We’re sure you know by now that yoga is a great way to unwind and get in touch with your senses after a strenuous day at work. However, with the myriad of schools available in Singapore, it can be tough to pick one. Nestled on the 39th floor of the OCBC Centre on Chulia Street is The Yoga School, a beautiful sanctuary with a stunning view of the city skyline. What’s especially interesting about this school is that yoga instructors from the globe over are invited to conduct lessons over the course of the year. Recently, Yiannis Mukta Om from New York was in town and he took us through a 4-hour lesson. It sounds grueling but to be honest, the time zipped by. We caught up with Yiannis after the class for a quick chat about his beginnings as an instructor and his thoughts on The Yoga School.
Can you tell us about your beginnings in yoga, and how you met your Guru?
I started practising yoga in 2003. A friend of mine took me to a class, and I immediately felt the benefits of the practice, particularly the changes in my mind and body. After that, I decided to continue taking classes and deepen my understanding of the yoga practice.
After a short period of about 2 to 3 months I discovered the 908 asanas, as taught by the Master Sri Dharma Mittra in 1983, and that drew my attention to him and his classes. Fortunately a friend of mine knew the place that Dharma was teaching regularly, and shortly after I went with him to take a class.
The experience after a class was unlike any other class I’d previously taken. I followed my intuition, and soon after, I started my studies under his guidance.
What kind of changes did you make to your lifestyle while training under Sri Dharma?
As you practise, the changes start taking place in your lifestyle immediately. The first thing I changed was the way I was eating. I became more conscious about my choices as a result of the practice, so my diet became cleaner and I noticed the effects on all levels. Another change was in my work. At the time I was working in restaurants and nightclubs, and as I was getting deeper into my practice, I felt that I needed to change my job in order to go further with my practice.
We understand you didn’t even speak English when you arrived in New York. How did you end up learning? What was life like in New York at first?
Yes, correct. I did not speak English when I arrived in New York. I feel that is very important to try and learn the language when you move to a new place. There are many reasons for this but the most important was to be able to communicate with the people and make new friends. I decided to enroll in an English course, which ended being a great help. Little by little, I started to learn and become more comfortable with my new home.
At first, upon arriving, I was in shock. New York is a city that operates at a high intensity, so I needed time to get used to that pace of life, but over time as I made friends and got to know the city better, things improved. People were very friendly and always willing to help. Very soon I felt like I was home. It was a really special experience to be there and learn.
What are common misconceptions people have about practicing Yoga?
In my opinion, and in my experience and what I’ve come across teaching and practicing, I think there a few misconceptions that people have. I will discuss one that relates to flexibility. Many people think that you need to be flexible in order to practise yoga. I believe that to be untrue. Everyone can practise yoga and experience its benefits. As teachers and practitioners, we need to remind our students and anyone who crosses our path that everyone can practise yoga. I believe it is our responsibility to bring yoga to all.
During the lesson you mentioned that we have so many distractions in life. How does Yoga help people focus?
In this era, we live with so much technology and people are getting addicted to their smartphones. Their minds are constantly distracted and natural creativity is also impeded.
Yoga gradually helps people to develop a good concentration and calms their mind so they can achieve success in their careers, making their lives happier and peaceful.
You’ve been to many, many studios, so what do you think of this space (The Yoga School)?
The Yoga School’s studio is a really special place, with good energy that allows students to feel safe and comfortable, and have a beautiful experience. This is my second year visiting the school and I really enjoy being here, and sharing my practice.
What advice would you give to someone who’s planning on picking up yoga?
My advice for someone that’s planning on picking up yoga is to have patience and consistent practice, even if it is a few minutes a day. By keeping up with the practice, they will enjoy the
amazing results that yoga offers , like radiant health, mental powers, and a calm and peaceful mind.
Check out The Yoga School’s offerings here.