When we met up with Atilia Haron recently, the first thing that popped into our minds was just how fit she looked – undoubtedly the result of a fit and healthy lifestyle. Addressing her svelte figure, the Malaysian beauty admits candidly, “I wasn’t always fit, you know. I used to be underweight and had the misconception that if I were to exercise, I would lose even more weight. Hence, exercise wasn’t my thing.”
However, Atilia who is also a contemporary songwriter and singer reconsidered her decision when she caught herself wheezing and feeling breathless each time she walked from one side of the stage to the other during her musical performances. Additionally, she had trouble sleeping well. “It then struck me that as thin as I was, I was unhealthy. I realised that I had to get serious about my health,” she says.
Did she immediately sign up for a gym membership or something along those lines then? “Not really,” she confesses. “Many of my friends were hitting the gym, swimming, playing tennis or climbing rocks. I wanted to be do all those things but I couldn’t rock-climb due to my palms sweating easily; I wanted to swim every day but my hair turns frizzy when I spend too much underwater; I thought of tennis but playing in the heat of the sun wasn’t very appealing. It was rather frustrating because I couldn’t find a form of exercise which was right for me.” However, her frustrations soon came to an end when she discovered the workout which would later change her life, not just physically but professionally: yoga.
“Love at first inhale”
You have heard of the saying ‘Love at first sight’ but Atilia begs to differ. “When I discovered yoga, I immediately fell in love. It had a calming effect on me; it was a workout that I actually enjoyed. It was love at first inhale!” she gushes. But instead of following in the vein of the ‘First love doesn’t last’ cliche, her passion for yoga only grew stronger.
“I loved it so much that I decided to take it seriously,” she says. So serious was she that she signed up for 200 hours (roughly a month) of yoga training in Koh Samui, Thailand. The training itself was not easy to begin with but it was made tougher as it took place during the fasting month. But Atilia was not fazed. “It was a wonderful experience. I was even asked by my instructor to teach my group on the final day of training. It was an honour because I feel teaching is something sacred.”
When passion becomes profession
Upon returning to Malaysia, Atilia (now a certified yoga instructor) kept busy. “When I got back, I rounded up some friends for yoga classes at my house. What initially was a ‘yoga get-together’ with 2 friends evolved into a 10-person session. It was during these sessions that I began having a niggling voice in my head, telling me that I should open my own yoga studio,” she recounts.
Following her dream, she opened her first yoga studio, YogaOneThatIWant in Damansara Perdana in 2014. When asked about the unique name she bestowed upon her studio, she explains, “It was inspired by the Grease musical. There’s a song called You Are The One That I Want. I chose it because it sounds fun. I don’t want people to feel that yoga is something serious. The key is to get people onto mats and have fun.” She describes her studio as ‘an extension of the living room which used to host my yoga sessions with my friends. It feels like home; a cosy studio offering yoga classes for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.’ Not one to rest on her laurels, she soon expanded her business to 6 more branches over a span of 2 years! Not bad at all for an entrepreneurship which had its humble beginnings in a living room, huh?
Although people have to pay a fee for classes at her studios, Atilia and her group of yoga practitioners conduct free yoga sessions every Saturday morning at 3 different locations – KLCC Park, Bandar Utama’s Central Park and Shah Alam’s Taman Tasik. “YogaOneThatIWant may be a business but I made a promise to do my part in making yoga accessible to those who would like to give it a shot.” So far, the turnout has been good. “We see an average of 200 people attending our sessions. I’m always excited to see new faces among the regulars!”
With her yoga business venture doing well, one would not blame Atilia for loosening up and taking a break from things. But don’t let this petite lady fool you. She may be petite but her plans for the future are far from small. “I recently finished producing Konsert Malam Nada Biru at Istana Budaya which featured 8 Malaysian singers including myself, my mother (Salamiah Hassan), Adibah Noor, Dina Nadzir and Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor. I’m now working on my 3rd album and I’ll be launching my next single very soon so please look forward to it!”
Malay Mail Online. Available at www.themalaymailonline.com
New Straits Times Online. Available at www.nst.com.my
PurelyB. Available at www.purelyb.com
The Star Online. Available at www.thestar.com.my
YogaOneThatIWant. Available at www.yogaonethatiwant.com