Ex-Singapore bodybuilding champ's daughter opens yoga school after life-changing experience

Photo by Cheryl Tay
Photo by Cheryl Tay

First establishing herself in the world of cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a keen photojournalist who is equally enthusiastic about fitness and sports. More of her at CherylTay.sg and on FacebookTwitter and Instagram (cheryltay11).

She was slicing apples for her dog when she sneezed -- and fell to the floor with a loud crack in her back.

Jessica Sinclair, the daughter of former Singaporean bodybuilding champion Jojo Sinclair, suffers from scoliosis, but her condition had always been manageable up until this incident in June last year.

“I would feel pain when I engage in combat sports like Muay Thai, Jiu-jitsu and Krav Maga, or when I go to the gym, but it doesn’t interfere with my daily life, so I never realised it was so bad,” said the 31-year-old, who used to wear a back brace when she was a kid.

She couldn't get up for some time after the fall, with the right side of her body immobile, and had difficulty breathing as well.

“I always thought I was invincible, and that was a really humbling experience because I felt helpless. I had to go to the hospital for an X-ray and I was in so much pain that every little bump on the road hurt me,” she recalled.

It was an impingement of the nerve which caused the pain, and there were only two options moving forward – surgery, or to try something like yoga or pilates.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Sinclair
Photo courtesy of Jessica Sinclair


Determined to fix her back by natural means, Sinclair left her job in real estate and completed a 500-hour yoga teacher training course, where she realised how beneficial the practice was -- and how much she wanted to use it to help others too.

"As much as doctors and chiropractors play an important role in one's recovery, they don't hold a magic wand. As much as possible, we should also play our part in the prevention or recovery process and strengthen ourselves physically and mentally with the correct exercises," she said.

Just two weeks into the course, Sinclair felt less strain on her back and after a month of daily yoga, the pain went away and has not resurfaced since.

"There are specific yoga postures that after a month of practice, aided in stretching out the contracted muscles due to functional scoliosis. I'm now very carefully working on trying to rectify the structural scoliosis," she added.

"As with everything, one should practice caution and seek professional advice even with holistic methods of healing."

Inspired by its effect, Sinclair, along with three business parters, set up IHA Yoga at Race Course Road in March.

The school's goal is to aid others with various bodily issues, as well as help them break mental barriers to realising that anything is possible, according to Sinclair.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Sinclair
Photo courtesy of Jessica Sinclair


Even with her scoliosis, Sinclair has adopted a healthy and active lifestyle since young. She admitted that under her mother's influence, she started lifting little dumbbells at just five-years-old.

However, Sinclair found herself drawn to aggressive contact sports instead -- she has already broken her knee twice from inline skating.

For someone who used to be unable to sit still, it came as no surprise that Sinclair struggled in her first few weeks of yoga.

She couldn't touch her toes, her back would hurt when she tried to bend in certain ways, and she would be frustrated by her inability to pull off certain yoga poses.

But Sinclair stuck it out and as you can see below, is now well capable of bending and contorting her body into poses which even doctors said she'd never be able to do.

“Yoga not only healed my back, but it also changed the way I look at the world. It taught me patience – some poses cannot be rushed – and not everything can be my way," she reflected.

“Also, yoga makes me feel whole. I was unhappy in my previous job although the money was good. But now I feel happy, especially when I help people improve physically and also overcome their mental barriers.

“What I'd like to do, is to help one awaken their abilities and remove the veil over their eyes, to see that it's mostly mind over matter, one asana (yoga pose) at a time," she shared.

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