Yoga is a practice that leads to personal growth and change and Haya Baig started her journey as a yogi to encompass all of that and make it a part of her lifestyle. Completing 200 hours of yoga teaching training from Bali, Haya is also certified in prenatal and postnatal yoga by Sally Parkes. We speak to the budding yogi about how to get in touch with your body, her fitness philosophy and more! She currently teaches reflective and prenatal yoga in Karachi
How would you describe your fitness philosophy?
My fitness philosophy is: DON’T follow the crowd! People in Pakistan usually get obsessed with fitness fads even though they secretly don’t enjoy taking part in them. One should try a bunch of things and see which one speaks to your body – it’s high time we listen to our bodies.
What inspired you to join the yoga fitness industry?
It all started when I moved back home after finishing my Bachelors. It was a huge adjustment for me, moving across continents and having to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life was incredibly overwhelming. The stress and anxiety was getting a little too much for my body to handle. I was so motivated towards finding a solution. I tried many different things and that’s when I found yoga. What drew me to the practice was the focus of connecting with your body by using breath work (pranayama) and meditation. Every fitness regime I undertook in the past always left me energised but feeling more agitated. That’s when I realised; our lives are filled with hundreds of stress triggers and we are always in a fight or flight bodily response (sympathetic nervous system). When I went to Bali. I discovered my true strength which is that I’m an empath. There’s something so beautiful about connecting with other minds/souls in a safe supportive environment. Instead of focusing on my weaknesses I chose to play around with my strength. The feeling when a student comes to you after class and tells you how much they needed that class is something I cannot describe! I always gravitated towards bringing awareness to mental health in Pakistan. Yoga allows me to do that. It gives me an opportunity to take away my clients stress (momentarily) and leave them feeling light hearted and relaxed.
We know you recently finished your 200 hours of yoga teacher certification. How was that experience?
I’ve been doing yoga for a while now. but I tell everyone, I don’t think I understood the power of yoga till I went for my yoga teacher training. Before I left, I was told that it would be a transformational journey for me; but I just thought it was something people said. The early mornings consisted of meditation followed by yoga. In the first week, I was surprised to see what happened to me. I cried during a yoga class. I brushed it off blaming the change in environment. It happened again, and again and again. It actually happened a few times during that training period. That’s when I realised how therapeutic yoga can actually be. Before the training I won’t lie. I got into yoga to stay in shape. But, during training I realised we are missing out on such a huge part of yoga by not tapping into our emotions, our inner self. I promised myself that if I was to ever become a teacher, I wouldn’t teach unless I could make my students feel something during my class. That’s how I came up with “Reflective Yoga”; through which we focus not only on asanas (physical postures) but work on our inner self through the use of musical meditation and guided visualisation. Ultimately it’s an experience!
How would you differentiate ‘reflective’ yoga from other styles of yoga?
What makes me happy is that IVe seen a lot of teachers incorporate their personalities in their classes. I try to do that too! I’ve composed my classes to be an experience. The yoga I came up with is called “reflective yoga” in which we focus on inner reflection sof ourselves. We tap into our emotions regarding different topics to uncover our inner desires. I try to create a safe space for my clients allowing them to Teel some kind of emotion’. Different meditation tools such as guided visualisation is something I try to focus on to differentiate my teaching style. Most of us can’t seem to tunc out our thoughts or shut our brains off. So for me there’s no point in trying to force that. Meditation isn’t always about emptying the mind but is rather on focusing on physical sensations, thoughts and emotions more clearly. By accepting these feelings we can be more in control of what we think, feel and do. I make my students engage in guided visualisation scenarios around the theme of the practice. It’s kind of a sneaky meditation I would say. Even the music I use isn’t classified as ‘typical yoga music’ (so I’ve been told). At the end of the day, I’m happy staying true to myself and just being me. That shows in my classes.
How did Haybeezen come about?
All great things happen over coffee; so did the inspiration for Hayeezen -1 knew I wanted a catchy name. It’s kind of a statement phrase now. So now when I’m stressed or in a bad mood my friends tell me to relax and “haybeezen”.
Three things in your diet you can’t go a day without?
Black coffee, cucumber water, dates.
What’s your typical day like?
I wake up and the first thing I have is black coffee. On days that I have a few minutes to myself I do a short meditation and prepare my body for the rest of the day. When I’m not giving classes I’m spending most of my time making yoga sequences (classes). I get on the mat play music to feed my mood and start moving to the music. Anything that inspires me or feels good on my body goes into my sequence. I find myself spending a lot of time researching for new interesting elements to incorporate in my classes – such as different forms of meditation to introduce to my clients. If I get some time I’ll go to a yoga class. I’ve tried many studios in Pakistan, you never know which instructor you connect with. Sometimes I help my sister out with her school. Kinder Academy and the rest of the time I spend with family and friends!
What is the most effective exercise/yoga pose according to you?
Savasana – corpse pose! It’s the pose that brings you into the deepest level of relaxation, making it the hardest one! It seems easy but to surrender yourself completely to the moment, tune out your head and to focus primarily on the rhythm of your breath is a huge challenge for many! Including MYSELF.
Your favourite foods to eat on cheat day?
The more yoga I do, the more I’ve learned to listen to my body. So, if I want to eat pizza on a Tuesday night, I’ll just go for it. Clearly I give myself more cheat days than normal. I was on a strict vegetarian diet when I went for my teacher training and I still try to keep it up. I’m trying to slowly cut meat out of my diet which normally results in me craving it on my cheat days. So basically anything and everything!
Advice you’d give to people looking to attain a healthier lifestyle?
You can spend all the money in the world on expensive trainers, workout clothes or these bizarre diets. But in the end even if/when we have the perfect bodies, if our mind isn’t really at peace is it still worth it? Now I’m not saying completely give up your cxcrcisc/workout regime. Your body needs it! But, a healthy mind is equally, if not more important. Our minds play such a vital role in our lives, start there and everything will fall into place. Develop positive inner dialogues with yourself, surround yourself with people with positive energy, do things that make you feel alive, spend time with yourself. You’ll find yourself living a healthier life I promise.
How is your fitness mantra different from others?
I understand I’m in the fitness industry but for me, I focus on the mental aspect of yoga. Yoga can be therapeutic and healing if you commit to the practice. If you open to feeling something or truly connecting with yourself, you’ll be amazed with what you experience. For me it all starts with an open mind.
Something you enjoy doing when not working?
Trying out anything new! I’m such a sucker for adventure -these days I’m really into researching and deepening my practice on different forms of meditation. For those who know me, they know how obsessed I am with travelling and seeing the world.
Future plans for HayBeeZen?
Oh, the future possibilities are endless! I definitely wan’t to keep my momentum going and introducing reflective yoga to as many people as I can. I want to be able to share this experience not only with people in Karachi, but all over Pakistan. There’s always potential to improve the overall well-being of our nation as a whole! I’ve seen the fitness industry in Pakistan boom over the last couple of years. But unfortunately, the attention hasn’t shifted adequately enough to expecting mothers. Maternity care and health is something that is often overlooked in Pakistan. Misconceptions and lack of awareness of the benefits of prenatal yoga and postnatal classes need to be highlighted to bring an increase in the standard of wellness/care for new mothers. Keeping that in mind. I received my certification by the brilliant Sally Parkes. I’ll be starting prenatal and postnatal classes very soon so do keep an eye out for that as well.
A saying or quote that keeps you going?