Brandon Chong on Body Awareness and the Enduring Law of Attraction
Moving through life with a positive mindset has helped this multi-hyphenate manifest his dreams.
When he was 27 years old, Brandon Chong opened up a page from his journal and read the following line: “When I’m 27, I would be in love with the job I have today.”
These were lines that he had penned a decade ago when he was a 17-year-old teenager studying at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, but as Brandon read them again, he realised that his wish had come true.
There he was, the proud founder of Instiinct Studios, a boutique yoga space situated along Upper Circular Road. For someone who had just served for five years as a Naval Officer in the Singapore Navy, starting a yoga studio seemed like an unlikely pivot. But his interest in yoga was already seeded during his time with the navy. “I’m a person who loves movement. After having to perform set exercises like pull-ups and runs, my body was feeling very stale,” says Brandon, a competitive Latin dancer who represented Singapore during his polytechnic days.
At the invitation of a friend, he attended his first hot yoga class during his second year with the navy. He loved every moment on the mat, fully embracing yoga as “an effortless dance between mind, body, and breath.” This marked the beginning of a regular four-year-long practice that kept him grounded during his time with the military.
A day after leaving the navy, he flew to Nasik, India for his yoga teacher training course at Yoga Vidya Gurukul. Founded by Vishwas Mandlik, the ashram has conducted teacher training programs spanning Ashtanga, Hatha, Bhakti, and Jnana yoga disciplines since 1983.
As fate would have it, another teacher who had to give up a regular class due to contractual obligations asked Brandon if he would like to take over and lead a class in his place. And just like that, the universe had carved out his first teaching opportunity even before he had graduated from his teacher training course. “The thought having to fill the big shoes of an experienced and well-respected teacher was scary, but I agreed because I’m the kind of person who would say yes to the things that make me grow,” says the 29-year-old yoga teacher.
Some might pin this opportunity down to pure luck, but Brandon believes that this door opened for him because he manifested his goals. “I’m a huge advocate when it comes to the Law of Attraction. I have practised and preached it since I was young,” he shares. “Be positive and think positively because everything gets manifested – even negativity. You have to be mindful about what you say and put out there because it all comes back to you.”
“Be positive and think positively because everything gets manifested – even negativity.”
It is this very positive mindset that also put Brandon in good stead to handle the challenges of running Instiinct Studios. As a first-time business owner, he had to quickly learn how to balance the operational aspects of the studio as well as manage staff and students. “The first year, 2017, was crazy intense. There were so many times I felt like giving up. I asked myself what the returns were personally, mentally, and physically. I had put in my savings from the navy and when I looked at my bank account, I realised I couldn’t go to a nice restaurant because that money could be used for something else [at the studio]. I had to be very prudent with how I spent especially since I had two full-time staff. I was not just living for myself anymore,” he says. “I was so thankful my staff were always there to support me. They were not just employees, they were friends.”
Even as he pondered the fact that he could be making more money in another capacity, his thoughts returned to all the positive payoffs that came from the studio. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I saw that I had gained so much,” says Brandon, who had then captured some visibility in the industry and was invited by yoga apparel retailer lululemon to be a lululemon ambassador.
As a lululemon ambassador, Brandon received the chance to help grow the yoga community while dabbling in projects that appeal to his creative side. Last year, he flew down to Vancouver, Canada, to meet with the brand’s design team and provide feedback on how their yoga apparel could be better designed for consumers in Asia.
Above all, the studio gave him the opportunity to hold space for his students and allow them to grow their practice in unexpected ways. “My studio was right across a crossfit box and a group of muscular guys would come over on Thursday mornings. I noticed that their flow already had to do with lifting weights, so I didn’t need to teach them how to flow. I taught them how to relax and be mindful of their body in order to gain more reach for their muscles. They ended up becoming regulars who came back every week,” says Brandon, who led them through a series of Yin yoga classes.
Over at The Yoga School, Brandon continues to lead Yin classes backdropped with the healing sounds of singing bowls. His restorative sessions also feature the use of massage techniques. “I believe touch helps people to relax a lot faster, so when you’re in a wide-legged child’s pose, I might come over to massage your back.”
His approach might seem a little unorthodox, but Brandon endeavours to introduce yoga to those who might be intimidated by the practice. “I like to come up with creative concepts and would start with the most traditional form of yoga, but I want to create something new people can relate to… I want to figure out how to take it to an audience beyond existing yoga practitioners. I’m not just using yoga techniques, but I’m using techniques from dance – such as body rolls – to help you become more aware of your body.”
After the circuit breaker measures in Singapore ease up, Brandon will collaborate with nightclub operator Zouk Singapore to roll out a yoga flow experience complemented with a live DJ set. The session will conclude with an “open-eye” shavasana (corpse pose) while light projections envelop the room.
It’s certainly not something that purists might agree with, but at the end of the day, Brandon’s dogma-free, movement-driven approach might very well bring to the mat new practitioners who would otherwise walk on by.