When she was in primary school, Dawn Chan would spend her holidays at her father’s factory in Hong Kong. The elder Chan, who manufactured the iconic beauty staple Sam Fong Hoi Tong Pressed Powder, made it a point to dine with his staff daily. “As the youngest at the table, I would have to ‘greet’ everyone to ‘eat lunch’ in Cantonese as a sign of respect, so I ended up memorising everybody’s names. It’s this sense of community in family businesses that I still treasure,” she says.
Decades later, when Chan, then a 36-year-old, launched The Yoga School, she incorporated this gesture of respect at the studio. “All our customers are greeted by name. Of the myriad options available, they chose to come here so that’s the least we can do.”
Located on the 39th floor of the OCBC Centre and boasting an unobstructed view of Singapore’s cityscape, the studio, which opened in October 2016, is a product of the philosophies and lessons that Chan holds dear.
She took her first yoga lesson when she was reading law at the University of Cambridge. “It was the first time in weeks where I felt I could breathe,” she recalls, of finding respite from academic pressure. That was the start of a lifelong practice, which she has kept to faithfully. After realising the benefits of yoga, she wanted others to experience the same transformation.
After completing various yoga teacher training certification courses with some of the world’s most respected instructors, including Andrey Lappa, Noah Maze and Sri Dharma Mittra, Chan finally felt equipped to fulfill her ambition of starting her own yoga studio. “I have a clear vision for The Yoga School to be a welcoming space that shares all facets of the yoga practice,” she says.
The design of the premises, realised by Brewin Design Office’s Bobby Cheng, takes inspiration from the five koshas – layers of being – to represent the inward journey of the practice. To “take care” of practitioners, the studio offers premium amenities such as Aromatherapy Associates toiletries and fluffy towels by Ploh. Some students have likened its ambience to that of a high-end spa.
Unlike other commercial yoga studios where class sizes can go up to 40, The Yoga School focuses on keeping class sizes small at 20 so teachers can pay attention to each student.
Chan credits her director of studies in law from Newnham College at Cambridge, Dr Catherine Seville, for teaching her an early lesson in identifying talent – after all, there is a multitude of yoga teachers. As a student, she once asked her professor why she was admitted to the competitive college. “Seville said she ‘saw sparks’. I didn’t understand it then but now when I hire yoga teachers, I look for the love that the teacher has – it is that bright quality I am looking for,” says Chan.
By focusing on quality over quantity, her efforts have paid off. Later this year, The Yoga School will expand to a third unit within the building and will offer 10 teachers, each imparting a different style of yoga. Currently, it holds workshops twice a month for those keen on intensifying their practice.
Even as the business continues to grow, Chan wants to give back to the community. Last month, the studio introduced donation-based Saturday morning yoga nidra classes, with all proceeds going towards the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where she used to volunteer.
Small class sizes at The Yoga School allow teachers to better monitor the postural alignment of each student.
01 BACK TO NATURE
I’ve visited Bhutan and Patagonia twice. I love the lakes in Bolivia and the coral in Palau – stuff you wouldn’t normally see. It’s so magical.
02 CONSCIOUS EATING
I was vegan for six months while studying with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York City but I am just starting to eat some fish, because I was eating too much tofu. You have to do everything in balance.
03 CONTENT OVERLOAD
I love Netflix and the sheer range of quality shows on offer. Recently, I watched a documentary, Heal, about the mind’s role in healing, and the South Korean competitive schooling drama Sky Castle.
TEXT KAREN TEE PHOTO VERONICA TAY ART DIRECTION FAZLIE HASHIM