More than a decade ago, Lim Lay Gaik was often crippled with migraines. Though she worked out occasionally in the gym and was relatively healthy, the frequent attacks would leave her nauseous and confined to a cold, dark room for hours or days.
All the pills in the world did little to cure her ailment. Until someone recommended she try yoga.
Initially a sceptic, Lim thought yoga was for old people – slow and boring.
She was a hyper person and preferred more intense activities.
“I thought yoga was only about meditation, but after my first class, I actually felt good – it was definitely a workout.
“And thankfully, it was not held in the sun or that would have triggered my migraine!
“After three months of regular classes, I noticed my migraines were almost 90% non-existent,” relates Lim, 53, a former real estate agent.
She was hooked.
She continued classes regularly for four years before obtaining her teaching certification in 2005.
“I read a lot of books to enhance my knowledge.
“Yoga isn’t a cure for migraines, but it helped to a certain extent.
“And because I wanted to help others with similar problems, I decided to teach.”
Imparting knowledge to others was so fulfilling, Lim decided to leave the real estate industry and plunge into yoga full-time.
“At that time, real estate had become a dangerous profession because agents were getting mugged and raped, so I opted for a change,” she says.
Like all those new to teaching, Lim found her first class nerve- wracking, but eventually, things got easier. From one class a week, she now teaches 30!
“I try to make my classes fun by interacting with students.
“I believe that at the end of the day, we’re all students learning from each other.”
Calm and controlled
Today, not only does she appear youthful, Lim is a picture of health.
Gone is the skinny woman of the past; she’s now lean, toned and trim.
From being a quick-tempered person, she has also found more calm in life.
She says: “Before, I would react immediately to a situation, especially when it came to dishonest or annoying persons, and that had its consequences. I would tell them off in anger.
“Now, I sit down, breathe and keep quiet for 10 minutes before I react.
“Or I let things slide because anger doesn’t solve anything. I’m more in control of things.”
Her typical day starts at 5am, and before she heads out the door for her first class, Lim does the Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar to awaken the body.
These salutations, comprising a sequence of asanas (postures) are said to remove bodily and mental tensions, improve circulation, stimulate the nervous system and raise body heat. The joints are lubricated and the spine is made more flexible.
The more difficult asanas are reserved for the afternoon, when Lim has more time to devote to practice.
“My weakness is back bends. I used to be a gymnast when I was younger, and over the years, my back has become stiff.
“I still take classes from other teachers to work on my back and have noticed subtle improvements.
“I also have a bit of a frozen shoulder, which comes on and off,” she shares.
Two must-do daily asanas for Lim are the Downward Dog and headstand.
“Besides working my core muscles, I can see the world from an upside-down perspective!” she says, laughing.
Yoga practitioners know the many benefits of doing inversions such as headstands, considered the king of asanas.
When you’re standing on your head for an extended period, the blood rushes to the brain.
It is believed that this opens up blockages in your lymphatic system and gives your brain cells a chance to soak up extra oxygen.
The skin on the face is also able to receive many rejuvenating benefits from the increased blood flow, so it’s widely considered as an anti-ageing tonic.
That explains Lim’s good skin!
Headstands also stimulate the pituitary gland, which is responsible for releasing the happy hormone called endorphins; they are an alternative remedy to alleviate the sadness and lethargy associated with depression.
“A lot of people in their 50s think they can’t start yoga because they’re old, but this cannot be further from the truth,” says Lim.
A rough patch
However, Lim’s yoga journey has not quite been a smooth ride all the way.
Local yoga aficionados may remember her from the 2008 Yoga Zone fiasco. She was a minority shareholder in the group, which went bust, leaving 20,000-odd members in the lurch.
She recalls, “It was bad personal judgment on my part because I was too trusting to get into a business venture.
“I should have listened to my lawyers!”
Not only did she lose RM1mil, the members were seething with anger and blamed her for the closure of the outlets.
A court case ensued, and for two years after, Lim struggled to survive, relying on savings and friends for support.
“My lawyers told me I was the most hated person then!”
The yoga community is a small, close-knit one, and she couldn’t find any classes to teach for a few years because of her association with Yoga Zone.
Jobless and in despair, she hit rock bottom.
“I was really angry for the first few months. Then I talked to myself and started to do more meditation, which isn’t one of my strong points.
“I read such a lot on law that the lawyers were impressed!”
She then found classes in dance studios as it was a different community who weren’t aware of the debacle.
Slowly, she inched her way back in, and now teaches seven days a week.
“It took me two or three years to rebuild myself. That was my first business venture and no more!
“I’ve moved on because it’s no use crying over spilt milk.
“Now I teach on a freelance basis and it’s less stressful,” Lim concludes.
She also conducts regular community classes in the hope that people will adopt a healthier lifestyle through yoga and clean, healthy eating.