Featured Teacher: Elaine Oyang


For this segment of Yoga Garden’s Featured Teacher, we caught up with Elaine and learned about her yoga journey, her love for food and nutrition and her sense of adventure!

(YGSF) Tell us about yourself! What was your first job? Any fun hobbies or personal interests?

(Elaine) I was born in California, but grew up in Taiwan. I came to yoga out of curiosity, when a newly opened yoga studio passed a flyer to me one day. I was in high school then, juggling homework, exams, college applications, as well as other extracurricular activities. I heard yoga supposedly helps you relax, so I coaxed my mom to go to our first class together (she still does yoga till this day!). Needless to say, my first class was more of a challenge than relaxation, but that class brought a heightened awareness to my body. I was sore in places I had never thought much about before!

Yoga became an outlet for me. In my senior year, I quit my varsity sports and decided to spend more time with yoga instead. I enjoyed the non-competitive environment, where nobody expected me to be this or that. I practiced yoga while I attended college, and the practice kept me sane. Yoga has been, and always will be, an anchor in my life.

Other than yoga, I love food! I love cooking, I love baking, and I love watching shows like Masterchef. In fact, my first “job” out of college was an online pastry business with one of my good friends in Taiwan!


(YGSF) How did you become interested in becoming a yoga teacher?

(Elaine) During my last year of college studying biology, I asked myself: “Do I really want to spend the rest of my life caged in a lab culturing cells and observing protein interactions?” The answer from my heart was a clear NO. I knew I wanted to have a job where I can interact and help people, to see directly the impacts I could make, but WHAT was it?

My heart told me to attend a yoga teacher training. My head thought the idea from my heart was crazy, because I’d be wasting my previous education that my parents and my professors had given me. All my life, I had always made most decisions with my head. This time, I said to myself, I am going to trust my heart. Right after graduation, I flew to Thailand to attend a one-month immersion teacher training.

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(YGSF) What style(s) of yoga do you offer? Can you explain what makes this style unique?

(Elaine) Being an athlete when I first found yoga, I was immediately drawn to the challenging practice of Ashtanga yoga. I love routine, and I love how in the Mysore room, I can just follow with my own breaths, find my own pace, and move with the level of intensity appropriate for my body and mind that day. My vinyasa classes draw a lot of inspiration from Ashtanga yoga–the strength, the structure, and the breath.

In more recent years, I became more interested in the therapeutic aspects of yoga, and I have started to blend my studying of yoga therapy into the vinyasa classes. So while my classes are challenging, I focus on the energetics, alignment, and safety of the asanas as well.

Aside from vinyasa yoga, I teach yoga therapy at a chronic pain clinic in the Bay Area, which have been such a joy and learning opportunity for me! I also work one-on-one with students with back pain or injuries. This is where that voice in my heart has come full circle. I am helping people and making a direct impact.


(YGSF) What do you feel makes a really good yoga class and why?

(Elaine) A good yoga class is one that can accommodate students of all levels, one that does not discriminate between those who have limited mobility and those who are hyper-mobile, one that includes appropriate modification for every single student and leaves none out. The students should feel more connected with their bodies, more aware of their breathing, more conscious of their thoughts and words, more ALIVE and EMPOWERED.


(YGSF) Aside from yoga, what are you truly passionate about?

(Elaine) Food and nutrition have been a big part of my life since about the time I started practicing yoga. I had my ups and downs with nutrition while I was trying to find a good balance for my body. I became vegetarian, then vegan for a brief period, and now a plant-based diet with some animal protein. Coming from a biology background, it is no wonder I am interested in how food interacts with the body. Eating IS an experiment as we navigate our way through the abundant sources of food that Mother Nature provides us to find what works and what doesn’t work for us. One man’s medicine and be another’s poison.

While my dietary habits are not perfect, I continually practice mindful and smart eating. I fuel my body appropriately so that I have the energy to continue to study, to teach, to share, and to grow spiritually. Very much like yoga practice, eating is also a practice. We practice eating for health with dedication so that we can find a middle ground of comfort and strength in our bodies.


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(YGSF) What is your favorite go-to snack recipe to fuel you for your practice and teaching?

(Elaine) The no-bake energy bites! They’re so easy to make, not to mention that the protein and fats from almond butter and flaxseeds will keep you satiated without weighing you down. The coconut flakes and chocolate chips heighten the taste so they almost feel like guilty treats!


(YGSF) What is next for Elaine?

(Elaine) I am embarking on a journey to become an IAYT-registered yoga therapist! This has been my life’s calling, and I have came across the right time and opportunity to let this calling manifest. You can follow my journey of studies, discovery, and growth at elaineyoga.com.

We hope Elaine’s yoga journey and appetite for food and adventure has inspired you in the way it has us!