Sometimes you meet someone for the first time but somehow you feel as though you’ve known them for a long time. And very unexpectedly, you share thoughts and feelings with them that are usually kept for those who know you best. This is what happened when I met Jac Fang. Within the first hour we were talking about various aspects of our lives. Jac spoke openly and honestly about her life experiences – she told me about the tough decisions and challenging situations which she’s had to face. She revealed that during all of her ups and downs, having a loving and supportive husband and family were crucial to her well-being. But added, that it was her understanding and practice of yoga that gave her the inner courage, determination and vision to see those obstacles from a different perspective – and to overcome them.
Jac is no stranger to the pressures of working long hours under stressful conditions. Having acquired her Degree in Nursing from Southampton University in England, she worked as a Cardiothoracic Nurse for three years at St. Mary’s Hospital, London in the Intensive Care Unit. During that time Jac said, “I worked 12 to 13 hour shifts with ten minute breaks. My day started at around 4.30 a.m and I’d usually get back home at around 9.45 p.m. So it was quite a hectic and stressful schedule. I knew that I needed to find a way to de-stress, so I started going to yoga classes. I did Hatha Yoga which focused on breathing techniques and meditation and immediately felt a very strong attraction to the practice.”
In 2006, Jac and her husband made the decision to leave London and return to Brunei. She then worked for two years as an ICU nurse at Gleneagles Hospital. “I loved working there. I was able to meet people from all walks of life and I also enjoyed being back home – in my own culture.” But she still felt something inside urging her to pursue her passion for yoga. “In a way, my experience in nursing influenced the way I felt about yoga. As a nurse I was already caring for people; I had compassion for others; and was able to communicate with different types of people. This, together with my knowledge of the anatomy and being able to make accurate observations about patients quickly – were all attributes which I felt would help me if I chose to become a yoga instructor.”
Jac then trained with Pat Siva for one year and then decided that she would take a leap of faith. She enrolled in a Tirasula Yoga training course in Singapore. “This was a very intensive course. The classes started at 8 a.m and ended at 7 p.m and the teachers were very strict. I had long reading lists which covered detailed theory of the philosophy behind yoga; study of the anatomy; the methodology of teaching and much more. And at the end of the course there was a challenging practical assessment. It was also during this time that I decided to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle which for me was a healthier lifestyle.” So armed with a single minded will to reach her goal, Jac successfully completed the course. At this point, she knew in her heart and soul that she was destined to teach yoga full time.
And This Too Shall Pass
Jac then rented her first studio in Kiulap. She had a few students mainly friends and family members and she felt optimistic. However, after putting her heart, soul and money into renovating this studio – she was asked to move out of the premises. Jac explained, “Of course, I was extremely upset and saddened by what had happened. But as I reflected and meditated on the loss of the business – I learnt to let it go. I practiced the core principles of yoga taught by B.K.S Iyengar and slowly I began to let go of the negativity; to accept my situation and to look for alternative solutions. And I found a solution when a friend of mine rented me a space in her studio at D Music Motion in Kiarong. I stayed there for two years and my student base expanded.”
But Jac’s circumstances soon changed again. In 2012 with the help of her Dad, she was finally able to open her own studio, Yoga Bliss Health and Spa in Gadong Central. At last she had a permanent space of her own that could comfortably accommodate her students. She felt a renewed sense of hope and joy. But one day while teaching she began to feel joint pain in a couple of her limbs. At that time she wasn’t sure what the source of the joint pain was and she continued to focus on her yoga work and her students. Later, she discovered after medical assessment that she has an autoimmune condition called Rheumatoid Arthritis. This meant that she could not run, swim or undertake other physically demanding forms of exercise, but she could still do yoga.
“This was another challenge for me. I had to realise my limitations. I had to modify the poses and breathe through the periodic joint pain which occurs if I have a flare-up. But having Rheumatoid Arthritis has helped to better understand and empathise with people who do have ailments and physical challenges. Having this autoimmune disease has taught me how to practice what I have been preaching.”
Sharing The Joy
Jac’s face lights up when she talks about yoga. It is clear that this practice has enabled her to gain a deeper sense of happiness and contentment. This is why she is so determined to share the physical and psychological benefits of it with others. Jac wants to encourage more Bruneians to understand the health benefits that yoga can bring to their lives. At her studio she has trained eight students who have gone on to become qualified yoga instructors and work here and overseas. Her studio offers beginner to advanced classes. There is a booking system for the classes in order to limit the number of students as this allows Jac and her team to provide quality teaching that focuses on “proper body alignment, breathing technique and strength training.” Jac believes that yoga is more than just getting the poses right – it is also important for students to understand that its benefits extend beyond the studio class. She says that it is very rewarding to hear students say that they have seen positive changes in their physicality and stress levels after taking classes at Yoga Bliss Health and Spa. Jac smiles with a deep sincerity when she says that fundamentally, “Yoga teaches you to go with the flow and that you have the ability to choose your path to good emotional and physical health. You can either decide to make a change or to change your attitude. Nothing is permanent – things are always changing – it all depends on your attitude.”
These days, Jac has even more to smile about. Recently, she and her husband celebrated the birth of their gorgeous son, Charles. We extend our warm congratulations to Jac and Pete!