04 Dec Q&A with Heloise Chong: On Practicing Yoga Beyond the Physical
We chat with yoga instructor Héloïse Chong about her yoga journey and how practicing yoga can impact your life not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, too
There’s no question that practicing yoga can help us improve things like muscle strength, flexibility, balance and posture. But beyond perfecting that backbend or headstand, many who practice yoga as a form of exercise today often forget its original purpose: achieving spiritual development and a higher level of consciousness through discipline of body and mind. We catch up with Héloïse Chong about the spiritual aspect of yoga, and its healing and restorative benefits.
Can you give us a bit of background on yourself?
I’m Canadian; my roots are French on my mother’s side and Hong Kong Chinese on my father’s side. I grew up in a mixed culture home… I attended an all French school, but came home to a Chinese dinner and grew up using Chinese medicine. I’m an ex-gymnast and swimmer, and was put in multiple disciplines of Martial Arts like Jiujitsu, Tae Kwon Do and Boxing growing up.
How did you first get into yoga? Tell us your journey.
I first was drawn by the physical aspects of yoga when I was a young teen. I remember looking for something that was like gymnastics but less intense and demanding. There was a poster in our building where I grew up — someone was offering yoga classes. I asked my mom if she’d join me, because I felt too shy to go to class by myself. That was the beginning of my journey.
I fully re-immersed myself into yoga when I was having health issues in 2011. I had a naturopath prescribing me to do yin or restorative yoga class weekly. I got introduced to a whole other side of yoga. By 2012, I attended my first 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. After completion, I was more interested in the healing benefits and spiritual aspects of yoga.
What classes do you teach and why?
I teach classes that resonate the most with me. For example ‘Stretch and Release’ is a slow vinyasa with restorative poses, where you get to really let go and relax and get a good stretch. Chakra Flow Yoga focuses on the chakra points in the body that helps you charge and cleanse those energy centres, leaving you feeling alert, at peace and calm for the day.
As you teach yoga, what have you observed are the major issues people have today?
I would say lack of prioritising mental health and emotional well being. I do see people putting effort in ensuring they have a work out, or a sweat a day. However very few are taking care of their mental and emotional state, which meditation and a slower yoga practice focusing more on the breath and the energetic body can help with. Stretch and Release or Chakra Flow Yoga fall under this, as well as other alternative healing practises.
What sets your teaching style apart from other instructors? What’s your teaching philosophy?
I would say, my energy and energies that are flowing through me sets me apart. My philosophy would be to simply follow my inner guidance. I don’t go to a class with a plan, I simply take a moment and tune in to everyone and channel a practice that would best suit everyone’s needs.
What advice would you give to fellow yogis out there? Any parting words?
Take a breath, quiet the mind just enough for you to hear the movement of your heart. Allow yourself to see where your heart takes you. Either on your mat or in life, allow your heart to guide you. You’ll be surprised where it leads. ❤