Inspire#14: Lately, blooming (Dorothy Lee)

Inspire#14: Lately, blooming (Dorothy Lee)

Dorothy, in a few of her own words…
I’m active, enjoy being on the go, and value my freedom. I’m also practical and frank. I’d rather tell it as it is or hold my peace. I’m an all-rounder constantly seeking out my specialty.

Honestly…
As a kid, I was rather moody and easily flew into a temper. My patience was also low, especially when others weren’t as quick to understand certain concepts. I would speak my mind, without caring if anyone got hurt because I thought I was being honest. Sometime in my teens, in secondary school, some friends and I would hang out at one of the girls’ places to play computer games (RPG types), and one of the games had us solving puzzles and incorporated a lot of puns. I realised I loved that sort of humour, and I began revealing that side of me more, rather than the fierce faced (yes, I have resting fierce face), unapproachable and bad-tempered person. I laughed more. I learnt that the ‘honesty’ was really frankness, through Christian youth groups both in and outside of church, and through personality tests. I then tried to learn to be more tactful in my approach, whenever I wanted to voice my opinion. It took a while though, all the way into my 20’s. I continued to learn what not to say and how to put things in a certain way. My patience also improved a lot. I never would dream I could be teaching now, based on my character as a child. Many of my clients test my patience now, and I surprise myself that I’ve stayed pretty much calm throughout it all.

WeBarre instructor, Dorothy Lee

WeBarre instructor, Dorothy Lee

Letting go and moving on….
Biggest changes in my life over the past few years would include my switch from the corporate world to being a fitness instructor; and getting married and adjusting to having my own house. So much has happened in the last few years, and my days and weeks pass really fast.

I have a knack for sticking around and hanging on to things because I feel responsible, and ignore the fact that I was getting unhappy, my energy was being sapped, and it was eating into me and making me an unpleasant person. I experienced that in a relationship many years back, where I held on despite differences in character, wavelength, and life goals. I thought I was being good by overlooking certain flaws that I really couldn’t live with. Only after it ended did I realise how unhappy I was, and how free I felt when I let it go. That was my revelation that I loved my freedom – being me, rather than being what someone else wanted me to be. I thought I’d learnt that. Until my last job. I was holding on, thinking a change of department would help, waiting for that promotion and pay rise. I was getting rude and bossy to people without realising it. The whole poor management of my expectations ate into me. Only after I resigned, did I look back and see that I had left my happy place a few years before, and held on to the job for too long. I had ignored my own happiness it again.

Pursuing pilates

Pursuing pilates

The Big Move: Pilates, Yoga, Barre, Music
I left the corporate world two and a half years ago. Work was becoming meaningless, and I felt I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I was also constantly dreaming of a more mobile and less desk-bound job (that didn’t involve sales). I had been regularly attending reformer pilates classes for a couple of years then in an attempt to get my body back into shape to return to ballet. An instructor course came about and I decided to take it. The initial plan was to look for a new job and teach part-time, but as I understood the time and effort required to fulfil the examinations, I realised it was a full-time commitment. I was also going for interviews at that time. I prayed and told God that if I was to go full-time, he would have to close the doors for all the interviews. I didn’t get called back, even for the roles I really liked. So I decided that this was the way to go.

Teaching pilates has been fun, fulfilling and challenging. You get more time to work out (depending on your own ability to manage discipline), you meet different kinds of people, and get to deal with a myriad of body types. Knowing the exercises are just a small part of teaching. There’s always something you never quite fully know about the human anatomy, and it takes experience and dealing with more clients to able to understand certain physical conditions and limitations. That’s one of the challenges – the constant learning, and humility to accept new knowledge and differing views in the fitness and physical therapy community.

The other challenge was financial. The first year was a monthly faith test. From a regular stable and comfortable income in a corporate job, to a spattering unstable salary. I remember celebrating when I hit my first $1k for the month, which was a few months into the job. Finally, time management is still a challenge, as I have to balance my work schedule with my workout schedule, running errands, house chores and spending time with family. Work starts early and ends late, with an afternoon break (on most days). It’s extremely difficult meeting up with friends.

It was during this period of having more ‘free time’ that I picked up yoga and barre – the former to better understand what it was because many clients do it, the latter was a chance discovery that I really enjoyed and treated as my cardio workout (because I hate running). Yoga is a workout to me, because it was mindful movement with challenging poses. It helps me to stretch and apply pilates principles in a slow and controlled manner.

Barre was up my alley as it encompassed everything I did – ballet, pilates, yoga and music. (Yes, I had a past life in the music world) I thought to myself that I’d like to teach this someday. That opportunity came when a friend then told me about a BootyBarre instructor course, which I did and totally enjoyed. Then the WeBarre instructor course came along, and because I’d been attending classes there, I really like their format and culture. I made a difficult and commercially painful decision to switch, just 3 months after getting the BootyBarre certification, but I don’t regret it. BootyBarre is great program, challenging and fun, but I just felt WeBarre resonated with me more.

Dorothy doing a shoulder stand

Dorothy doing a shoulder stand

Early beginnings…
Since school days, I’d be relatively good at new things I learn, but I never have enough passion to see it through. Just good enough, but not great. I was always distracted by too many things at the same time, and they usually involved balancing out music and sports. I juggled ballet and piano, with sports, choir and participating in the symphonic band, while in school; and there were also church activities. I would be good at something, but when offered to train with the national team for example, I would turn it down, because I had this fear of losing my interest when I was too committed to something. Hence I was changing activities and trying different things all the time. It stabilises as you grow older, thankfully, but as you can see, I still try to juggle my various workouts (no matter how related they are), with my own life’s activities.

I started ballet when I was 4 years’ old. I wanted to do gymnastics because I was such a fan of Nadia Comaneci as a kid, but we couldn’t find rhythmic gymnastics back then. We didn’t understand that you needed basic artistic gymnastics as well. So my mom decided to send me for ballet instead. I had a really good teacher (Ms Ann Ang) at the community centre and I was doing regular classes all the way till I was 15. I stopped due to school commitments, as I was also active in extra-curricular activities. I picked up adult ballet on and off again years after that.

My musical past life was briefly mentioned. I played the bassoon in the school’s symphonic band. Because it was a rare instrument, I was invited to play or guest play at various concerts by bandsmen and conductors I got acquainted with through IRC (internet relay chat). So for 10 years of my life since secondary school, I was playing either in school or outside, or both, running around carrying a heavy instrument case from one end of the island to the other.

Beyond the Sea

Beyond the Sea

Under the Sea…
I’ve always loved adventure and the adrenaline rush. I liked being in the water – something my mom was always nervous about – so I picked up swimming on my own, went canoeing without telling her (…only told her after I went). My mom verbally banned me from scuba diving when she found out I wanted to try it. So when I finally took it up at 26, I kept it from her for 6 months. (Yes, I managed to hide my mask, fins and dive bag for that time.) A bunch of friends were planning a dive course and asked me along. I agreed immediately. I still remember the first jump into the sea – the sun was up, the water was blue and clear, and cute colourful reef fish were around me. I fell in love with diving right then. The 40 to 60 minutes underwater also took my mind off the stresses of work, worries of life, etc., because you had to be completely focused on your breathing, buoyancy, the gear you have on, and looking at the reef and fish. It was my form of escapism.

I grew addicted to it, and had to escape underwater 3 to 4 times a year at the start. I also took up underwater photography, which then added another incentive to dive because you started to identify marine life and form a wish list of things to capture.

Dorothy and underwater mates

Dorothy and underwater mates

Dorothy’s specialty…
I go by elimination, to be honest. I’m not great at the cardiovascular and high intensity stuff. So I decide I shall just stick to things that are more mindful and balletic. That’s why I’m glad I found Pilates and Barre.

Pilates at sea

Pilates at sea

Working, and closer to her dreams…
I’m actually more practical than dreamy, hence it was a very long and difficult decision to leave the comforts of a corporate job that gave me good benefits, work travel to fun and exciting places, with some enviable experiences. Now, I prioritise work, but am glad I still find slots of time to workout. I try to do at least one class of Barre, Yoga, Ballet and Pilates practise in a week, although I would really like to utilise the pool in my condominium more often too (once a month is not making our maintenance fees worth).

Dear Dorothy…
I would say, to keep an open mind, and attempt whatever comes your way that is feasible and within your means, because you never know if you could excel at it. Always stay humble to learn and update yourself. And when you find something that resonates with you, run with it. Don’t be in a hurry to find that something. Some people discover it young, some people only later in life. But the beauty of life’s journey, is that whatever you discover and appreciate later, is a result of what you had experienced in the earlier years.

Family photo.

Family photo.

I’m just teaching pilates and barre generally, while juggling housekeeping, being a wife, and a mother to my little mini Dachshund, Slinky. But anyone can follow me on Instagram #dortzz because I post pictures of my workouts, and lots of food, as I’m a foodie.

I teach Pilates at Breathe Pilates. I teach private and groups mainly at the Parkway Centre studio, and also at the Novena and Camden branches. At Parkway, my regular group classes are:

Tuesday 7:30pm – Reformer & Tower 1
Thursday 7:00pm – Pre-natal
Friday 7:30pm – Reformer & Tower 1
Saturday 12:00pm – Reformer & Tower 1
Saturday 2:00pm – Reformer & Tower 1

I teach Barre at WeBarre
My regular slots are:

Monday 12:30pm – WeBarre Signature @ Telok Ayer
Wednesday 12:00pm – WeBarre Signature @ Tanjong Pagar
Friday 8:45am – WeBarre Signature @ Tanjong Pagar

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