VAI YOGA has established in Perth since 2016, aiming to promote active lifestyle to grownups and seniors through yoga. As a Yoga Teacher and a Social Entrepreneur, I have had the opportunity to help people who live with injury, illness or disability. While VAI YOGA is at a humble beginning, I see the opportunities in helping people with chronic conditions at high quality and low cost wellness programs and getting the business off the ground in near future. I plan to blend two powerful healings together, yoga and occupational therapy.
First, VAI YOGA aims to restore people health through yoga, particularly middle aged and elder age. Specialised yoga programs help them build physical and inner strength to face practical aspects of life. Not long ago, while climbing up the corporate ladder, I discovered I had lost body strength and flexibility, and suffered serious neck and shoulder pain. I was unable to hold a hair dryer for more than 2 minutes. That was a wake up call for me to make a change of my workaholic lifestyle. Yoga helped me restore my strength, agility and flexibility. That happens to many middle age that we are busy with work and family, then forget to take good care of ourselves. The body runs down. It’s important to build a habit to keep us well. We learn to brush our teeth twice a day for teeth and oral health. It becomes a habit. We also need to learn to stretch the body regularly (minimum 3 times a week) for muscles and joints health. It has to make it as a habit. If we don’t use it, we lose it. The yoga program focuses on counterposes against our body movements in everyday life. In modern lifestyle, we spend lot of time on forward-facing movements, such as reading, driving, working, etc. The yoga program strives to balance opposing parts of the physical body, the front and back, the left and right and the top and bottom. In addition, this approach will be applied to seniors over 55 years old. Chair yoga program allows seniors to stretch every part of the body while they are seated. My 80 year-old student gave me a testimonial, ‘Although I have done yoga for 15 years I really enjoyed Rachel’s Chair Yoga sessions. Her gentle manner and clear instructions made the moves really easy to follow. It is a great workout and I would recommend it to anyone who is unsure of the balance or has restricted mobility. It is also extremely relaxing. Go for it.’ I am a huge believer that we are able to restore our health physically and mentally, by stretching the body and mind through yoga.
Second, in a mid-term goal, VAI YOGA aims to blend community-based yoga with evidence- based occupational therapy solutions to help people with special needs. Occupational therapy includes a range of therapeutic interventions that enable people to participate in activities that are important to them including self-care, productive occupations and leisure. I am particularly interested in how chronic conditions and ageing affect individual’s wellbeing, and how occupational health and management including prevention and rehabilitation programs enhance their quality of life. This integrative wellness approach will help seniors at aged care facilities, as well as inpatient/outpatient at hospitals. Some of my current yoga students live with arthritis, osteoporosis, mental health illness, brain injury, dementia, degenerative disease or Parkinson's disease. The holistic yoga and occupational therapy approach allows them to get the most out of their practice.
Third, in a long-term goal, I want to open a yoga studio, creating a space that invites middle age to elder age, with or without special needs, to practice yoga regularly. This will be an integrative wellness space that community focused, yet holistic and professional. As a social entrepreneur, we run low cost or free chair yoga programs for seniors. We welcome other yoga practitioners to allocate their capitals to align with their core values – We are capable, we are dedicated to others by supporting chair yoga programs for seniors.
I did my Bachelor degree in Government and International Studies in Hong Kong in 2001 and Master degree in Broadcast Journalism in England in 2002. That equipped me with excellent communications skills to connect with a wide range of people, from individuals to corporate professionals and government officials. After completing my studies, I worked with advertising agencies and banks in Hong Kong for 12 years. I managed end-to-end marketing processes, including drafting marketing proposals and agreements, and evaluated marketing campaigns. I demonstrated the skills and knowledge to manage complex projects with many internal and external stakeholders involved. I then made a U turn in life and completed a Certificate IV in yoga teacher training and Kids/Family yoga teacher training in 2014, Chair Yoga teacher training in 2018. I started up VAI YOGA in Fiji in 2015. Yoga programs included corporate yoga in the Embassy of the United States of America, kids yoga at international school, teen yoga for elite swimmers (national team). After I moved to Perth, I decided to help people restore health through yoga because of my personal experience. I will study postgraduate in occupational therapy at Curtin University in January 2019.
The scholarship will assist me in obtaining an extra layer of knowledge of medical, psychiatric and neurological conditions that affect the health and wellbeing of individuals. I will become an occupational therapist with in-depth knowledge of human development within the life cycle. That would assist me to find a new approach with the combinations of both occupational therapy and community- based yoga to help people. I am also able to expand my network to other registered health professionals working at hospitals, government and not-for-profit organisations.
I believe the mentorship program will give me enormous support to get the business off the ground. For example, I build VAI YOGA website by myself and I know a strategic user-design plan is missing. B2B and B2C user experience could have improved. In addition, a financial expert will give me insightful ideas of what to invest with limited resources, how to create value of services and how to raise capital. Time is money. Time management is crucial to success as an entrepreneur. I want to focus on creating service value and customer experience, rather than marketing and finance-related work. It’s important to know what to outsource.
I am delighted to participate in this interesting yet challenging Toptal Scholarships contest. These scholarships provide assistance to women from around the world and help empower us to follow our passion and become leaders. There will be only one winner for each region, Africa, Oceania, Asia, Europe and Americas. The selected recipients will receive US$10,000 and one year of one-on-one mentorship from a Toptal leader.
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA. She follows her yoga journey from Hong Kong to Fiji and Australia. She is now sharing the joy of yoga and continues down this path in Perth.