosed with acute leukemia back in early 2020 when Covid just started in Singapore. I needed a bone marrow transplant during a time when countries were shutting down and the situation didn’t look too optimistic. 

Due to the travel restrictions, my parents could not come to Singapore immediately. I was scared of what was going to happen and angry about the fact that I had cancer despite living a healthy lifestyle. But I had no choice but to accept the reality and start the treatment the next day.

Long story short, it was the darkest period of my life. I was in a hospital room for about 6 months and went through 3 rounds of chemotherapy, 1 round of radiotherapy and bone marrow transplant (from my mom eventually) with a PICC line inserted into my right arm, without fresh air and was not allowed to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as my immune system was destroyed by drugs. It was a lot of pain and suffering and I wish nobody has to go through it.

I would not lie and say that I am grateful for the experience and that it made me stronger even though it is probably what people are used to hearing. The fact is, no one should be grateful for experiencing cancer because it is a painful and dark experience, and pretty much destroys one’s life. 

There is, however, something positive from this experience. I was able to see clearly how much my family, boyfriend and friends loved me, and they are the sole reason I could make it out alive without having a serious mental breakdown. I am so grateful for having these people in my life who tirelessly took care of me when I could not function on my own for such a long time.

4. Knowing that you have a rather busy life, what drives you to still make an effort to attend to this practice?

I believe no matter how busy life is, priority should be given to things that are beneficial to mind and body. 

Ashtanga definitely strengthens my body, but I feel that it is also strengthening my mind slowly. In previous yoga classes, I tend to play safe and not attempt poses that I have no confidence in such as dropping back to the wheel pose. 

But at The Mysore Haus, I have to take risks and attempt the pose without the option to skip it. It is still scary for me to do this pose, but I definitely have less fear before I drop down and as time goes by, I can see the significant improvement I have made since my first practice.

Sometimes it is really hard to go for practice in the early morning, but the amazing feeling after the practice always reminds me that this is what my body and mind need. I even feel like I am more efficient at working and studying after practice.

5. Would you think more young people should give yoga a tool to help them in their life challenges? What would you share with them?

I think yoga definitely could be used as a moving meditation, especially in today’s world where we are exposed to an overwhelming amount of information and hardly have time to let the mind rest. Yoga is also helpful in allowing us to connect with ourselves by focusing on the breathing and subsequently have a fresh perspective and be reminded of what is really important in life.

I used to take work seriously to the point that it affects my mood even after work, but regular practice reminded me that some negative feelings are unimportant and unnecessary.

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