Yoga Teacher Jessica Lee on Her Flexible Story and the Powers of Yoga
July 24, 2023
Jessica Lee, a Hong Kong-based yoga teacher, discovered her love for yoga in 2005, sharing an intimate connection with her yoga mat and her body as she posed and challenged her flexibility.
After completing her 200-hour yoga teacher training in Sydney while still working in hospitality marketing, she left her job in 2015 to focus on yoga and continued to take more training courses in Bali and Thailand to excel in her newfound career, dedicating herself to helping others become the best versions of themselves through a healthy body and mind.
The hypermobile Hong Kong native brought her childhood love for recreational gymnastics and acrobatics to the studio stage, educating others on how to understand the human body, become comfortable with their flexibility, and love yoga. She spoke to The Beat Asia about her journey in yoga.
Morning Jessica, first question, the most important one, what prompted your journey into yoga in 2005?
I used to love gymnastics as a kid because I was very flexible growing up. Before Hong Kong had any non-professional gymnastics gyms for adults, yoga was the closest thing. Starting when I was an adult, it came naturally to my body and it felt nice to be “good” at something. Funnily enough, it was triggered by breaking up with my high school boyfriend, putting attention into a physical activity and giving myself a reason to do something!
What was it about yoga that inspired you? Was it the traditional disciplines, the physical activity, the peacefulness?
It began because I loved how yoga challenged my body and made me want to master the difficult poses. I was inspired by the yoga teachers I followed on Instagram from around the world on sharing cool poses.
Working full-time in media and marketing at the time, I found yoga to be a remedy to my stress, to focus on my own mental and physical wellbeing. I found myself becoming more patient, less grumpy, and a little less wanting to kill everyone [laughs]!
Tell me why you quit your job in media in Hong Kong to devote your career to yoga and mobility training. Was this a natural step after finding your love affair with the practice?
Yes. In June 2014, I travelled to Sydney to attend my first 200-hour yoga teacher training, which was 17 days long. It made sense because I was trying to take the least amount of time off work while finally fulfilling my dream of becoming a certified yoga teacher. Then in March 2015, I quit my job (because my work wouldn’t approve my leave request) to travel to Bali to participate in the first-ever ACROVINYASA training to explore my other passion for acroyoga, which blends acrobatics and yoga.
Right after, I travelled to the UK with my ex-boyfriend to his family home since we’d both quit our jobs to pursue our respective passions. In the five months of living in Worcestershire, where there was nothing but rolling hills and our cat, I started sharing my new yoga journey on Instagram and kept the door open to opportunities back home in Hong Kong.
My first job returning to the city was teaching yoga at CrossFit 852 as an after-work out stretch programme and teaching students at Hong Kong University dorms. I was also contacted by IRIS, the yoga and wellness festival, about teaching acroyoga at their first event that same year.
What practices and styles did you familiarise yourself with when beginning to teach yoga to the masses in Hong Kong professionally?
Vinyasa is my go-to style because that’s what I have always loved practicing and was trained to teach. I tend to get bored easily when I have to hold poses for too long, so vinyasa allows me to be more creative in the way that I flow and sequence. Because of my hypermobility, I also like to include elements of mobility and strength training to balance out the flexibility of yoga.
I’ve also always loved acroyoga with its connection to the dynamism of gymnastics and acrobatics. It gives me so much joy seeing the wonder in people’s eyes when they fly on someone else for the first time - like a child playing airplane - and to build connection and communication through movement!
With yoga becoming more popular as a form of exercise to destress from our Hong Kong lives, how did you build your relationship as a brand ambassador with activewear and workout space, Sweaty Betty?
I was approached by Sweaty Betty when they started expanding in Hong Kong in spring 2020, and became one of their first ambassadors in the city. It’s been so great hosting community classes online and in store with them to keep people motivated and inspired to move during the early days of the pandemic.
Sweaty Betty has expanded rapidly in Hong Kong and Asia, and I resonate deeply with their marketing. You don’t have to have the typical yoga body and physique to enter this practice.
I want to help empower women to feel better about themselves and look good no matter what they wear. This July, Sweaty Betty launched a campaign called Wear the Damn Shorts, empowering women to wear shorts and [to accept] our bodies.
How does self-confidence and embracing normal bodies play into yoga?
It’s a journey for many women, myself included. Especially in a place like Hong Kong where it’s “normal” for people to comment on each others’ appearances as a way of greeting, it’s hard to not feel like you have to look a certain way. But I think as long as you feel good about yourself and feel healthy, that’s all that matters!
Where do you think the world of yoga will be in Hong Kong in the future?
Yoga has definitely become more popular over the last few years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I’m so glad that teaching yoga is viewed as a proper career path these days, unlike when I was first considering the path of teaching in the early 2010s. While there are more yoga teachers than ever before, it’s great that there are also more people open to trying yoga.
I’ve noticed that I don’t have to try as hard to convince my friends to come take a class with me! I also love that more companies that are implementing yoga into their employee/corporate wellness programs. Coming from a corporate background, that’s something I wish I had back in the day.
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