“Take your passion & make it happen” by Chris Abay, founder of abaYoga.
I’m a regular guy, I grew up in Richmond, got married and settled in South Croydon with my wife Sarah to have three children before emigrating to Sydney Australia for good. Two years later we were back (my wife wasn’t happy). But I had changed, for good. Here’s my story – corporate drop-out to blissful community servant.
Back in the nineties – when I was fully into martial arts and had a strict corporate work ethic – if someone had invited me to a Yoga class I’d have chanted…
“Yoga – no thanks!”
I just didn’t like the sound of it.
Then came the naughties – numerous injuries from martial arts including a permanently sprung collar bone and several broken ribs had scared me out of the dojo’s and into the relative safety of Virgin Active’s gyms.
Daily 6.00am workouts before arriving at my office near St Paul’s in the city became my religion. Thirsting to go deeper, I certified as a Personal Trainer and even began to cram in training wealthy city clients after work during the week and neighbours around my hometown in South Croydon at the weekends.
Then came the teenies – we moved our young family from Croydon to Sydney. That’s were my life story changed. I went to an upmarket gym for my first ‘down under’ fix of workout endorphins. Inexplicably I suddenly found the draw of another gazillion hammer curls flat out boring!
Suddenly, the whole gym scene made no sense. Relocation had me looking for something deeper, more meaningful and more challenging. But what? And what had changed in me?
Perhaps it was destiny.
On leaving the gym one night, I passed an empty room with the words “Hot Yoga Studio” on the wall. It looked brand new and really cool inside.
I was curious….
The next time I passed the same room there was a long line of 50+ excited people all dressed in brightly coloured kit just busting to get inside. What was is it that they are all so excited about?
That day I happened to sit next to a bloke in the steam room and we started chatting. It turned out he’d just come from that hot Yoga class (the one with the queue), in that brand-new room, he said it was awesome.
He was a big Aussie dude called Bruce with a passion for football and barbeques. He didn’t fit my stereotype of a Yoga student at all. He convinced me, in his brash, unrelenting Aussie manner, that I should ‘give it a fair go – mate!”
The next day, I did.
Fully expecting to be under challenged and slightly bored.
I really couldn’t have been more wrong about Yoga.
I was just so good.
The intricate poses, the graceful transitions, the blood warming heat, the physical coordination, the mental tenacity, the challenging balances and the flowing unity of all those bodies moving in time to our synchronized collective breathing.
What was that?
How could I have missed this for so long?
I had no idea how my life was about to change.
That evening, as I walked home across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I was filled with a new sense of meaning. Purpose even.
Soon I started sneaking out of work early to go to more and more Hot Yoga Classes (not Bikram, just hot). I loved the challenge of the standing balances, the intensity of the heat, the power or the worrier poses and confusion of the inversions. But most of all I loved that amazing ‘Shavasana’ – the beautiful supine rest at the end of every class that would send me into a blissful trance.
Before long I was searching for a purer version of Yoga than the gym could offer. I did my research, asked for recommendations and signed up at a full on, dedicated ‘Yoga only’ studio.
Suddenly, I was amongst the most dedicated Yogis in Australia, many of whom were powerful & peaceful with huge hearts and a capacity to perform asana’s (poses) I could only dream of. I was out of my depth.
But I loved it.
I kept going & gradually crawled my way from the back of the class to the side, from the side to the middle and after lots of dedication I crept closer to the front of the room. Always conscious of how clunky I must have looked amongst all of those graceful warriors.
Then one day during practice I seemed to slip deep inside my awareness. It was as though I was at home alone listening to the teacher through earphones with no one next to me or watching me. I didn’t know it at the time but I was being liberated from my own ego.
I learned that Yoga isn’t about trying to get the poses right, or looking good. It’s about freeing ourselves to connect with something greater.
It transformed me.
I changed jobs to spend more time at the studio.
I certified as a Power Yoga teacher with PowerLiving Australia in Duncan’s studios in Sydney & his retreat centre Bali.
Life would never be the same.
We returned to London in 2015. But, I was a different man. Driven by a passion, a calling I began to resent the time my day job took away from my Yoga practice time.
With a family of three young children I was still clinging to my corporate job but began teaching Yoga in local church halls on the side. Not for money – but for passion. It began to grow as if it had a life of its own.
Then one day a pivoting moment arrived. It wasn’t an event on the outside, it was a shift on the inside. The part of me that had made me so good at my ‘real job’ when I was in my thirties died.
Suddenly all I could focus on was the Yoga and the students who loved the practice so much. It was as if an invisible hand was pushing me forward. It took 3 months and 2 life coaches to give me the strength to quit my ‘real’ job. I was shrouded in fear but driven by passion.
The numbers in the church halls doubled and then doubled again. I was struggling to find the space I needed at the times that students wanted to practice so I started looking for a space of my own.
I looked for over a year. Nothing.
Then one day I noticed that an old charity storage space behind a shop on a local parade in Hamsey Green near my home in Sanderstead was available. We looked at it but it was disgusting – water damaged, old and mouldy. But, something told me it was the right place. It had a narrow corridor linking a large space to the parade. I could see exactly how it would be. I had a vision,
We pivoted all of our finances and risked everything on the strength of a passion. We renovated it and opened the AbaYoga Studio on May 4th 2019.
The opening party had over 180 visitors and we were blown away by the response and how many students came to practice with us. We had no financial goals other than to stay alive but the energy of the studio attracted so much more success than we had ever even hoped for.
It was amazing!
one day, after a record couple of months in early 2020, Covid 19 struck and
less than 12 months after opening… we were closed again.
We have no idea where this will go now but I do know one thing…
The same passion that drove me to create this out of absolutely nothing is still 100% alive and the invisible hand that pushed me through the obstacles to get here is still pushing me now.
Life is an adventure – it’s our duty to ourselves to enjoy every moment!
To find out more about our studio, where it is and how you can get involved visit our website www.abaYoga.co.uk
Enjoy your journey – it is your destiny!