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Yoga Journey With Abhinam School: Chienchien

Chienchien is from Taiwan and recently completed her 200 Hr Ashtanga Yoga TTC in Goa with Abhinam School. She used to be a corporate lawyer in Taiwan, but four years ago she decided to quit her job to travel the world and start fulfilling her dreams. She told us that this decision to change her path was mainly inspired by three things; the books of Osho, Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford Commencement speech, and the book The Secret: “All these things moved me to change from planning my life and achieving goals, to instead living now,” she told us. Chienchien had a bucket list of things she wanted to do, including learning Spanish, learning Salsa and backpacking around the world. “I figured that if I stayed in my job, I would never get to complete half of the list. Once Steve Jobs died in 2011, I quit my job the following year,” she explained. “It was another big sign to me saying that you don’t live forever – you’re going to die, so take action right now – this is the time. I had to be brave and just tell my work that I was leaving to do my bucket list, to complete some of my dreams.”

Since making this life-changing decision, Chienchien has travelled all over the world, until recently when she returned home to Taiwan for three months. During these months, Chienchien told us that she became a bit of a “couch potato”. “After travelling for so long, you don’t eat very balanced meals,” Chienchien explained.  “Yoga teacher training actually wasn’t on my bucket list, but I just felt like my body needed more physical exercise, I wanted to have a stronger body.” Before coming to Abhinam, Chienchien had practiced yoga on and off, trying a few different styles from Balla Yoga (a fusion of ballet and yoga) to Yin Yoga. “When I was working, I was taking yoga at lunchtime, so quite regularly… and then after that there was a long time of no yoga. Then, in Bali I took yoga classes every other day, and I liked it. So I’d practiced here and there, but nothing serious.”

Chienchien had spoke to  Abhinam’s Course Director, Namito, about yoga and was interested in his injury-free teaching methods. “When I did yoga before, I was injured during my class,” Chienchien explained. “So I know how important it is to have injury free yoga. Namito specifically emphasized that he would teach us to do yoga in a way where we wouldn’t get injured, so that was a really attractive point for me. And I knew that he has a medical degree background, so with that and his knowledge, I thought this would be a good choice.”

Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Student Testimonial

Chienchien admitted that once she started the course, she found the first week pretty tough. “The first day I thought I was going to die!” she laughed. “I was like, what the hell am I doing here? It was so hard – physically and mentally challenging. Ashtanga is nothing like yin yoga – very different! And mentally challenging because of all the Sanskrit names. All of a sudden I had to study and put all of these things in my head – I thought my head was going to explode! Everything was new.” But as the course progressed, she found that she was growing stronger and learning a lot: “I guess I love challenges,” she told us. “So I thought, if they can do it, I can do it. I really stayed with myself; I’d eat and go back to rest so I’d have enough energy for the next day. And I’d try and study the Sanskrit and the mantras and just keep on hanging in there. It was hard going from couch potato to intensive training! In Taiwan I wasn’t doing any exercise; I pretty much would just eat, read a book and sit around, so it was a big change for me! But I needed it and I wanted it, so that’s why I signed up for the course – to be committed to do some physical exercise, to build up a stronger body.”

To start with, Chienchien didn’t have any plans to teach yoga after the course, instead she was just doing it for herself. But over time, her feelings started to change. “I didn’t have any plans to become a yoga teacher, because I knew that there were so many people that could do yoga much better than me, and they’ve been practicing for a longer time,” Chienchien told us. “For me, my original thought was that it was just for my own personal practice. But I think that my thoughts have changed now. Now, I know it’s not just about the physical poses, it’s more “fitness for the witness” – I like the meditation part of it. Yoga’s not just about physical fitness, for fitness you go to the gym. But if yoga is more about meditation, then I feel more confident and more enthusiastic that I have something I want to share.”

Out of all the classes in the course, Chienchien particularly enjoyed the Teaching Methodology classes: “For me I’m a hands on learner,” she told us. “It’s harder for me to study from books or learn from theory. But if I do it once or do it twice I won’t forget it. So my favourite class was Teaching Methodology. It was eye opening to see the way Namito adjusts people. I learned a lot of alignment and adjustment techniques and learned how to help people to get into poses, including myself. It was amazing, that’s what I loved most.”

Chienchien told us that she enjoyed the variety of different teachers and that they all had something different to bring to the course. “Namito is very entertaining,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes he’s cute and sweet, and sometimes he’s BKS style – beat, kick and shout! But it’s very entertaining, very dramatic, and you will never forget it. The effect is that it helps you learn and it stays in your memory.”

Journey After Competing Teacher Training

After Chienchien finished her course, she decided to stay on at Abhinam for a month in Dharamsala to deepen her practice and get some hands-on experience teaching drop-in classes. “A lot of people taking this course have already been practicing Ashtanga for years, so they have so much more experience, and they’re already doing advanced poses. But I didn’t feel as confident teaching after one month,” she explained. So Abhinam gave her the opportunity to stay on and teach drop-in classes and also continue to learn more from the teachers. “The school giving me the opportunity to teach drop-in classes has been really priceless and very valuable. I learned so much from teaching the classes. It was very important for me to have some experience of teaching before I left the school, so I really value it and I’m thankful for the teaching experience here at the school. Just being in the school environment, if there’s something I don’t know, I can always ask Maki, Namito or Deepika – about the poses, about pranayama, about anything.”

Chienchien now plans to travel to Bali where she’d like to continue teaching yoga classes. “I might make some flyers and give them out, or just teach some friends for free to begin with, to get some more experience,” she told us. In the future, she has plans to create a Yoga and Meditation Retreat Center in Bali.