Studying yoga brought a renewed love of life to former wild man Nathaniel Simha
Although he now resides in Bangkok, 30-year-old Nathaniel Simha originally hails from a small town on the East Coast of Australia. He also admits to having many “past lives”, including journalist, radio announcer, and drummer in a punk rock band, but these days the focus is on yoga and healthy living.
Tell us about the road that led to a life in Asia revolving around yoga.
When I was 21 my house in Australia was flooded and I lost everything I owned. This freed me of attachment to material possessions and at that point I decided to save up some money to travel. I came to Thailand at the beginning of my world travels, and immediately loved it. After that I continued travelling, eventually ending up living in Canada in 2011. While there I got a job as the shift supervisor at the country’s largest yoga studio. I had never tried yoga before but I practiced every day for a year while I was there and learned a lot. I fell in love with yoga as it helped me to fall in love with life again. In 2012 I came back to Asia and have been living here in Bangkok ever since.
When, and why, did you start teaching yoga in Bangkok?
During 2012, while I was travelling around Asia, I spent a month living on Koh Phangan and did my yoga teacher training course at Blooming Lotus yoga school. After that I got some jobs as a tour group leader taking foreign customers on holidays around the islands of Thailand, and up through Northern Thailand and Laos. Eventually I tired of travelling and settled in Bangkok. I didn’t know where else to go, so I started sitting on Khao San Road inviting travellers to do yoga with me in the park the following morning, and to pay whatever they wanted. I guess I didn’t have much of a plan, but I was just doing what felt right. I really believe in trusting intuition.
I am certified with Yoga Alliance as a RYT-200 (Registered Yoga Teacher at the 200-hours level), and I specialize in teaching private and small group classes. I’m also currently creating a corporate meditation program which will help employees to deal with stress and improve productivity. Recently I’ve been teaching at Yoga Elements, and am very grateful to owner and head teacher Adrian Cox for giving me the opportunity to work at Bangkok’s best studio. I also ran a yoga retreat in Kanchanaburi for a year, ran a successful community project for the Bangkok Farmer’s Markets, and have taught in other yoga retreats around Thailand from time to time. Yoga and meditation is helpful for everyone, but it’s just the tip
of the iceberg. It’s really all about living life in a healthy and positive way.
How has yoga affected your health and your worldview?
Before I started practicing yoga and meditation I had many negative lifestyle habits. I decided to convert to eating vegetarian food at the age of 19, but I drank a lot of alcohol, smoked cigarettes when I drank, and didn’t really care much about taking care of myself. The discipline of committing to a daily spiritual practice saves you from yourself. While I love the community aspect of group yoga and meditation classes, I believe it is very helpful for each of us to spend a little time alone each day sitting quietly, challenging ourselves, and breathing. It’s about letting go of the things which are not serving us positively. I still like to party sometimes, but I like it less and less the older I get. Practicing yoga has changed me for the better. I’m a more peaceful, positive, open-hearted, understanding and compassionate version of myself. Most importantly, I believe I’m exactly where I should be in life, and I’m committed to sharing the contentment I’ve found with others. Not everyone is content. Many people imagine life will be better in the future, so they’re always trying to get somewhere else. For these people I suggest yoga and meditation as a way of rediscovering the present moment.
The ‘Yoga For Guys’ classes have been a lot of fun when we’ve done them. To be honest we haven’t done that many. There are many guys who’ve done yoga with me and seemed to really enjoy it. They’ve told me they’re committed to learning and want to come to class again soon, but then I don’t see them for a year (laughs). Bangkok is a tough city to be in if you want to stay focused on healthy living. What I’ve noticed having lived here for four years is that people have so many options for how to spend their time and money. This often seems to result in a bit of “option paralysis” where we really don’t know what to do at times.
I love teaching kids yoga and have been doing it for four years now. I think it’s really important to get kids away from the screens—connecting with each other and moving their bodies. They need to learn meditation too. Kids are easy to teach because they’re already at home in the present moment, and they’re open to the idea of learning. I may theme a class on a topic such as ‘Open Your Heart’, and include games and activities which are centered around cultivating self-love, compassion, and gratitude. We don’t want children growing up in a world that doesn’t understand the importance of true connection with one another—a world which spends its entire existence interpreting reality through a screen. Honestly I’m scared about the way the world is now. That’s why I try to focus most of my energy on mindful, healthy, and positive living. My computer broke down four months ago and I chose not to fix it. I still use my phone more than I need to, but putting it on “airplane mode” from time to time throughout the day is a really powerful way of getting back to the real world.
You’ve mastered many impressive poses. Which are the most physically challenging?
It’s about the practice overall, not any one pose. I guess the most physically challenging poses for me are handstands. They’re a lot of fun, but I’m in no rush to achieve anything. If we’re too focused on what we’re trying to achieve we’re not really paying attention to what’s happening now. What’s more important than what’s happening to my body is what’s happening in my mind as I practice. When you learn to hold your attention at the third eye and concentrate on consciousness, an experience of pure peace and pure bliss is felt. This is what yoga is really all about—inner peace. At the same time, it’s a lot of fun to challenge ourselves to learn tricky poses, as long as we don’t start imagining this is what it’s all about.
Pollution in Bangkok makes it not exactly the healthiest city in the world. Why do you choose to stay here?
That’s a good question. I guess it’s because I feel more at home here than anywhere else, and I feel as though there is more for me to experience here. I don’t know if I’ll be here forever. I miss nature sometimes, but I like the communities I’m a part of now. I love Thai people, Thai culture, and the energy of this crazy city. Bangkok is a city where it feels like making all your dreams come true is possible. I’ve travelled in over 35 different countries and Thailand still feels the best to me overall.
Nadimos, Isao, El Diablo’s, May Veggie Home, Ethos, Himalaya, and May Kaidee’s. For vegetarian food I like the EmQuartier and Terminal 21 food courts, and the W-District. I really like cooking at home too.
Last question, how many tattoos do you have?
I don’t know how many tattoos I have because the tattoos on my legs and arms are kind of blending together. But I’ve got a lot. I got my first tattoo at the age of 18. Most of my tattoos have special meanings related to spirituality or health and wellness, but I don’t expect the meaning of all the tattoos to stay relevant. To me tattoos are stamps in time, and when I look on my skin I may be reminded of a time and place in the past. I carry my artwork on my body because it’s the only thing that will be with me all the way through life.
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