Zuna Yoga catches up with Samina Ullah, 200 hour yoga teacher training graduate (May 2015, Gili Meno), powerhouse lawyer and global citizen from Saskatchewan, Canada.
Junior Legal Consultant with the Office of the Lead Co-Lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
Current Yoga Teaching Gig
I teach yoga twice a week on average at Nataraj Yoga Studio in Phnom Penh and at the ECCC. Right after my YTT on Gili Meno, I moved to Cambodia for an internship. During my first few days there, I randomly stopped in at a yoga studio as I was getting oriented to the city and asked if they needed teachers. They said yes, and I was teaching a community class on Sunday evenings almost immediately after my arrival. I started Yoga at the Court about a month later with another lawyer and yoga teacher from Australia, since many people were asking for a yoga class after work. Profits from our classes are donated to the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia, an NGO whose aim is to heal the psychological wounds of the Cambodian people caused by the civil war and the genocidal regime between 1975 and 1979, and care for those who suffer from psychosocial and mental health problems. My students at the studio are predominantly part of the expat community living and working in Phnom Penh. At the court I teach mostly legal interns and consultants.
Describe yourself in one word
What is your spirit animal?
There is a tarot card reader in one of the markets in Phnom Penh who told me my spirit animal is a bat. Having no previous connection to a bat, I did not put much weight in it, but here is the most succinct version if you ever find yourself drawn to bats. "You are highly sensitive to and extremely aware of your surroundings and have a powerful ability to see through illusions. You tend to dive straight to the heart of matters, are extremely social and have strong family ties. You are nurturing, have good communications skills and use your sense of touch as part of communicating. You are very perceptive on a psychic level and are prone to having prophetic dreams. You are also highly adaptable to any situation you find yourself in."
What do you love about Cambodia?
I love the freedom to drive on the wrong side of the road, ride my bike, work with amazing people from everywhere and always be warm. I've been cold a handful of times here and then I remember how much I do not like it.
What's your favorite place to eat in Phnom Penh?
Java Cafe. Their vegetarian burger is my comfort food.
What are your three top travel tips?
Learn about the places you visit. Learn the history, a few phrases and about current affairs, social and political. It will not only enrich your experience but is also a sign of respect to the residents of the country where you are visiting.
Approach travel with a child's mind: be ready to explore, play and have things not go according to plan. Color outside the lines (safely). Have an adventure, put the map away and practice being open to whatever comes your way.
Be mindful of yourself. It is easy to be swept up in the myriad of new views, smells, tastes, good times and lose track of processing your experiences. Traveling is an excellent teacher when you can take the time to learn from it.
What book are you reading right now?
Autobiography of a Yogi
One thing you're really good at:
Finding a way when I set my mind to something
One thing you're epically bad at:
What do you do for fun?
Surfing or anything that is in the water
One important thing you learned at your Zuna Yoga Teacher Training:
Space. The breath can create space and that space is infinite. It is easy to let that space become cluttered with a list of things to do, places to go etc. I am learning how to let that space be my sanctuary and space to grow. I also learned that you are what you practice. I grew much more aware of what I repeat on a daily basis in my thoughts and actions.
Turtles, beaches, beautiful people and taking the time to heal
What are the three qualities that got you where you are today?
What's your favorite thing about teaching yoga?
Guiding others to experience spaciousness in breath. When someone else "gets it" in your class, there is nothing like it.
What's your biggest challenge as a new yoga teacher?
Managing my energy levels and knowing what is left and right - it's much harder than you think.
How does yoga make you a better lawyer?
I have patience and compassion for my colleagues and for myself. As a lawyer (and human) it is a certainty that you will make a mistake. My practice of yoga helps me to be patient and kind and allow the experience to unfold without judgment.