Skip to content

Urban Ashtangi : Ushma Issar

Ushma in Lotus

From Samastitihi, the standing posture, I was trying to lean back to drop into backbend, or bridge posture. My yoga teacher was holding me at my hips in order for me not to fall. I leaned back and half way through I lost my balance so came back up again. Then Shirly told me assertively: “Ushma, you cannot change your mind midway. DON’T CHANGE YOUR MIND MIDWAY.” Somehow that moment stuck with me: I went down again, and managed to drop back into a perfect backbend. 

As soon as Shirly said those words, I knew that these words were going to have more meaning to my life than I could imagine at that moment. A couple of week’s later I quit my job and decided to pursue my passion and set up my own foundation in Europe. 

1. How did your story begin?

My name is Ushma, I have been working for more than 10 years in the medical devices industry. As an Indian raised in Europe, I embodied the very common understanding and definition of success being one related to one’s occupation and potential opportunities that come with the loyalty to big corporations. 

Having had to deal with societal pressure of getting married, at the age of 30 (the spinster age in Indian culture) I decided to reinvestigate (more of an investigation, rather than a reinvestigation) the purpose of my life. This was in 2020. Three years passed, and I’m now at the stage where I’m able to define and put together what it is that I want. Yoga was the one key component that helped me understand that within me but it also the ingredient to give me courage to actually pursue my dream. 

2. Why is the Ashtanga method your pick?

My yoga journey started when I was very young because my mother is a yoga teacher. Being raised in an Indian household, yoga always occupied an important role in our family. I was, however, the only one in our family that found a love of Ashtanga yoga. I started joining classes in Stuttgart, Germany, and was amazed by the structure that Ashtanga yoga provides. The ability to not have to constantly look to the front of the classroom and see what the teacher is talking about but to focus on your own body and move with your own breath sounded beautiful to me. I started in 2013 and have not stopped since. My journey has not been uninterrupted, but I can say that the periods in my life, where I returned to Ashtanga yoga were the most beautiful. Every country I lived in: UK, US, Germany, Netherlands and Singapore – I knew the timings and locations of Mysore style classes close to me. 

My yoga teachers in Germany taught me the individual poses and the sequence and it wasn’t until I left that I was able to join an actual Mysore class (the classes without guidance). The energy within the Mysore class is infectious – so much focus, determination, concentration, balance and gratitude in one place overwhelmed me as a newcomer and I kept telling myself: that’s who I want to be. The sound of people’s Ujjayi breath, their sweat dripping on their mats, and their beautiful bodies shaping into positions where I, as an observer, couldn’t even see which hand or foot was right or left. It’s that aspiration for me that brings me to the mat in the morning – the aspiration of the person that I can become if I put my mind to it. 

It’s been ten years of on and off practice and it will be difficult to put my gratitude for my time and the wisdom learnt from Shirly and Adeline in Singapore into tangible and practical words.

3. We met you when we just moved to Singapore for work, how has the new experience been?

My move to Singapore wasn’t easy for me. I was facing cultural differences at work that impacted me more than I could ever think. Simple things, like “feeling liked” in Europe to “not being liked” in Singapore because I was too “aggressive”, too “much”, too “direct”, took its toll on me mentally and physically. In addition to my work problems, the first apartment I rented in Singapore had a cockroach infestation that introduced a whole line of questions like “what on earth am I doing here?”. Only after I moved out of that place into a nice home was I able to find Shirly and Adeline’s yoga studio to be one of the only Ashtanga Mysore Style yoga studios. 

With finding their studio I was able to set up a routine that helped me find my balance and gave me the feeling that I had control :) I saw the impact that their kindness and their welcoming me had on me and that inspired me to focus on following through with Ashtanga Yoga. 

4. What would be your favorite daily routine like in Singapore?

The best days I had in Singapore were those when I was able to wake up at 5 am, meditate, go to class at 6 am and be home by 8 am, shower and start working at 8.30 am. 

After traveling across Asia, pondering over my next steps after quitting my job, I too, woke up at 6 am, did my ashtanga yoga practice, and with a sweater on, drinking a hot cup of tea in the afternoon of the 7th of August (our supposed “summer”), I sit here writing on my laptop. Besides missing the Singaporean weather, I remember the teachings of Shirly and Adeline of how to bend forward, how to practice my backbend alone, and how to position my legs in an upward facing dog.  

5. Tell us more about your new venture right after bidding goodbye from here?

I’ve already decided that I will start my own NGO, named rypple: I will focus on transforming healthcare systems globally, supporting governments to create systems where stakeholders are paid when patients are healthy (unlike they are at the moment: doctors are paid when patients are ill), ensuring that health systems interests (money) is aligned with that of patients. 

I don’t know yet what life will hold for me and whether my ambitions with rypple are realistic or too idealistic. I do know that Ashtanga Yoga will be my constant companion on my journey to my true Self, that the path is the goal, I will not succumb to any fear of not being good enough or any fear of falling. I will persist and pursue my ambition and aspirations with rypple and most importantly, I will NOT CHANGE MY MIND MIDWAY. 

All my love to Shirly and Adeline. My heartiest gratitude to you both. 

Know more about rypple.

1 thought on “Urban Ashtangi : Ushma Issar”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *