Globetrotting Yogi and Garden Alumni, Flo Shih, opens up about her path from yoga training to successful teaching & writing career, all while traveling the world!
Where are you from? I’m originally from Taiwan, though I spent the majority of my life in Hong Kong.
How and why did you start practicing yoga? I was first introduced to yoga when my high school arranged for us to attend off-site classes for PE credit, but I quickly gave it up in favor of netball and basketball instead. Fast forward a couple of years and constant training and matches had wrecked my knees and hips, and I turned to yoga as a way to help recover from injuries. It wasn’t until after I noticed changes in my behavior and mental well-being that I began to look into the aspects of yoga beyond asana.
What inspired you to become a yoga teacher? When I first enrolled in the teacher training the intention wasn’t to become a yoga teacher – it was simply to learn more about yoga and to deepen my own practice, but the skills and techniques that I learned from YTT has been invaluable in helping me share the practice with others (including friends and family).
What was your greatest fear or doubting belief in making your initial decision to take a yoga training? Prior to enrolling in YTT, I was going through a major life-changing decision to quit my job and leave San Francisco. I had to consider whether I was ready to leave my career of corporate communications behind to transition into something new, and simultaneously think about whether a yoga training was right for me in terms of a financial, mental and physical investment.
What shifts once you first unroll and step on your mat? Every single day is different. There are days when I step on the mat and I’m so exhausted that I’m not sure I’m going to make it through the sequence (my self-practice is Ashtanga) but there are days where I can not wait to get started. However, I can always count on becoming calmer and more aware of my breath as I progress through the sequence.
Why is yoga so beneficial in this day and age? There are so many aspects of yoga that people aren’t aware of – being mindful of what you put on and into your body, how you treat others and yourself, meditation, being aware of your breath, seeking out knowledge and being curious, just to name a few. I live in Hong Kong and it never ceases to surprise me how unhappy, unhealthy and stressed out people are. As a result we sometimes treat each other as temporary peers and never bother to form any real connections with one another. There’s a lot of misplaced and misdirected energy, and I truly believe that a consistent Yoga practice helps with re-balancing all of that.
In one sentence, how would you convince someone to try yoga for the first time? Yoga is not about touching your toes and folding your leg behind your head. Don’t let that image of yoga stop you from experiencing what it has to offer.
In three words, describe the vibe of your favorite yoga class to teach.
What drew you to Yoga Garden SF? How did YGSF’s training help prepare you for teaching? The curriculum at Yoga Garden’s YTT is well composed and balanced, which meant that we would get a healthy dose of not just Yoga philosophy, but also information on anatomy, alignment, adjustments, sequencing and an emphasis on practical teaching skills. Skills for teaching a class can only be learned from a book to a certain degree – beyond that it really just takes practice and experience; YGSF’s curriculum offered all of that from a range of different teacher experts. As I was debating whether or not to enroll, the enrollment program coordinator was also extremely patient in answering all my questions and concerns, and that really helped me become comfortable with the decision to take the leap.
Florence Shih’s teaching philosophy is centered on communicating how to practice alignment-based yoga to achieve health benefits, as well as cultivate awareness in action, thought and speech. Through conscious sequencing and an emphasis on linking movement with breath, Florence’s classes will build strength, flexibility and stability and offer something to students of every level. She firmly believes that everybody’s yoga journey is unique, and focuses strongly on encouraging students to be mindful of self care, while simultaneously “playing the edge” (where ever that may be on any given day).