Celonia Kabbia, 25, warps her body as if she is boneless. She bends her torso, twists her legs and hands, does head and handstands that sometimes look impossible, especially for an adult.
She is a full-time yogi who swapped her career in hotel management for a passion in yoga. In three years, she speaks of how yoga has changed her life for the better, and how she would not trade it for anything else.
“Before I started yoga, I struggled with anxiety. I was ever angry and moody. I was also an over thinker. Imagine combining that with anxiety and bitterness,” she says.
“Yoga opened a new world to me. It taught me calmness, patience and to be more aware of my emotions,” she says.
Celonia studied hotel management at the university, but took fitness courses along the way.
“I did a lot of taekwondo which got me fit. The instructor told me of a yoga class that would interest me. I decided to go. We had a full yoga session, followed by an acro-yoga session. I fell in love with everything about yoga,” she says.
Her enthusiasm earned her a spot by her trainer’s side. She would go with him to most yoga classes.
“I also did a lot of research on yoga. Soon it felt like a calling. I went back to school and studied human anatomy to understand the body,” she says, adding that daily practise enabled her to understand how far she can stretch her body to bend and move.
In a day, Celonia is at the gym for at least eight hours and she does personal training on four clients, besides group sessions every Thursday evening.
“I usually charge Sh700 per person for a walk-in fitness enthusiast and Sh1,500 for kick boxing sessions which I train on Tuesdays and Fridays,” she says.
Her favourite yoga style? “Vinyasa! Oh, and acro-yoga,” she says indecisively. “I love them both.”
These types of yoga require stamina. Growing up, Celonia was an active child. She would be the “girl in the room doing handstands and somersaults.”
“My body craves for that till today. Acro-yoga satisfies that because it involves playing with body movement. I’m also able to play with my flexibility when doing Vinyasa, which makes it an interesting workout,” she says.
As a yoga teacher, her biggest struggle has been wanting to be everywhere, doing everything. “I’m an overachiever, I don’t know how to tell myself to stop. Sometimes I’m completely worn out. I’m a yes person. It took a while for me to realise that I can settle down in one place, and wait for clients to come to me,” she says.
Besides being super flexible, yoga has helped her lose weight, from 65 kilogrammes to 53 kilogrammes now.
Yoga is gradually gaining acceptance as a form of exercise and meditation, but not in men.
“Many men say they can’t practice it because it’s more of a feminine activity. Others claim it’s too upmarket while others say they aren’t as flexible,” she says.
As a first-timer, she says, one needs to be patient.
“Yoga changes the soul, mind and body. At the end of every class, I ask my students how they feel. Hearing them say calm or happy brings me joy because I’m able to give them a break from a hectic lifestyle,” she says.
To stretch freely, one requires loose-fitting athleisure wear, she says. One time, she tore her trousers when teaching a class.
“What’s worse is that I never realised it until a student mentioned it to me,” she says.