Warm, bubbly and friendly, Jessica Lee aka. ‘Jess’, is a familiar face in Hong Kong’s yoga community who not only teaches yoga but acroyoga too. For the uninitiated, acroyoga is a combination of yoga and acrobatics, which is done with a partner and helps build trust (not only in your partner but in yourself too).
We caught up with the globetrotting yogi to find out how her love for acroyoga and yoga first started and what her current schedule looks like today:
Hello! What do you do?
Hi, I’m Jess! I’m a yoga and acroyoga instructor—you can find me at Soho House Hong Kong, Be Earth, and Shan Studios most days. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, but having lived here all my life I suffer from serious itchy feet, so you’ll also find me assisting my teachers’ immersive trainings in Koh Samui every summer and occasionally guest teaching during my travels.
How and when did your fitness journey begin?
As a child, I was always bendy and hyperactive so it was only natural that I’d pick up gymnastics as a hobby—I was always the girl who you’d find randomly stretching and cartwheeling for no reason at all.
My PE teacher in middle school, who also coached our after-school club, was an ex-gymnast who loved Cirque du Soleil, so she introduced me to the world of circus. That started a lifelong obsession for acrobatics, contortion, and anything flexibility-related, so it was only a matter of time until I discovered yoga.
What was your very first experience with fitness/yoga?
I was convinced to go to my first (hot!) yoga class by a friend when it was all the rage in Hong Kong back in 2006/2007. Although I hated the heat, it reminded me of the way gymnastics made my body feel, and since there weren’t really any options for adult, non-professional gymnastics training back then, it felt like a good way for me to “return to my roots”… although I quickly learned they’re super different practices in theory.
How many times a week do you work out/yoga now?
Somewhere between 3-5 times a week! I’m naturally already hyper-mobile, so when I’m not teaching I prefer to move my body in other ways to build the strength I lack, like lifting, spinning, bouldering, and recently Muay Thai.
Why do you work out/stay active/do yoga?
If you asked me 10 years ago why I did yoga, I’d tell you it’s because I loved the challenge of achieving my “goal poses” and pushing my body to its limit.
These days, I do yoga to be present and to feel good, which some days might mean a sweaty, vigorous practice, while other times it’s child’s pose and stretching on my back. Off the mat, I’ve also noticed that yoga has helped me feel more grounded and to be less reactive, more patient.
What’s your favourite exercise/workout and why?
Acroyoga, definitely. There are so many different ways you can go about it (L-basing vs standing, acrobatics vs therapeutics—imagine Thai massage while flying); it’s a new experience every time depending on skill, partner, and mood of day; and it’s so fun you barely feel like you’re working out!
I also love that no matter where you are in the world, it’s guaranteed that there’s a local acro community you can just rock up to and connect with.
Most people don’t know this, but it was wanting to become a certified acroyoga teacher that led me to doing my 200-hour yoga teacher training (a prerequisite to apply for acroyoga teacher training).
Cardio, heurghhh. You can throw me in a 3-hour vinyasa masterclass and I’ll be happily ready for more, but after 15 minutes of running, I’m gassed.
Something you have yet to try in the fitness/wellness space?
I’ve always wanted to learn parkour or some form of dynamic martial art, maybe capoeira. My dad was a stuntman so I’m sure that’s got a lot to do with it. How cool would it be to be able to back flip off a wall like a badass though?!
Favourite treat day meal?
Not exactly a “meal” but I would eat potato chips every day if they weren’t so bad for you!
Any athletic brands/products you swear by?
I always take my trusty Liforme travel mat with me on holidays and yoga trainings.
What’s something not many people know about you?
Actually a lot of people (who know me personally) already know this, but.. I don’t eat avocados. Or eggplants and —basically anything that’s mushy in texture.
And finally… what’s your personal definition of healthy?
Feeling good and finding balance physically, mentally, and emotionally. Taking care of yourself not only by exercising and eating well, but also allowing yourself to recharge when you need a time-out.