He took a leap of faith to leave his job as a yoga instructor in Taiwan to launch Align Studio in Singapore. It was an all-or-nothing venture for which Rishikesh-born Gajju Badwal had wagered his life’s savings. It’s been close to a year since that fateful decision, and the 37-year-old is relieved to see his business growing steadily.
You come from Rishikesh, the capital of yoga.
Haha, yes. But as with the Chinese and kungfu, not everyone there practises yoga.
So how did you become a serious practitioner?
It was my brother, Viru, who first got me into it while we were growing up. In order to learn more, I signed up for a yoga retreat in southern China. In a fortuitous turn of events, one of the instructors could not make it and I ended up replacing him since I already had a background in yoga. It was there that I met my late yoga master.
You must have learnt much from him.
He was a great guide in advanced meditation and concentration practices, but above all it was his patience that I wish to emulate. I am still trying to cultivate this.
Is there a difference between practising and teaching yoga?
I communicate a lot with myself to get my mind and body in tune when I practise yoga on my own. When it comes to teaching classes, my focus shifts onto the class to make sure that everyone is having a good practice and getting the most of the sessions. Curiously, I realise that it is in teaching that I truly start to learn.
Why did you choose to establish yourself here?
I was teaching at a commercial gym in Taiwan and actually thought I might settle there. It was my boss who gave me the idea to come to Singapore, as the yoga movement was gaining traction here back then in 2010. I tried out as a freelance teacher first, and after a number of years, I felt that I was ready to take the plunge and use my skills and experience to start up a yoga studio of my own. So what you’re really looking at now is something that had taken lots of faith and 10 years’ worth of savings.
Tell us more about Align Studio.
It’s more than just a studio for fitness. While we make sure that everyone is comfortable and learns something at every session, we also want to build a community among like-minded people here, and a place where they can make genuine connections. Our participants are not just students or customers, but members of a community that help each other out. I know them by name, of course.
Can you comment on the yoga scene for men?
It’s growing. Besides people who come to hit personal fitness goals, there are sportsmen with common issues like tight muscles, shoulder injuries or back pain, who are discovering that yoga helps them identify and address these issues through understanding the body’s alignment.
It is said that yoga is a way of life. But people are using it for fitness or even just to be part of a popular movement. What are your thoughts on this?
Well, we should first be clear about what yoga means to us. For me, it’s a practice that cultivates mindfulness – it helps me to be more aware of the things I do in my daily life, as well as become more aware of the consequences of my actions.
What are the particular challenges of running an independent yoga studio?
It was tough at first. I did up to six classes a day, starting early in the morning and returning home only at 10pm. I left a lot of parenting responsibilities to my wife but it’s better now that Viru is helping me out at Align. I can now spend more time with my wife and son.
Would you want your son to follow in your footsteps?
I will support him in his decision to be whatever he wants. But it will be easier for him if he does, since I have all the experience to back him with.
Align Studio is at 35 Kreta Ayer Road,
Level 3, Singapore 089000, tel. 8363 6133
Visit www.alignstudio.sg for more information