Besides his occasional emcee and hosting stints at fashion and lifestyle events near and far, Hansen Lee spends the remainder of his time practising yoga, as well as spreading the zen life to the public at the many yoga studios available around Klang Valley, such as Hot Yo Studio in Solaris Dutamas, Yoga Dynamics in Bangsar, Omology in Bukit Damansara, and Ohanajo Studio in Sunway SPK.
When Hansen first graduated and came into the bright lights of KL city in 2003, he took up his first employment as a personal fitness trainer that went on for about four years, before in the mid-2000s, when he accidentally hurt his back while prepping for a session with a client, and was diagnosed with a herniated disc injury on his lower back. It was a turning point for him then, to lean more towards workouts that exude “ying” instead of “yang”, such as body building, weight training, running and other contact sports, which he has been on regularly during the earlier part of his life.
“For beginners, this is a really good pose to master, as it’s a very grounding pose, and it helps give you a very good stability in your legs, inner thighs, hips and buttocks, which after that, a lot of the poses that come afterwards will be relatively easier. It also helps develop a kinaesthetic awareness within you, and helping you understand the relationship of your body with the space around you, so you can move more fluidly through it.”
– Side Angle Pose (Parsvakonasana)
10 years on, while still going on regular swims and shooting hoops, not to mention, spending the last few years on gymnastics ring works, weightlifting, and even dabbling in some Wing Chun combat training, Hansen regulates his fitness balance for a more wholesome chi in him with yoga, a more relaxing workout that not only helps with his herniated disc, but also one that finds the inner peace within.
During this month’s International Yoga Day, Hansen shares with us the benefits of practising yoga, whether it’s physically or spiritually, as well as a handful of yoga poses that resonates with his mind, body and soul.
“Every time you do it, it’s not going to be perfect. Every time it’s a new experience, no matter how many times you’ve done it. I’ve done it for years, and it gives me a lot of information about where my body’s situation stands. Is my body too tight? Is my focus not there? Am I a bit lopsided because my alignment’s off? It gives me a lot of feedback about what my body is experiencing.”
– Handstand Pose (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
How has yoga helped with your current lifestyle, especially after your herniated disc injury more than 10 years ago?
The herniated disc is something I have to live with for the rest of my life, and the thing that hurts the herniated disc more is instead the stagnant sitting and slouching, rather than the strenuous workouts. There’s no one distinctive bad posture; there are only the ones that you stay in too long that can become bad for you. It’s mostly about discomfort management for me these days, and over the years, I’ve developed a high awareness to try not to make the situation worse by compounding the effects of any bad posture.
Besides that, the meditation that practising yoga provides has opened up a kind of new dimension in me, which I never understood or even knew of in the past. It has given me these gaps between being triggered by a particular emotion, say, anger or frustration, and there’s a buffer before a reaction towards the said emotion. Overtime, through practice, the gap grows bigger and bigger; I’ve grown more aware and conscious that although I could easily feel something, I don’t necessarily have to react to it. In fact, the buffer time gives me a chance to decide how to respond to these emotions rationally.
When would you say is the best time to practise yoga?
I like it in the mornings, actually. I’ve practised yoga as early as 4AM (laughs)! There are different energies throughout the day; when you practise early in the morning, most people are still asleep, and the general energy of the space and environment you’re in is very calm and very serene. The later it is in the day, the more chaotic the energy gets, as everyone is up and about, and rushing to work. Evening practice is also very nice, but it’s a different
energy altogether. I would suggest that you do something that’s more calming rather than energising for evening yoga practices. You could end up practising late, and you wouldn’t want to go home so energised that you couldn’t sleep!
“When I was finishing up my teacher’s training in India, my guru picked me out from the class during the last practice, and demonstrated the [scorpion] pose with me. At that time, I’ve never attempted it before, not to mention that it’s a very challenging pose. Nevertheless, he said: ‘Come and try. Don’t worry.’ I was a bit wobbly on my handstand, but he guided me into that position eventually.
Personally, this pose brings me back to that particular moment in my life, and what being a teacher means to me. The best thing about teaching is that you can always help someone experience something that they’ve never done before – helping them overcome the fear and self-doubt, as well as giving the reassurance and confidence needed.”
– Scorpion Pose (Vrschikasana)
What would you say are some of the ethical practices one has to uphold when doing yoga with other people?
Generally, I would prefer my students to minimise conversations when coming into class. We already do so much of that in the outside world, and every time we talk, we don’t realise that we’re giving away a lot of our energy. We get too distracted with conversations, either gossiping or complaining – which are things that we tend to do verbally, we then overlook certain things that are happening within us. When you come into a space to practise yoga, it’s a time to recharge and rejuvenate. Treat it as such that it’s sacred time—time for yourself, to be with yourself, and to connect with yourself.
What are your thoughts on the stereotype of men doing yoga, when men are generally presumed to hit the gym when wanting a healthier lifestyle?
It’s ironic though, considering when yoga first started it was strictly for men (laughs)! I suppose, we are programmed to go with our masculinity, which intertwines with the ego. It’s not our fault, we’re brought up that way. We see it through our parents, our siblings, even through the media, how masculinity is portrayed. So, a lot of men just fall into that belief, not knowing that there’s another way of looking at masculinity, or defining it.
I think that the biggest thing for men is the willingness to go within, and discover our own vulnerability, as well as realising our own femininity within—a whole aspect of ourselves that we may never know exists or understand. Yoga promotes the inner union, and allows one to harness both sides within for a more balanced harmony. I believe that when you have that harmony within you, you open yourself up to a lot more potentials and opportunities to experience in life.
To cap things off, Hansen shares with us the three basic yoga poses that everyone can get aboard with.
Photography by Ting Yang Shan
Videography by Andrew Loh
Art Direction by Joyce Lim
Special thanks to Hot Yo Studio