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Defeating insecurities with yoga

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Refusing to give in to her eating disorder, yoga instructor Lishan stretched herself to overcome bulimia.

Lishan is not your average yoga instructor. Watching the confident and svelte young woman bend and twist her body effortlessly into a series of yoga poses, it is hard to tell she once struggled with body image issues.

In fact, the 23-year-old even struggled with bulimia over a period of eight years. But all that is in the past now. Lim Lishan now teaches yoga to share its healing benefits. 

The freelance instructor, who recently graduated from Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information, wants to help others find a balance in their emotions through the art of yoga. After all, it was through practicing yoga that she began to regain control over her life.

"I didn't seek help because there was a huge stigma to seeking help. It's okay if you go to the doctor for a flu, but if you go to a psychiatrist for depression, people think there's something wrong with you, and you're crazy," said Lishan, who struggled with the eating disorder alone for the first two years. 

Her eating disorder stemmed from stress she was facing from school and the desire to achieve perfection when her parents and relatives commented that she was growing fatter during her puberty years. Her binging and purging eventually took a toll on her body and she once passed out while travelling abroad. 

 
"I used to have a lot of insecure thoughts like 'oh I'm not good enough, I'm not worthy' and they translated
into negative behavior," Lishan (right) commented about herself in secondary school.
PHOTO CREDIT: LIM LISHAN

Things took a change for the better when she randomly chanced upon yoga while looking for something new to try in university. "Yoga taught me to be more aware of my thoughts and it helped me filter out those that were bringing me down and blocking my potential," said the yoga instructor, who also does acting and modelling. 

It was to be the start of a long journey to healing, and Lishan attributes the bulk of her recovery to her solo-travels and retreats.

"I went back to Ubud, Bali, eleven times, so I did most my healing there. After my yoga practice, I became more interested in all these healing arts, such as sound healing, energy healing, and trying raw and vegan food," shared Lishan, who eventually decided to become a yoga instructor to share its benefits with others.

Lishan enjoys doing yoga outdoors as she finds it rejuvenating to be reconnected with nature.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/LIM JOO HWEE

As yoga studios were unwilling to hire inexperienced teachers, Lishan recalls her lucky break to conduct her very first class at Moalboal in Cebu, Philippines, in 2015. Initially there for free-diving lessons, she started teaching yoga to the free-divers after realising that both activities were similar in terms of breathing. 

Although it has been nearly two years since she first started teaching yoga, Lishan still faces many challenges. Just last year, she was unsuccessful in organising a yoga retreat due to insufficient sign-ups. 

"It's difficult to reach out to people, even now. Marketing is not easy," said Lishan, who barely earns a thousand dollars a month from her yoga classes.

Despite the setbacks, the ever positive Lishan continues to persevere in the dream of bringing the benefits of healing arts and yoga to the world. 

 
She is currently organising yet another yoga retreat to Mongolia this month,
and has two others in mind for the upcoming year.
PHOTO CREDIT: LIM LISHAN'S FACEBOOK PAGE

Hoping to use yoga to bridge people together, she also goes the extra mile by bringing cards with special messages to encourage sharing sessions at the end of her yoga classes. 

"People rush in and out, sometimes they don't even have the time to do the relaxation. I find that commercial classes are missing a community feeling, which is very important," she said.

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/LIM JOO HWEE