Suspending in the air on a smooth and shiny piece of fabric called aerial silk, being up-side down with an aerial hoop, or doing various yoga asana or pose such as Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and Natarajasana (Dancer Pose), obviously, does not seem like the ideal hobby for many Cambodian women. Yet, Seng Bopha finds these practices enriching and fulfilling.
In her early 30s, Seng Bopha is an energetic and sporty woman with a great sense of humor. She spends her pastime and weekends both practicing or teaching yoga and aerial fitness.
“I earned two bachelor degrees and a European master degree. I get to work in many international development organisations,” Ms Bopha said, “I travel and get exposed to many countries and cultures through work and have a hectic working schedule, yet I always found something missing.”
Bopha’s yoga and aerial fitness journey started when she became a consultant based in Bangkok in 2013. She turned to yoga and its philosophy to calm her mind and aerial fitness to get energised. Since then, Bopha has tried various yoga and fitness from classical hatha yoga, zumba, rock climbing, cross fit, and aerial fitness.
Born from a traditional family and the youngest daughter, Bopha has always been protected from her parents. “When I was young, I was always scared, dependent and prone to over-thinking. Academically, I did very well yet I did not have a social life or any recreational activity. I was not active so my body was always weak.”
She added, “Doing aerial hammock or silk frees me from self-doubt and overthinking. Once I am up in the air, I feel the freedom and the grace of flying. My mind becomes focused as it needs to convince my body to flow with the moves.”
Currently, Ms Bopha is the co-founder of Aerial BhaVana studio where she teaches both hatha yoga and aerial fitness. She earned her 200-hours Hatha yoga Teachers’ Training Course from a Canadian based Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in 2016, and her yoga fly teaching certificate from the Bangkok based Body Fly International Academy in 2014.
Ms Bopha’s tips for beginner is to start slow and steady with realistic expectation. Ms Bopha added that it is helpful for the beginner to first start with a professional trainer or going to studio for the techniques and supportive peer group to encourage one another. Eventually, people will be able to incorporate poses and moves into their daily routine. And, eventually they can practice it at their own phase.
Another factor to keep a fitness routine sustained is fun. Once people find the enjoyment in their workout, they are likely to come back for more.
There is countless research proving how exercise works magic to our health yet sustaining the habit is challenging for many. The best motive to stick to a fitness regime is to link physical fitness with our emotional and mental wellness.
Apart from teaching aerial fitness and yoga, Ms Bopha has over 10 years of experience in media and communications for development. She has been engaged in various assignments namely researcher, lecturer, reporter, producer, radio adviser, communications analyst, and behavior change communications expert.
“Teaching yoga and aerial fitness is my passion. It keeps me alive. I really want to share it with other Cambodian women. I want to create Aerial Bhavana as a place where we can come and learn together, support one another and laugh together. Call me a dreamer, but I do believe we can fly when we are given the wings,” Ms Bopha said.
Planning to run aerial and yoga studio can be challenging for Ms Bopha and her team as the market for yoga and fitness is relatively small. In addition, and people just start to get to practice floor yoga let alone going up in to do various spilt and tricks in the air. On top of it, there are many established yoga and fitness studios in town.
Concerning these, Ms Bopha responded that fitness might look intimating to many; yet it is safe to practice with professional training service and safety mechanism. Her training team comprises of experience trainers from National Circus School of Cambodia, Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand.
“Many people ask me all the time if I am scared of falling down from the silk. My answer is yes and very much yet I don’t let the fear stop me. I always start any new move from ground and work myself up to perform in the air. It all comes down to patience and passion, so try first to see if it fits you,” added Ms Bopha.