Siyi Zhou: you choose who you are

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I met Siyi at Power YogaRomania while I was attending the 40 days of Personal Revolution program. It’s a challenge where you go to Yoga practice at least 5-6 times per week. Meditation is performed in the mornings and evenings including sessions for growth using workbook exercises.

On completion of the 40 days program, the expectation was  that you were able to take actions towards your dreams and responsibility for your life. It was a “Great program”!  Siyi assisted on this program.

At my first session, I was 30 mins late for practice and considering that the practice was 60 mins long, I felt pretty guilty and embarrassed for being late.

When I arrived at the studio I gave my excuse for being late and Siyi was very accommodating saying: “no worries, you still have another 30 min”. “Such an optimist”, I thought.

On further conversations with her, I realized that she was an open person, ready at any time to have fun; to contribute to society;to genuinely connect with others.

Prior to taking on the role of at the Power Yoga program, Siri worked as a financial controller until February 2017, when she quit her job and started travelling the world. 

I wanted to find out more about her. About her life and what made her take this decision. I thought she was inspirational and we could learn from her, so I invited her for an interview.

Stefania: Tell me something about you.

Siyi: I was born in Shanghai, China and moved to Texas when I was 4. After I finished University, I became an accountant in Texas, and then I started practicing yoga, became a yoga teacher and I was really inspired by this specific practice, Power Yoga, which really changed my life.

Stefania: So you were an accountant, what made you go to yoga?

Siyi: At that time, my friend invited me to attend Yoga sessions and I accepted. I was into running, which I started in college and did a lot of. I ran 5-8 km a day for a couple of days each week. This physical activity created tension in my body so I felt the need to relax. My back used to hurt a lot, which is why I agreed to try yoga. It relaxed me on a physical level and much more than that. I had anxiety issues which resulted in trouble with sleeping for many years in my life. Going to yoga really helped me with this issue. I had also a lot of rage, I understood that it didn’t get me anywhere but I could still feel it inside of me and I knew that if I let it out, bad things would happen and I couldn’t control that in a way that was healthy. I could control it by suppressing it, but not being able to release it in a healthy way. And when I went to yoga, I was able to release it instead of suppressing it.

Stefania: How do you release the rage in a healthy way?

Siyi: I do it with my body when I’m practising. I can bring that calmness out. In real life I breathe and review the situation. I realize that this is a person saying something that has nothing to do with me. You realize that some things are not worth your time at all.  But it takes practice and exercise each time. When you are angry, you can react but you can also choose not to. You choose who you are and that’s the practice in yoga: getting you aligned with what you really want to be and not tell yourself who you are, not what you made yourself believe you are.

Stefania: So choose not to react in that moment, in that specific situation.

Siyi: Is not something that will happen immediately. After I start practicing yoga I was able no matter what was happening during the day, to be in my body, be whoever I chose to be.

Stefania: How did you change? Who was Siyi before yoga, how is Siyi after doing yoga?

Siyi: I’ve been practicing yoga since 2011- 2012, so for 5-6 years. Oh my goodness, before I was so stubborn. I was set in my ways.I had the “this is the way I do things, this is my life” attitude.  If you would have asked me then I would have told you I was pretty happy. I didn’t know any different. I was very proud of all my accomplishments and I accomplished quite a lot. Up until my mid 20s I was in a very superficial level: I had a great job, I was married to a great man, I owned a beautiful house, in a great neighbourhood, I had nice things, nice clothes, I could do whatever I wanted. In a superficial level my life looked great and to me was also perfect.

The thing that I was missing was the connection with other people, with myself and the things that were important to me were superficial: like money and career and status, things like that.

Stefania: Did you have friends?

Siyi: I had friends from my childhood, high school, college, but I had trouble making new friends. I was so stuck in my head and it was really challenging to make new friends.  I thought I was better than other people.  After I start practicing yoga I didn’t notice any change at the beginning. I felt more relaxed. I could sleep as I got rid of my anxiety. It took me less then a year to get rid of my anxiety.

Stefania: I was surprised you reacted so positively even though I was late 30 minutes, you were like: “don’t worry, you still have 30 minutes to practice”.

Siyi: I’ve learned that people will do whatever they want. You cannot take anything personally. They have everything going on with them, I have everything going on with me. You can choose to connect with them, but whatever they do, it’s their own reality, their own world. There’s nothing you can do about it.  All you can do is be the best of yourself. When you let people impact you, you’re losing your power.  In 99% of the situations, they don’t even try to have an impact on you. Maybe they had a shitty day or have been doing things this way since they were children. It’s how they were raised or they think that’s the way things are supposed to be done.

I’m much more accepting of people and how they really are and if they do something that I don’t agree with, I don’t need to have them in my space. I choose not to interact with that person.

Stefania: What’s the story of your career?

Siyi: I left my former job that I did for 5-6 years as an accountant where I didn’t feel so much of growth and then I worked for a yoga studio as a financial controller and decided to take a break in February 2017 and travel.

Stefania: And you left by yourself?

Siyi: I left by myself. I was planning to leave later, in 6 weeks but then I asked myself why do I wait so long, bought a plane tickettwo weeks later, I handed my notice in to my employer and left.

Stefania: What was your first country?

Siyi: UK, in London.

Stefania: Where did you stay?

Siyi: I used AIR BNB, hostels, sometimes hotels.

Stefania: After UK?

Siyi: After I spent few weeks in London, I travelled to Romania where I spent 10 days, then Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, and then back to Romania for a month in July 2017to teach yoga, then to Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, back to Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, then came back to Romania for the 3rd time. This is my 3rd time here this year to teach yoga.

Stefania: Why did you come back to Romania?

Siyi: I really don’t know, something resonated with me. In July I felt that my work wasn’t finished.

Stefania: What do you like about living in Romania?

Siyi: The people are lovely, great, very interesting. You are really friendly, really helpful and open, and at the same time, you don’t seem that way.  On the streets you don’t seem like that, but you are the loveliest people ever. I had a great summer and good time here, plus the cost of living is really good compared to what I am used to, so I don’t have to worry too much.

Stefania: What is the most important thing you learned from yoga?

Siyi: One thing is that I was put on this earth to connect with people. At the end of the day, I ask myself, “what does one do for others in order to connect with them”?  Also, you can choose to believe something that is not necessarily true. Like in my past life I chose to believe that certain things are important: like money and career and that doesn’t necessarily means that this is true for you. You as a person could change and maybe you as a person could lie to yourself. It’s my belief that we as people, in our natural state, when were born as children things like money, career, jealousy, grief, sadness were not at our center. At our center is: love, connection, freedom, fun, play, joy.

Stefania: How did you feel  back then when you worked as an accountant compared to how you feel now?

Siyi: Oh, my goodness, I felt so empty, but I didn’t realise it back then.  I would fill the void with different things: I would shop a lot, I would run like crazy. I ran like 40 miles (64 km) a week or something like that.  It was something really physical that would exhaust me so I could not think about anything else. I would exhaust myself so much that at the end of the day I had no energy left except for watching TV and then fell asleep.

Even being around people for more than once a week, would have been a lot for me. I saw my friends twice a week. Other than that I just worked, worked out or ran, came back at home, then laid on my couch, watched TV and slept. The next day I would start all over again from beginning.  I suffered a lot from anxiety which is why I tried to get myself exhausted so I didn’t feel it anymore. 

Stefania: How did you feel inside?

Siyi: I don’t even know if I had feelings. Like a closed shell, no feelings, ice cold.

Stefania: And going deeper?

Siyi: It was difficult for me to accept compliments. If somebody complimented me saying “I like your dress”, I would have said “it’s nothing. I bought it from H&M”. 

Stefania: How do you feel now when you are alone with yourself, after doing few years of yoga?

Siyi: I feel great. It’s so interesting. I don’t struggle like before. When I’m around people I feel joy, I feel more alive. 

Stefania: What made this transformation happen? I know you said yoga, but what specifically about yoga?

Siyi: A big part was the community and the practice itself, obviously.  You go through such an intense experience and you realize that there is so much more than that and you learn to let go of so much. People are so open to you, they want to get to know you, and they invest in you and want the best for you. 

Stefania: What are your plans for the future?

Siyi: I’m leaving Romania, going to Netherlands for few weeks, then Morocco for a couple of weeks, visit someone in Ireland, then I guess I’ll go home. I haven’t been home in such a long time, almost 10 months. I will take some time for the holidays, reconnect with people, start looking for a new job back at home or abroad.

Stefania: People think it’s difficult to quit their job and go travelling.

Siyi: I understand why they think that way: because they are so attached to their job… Your life where you spend 40 hours in a week, where you get your money from. But if you have the means to do it (financially could afford it), it’s actually quite easy; you just do it. They are fearful because they are attached to their job. You can work on this attachment, acknowledging that nothing last forever. If you want to fill this space with something else you can. You can choose to be a volunteer somewhere or get another job abroad.  

Stefania: What if you want to quit your job, but don’t have the money to travel?

Siyi: For some people, you cannot just quit your job, they would be homeless. But you can always find a solution. You can save up some money or think about something else. Just have this in mind and work through a solution to get there.

 Since we had the interview, Siyi has left Romania for other countries, then back to US. Can’t wait to see her again, to share ourstories and practice yoga together.

Thank you for reading and please SHARE with your friends Siyi’s story to inspire them as well. 😉

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