We Care We Share
An initiative of UN Bhutan- resilience tools for COVID-19
Journeying inwards, breathing out: Finding oneself in times of COVID
Yangchen Lhamo begins her class at 8 AM every morning. She opens her laptop and starts her class online with some breathing exercises. A business major graduate and 27 years old, Yangchen was working in the marketing and welfare department in a 5-star luxury resort. In January 2020, Yangchen decided to take a break and undergo a one-month long Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga in India. During that time, apart from mentions on the news, no one knew the impact the virus could bring.
“I feel fortunate I made that decision before COVID 19 came to Bhutan. I used to practice yoga by myself through online videos since 2018. It helped me deal with stressful work, anxiety and kept my mental and physical health strong. It is a slow life-changing practice. A journey you take inwards in finding yourself. My time in Rishikesh was unforgettable, it made me realise my true love and passion for yoga. It enhanced my interest and knowledge. When I completed the training and returned home, I came back convinced and certain more than ever,” says Yangchen.
After returning home in February 2020, the pandemic gradually began to take shape, greatly affecting the tourism industry and bringing the jobs and livelihoods of many to a standstill. Yangchen was still employed at the time. With the virus apparently here to stay, it was anticipated that the tourism sector would not open at least for the rest of 2020. A few months passed and Yangchen decided to take one of the biggest risks that she had ever taken. She quit her job and made up her mind to open a Yoga Studio in Thimphu. For most young adults in Bhutan, creating a job is seen as a risky career path. In schools and colleges, the idea of getting a job rather than creating one is typically encouraged, especially for young graduates. This could explain why many youths opt to work in secure government jobs than in the competitive private sector. However, Yangchen fully committed herself to start her new journey, irrespective of the uncertainty of the virus.
“As much as possible, we need to push ourselves to take risks. There comes a time when we must step out of our comfort zone, our ‘safe zone’ and although there will be challenges, we must face them at some point in order to achieve our goal. When I told my parents and family that I was going to quit my job and start a yoga studio, they were very supportive. I think that’s important to have. It really helps to have moral support and encouragement when you take such risks,” says Yangchen.
In November 2020, Yangchen participated in the “Business New Venture Challenge” organized by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources and was ranked second place in the service sector category. Such encouragement helps boost the confidence of the youth and enables them to enter the business sector, where hard work, innovation and resilience are some of the key defining factors. Yangchen believes that it is through her business that she is able to give back to society. It empowers her with social values and responsibility. An animal lover and a life-long vegetarian, Yangchen hopes to continue to help free roaming dogs and educate people on adoption of dogs. In the future, she hopes to expand her yoga classes to rural areas and also provide free yoga lessons to monks and nuns.
“When we have a business, it is good to be aware of our responsibility to give back. Business is not only about individual benefit but also about helping society and promoting the wellbeing ofall living beings. Teaching yoga has given me an opportunity to be more disciplined and learn about myself. At the same time, I am able to help people stay healthy, both mentally and physically especially during these COVID times when we are always at home”, says Yangchen.
“For now, as soon as the pandemic ends, I hope to go back to Rishikesh and undergo the 300 hours Yoga teacher training. This is all part of my journey inwards,” added Yangchen.
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