Yoga Movement isn’t your average yoga studio. The brainchild of 27-year-old singer-songwriter/ yogi Alicia Pan, it’s all white walls and crisp minimalism, with two studios called Biggie and Smalls. The logo is a black and white fist, and the ‘Staff Only’ sign on one of the doors reads: ‘Enter at your own risk...you will be met by guard dogs, CCTV, gun turrets and offensive language.’ Indeed, when Pan misses a phone call during our photo shoot, she does mutter a few choice profanities. But the fact that Pan professes herself to be ‘not a hippie’ is only part of what makes Yoga Movement different.
Opened in May this year – in the space formerly occupied by Claribel Raks Sharki belly dancing studio – its main selling point is that you get quality instructors at reasonable prices: a single class costs just $20, while ten classes go for $180. ‘I was inspired by a studio in New York,’ explains Pan. ‘It was just no-frills, with no contracts or expensive packages. Many studios are targeted at high-income people – a lot of students just can’t afford it.’
There are seven trained female instructors and a wide range of classes, with the weekend Monster Hot sessions the signature. And while most of the studio is crisp, no-nonsense cheekiness – it feels a bit like the yoga equivalent of Strip in its branding – its concession to peace and love is that proceeds from some classes go to the animal charity ACRES (Animal Concerns Research & Education Society).
Tell us how you started doing yoga. It was 2006, when I was in Taiwan and a lot of my friends were yoga instructors. To be honest, at the start I wasn’t that into it; I’m into more extreme sports like muay Thai, and I thought it was boring. But after a while, I started to really feel different and see the benefits – I was more alert, less tired, less stressed. Almost subconsciously, my diet started changing. I started going five or six times a week, and ended up doing two teacher-training courses when I was back in Singapore.
And how did Yoga Movement come about? I had the idea last December and we were open in May, so it happened quickly. Launching Yoga Movement was the toughest time of my life. It was crazy – designing websites, sorting concepts and schedules – I’d never felt so tight on cash or irritated with everything. But though I felt like shooting myself at the start, it’s been incredibly rewarding as the business has settled. It makes me really happy seeing people come back.
What’s the balance between singing and yoga for you? Probably about 50/50 now. I’m still writing music on the side, and have four new tracks this year. The two are very different, but they’re both me. Some people really love the whole yogi life, but I’m more into the physical side of it. Singing means late nights and meeting different people and caring about how you look, which doesn’t go with the yoga lifestyle. I do drink and have fun, and I’m not going to pretend I shouldn’t.
Is Yoga Movement non-spiritual? I’m non-spiritual, but we do have yoga instructors who are more into that side of things. I know that some people can find the ‘deep stuff’ condescending and intimidating. We get a lot of MMA guys here, and all sorts – there are people who want to explore the spiritual side, people who just want the physical side and people who want to focus on their breathing. We welcome them all, whatever their level.
Is there a trend of young Singaporeans starting businesses? It’s definitely changing; the younger generation in Singapore are more gung-ho, and are taking control of their lives more. You’ll see a really nice bar, café or shop and you’ll ask the young person behind the desk who the boss is. More and more, they’re saying, ‘It’s me’. People want to do their own thing. For me, I’ve always had an aversion to authority; I want to do things on my own. I studied finance and accounting, but it just wasn’t me. I’m doing this because I believe in it – hopefully I’ll become a millionaire, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Cost: $20/single class, $180/ten classes, $300/unlimited monthly package.