A while back, fresh up from the headiness of Thailand’s beaches, I took a trip into Bangkok to spend time at Yoga Elements, widely thought to be one of the top Yoga studios in Asia. After all that sun and lounging, it seemed appropriate to do some actual sun salutations and swap my beach towel for a yoga mat. I’d long harboured a secret, sleepy passion for yoga and even thought I knew a pose or two.. But then I met Shiang Ying Cox and all that changed. She had an almost magical insight into me that was to unfold over time and still shocks me today.
But more on that later.
Shiang Ying taught with a precision I’d rarely encountered.DV
Shiang Ying, co-teacher at the sky high studio, which was founded by her husband, Adrian Cox, had a huge impact on me, which, through all the travels and excitement and life I’ve had since, has never diminished. Sleek and warmly welcoming, with a light touch and the gentlest of smiles, she taught with a precision I’d rarely encountered. She was also sweet and funny.
Where other teachers had regaled me privately with tales of injuries sustained at the feet of their own yoga guru, read out complex philosophical treatises for students to digest during class or played loud rock music while we were in downward dog, Shiang Ying simply taught yoga. Excellently.
Working in a logical sequence, she took us students step by careful step through each position, building up strength and confidence until some of us were ready for headstand.
Her adjustments were just enough, not too much and the customary Thai aura of respect for the teacher was very much in evidence, from Thais and foreigners alike. Evidently the feeling was mutual. She made the whole process fun and while helping me realise changes I needed to make, I still felt encouraged. It was challenging in a good way. I think I learned more in that hour or so than I’d ingested in whole courses before. As you can imagine, I had questions.
The class was so upbeat and the students so devoted, there was a clear reluctance to leave. Indeed one Thai lady was so intent on getting Shiang Ying’s opinion of her accomplishment, she spontaneously completed a headstand in the foyer, executing it perfectly with a big smile on her face. I think we were all smiling broadly at that point. I loved the atmosphere and genuine affection between students and teacher, but wondered what Shiang Ying could really be like in person.
I wasn’t disappointed. As we made a leisurely tour of the studio, I became very comfortable chatting with my new teacher and began to wish I could actually move to Bangkok. Yoga Elements is such a light and airy place to practise; a world away from the honking horns and tropical temperatures. Looking out over the vast city, twenty-three stories below, we marvelled at the geometric concrete and steel landscape. That such crazy bustle could exist just outside the glass-walled calm was astonishing, yet somehow I always find beauty in a city, especially Bangkok, which is one of my favourites.
Finally we retreated from the glare and sat crosslegged on the wooden floor, like a traditional master and student. Shiang Ying perched gracefully under a Tibetan thangka, while I sprawled somehow, surrounded by acres of parquet. As we spoke, her hands were always mobile, questioning, demonstrating, imagining, as you’d expect from one who meets the external world through touch and the inner world through enquiry. It was inspiring.
Originally hailing from Malaysia, Shiang Ying and Adrian met when he was searching for an interpreter who knew yoga to help him on a teaching tour. The rest is fortunate history and the pair have created a truly harmonious yoga home for the city’s discerning residents, expats and wandering aspirant yogis like myself.
Shiang Ying: I think I’m only in Thailand half of the year. My schedule is quite busy. In fact, I just wrapped up a teacher training in Taipei. and I’ll be going to Taiwan and then China in 10 days. I’ve also taught in Russia, Switzerland, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Philipines, Singapore, the Maldives…… usually I’d just chalk it up to “international”
DV: What was it like teaching in the Maldives? Must have been heaven!
Shiang Ying: Oh yes! Maldives was paradise. I cried when I had to leave.
DV: Do you do Teacher Trainings?
Shiang Ying: Yes, we’ll be doing one in Prague next summer. It was meant to be this year but it clashes with my plan for my own education, which I undertake every year, mostly in the States. I go to California for Somatics training; a type of mind body medicine.
This is where the magic part comes in..DV
It turned out that Shiang Ying already knew far more mind body medicine than she cared to let on: this is where the magic part comes in. As we stood in the nearby Robinson’s department store, seemingly ages later and I said my reluctant goodbyes, she kept gently lifting my right arm and letting it drop to my side, again and again. Meanwhile she eyed up my shoulder and the whole right side of my body. What was wrong, I asked her, why? Oh nothing, she said, but did I feel anything? No.
Shiang Ying clearly knew my body better than I did. DV
Yet after a summer of intensive art practise and my customary type A attitude to studying and writing, with far too many hours hunched over a steaming laptop, I have a soreness in my right arm and shoulder. Not having devoted enough time to my yoga practise, I’ve developed a writing rsi that that she saw all those months ago. Magic. Shiang Ying clearly knew my body better than I did.
I’d better go back to Bangkok. I need that calm space and keen eye.
I need that calm space.
YOGA ELEMENTS STUDIO, BANGKOK
29 Vanissa Building 23rd Floor Soi Chidlom, Pathumwan Bangkok, 3rd Floor
Tel: +66 (0)2.655.5671
Classes co-taught by Shiang Ying Cox and Adrian Cox
Photographs by Dear Velvet