Q&A with Clarice Ng: Step by Mindful Step
As we drift into post-lockdown, things will soon return to the usual bustle. But Clarice Ng, dancer, choreographer, and yoga instructor, now sees herself, and the world, in a new lens. Just before we entered the Circuit Breaker, she started her yoga and fitness Instagram and YouTube account, YogaClance. It’s an amalgamation for her two biggest passions in life – yoga and dance (with the ‘c’ and ‘l’ combining to become a ‘d’). As Tropika Club talks to Clarice Ng, we dive headlong into what it means to truly slow down.
*The interview below has been edited for clarity.
Q: What was the inspiration behind YogaClance?
A: I had this desire to create something of my own recently, something that allows me to explore and share content that I am interested in and passionate about. The name “YogaClance” is meant to be a reflection of my identity. It also represents balance, which I believe is the key to living well. So it’s a platform where I can share the movements of my life, especially aspects relating to the mind-body connection.
As for ‘Clance’, when I was young, one of my friends pointed out to me that when you combine the letters c/l and r/i of my name, it forms the word “dance”. I thought that was quite cool, especially since dance is a big part of who I am. As for yoga, it’s become a huge part of my life too, even if I started a lot later in my life.
To me, yoga and dance represent two ends of a spectrum. Dance is about precision, technique, perfection and discipline, whose fruits are – joy, freedom, abandon and transcendence. Yoga, on the other hand, is about being grounded, staying present, learning to be calm and to be kind to oneself.
Q: You’ve actually mentioned that you have a Masters in Counselling Psychology on your YogaClance profile. How did it inspire the way you approach yoga and fitness?
A: Studying Counselling Psychology has deepened my knowledge about the connections between thoughts, emotions and behaviours. This enabled me to truly appreciate how movement and fitness can be a tool through which we can gain insight into ourselves, allowing us to engage in better self-care.
Growing up as a dancer, you can become judgemental and critical, of both yourself and others. Because dance strives for perfection and is competitive in nature. Learning that sometimes, the issues we or others face is often a result of learned cycles of thinking, feeling and behaving.
After realising that, it has helped me to become more compassionate towards myself and others. Exploring fitness with this knowledge has allowed me to experience the healing benefits of movement, and it made me more inspired to share it with others as well.
Q: Were there any personal experiences that helped you craft this approach?
A: Dance has taught me a lot about the power of self-awareness. I generally struggle with learning new things quickly, be it physical movements like learning a new dance move, or even more relational ideas, like adapting to different working styles.
I am someone who takes time to digest and understand things. That used to frustrate me a lot. But over the years, I learnt that while my strength did not lie in picking things up fast, I had other strengths that could help me get to where I need to go.
I realised that I could break complex things down to be more understandable and manageable for myself. That allowed me to constantly improve, even if I might take a bit more time. I also realised that when I set my eyes on something, I can be very focused and determined, and that helped me to keep on my path when I was working towards something.
Over the years, I learned that it was self-awareness that enabled me to become the dancer that I am today. It’s not just about talent, hard work, or sheer perseverance. I believe that self-awareness is the route to freedom. Being aware helps you be creative in problem-solving, allowing you to be more flexible in your approach. It also empowers you to defy the million different things people will tell you about yourself and what you “should do”. Because when you are self-aware, you know what’s best for yourself.
Q: Dance is a huge part of who you are as well, how did that part of you influence your content on YogaClance?
A: Different forms of fitness have different approaches toward body movement. To me, there are two things that make dance distinct: musicality and dynamism.
From my experience, because dance demands that you follow a certain pace, as dictated by the music, that enables the muscles to develop in a more agile manner, as muscles learn to respond to different speeds. Of course, the use of music also adds another element to dance. Music is something that speaks to our souls, something that can tap into our emotions, and I feel that is something so intrinsic to dance.
Therefore, the workouts that I post on YogaClance often include music and a more dynamic range of movement. I make it a point to include combinations of movements that require transitions from one move to another. That enables a more holistic development of the body as it requires more muscle control and coordination.
Q: In your posts on YogaClance, you ask people to reflect on fitness ‘goals’ and how we perceive our abilities. Why is it important to be more mindful and aware as we work out?
A: I feel that we all want to be the best version of ourselves, but so often we do not take the time to really understand ourselves. Instead, we trust others to tell us what is best for ourselves. Often, we also treat fitness as something that needs to be done, something to be checked off our to-do list. However, I feel that if we truly tapped on the full potential of fitness and movement to transform ourselves, we would get so much more out of it!
We are all complex creatures with highly inter-connected systems affecting how we react to all our experiences. I feel that a stronger connection between the mind and the body have great potential to help us achieve our goals. Being more mindful and aware while we work out is about working with the broader system and maximising our potential.
Moreover, I think that blindly working out could be detrimental and counterproductive. It could cause injury, can cause the muscles to become tight and stiff which can actually lead to more stress and negative emotions.
The scary thing is, when we’re not aware we think we are doing something beneficial for ourselves so we keep doing it! So, building awareness is also about preventing potential negative effects that we’re not aware too.
Q: Your Yogaclance profile arrived right on time, right before the Circuit Breaker was implemented. What do you hope people will achieve from YogaClance?
A: My hope is for it to be a platform where people can gain inspiration on how the body and mind relate to one another.
For those who are already highly active, I hope that my content will spur them to think a little deeper on how the true potential of movement can be unlocked in their own lives. And how the insights gained from their active lifestyle can also have an impact on other aspects of their lives.
For those who aren’t active yet, I hope that YogaClance will inspire them to move by showing how much it can benefit them. And, I want to show that fitness does not have to be only about inflicting pain on your bodies to look and to feel better.
Q: It seems like now, more than ever, we need to learn how to be more mindful. How would you advise us on becoming more mindful in our lives?
A: I think one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in applying mindfulness in our lives, as it was for me, is to first acknowledge the need to slow down and pause before you can actually practice mindfulness.
So often we feel that by constantly striving, we will get closer to where we want to be. But I feel that this COVID-19 situation has been a true reflection of how that is quite far from the truth. While we are bound to our homes as a result of an external circumstance way beyond our control, our need for constant striving suddenly becomes more of a burden than an aid.
Mindfulness, as a very broad overview, is about learning to use our attention with intention. It is about noticing things as they happen. That gives us more room to respond in ways that are more in line with what we actually want, instead of just reacting to whatever comes our way.
Q: As dance classes have yet to resume, how are you scratching your itch for dance at home nowadays?
A: Online resources have really boomed as a result of the COVID-19 situation. I am actually gaining access to teachers overseas that I normally would never have been able to. There is definitely no shortage of online resources for me to scratch my itch.
That said, I think the COVID-19 situation has led me to the new-found freedom in appreciating dance in my own space, when no one is watching, and there is no ‘real’ incentive to dance. That is when I find the purest form of love for it. I definitely appreciate this new and intimate way of experiencing dance.
Q: Then how are you taking care of yourself during this COVID-19 period?
A: I must say the start was rough, it was for a lot of people. I experienced huge disruptions in my job. And I felt really anxious about staying at home the whole day with almost “nothing” to do because a lot of my jobs were on hold.
I think what helped me get through it is learning to take one moment at a time. Learning to not be so hard on myself, responding to challenges when I need to, while not holding onto mistakes or victories too tightly.
That has allowed me to actually start enjoying this unprecedented time. Now I’m rekindling some old hobbies and enjoying the simplest things. It has even allowed me to confront certain things about myself that I have been avoiding for the longest time. The present has become a time of self-care and self-exploration which I’m grateful for.
Q: What is one beauty or skincare product you can’t live without?
A: I recently started using Innisfree cleansers and toners and I must say I have been very happy with it. I am someone with combination skin and sensitive skin as well. So, finding a brand that is kind to my skin, affordable, and also smells nice, is amazing! It has become a skincare product that I cannot live without.
Q: What is one message you’d give to all of your followers?
A: Don’t allow anyone to define your reality for you. We are all deeply creative and adaptable beings. As become more self-aware, we can create our own realities with more confidence.