Free-Spirited Yogi Sandra Woo On How The Practice Changed Her Life
Sandra Woo has come a long way since the start of her yoga journey at age of 22. She took up to the practice to relief chronic back pain and along the way, found a restorative balance to her inner wild child. It eventually led her to create a unique form of yoga to the beats of hip-hop tunes that turned the community upside down.
A familiar coach in the yoga scene as well as spinning circuit of Flycycle, Sandra shares how her yoga journey fostered a more meaningful and compassionate relationship with herself and those around her, as part of International Yoga Day.
What were you like before yoga came into your life?
“I was very fortunate to have found the yoga practice very young: I must’ve been impressionable, clueless, feisty, and a total wildcard. I may still be those things, but I take it in in my stride nowadays, learning my lessons quicker and learning to consistently be kinder to myself and empathetic to others. To have compassion, we need to have empathy.”
What made you take up yoga?
“I was looking for a low-impact work out (I hated cardio and anything that made me feel uncomfortable).
Ironically, yoga turned out to be the practice that taught me to push the barriers of my comfort zones, physically, mentally and emotionally
“It remains a learning practice to this day, and will continue to be.”
How did you mature in your understanding and knowledge of it?
“Like most people who hadn’t explored yoga, I thought it was about flexibility and stretching. Today I understand that perspective as ‘gross body practice’, focussing only on what the body is doing and how it looks like.
The more I showed up on the mat, the more awareness was brought to its other aspects. The hard work of yoga is internal. Asana (physical posture) practice is where we start that journey.”
Can you recall some episodes yoga healed you?
“So many times. I turned to relief for chronic back pains when I was younger and found that the physical practice of yoga not only strengthened my back and encouraged healthy structural alignments, it made me physically, emotional and mentally stronger and adaptable.
It allows me to understand myself as a person better. This creates more space for giving, loving and nurturing connections.”
Yoga has calmed me down a lot, taught me to channel strong energies into healthier pathways
How did you arrive at your current style?
“I think yoga for me is an all-encompassing practice. The physical, emotional and mental involvement in the practice all plays a part in achieving a healthy balance between one’s intrinsic and extrinsic world.
Everything from commitment to the mat practice, being aware of ourselves, empathy to others, self-compassion, strength and willpower, and so much more that is to be discovered, is yoga.
This is the yoga I am exposed to, the yoga that I continue to learn, practice, and share in various ways – Vinyasa, Hatha, Hip-Hop Yoga, whatever makes yoga palatable to a class I am teaching, I am down to explore.”
What are the joys of being an instructor?
“Being able to share any wisdom of the day that I might’ve heard or read somewhere from someone (we can do this anywhere actually, not just in a class setting). Being able to relate with people and introduce them to the practice that saved me so many times from myself.
Watching people fall in love with their bodies, gain trust and confidence in themselves, become stronger and committed to themselves."
It’s a privilege, to bear witness to such growth, and to be trusted to share it
How has the practice changed your approach to living, thinking and connecting?
“If I had to sum it up, it would be to live, think and connect intentionally, and deliberately. It is a reminder that we constantly have a choice in how we approach the world within us and the world around us.
We are only human, we fail, we fall and we feel so much, but we always have a choice. And it starts with the Intention. I’ll be honest, I fall off this wagon a lot of the time, but that’s okay, a lesson will be learnt, then we move on and continue trying our best.”
See also: The Surprising Wonders Yoga Does From Core To Heart, As Told By Ninie Ahmad
1 song to sum up your practice...
“Kendrick Lamar’s 'Alright'. Life is a crazy ride, and despite uncomfortable truths and suffering, ‘We gon’ be alright. Do you hear me do you feel me, we gon’ be alright!’”