MOTHER, management staff in the banking industry, yoga instructor, and volunteer. With hard work and dedication, 55-year-old Tan Suan Heok has not only built an impressive career while bringing up her two sons, she is also living life to the fullest, pursuing her passion in yoga, and giving back to the community.
Embracing lifelong learning, contributing through volunteerism
Suan Heok has been a yoga enthusiast since young. However, work and family commitments caused her to place her passion on the back burner. It was only when she was celebrating her 50th birthday that Suan Heok decided to resume her yoga journey.
“Even though age is just a number, turning 50 felt like an important milestone in my life. So, I decided to set some new goals and act upon them,” recalls Suan Heok.
In 2018, the avid learner enrolled herself in a 200-hour yoga teacher certification course spanning over 3 months, graduating with a yoga instructor license. Out of curiosity and a desire to challenge herself, the adventurous lady also took up a rope yoga course in the same year. It proved to be a fulfilling experience as she overcame her fear of hanging in mid-air and learnt rope yoga’s gravity-defying moves.
To give back to the community, Suan Heok began volunteering as a yoga instructor for two hours every week. Since then, conducting free lessons for other yoga enthusiasts has become part of her routine. Today, Suan Heok volunteers her time teaching yoga at the Singapore Botanic Gardens every Sunday, whenever the weather permits. Her classes are open to anyone who is keen to join.
At work, Suan Heok is an ardent champion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. She kick-started a ‘Grocery Shopping with Seniors’ programme in which a team of volunteers from her organisation accompanies seniors on grocery shopping trips for daily necessities, with a sponsored budget of $50 per senior.
Suan Heok explains, “These trips usually take place on weekends when we have more time on our hands. They’re not compulsory because I believe volunteering should always come from the heart. I’m glad most of the volunteers are willing to put in extra effort and time to help the seniors.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Suan Heok and her colleagues explored virtual volunteering, such as digitally engaging beneficiaries from a children’s home through games like Charades and Pictionary, and virtual befriending programmes with seniors. And when restrictions in Singapore eased, they resumed in-person volunteer activities—most recently, a Christmas party—with the seniors.
“I enjoy occupying my time with lots of activities. Thanks to my job, I embarked on my volunteering journey and I’ve never looked back,” shares Suan Heok. She adds, “We should not feel obliged or scared to volunteer. Just take that first step! Better still if you can volunteer together with your friends, even if it’s just a one-off event.”
Caring for her well-being
When it comes to taking charge of her own health, Suan Heok is very disciplined. She begins each day with a workout—either yoga or Tabata (a high-intensity interval training workout).
“I don’t have a fixed plan. I just watch and follow a 10 to 15-minute workout video on YouTube,” Suan Heok explains.
On busier days, she ensures that she completes a simple set of sun salutation yoga poses to keep active. Conversely, she goes for a run and attends Zumba classes when she has more free time. Like many health-conscious Singaporeans, Suan Heok also watches her diet closely; she prefers less meat, sugar and oil in her food, and does not take caffeinated or soft drinks.
Nonetheless, Suan Heok makes it a point not to be overly restrictive with her diet. That’s because she has embarked on some yoga and hiking retreat trips since 2017, including one to Nepal, and having fewer dietary restrictions allows her to adapt to the local food more easily.
Connecting with like-minded individuals
Travelling alone was a breakthrough for Suan Heok. While initially daunted, the excitement and anticipation of such adventures overtook her fear.
During her trips, the sociable explorer managed to meet like-minded individuals whom she bonded with and got to learn more about other cultures from—like a female yoga enthusiast from Australia whom she immediately hit it off with on her first solo trip to Chiang Mai.
Suan Heok cultivates many genuine friendships during her yoga teaching journey as well. Her students span all walks of life, and she has befriended families with children, young adults, and senior citizens.
For Suan Heok, life in her 50s and beyond has so much more to offer as she continues to live out her passion for people and yoga!
We can all age successfully by taking the time and effort to care for ourselves and others, contributing meaningfully, and staying connected to family and friends. Follow I Feel Young SG on Facebook, Instagram and www.moh.gov.sg/ifeelyoungsg/ for regular doses of inspiration and motivation to live a happy, long life!