True Story: Why This Singaporean Lawyer Gave Up Her Job To Practice Yoga

07 August 2017

Want to be serious about getting fit? You can join a fitness class – or better, teach one.

From ballet barre and exercise bootcamps to yoga and pilates, the fitness industry is attracting more practitioners who want to be certified instructors.

Some are training on top of full-time jobs, while others give up lucrative careers to go into fitness full-time.

Singaporean Melissa Wong, for example, is happy to have turned her passion into a profession.

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When Melissa Wong dislocated her shoulder after a nasty tumble during a family snowboarding trip in 2013, she was dismayed to learn that the only cure offered by doctors was surgery.

The doctor suggested a $10,000 operation, but she was against such an invasive procedure.

Looking into alternative ways of healing her injury, the 29-year-old lawyer found yoga. She signed up with local yoga studio Yoga Movement and went for classes four times a week.

Over time, besides increasing the range of movement of her shoulder, yoga also became a solace from her long hours as a litigator.

In 2015, two years into practising yoga as a student, Ms Wong found herself at a crossroads. She was feeling burnt out at work, felt she was plateauing in her yoga practice and wanted to learn more about the spiritual and cultural aspects of yoga.

To challenge herself, she signed up for a $3,600, 200-hour teacher training course, which ran every weekend over 12 weeks. During each seven-hour session, she was taught poses, techniques and safety skills as well as about human anatomy and yoga principles. She also spent another $2,500 on a 10-day yoga retreat to Kerala and Mysore in India.

“It was a huge commitment of time and money, but I have no regrets,” she says. “Even when I had to work over the weekend, I would just go into the office after 3pm when my classes ended. It was very challenging, but I really had my mind set on completing the course.”

She passed her theory and physical examinations in October 2015 and took one-to-one teaching assignments to build her confidence.

This year, following a six-month sabbatical from last November – during which Ms Wong quit her job and travelled across New Zealand – she finally took a full-time teaching position at Yoga Movement.

The singleton teaches 15 to 18 classes weekly. Although she now earns a third of what she used to as a lawyer, she says the pay cut is a small price to pay for how much more relaxed and fulfilled she feels in her new career.

“I think more young people are realising that they want to be happy with what they are doing in life,” she says.


By Ankita Varma, The Straits Times, June 2017

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