Erica Tenggara: The Tough-Love Yogi

Erica Tenggara

If you have 140,000 followers on Instagram and a bad knee, yoga keeps you sane and cake makes you happy.

How did you get into yoga?

I’ve been an athlete all my life and played competitive touch football for seven years until I tore my anterior cruciate ligament. I had a full knee reconstruction surgery but my knee has never been the same and I still find high-impact exercise to be too straining. I decided to give yoga a try and fell in love in my first session. That was four years ago and it’s completely changed my life for the better.

What’s one thing your followers will be surprised to learn about you?

That I only do yoga and I don’t diet. I get asked all the time if I do anything else other than yoga to achieve the body I have now and I don’t – just yoga. I eat cake almost every day. I don’t believe in restriction, I used to be bulimic, and know what restriction can do to both your mind and body. It’s not worth it to lose a few pounds but then feel crappy when you put the pounds back on. I understand that my body is constantly changing and it will do what it’s going to do. Yoga keeps me sane, cake makes me happy. That’s all I need.

What’s the best part about teaching yoga?

Sharing what I love and believe in. If you love teaching, and teaching is very different from practising, then it is something that really becomes you. Teaching is my full-time job and I’m very fortunate I work for a studio that lets me teach in my specific style. I really give everything I’ve got to my classes. I don’t hold back secrets, and share as much as possible whenever necessary.

Apart from teaching in person, you also give tips and instructions via social media. Do you think social media have changed the way you interact with students?

Absolutely. Instagram yoga is huge in Singapore. It’s another way to connect with your students outside of the studio. It’s also a way for me to put myself out there. Without Instagram I wouldn’t have been able to arrange my workshop in Hong Kong. The world of yoga teachers is becoming saturated. You have to put yourself out there. You can’t just rely on word of mouth. People want to see what you can do, how you can do it, and it’s sad but true. It’s what will bring the people in. It’s very superficial but at least it casts the net. What you do after that is up to you. I may be able to show what I can do on Instagram but what and how I teach is far more important. It’s like having a resume or CV. It will help get your foot in the door but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to actually be able to do your job.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

Learning to let be and let go. I was very depressed the majority of my childhood and teenage years. I didn’t even know I was depressed until I tried to end things and was sent to hospital. I saw a therapist and learned how to control my cognitive thinking process. Since then it’s been a never-ending process, assessing what things I can or cannot change, and the things I can’t change I need to let go, whether it be expectations, people, materialistic things, the number or scale. The more I realised what I can and cannot control, the easier life seemed, the happier I became. We’re all born with a different set of cards. How we deal with what we’ve got is completely up to us.

What’s your biggest fear?

Failure and disappointment. When I was in school, I used to not do certain assignments because I knew I wouldn’t get a good grade. I was very all-or-nothing. Rather do nothing, than try and fail. Things are better now. I’ll try most things, even if I know I’m going to suck at it. But what really gets to me with my job is negative feedback. It hits my core and I will cry. I teach from the heart and it hurts my heart to hear that someone wasn’t happy with what and how I taught. But like my boss and best friend, Jasmine, says, “Don’t take criticism so seriously but, more importantly, don’t take compliments so seriously”.

Your two hashtags are #ProductofPatience and #SurvivedErica. What do they mean?

#ProductofPatience means to, literally, just be patient and to slow things down. I’m a big believer in a slower practice. I think there are times to be dynamic and rushed but, overall, I’m not a touch-and-go practitioner. I practise and teach methodically and with purpose, to prepare both the mind and body in such a way so that any final or peak pose becomes easier to do. With Instagram, it’s so easy to get caught up in wanting to achieve something within a certain timeline and it really defeats the whole point of the yoga practice. It’s a practice, not a performance. You work hard, put the effort in and whatever is a result of that work is what it is. You are a product of your patience. #SurvivedErica was made by one of my students. My classes are tough. It doesn’t mean my classes are for advanced students. Anyone can absolutely come to my classes, whether they can touch their toes or not. But I’m a tough-love kind of teacher. I don’t give up on my students and don’t let them give up on themselves, either. It doesn’t matter what level of class it is, we work and we work hard, and when we do it seems to make my students say, “I survived Erica”.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I’m never guilty about my pleasure. I love to sleep, eat cake, drink, do nothing, do everything. To be guilty is to feel like you’ve done something wrong. Unless the pleasure is unhealthy, makes you bankrupt or breaks the law, just do it. Have fun. Indulge.

What are the top three apps you use on your phone daily?

Instagram, Spotify and WhatsApp.

What is your favourite time of the day?

Two pm. It’s that perfect time that’s not too early, not too late, and you still feel like you’ve got a lot of day left.

Tell us three things on your bucket list.

I don’t have one. I’d love to buy a house, live in Bali and have a big family someday, but if I don’t, no big deal. It is what it is.

What’s one motto you live by?

Everything in the end will be okay, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

Is your glass half empty or half full?

Neither. My glass is always full. Emptiness is the absence of something. I don’t have nothing. I most definitely have everything. I’m very lucky, I’m very grateful.

Who is your legend?

My mum. She had me at the age of 24, was a single mother and I definitely didn’t make life easy for her. I love her. I’m so proud of her and I’m so lucky to have her.

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of #legend magazine

In this Story: #culture / #wellness