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Urban Ashtangi : Kerin Koh

What started out as an exploration to stretch and move made Kerin fall in love with yoga gradually. She discovered that yoga is no different from her life journey and soon found herself embarking on the teacher’s training to enhance her understanding and love for the practice. A sincere practitioner and devoted teacher, she enjoys sharing and passing on her knowledge to others.

1. What inspired you to start practicing yoga and what are your initial goals for your yoga journey?

I started yoga in my office gym many years ago. It was merely a form of exercise that is not too strenuous since I don’t really like to perspire too much. The convenience of just popping down to the office gym during lunch time for classes helped. 

There were no real goals as I just wanted to move and stretch. I enjoyed it for the calming effect it had on me after the practice. I love savasana (corpse pose)!

After I left the job, I still wanted to continue with yoga and found a yoga studio near my place. I enjoyed the yoga sessions with the teacher there very much and over time became a “regular” student, going about once or twice a week. 

There were still no goals but it was very satisfying to feel and see myself gaining strength, flexibility and starting to be able to manage the more challenging poses.  

2. Can you share your first impression and practice experience at The Mysore Haus? What aspects did you find most challenging or enjoyable?

I went to The Mysore Haus following recommendations from friends. Prior to that I had been going for Ashtanga Basics classes and the occasional full Ashtanga led class in a yoga studio.

I enjoyed the Ashtanga practice but felt it hard to progress further in the group classes.  Hence I thought I should go for mysore style classes but was a bit apprehensive as I have heard that the teachers are typically very strict, fierce and traditional. I don’t really want to get scolded! 

My first practice at the shala was with Shirly and I didn’t get scolded. In some ways, it felt like that was the first time that I was doing an Ashtanga practice properly as I didn’t get to skip any of the vinyasas. Studio classes will sometimes let us skip vinyasas between the right and left side of the pose.  

It was also pretty awesome to see students with varying levels practicing Ashtanga at their own pace. I guess that’s the wonder of the mysore practice where each individual can move at their own pace and work on their own challenges.

3. Have you noticed any changes, either physical or mental, since you started practicing yoga? How do you see yoga fitting into your overall well-being and lifestyle

Yoga has definitely made me stronger and more flexible physically. It happens gradually over time and it is always a nice surprise when I am “suddenly” able to get into the split or be able to manage a new arm balance or inversion.  

“One thing yoga has taught me is to consistently work on the challenging pose but not to be obsessed about it. Over time it will happen and there is no need to force it.”

I think this is a very useful mindset to apply in life too. There are many factors that are beyond our control. We can only keep working on what is within our control to try to steer ourselves towards our objective. There is no point in worrying too much about what may happen or regretting what has already happened.  

Yoga is really a constant work in progress, both physically and mentally.  

4. What obstacles or concerns did you have before starting yoga and how have you addressed or overcome them?

I think yoga just happened in my life. I didn’t really pursue it actively and I am just continuing on this journey because I love it.

5. Are there aspects of yoga philosophy or history that you are curious to explore further as you continue your practice?

After taking up the yoga teacher training, I was amazed at the philosophy behind yoga. It wasn’t just a physical practice but also an attitude and mindset towards life. I am now exploring the mindfulness aspect of yoga and trying to start a more regular and consistent meditation practice.

6. What got you into teaching yoga? Has your personal practice made you a better teacher, how so?

Continuing the story from Q1, I guess I was motivated as I managed to get into more challenging poses and was keen to learn more. The teacher I spoke to encouraged me to take up the yoga teacher training course to “level up”.   

The YTT gave me insights into a different aspect of yoga that not only goes beyond the physical practice but also a mindset and attitude to life. And surprisingly I found that it was actually quite fun to teach and share yoga.  

I feel that I learn a lot from teaching. Each individual has their own strengths and limitations. What comes easily for one could be a real struggle to someone else.  I like to be able to find different ways of helping each individual achieve the pose that works for them.  

I feel that my own practice, especially the poses that I struggled/still struggling with, allows me to share different tips and tricks with my students in achieving those poses.

I am also happy to confess to my students that I am also still working on some poses and that yoga is really a constant work in progress for both the body and the mind.

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