CONNECT with a celeb chef who says yoga regulated his life

EMMANUEL STROOBANT: I’m a Yogi

Celebrity Chef & Owner of restaurants and lifestyle brands in Singapore tells us how yoga regulated his life and changed him into a more relaxed man.

Interview by Maryam Malek

I started yoga about ten years ago because of music. There was a guy teaching yoga classes in a fitness center and I was training on the other side of the window. I could hear jazzy music coming from his end. I liked the music and enrolled myself for a yoga class.

After boxing for 15 years, I was as inflexible as a piece of wood; and my teacher, the same one who played the music, Hee Boon, recommended I attend some hot yoga classes. After about two years, I started an online 9-months intensive course under Carlos Pomeda, who doesn’t teach asana, but all the other arms of yoga like pranayama and meditation. At the same time, I also graduated as a yoga teacher in Ashtanga, and I met Andrei Ram, a Dharma yogi, who became my master.

My daughters are really good at sun salutations, and sometimes teasingly even follow my meditation—they are 4 and 7. The little one sits down cross-legged and pretends to close her eyes and meditate.

My day begins at 6 a.m. and I have breakfast with them before they head to school. Then I head for a yoga class, and after that I work till 10 p.m. I do a 30-minute meditation on a daily basis, usually at night.

I am more of a monk now because of yoga.

I used to be quite like Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen earlier. Yoga really regulated my life. It rebalanced pretty much anything that needed to be rebalanced. Being a chef, you go to some excesses–most of the time after a stressful day, I would party till 2 or 3 a.m. on a regular basis. That stopped totally. My team have said that I’m quieter and much more relaxed with them than I used to be. Sometimes I do yoga with the guys who work with me. It’s very interesting because I can draw a parallel between what’s happening in the kitchen or the restaurant to what happens on the mat. My staff might face a situation in the restaurant where the client is unhappy, so is it better to resist and fight back or should they try to let go and accept the situation?

I love to practice with my wife. We’ve been married 17 years and it creates a bond similar to dancing together, or when one does an activity which is a bit out of the ordinary. We both go to Pure Yoga at Ngee Ann City to attend different types of classes, but we practise together when on holiday.

Yoga is self-realisation. Yoga needs to be a regular practice pretty much like anything else. It is also something that you need to experience for yourself, be it meditation, pranayama or asana. There’s nobody who can tell you what it is because it’s different for each of us, but it leads us in the same direction towards freedom.

Maryam Malek is a freelance writer based in Singapore.