Gail Wong — The role yoga plays in the life of a wife, mom, entrepreneur and a professional coach
What made you take up yoga in the first place? My first yoga class was on a whim in the final year of university. Its appeal was on multiple levels, unlike one-dimensional sterile gyms or running outdoors in freezing Philadelphia. I loved how my mind was engaged throughout an entire class and enjoyed true freedom from life stresses. This — and sleeping deeply and sweetly — is very precious to an over-thinker with chronic insomnia.
I loved being challenged physically, as well as discovering new flexibility and facility — for example the massive difference in comfort and strength, simply by subtly shifting weight across different parts of my foot. I loved the tangible growth I witnessed in a few short weeks: from struggling with a cobra to doing an upward-facing dog (and years later, handstands). I discovered joy in moving my body through sequences.
Most of all, my teacher exuded a certain energy and kindness that made it ok to leave my ambitions at the door and just be myself. For a constantly striving Singaporean, this was so refreshing!
Was your first encounter with yoga what you expected? It certainly surpassed my expectations! I was surprised at the physical rigour involved. Some of the aerobics and spinning classes I had tried previously were intimidating or uncomfortable. I’m so grateful that my early teachers honoured the true philosophy of yoga and created a positive learning experience for all levels of practitioners.
What classes did you start off at KPY and what classes do you enjoy most today? What has changed? Before having children, I was an avid fan of stronger and faster classes, enjoying the thrill of sweating it out and reward of Savasana. Ashtanga and inversions — they were all part of my yoga growth journey. Child-bearing had a huge impact on my wellness. In addition to the sleep deprivation, I experienced severe pain in both wrists and postpartum depression for a good 18 months. My practice shifted to Restorative and Yin classes. While I grumbled, they didn’t help my weight-loss goals, I kept it up mostly because I always felt better afterwards: more energised, happier about myself, thinking clearer.
Today, as a time-stressed entrepreneur, the Yin-Yang classes are my staple as I find them most value for time (can’t take the Singaporean out of me!). I do enjoy the occasional Pilates workout and some of the rotating varieties e.g. Yoga with Chair, Sivananda, Parent-child yoga, and novelty workshops (such as Mother’s Day yoga/flower arrangement) if schedule permits.
“Thank you to Kate for birthing KPY and to Li Ling for honouring what makes this community special! I’m so honoured to share my experience and hope others can discover the same bliss and joy KPY has provided me.”
~ Gail Wong, wife, mom to two kids, a professional coach and Founder of Live True.
What do you gain most out of your yoga practice? The cherry on the cake for me are the A-ha’s I get, out of the blue, in the middle of a pose. They could be business/creative ideas, out-of-the-box solutions to something in the home, or a realisation. I only understood this later in my coach training that the mind integrates concepts and gets creative under the right conditions — and for me, yoga seems to do the trick. Beyond fitness and occasional inspiration, my regular practice enables me to be centered and fully available to my family and clients.
What were your first impressions of KPY? I found KPY by happenstance, following a neighbour carrying a yoga mat up to Kate’s living room! Most studios I had been (across three continents) seemed to emphasise ‘looking the part’, rather than the inward journey. KPY in contrast felt genuine, a second home where everyone could be themselves. Few places where one can pet the resident dog/cat while setting up your mat, catch up with friends over tea after a class, and be surrounded by wisdom and inspiration (books and art, plus people)!
It was refreshing to breathe ‘regular’ air and not worry about how I looked (in mirrors) to other students. When KPY moved to a proper studio, I was pleased that these important elements (plus the tea and towels) were preserved.
What do you think about the ‘Yoga for Normal People’ philosophy? It’s true to the spirit of the community, and the practice. I think it reflects the many small and comforting ways that KPY operates.
Normal – no rock stars/ influencers, welcoming all levels, encouraging growth mindset and fostering connections. And also, normalising yoga in lifestyle, rather than an Instagram trend.
People – yes, we are treated like people at KPY! Not customers jammed into a sardine can, 50 at a time, and a production line check-in/out with nary a greeting.
What is so special about KPY to you? The friendly greeting (by name, if you’re a regular). The regular air. The high-quality teachers whose attention is on safety and students’ experience. The community, and environment to strike up new friendships. Some of my most meaningful relationships originated from this community. It was a container for both highs and lows: celebrating my birthday and healing from debilitating life events. I can’t imagine this being possible in many places.
What is your key message to busy mums and career women like you who have yet to take up yoga in their wellness routine? First, Go Slow to Move Fast. World-class athletes have mandated rest and recovery times, which helps them do better. Every busy woman is an Olympian in their community — whether its raising kids, caring for your parents, providing for the family, leading teams, creating change. I found that dedicating consistent time in stillness directly elevated my performance, as wife, mom, coach, business person, investor. Yoga could be seen as a guilty escape, or part of mission-critical training to being your best self, every day.
Second, be kind to yourself. Yoga (at least, at KPY) was a life-giving resource, in the face of expectations and to-do lists. When healthy and happy, your energy rises; you also make better decisions and are more present in important relationships.
Lastly, Small Steps = Big Changes. I didn’t set out with a strict 3x-a-week routine, nor expect it would be a productivity pillar. There are different practices and teachers you can have fun exploring. You can commit to your wellness in small but sustainable steps.
To read about the other Friends of KPY, click here.