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So delighted to be featured in Mingpao Daily, Canada’s largest Chinese Newspaper! Grateful for the opportunity to have our creative and all embracing approach to yoga shared with so many in Vancouver, Toronto and the rest of Canada. Fun, fresh, yoga freedom for all! 😀

Read original article in Chinese here.

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Restorative Yoga Happiness, Personalized

Find Fun, Fresh Yoga Freedom in East Vancouver

By Louisa Chan

MingPao Canada

Vancouver is a renowned yoga center, but it is no easy task to succeed in a saturated market.  Zoe Ho began yoga when she was 29 in the Western Arctic of Canada. Growing up in Asia and Vancouver, then living in Arctic gives Zoe’s teaching style a unique flavour and expansiveness. Zoe’s emphasis on fun, fresh, yoga freedom – teachings oriented towards happiness and self-love stand out when most emphasize yoga as weight-loss oriented fitness. This year, Zoe launched the Republic of Yoga, a yoga space in Mt. Pleasant, an up and coming neighbourhood near downtown and Olympic Village, where she offers boutique yoga classes and One-on-one Restorative Yoga Therapy.

As I enter Zoe’s studio, sunshine beams into the high-ceiling loft through large open windows. I’m gently carried away by ethereal music and wafts of incense to another world… a world that felt both calming and deeply peaceful. The Republic of Yoga is in The Artiste, a modern live-work space dubbed as“the coolest place to live/ work” in East Vancouver. The live-work space vibe gives it a personal touch unlike any commercial yoga studio.

Yoga Begins in the Arctic

For about 7 years, Zoe was the creative director for a magazine in the Arctic. Her yoga journey began when a yoga podcast became the antidote to her occupational pains, and the challenges of living in an isolated and extreme environment. “I was constantly tired, both physically and mentally. At the beginning, even 20 minute yoga podcasts were very hard to follow, but I always felt lighter after in my heart and body, so I kept going.”

Zoe learnt that many of her Aboriginal interviewees were navigating trauma from the impacts of Residential Schools and their rapidly changing culture, and that addictions and other social issues stem from the pain of losing connection to one’s roots. This made her reflect on her role and values as an immigrant, and she often found herself attempting to help people instead of trying to create headline stories. She wondered if Yoga would help with healing and began teaching classes there. “In some places in the Arctic, people have never tried Yoga before. I once taught in a community of 400 Inuit of all ages – elders, kids and pregnant ladies. They were so open minded, we had a blast!”

Evolving Traditional Yoga

In the Arctic Zoe found herself cracked opened again and again – by its vulnerability and beauty – the dancing Northern Lights, the wildness of the land, the innate strength and resilience of the Aboriginal peoples. Her yoga practice supported her as she let go of being a “city girl” and embraced the freedom of simply being, wherever she was and whoever she was with.

“It is magical how Yoga allows us to embrace ourselves,” she said. “As Asians, we are taught it’s more socially acceptable to wear masks and to censor ourselves emotionally in order to fit in. Yoga offers alchemical tools to help us relax into who we are, releasing some conditioning and to feel confident in expressing our true selves.”

Zoe developed creative ways to make yoga accessible for all, merging yoga styles, music, storytelling, singing and movement with a huge dose of self-love. Weight-loss and muscle toning are valuable “side-effects”but not the main goal. Yoga was an artform that can be accessible for all.

Completing a one year RYT-500 Yoga Teacher Training in Singapore, Zoe then travelled and taught in Asia as well as North America. “Certification is only the first step, it’s through teaching and continual learning that you grow in what you have to offer,” she said. She is now an E-RYT 500 registered with Yoga Alliance, and has taught workshops and participated in teacher trainings. “One of my teachers Emil Wendel, whom I’m very grateful to, has over 30 years of teaching experience. He doesn’t need a certificate to prove himself,” she laughs. “Nowadays most studios see 200 Hour certification as a basic requirement so it’s become essential.” Her certification investment is approximately $14,000. “Otherwise yoga teachers can operate cost free, if you don’t factor in labour and time… some teachers teach rent free at outdoor spaces.”

In 2011, Zoe founded and launched the Republic of Yoga in Singapore, delighting in nurturing the growth of a yoga community, holding workshops at companies such as Google and teaching private yoga sessions. Many students became close friends, and the Republic of Yoga community remains connected through online yoga classes and Zoe’s international retreat gatherings.

A Boutique, Personalized Yoga Experience

On returning to Vancouver, Zoe introduced herself to YYoga and the City of Burnaby. “I had my first ever ‘Yoga Audition’, we had to demonstrate our teaching style within 7 minutes,” she laughed. Currently she offers yoga workshops, most recently the “Self-Love Play Lab”where she teams up with a musician to c0-create spontaneous songs with students after a culmination of meditation and movement.

Zoe believes in connecting with students, meeting them where they are at. “It’s not about being advanced at doing yoga shapes with your body, the learning happens in relationship. We don’t have to be overly attached to the idea of weight-loss and or to forcing our minds empty of thoughts. My mission is hold space in every class such that the student leaves feeling a little more loved.”

The Republic of Yoga focuses on offering private Restorative Yoga Therapy sessions and some boutique yoga classes, and Zoe continues to teach at larger studios. She appreciates how studios take care of business management, allowing her to focus on teaching. Yoga teachers are paid per class taught, and it would require teaching approximately 4 classes a day to meet the cost of living in Vancouver. To better manage time and energy, Zoe recommends that new teachers find their own niche and market that well.

Ever since its launch in Vancouver, yoga classes at the Republic of Yoga have been well-attended. Zoe finds teaching private restorative yoga therapy sessions especially satisfying, as she sees clients with issues such as insomnia, anxiety and depression have their symptom alleviated. Zoe engages social media to better share her yoga offerings. “Besides my website, Facebook page and Instagram, I also use Meetup.com and have online classes through www.YogaAnytime.com.”

Zoe is grateful to be able to offer her unique brand of yoga – where her passion meets purpose, and is currently planning her next yoga retreat in Bali, Asia next Spring. For those who want to join her for a restorative retreat, check out her website at www.republicofyoga.org.

 

Published Thursday, Oct 15, 2015

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到工廈學快樂瑜伽 

文:陳韻如 圖: 由受訪者提供
Zoe帶着愛犬Coco由北極圈搬到新加坡再搬回來溫哥華,是她最得力的瑜伽助手。

溫哥華雖是著名的瑜伽重鎮,但作為一名新晉的瑜伽老師,要生存下來卻不是那麼容易,想自立門戶更是困難。29歲才開始接觸瑜伽的新加坡華裔Zoe Ho雖然起步比其他人晚,但憑着一腔熱誠及豐富多彩的生活經驗,今年終於在溫哥華成功成立了個人瑜伽工作室。她提倡不受傳統局限的趣味瑜伽,志在散播快樂種籽,在琳瑯滿目的瘦身瑜伽中顯得格外與眾不同。

踏入Zoe的工作室,迎面而來是一大片落地玻璃,陽光將挑高的閣樓式空間照得明亮,耳邊傳來空靈的歌聲,陣陣線香飄來,感覺像是到了另一個世界,這個世界很寧靜、很平和。Republic of Yoga瑜伽教室位於溫東一幢藝術家聚居的工廈中,有別於一般商業化的瑜伽教室,這裏有Zoe的睡房、還有廚房,儼然現代版的「前舖後居」,予人家的感覺。

北極生活開啟瑜伽之門

Zoe原是雜誌創意總監,因緣際會下七年前開始在北極替一本刊物到處訪問當地的原住民,一名瘦小的亞裔女孩首次面對天寒地凍的極地環境,還要應付沉重的工作壓力,讓她直呼受不了,「訪問牽涉很多沉重議題,常常要攀山越嶺去探索當地文化,我的身心都感到十分疲累。那時剛開始流行Podcast,我找到一個瑜伽頻道,便開始自己練習。一開始真的很難,但我仍堅持做下去,每次做完我都覺得身體變輕了,心情也沒那麼鬱悶。」

Zoe當時的訪問對象多是有癮癖或心靈受過創傷的原住民,聊天過程中她除了是提問者,也是聆聽者、治療者,因此她想:或許瑜伽對他們而言是一個很好的抒發方式!於是她便將來自印度的瑜伽文化帶進極地,「對於北極居民而言,瑜伽是很新穎的東西。我曾在一個只有400人的小鎮教瑜伽,各年齡層的居民都來了,有小孩、老人甚至有孕婦,那堂課大家都玩得非常開心。」

另類瑜伽開拓新市場

或許是受到北極原住民的影響,Zoe相信瑜伽有一種讓人擺脫生活壓力的魔法,「我認為瑜伽是自由的,在亞洲人的成長環境裏,我們在情感上經常受到壓抑,透過瑜伽我可以脫下面具、真誠地做自己,告訴別人內心真正的感受。」

因此Zoe自行研發出一套快樂瑜伽理論,她會用音樂、唱歌的方式來讓學員敞開心胸,讓他們坦然面對自己的外型和個性,學習放過自己,與傳統瑜伽有很大分別。

Zoe認為,瑜伽是一項愉快的活動,身體變健康、線條變緊實只是伴隨而來的「副作用」,重點在於讓人變得更愛自己、更有自信。

一次極地工作之旅,讓Zoe愛上了瑜伽,但那時都只是上網自學,「後來我回到新加坡,決定要做一名瑜伽老師,便在當地上了一年的瑜伽證書課程,取得E-RYT 500註冊教師證書。」Zoe解釋,取得證書後雖然名義上是教師,但仍需累積教學時數,才能取得更多認證資格。「證書只是第一步,真正磨練自己就要靠不斷教學,在教學中令自己成長。」因此在2011年,Zoe在新加坡首次以Republic of Yoga創辦人的名義進行教學。

「其實很多擁有30難經驗的瑜伽老師都沒有證書,但這個年頭,有證書會較容易取得工作機會,履歷好看一些。」Zoe所唸的證書課程學費約為14,000元,是這門事業中最大的投資。「其他的成本就是時間而已,很多瑜伽老師會在公園上課,完全零租金。」

精品教室重師生互動

一年前選擇搬回來溫哥華,Zoe為了繼續瑜伽之路,大膽向大型瑜伽教室YYoga和本那比市政府自薦,「我在YYoga經歷了人生第一次瑜伽面試,好幾位應徵者在同一間房間裏互相扮演對方的學生,在7分鐘內施展渾身解數展示實力。」

想在眾多應徵者中脫穎而出,Zoe說老師與學員之間的互動很重要,「技術不是重點,重要的是人與人之間的連繫,有些人會將瑜伽想得太複雜,又想減肥又要減壓。但我的宗旨就是希望大家來上完我的課之後覺得自己有被愛的感覺。」

Zoe表示,在大公司教學的好處是不用理會接生意的問題,老師可專注教學,同時增加知名度,因此現在即使有了自己的工作室,她仍繼續在其他教室任教。由於瑜伽老師採時薪制,如想達到基本收入,那一天起碼要教3至4堂課,對身心而言都是很大的負擔,因此成為一位完全獨立的瑜伽教師是Zoe的最大目標。「我希望將這裏打造成精品教室,少了商業氣息,能與學員有更多親密互動。」

工作室開幕以來,幾乎每堂課都滿座,Zoe認為網上宣傳很重要,「除了網站和社交媒體外,我還會將教學影片放在網上瑜伽平台Yoga Anytime;另外,我覺得聚會平台Meetup.com也很有用,我會在這裏組織瑜伽班。」

主意多多的Zoe,目前正計劃組織瑜伽心靈之旅,想跟着老師到亞洲洗滌身心的朋友,可以瀏覽她的網站www.republicofyoga.org。

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