Urban Ashtangi: Kelly Kuan

Kelly Kwan Bakasana

Youthful and an energetic girl like Kelly does bring in an uplifting vibe with her. Behind this sweet looking face is an aspiring psychologist –  who graduated with a bachelor’s degree and is now working towards gaining further qualifications. 

First chapter of her yoga experience was opened up by her mother 2 years ago who practices hatha and yin yoga classes at her gym regularly. However, Kelly started her next chapter with Ashtanga Mysore class nine months ago, believing that this system enables her to continue her practice in years to come.

1. Why did you build your practice with the Ashtanga mysore method?

I was beginning to feel a little stuck with my Hatha classes, as I felt like I was not progressing consistently by doing different sequences every week. Thus, I was attracted to the fixed sequence in Ashtanga, which felt like there was a clear path of learning that is built on each pose. I was also very inspired by the Ashtangis I saw online, as their strength, flexibility, and control often left me in awe.

When I first learned about the Mysore method, I was hooked instantly. I really liked how the guidance was personalised to each individual’s level of ability and readiness, and how it encouraged independence in the practice. 

By building on the same sequence each week, I could notice myself steadily improving, which kept me motivated to continue practicing. Having no teacher to lead the practice really forced me to direct my focus inward, on my own breath count and remembering the sequence of poses, so there was little opportunity for my mind to wander or look at other students and inevitably compare myself to them.

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

Having a young and healthy body means that a lot of the physical poses are more accessible to me, as I have greater flexibility and energy. But while the physical practice can be exhilarating, what really drew me in was the meditative aspect of it.

Yoga came to me at a time when I struggled with insecurities and anxieties about myself. My mind often felt noisy and cluttered with thoughts, but I found that they went away when I stepped onto my mat, and focused on my breath and practice.

Yoga has helped me to find stability within myself and guided me to adopt a healthier mindset and outlook on life. I am only at the beginning of my journey and there is so much more for me to learn, which I am excited about! 

3. Moving forward, what are the areas in life you wish knowledge from this practice may help you as a person?

Beyond gaining physical strength and flexibility, yoga has helped me to feel grounded and stable, and given me confidence about myself and my body. I think there is still plenty for me to learn from yoga as a philosophy and way of life. Some specific areas that I hope to improve on are to live with greater intention, and to be more gracious towards myself and others.

4. Would you think more young people should give yoga a tool to help them in their life challenges? 

Definitely! I think yoga offers a great way to find stability within oneself, or at least provide a moment of quiet and calm amidst stressful times. I would encourage everyone, give yoga a shot. 

One easy way for beginners to have an idea of what yoga is like can be through following simple YouTube videos. If it resonates, then one can deepen their practice by going to studio classes for professional guidance (such as The Mysore Haus, hint-hint)

5. Do you find any similarities between yoga and your topic of interest in Psychology?

The emphasis on breathwork and mindfulness practice are useful grounding techniques to help individuals stay present and calm in the moment, which can be helpful in anxious and distressing moments. A lot of the messages in yoga also encourage healthy ways of thinking and mindsets, such as being kind to yourself and listening to your own needs, and directing your focus inward instead of comparing to others. 

Most importantly, yoga is accessible to everyone regardless of age, gender, or physical ability, so I believe that everyone has something to gain from the practice, even if each person’s journey looks different.

6. Yoga is all about the poses, agree or disagree and why?

Disagree! The physical postures are the most apparent outward representation of yoga, but it is only one aspect of it. For me, the inward focus/ focus on personal growth is what I appreciate the most about yoga, and the physical practice serves to support that journey.

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