Vo Le Hong
"Daphne's yoga classes are not ordinary," exclaims Arlene Tuang, a teacher at RMIT in HCM City.
|Looking up: HCM City-based Singaporean yoga teacher Daphne Chua. — VNS File Photo
"She helps students approach yoga in a holistic way, with a focus on both the body and mind. I really enjoy her classes because they are intimate and offer food for your spirit."
She was talking about Daphne Chua, a yoga teacher and physio-therapist from Singapore.
Chua discovered yoga 12 years ago as she sought to escape her hectic corporate life, quitting as a PR professional in 2007.
"I contemplated on who I'll be without my power suit and high-heeled shoes. I decided to travel to find my answers and I guess I did. I became a yoga teacher in 2008," she says.
HCM City was one of the first places she travelled to, and met her would-be partner on the second day she was here.
"I decided to stay in Viet Nam because of love, and started looking around for possible opportunities to start my yoga practice here. I guessed it would materialise."
Yoga in Viet Nam is not as commercialised as in Singapore or the west, and she finds it really rewarding to be able to introduce yoga to beginners and watch them get better each day.
It shows not just in the changes in their bodies but also their spirits.
People here are great practitioners and she has enjoyed every single class that she has taught.
Yoga is defined as the union of individual consciousness with the universal consciousness.
For the spiritually inclined, it means connecting with the Divine. But it does not mean it is only for those looking to be enlightened.
"I think yoga is for everyone. Today we are so consumed by our work, our iphones, ipads, emails, and so on.
"We are so occupied with how to get ahead of ourselves that we often have no time to slow down and appreciate what is right in front of us.
"Yoga helps you to do that. Through physical postures (asanas), through breathing techniques (pranayama), through meditation, it calms your nervous system, detoxifies your body, and helps you to focus.
"Really, we just need to take the time to ‘smell the roses'.'"
Chua has also been supporting the Camillo Home for the elderly in District 8, a private shelter for homeless old people who have no one to care for them and no means to support themselves.
She conducts charity yoga classes to raise funds for them, and visits them when her schedule permits.
"I teach between 12 to 15 classes a week, sometimes more. There are also one-on-one Thai massage or Reiki treatments on request.
"On a regular day I'd meditate briefly in the morning, have breakfast and teach a class.
"By mid-day, I'd have a little time to myself and do emails, read, and practise yoga. Then I teach one or two more classes in the afternoon.
"Weekdays usually involve a lot of driving around on my bike as I teach all over the city.
"During weekends I try to limit myself to only one or two classes and have at least a day off, even though I have gone through months working seven days a week."
Ellen Riggenbach, a teacher at The American School, is another of her admirers: "Daphne's yoga classes always follow an intention that is clearly articulated at the beginning of every class and throughout.
"Setting intentions is a beautiful way to practise and feel the body. Her classes focus on alignment, while allowing students to flow.
"She offers a style that allows each practitioner to learn something new about the practice or about one's body in each session.
"Even as an experienced yoga practitioner, I continue to grow and be inspired by Daphne's loving yoga instruction." — VNS