Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series by is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!
Name: Gayle Nerva (@gaylenerva)
Occupation: Singer, actor, yoga teacher
Diet: Vegetarian, so mostly a lot of starch, veggies and carbs like bread, rice, noodles, pasta and potatoes. Eats whatever, almost whenever; just no meat or seafood.
Exercise: Mainly yoga, two to three classes a week plus personal practice.
Q: Did you enjoy sports from a young age?
A: I used to swim when I was really little, like between four to nine years old. In primary school, I really enjoyed gymnastics till I was about 11. Then I hit puberty quite early – at about 10 years old – and for some reason, from 12 to 17 years old, I hated exercise. I hated PE classes. I did not like running or basketball or netball or anything. I was just so lazy and would often make up fake notes so that I could get out of PE class in secondary school. I was super not into fitness or health during my teenage years. I just went on crazy crash diets.
When did you start to take an interest in any physical activities?
I think I only started enjoying physical activities during my time in art school. I had a cross-disciplinary class that I was required to take. I chose to do a Jazz dance class and it was a two-hour weekly class. The first hour of class had so much body and core strengthening that I could feel my body changing really quickly. It was just so fun to move to music and beats – it did not feel like exercise.
From there I started looking for other creative ways to move. That’s when I started aerial arts. I started doing things like aerial silks, lyra and trapeze. The creative performance element of the practice was so much fun and enjoyable. It was a great and interesting way to keep myself active.
Then in 2013 I was introduced to CrossFit, which I spent about a year and a half doing. I was doing things like Olympic weightlifting and very high impact circuit training styles. It was also nice that CrossFit has some gymnastics exercises involved, so it was something I could relate with.
So how did you arrive at yoga?
First time I did yoga was about six years ago when Yoga Movement opened. My friends were teaching there and I went to their classes to support them. However I didn’t really connect with it much back then. I preferred my aerial stuff and I went to CrossFit more.
I really dived into yoga only last year, when I decided to attend a 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT). I had injured myself during my aerial climbs and also with the competitiveness in CrossFit. Basically I did too much too quickly and hurt my lower back, as well as my hand. It came to a point where I couldn’t close or open my hand and fist, and my gripping action was compromised.
Thus I was looking around for something I could do while I went for rehab for my hand and lower back. Yoga seemed like the way to go. Diving straight into an intensive teacher training was so wonderful. I learnt so much about the practice, how to love my body, and to be patient with my progress; that the mind and the spirit is more important than the physical practice. If the mind is strong, the physical practice will come. I love that yoga is accessible to everyone, it’s just such a beautiful practice.
What made you decide to become a yoga instructor?
I enjoyed teaching during my YTT, where we were required to teach some community classes. I really like helping others find their practice and encouraging them to love themselves and take care of themselves and one another. It’s a really fulfilling feeling.
What are your fitness goals now?
I just want to remain healthy and feel healthy; to try not to worry about “looking” a certain way, but more of “feeling” a certain way.
Was there a point where you felt the least confident about yourself?
When I was a teenager, people were telling me that I had to be skinny, that I had to lose weight, that my arms were too big, or that my bum and legs were too fat. It really broke me down.
I was 17 when I started doing things on television, such as singing live shows for large audiences, hosting TV programmes, and the stylists, makeup artists, producers and directors always had something to say. It made me feel like I was never good enough, that there was something wrong with me.
But this comes with the territory – it is a harsh industry and image is important, so I do not blame any of them. They just wanted me to look my best, but unfortunately it made me feel like s*** and I think it affected me as I grew up.
How did you overcome that?
Age just did it. As you go along, more and more things start to matter less. You don’t care about what others think and when I look back on my old photos, I think to myself, “Oh my god, I was so small already, what was I thinking that I was fat?” It’s so silly because I’d always wear black to make myself look smaller, but I was so small already. Honestly, I just decided to get over it.
Are you contented with your body now?
I still struggle with my body sometimes! I still refrain from wearing shorts or short skirts because I know my legs are chubby. But they are my legs and I love them, so I just choose to wear clothes that I think better suit my body shape.
Do you get any comments about your body?
After starting my teaching journey, my body for sure has changed a lot. And people have complimented me! It’s great to hear, of course. But before this, when I wasn’t really taking care of my body, it would be mostly the usual “Wah you put on weight ah?” comments that I would hear. Now it’s “Wah you lost weight ah?”
Why do greetings have to involve pointing out to the person how fat or thin they are? I just find it kind of insensitive sometimes.
What do you think are some misconceptions of fitness in today’s society?
Everyone wants to be healthy and happy, and we’re all looking for the quickest and easiest way to achieve that. But the truth is that it’s about being sustainable and keeping it consistent with yourself. I feel like there will always be some new fad diet or eating plan that will “change your life”, but with anything, there needs to be a happy balance. Eat well and exercise, drink lots of water, and treat yourself once in a while. You can’t be too extreme with anything. There’s physical fitness, and there’s also mental fitness. As much as you wanna take care of your body, you have to take care of your mental and emotional health. If you’re happy on the inside, it’ll show on the outside.
What are your fitness philosophies?
Balance is key. Do what suits your body. Listen to your body, love and respect it. You only have one, at the end of the day.
Why should people make an effort to lead an active lifestyle?
I think it’s incredibly important. It’s easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle and if that becomes a habit, it becomes harder and harder to break as you get older. Good posture is also very important and exercise helps us to combat bad sitting or standing postures that our work environments might cause. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy! It’s difficult to get off your butt and get started, but when you do, you’ll feel so much better after you’ve done it.