At Home is a portrait series by photographer Chloe Paul, documenting BodyMindLife’s teachers in the spaces they have created to play and practice. We take a glimpse into their lives, explore their relationship with the practice, and investigate how they hold space for the community both virtually and within the physical structure of the studios.
Join us as we tune in with Pilates teacher Johnson Chong.
Who are you/What do you teach?
My name is Johnson Chong. I’ve been teaching Yoga and Meditation for the last 12 years and Pilates for the last 10 years. I’ve also taught Gyrotonic for the last 5 years. I’m a shamanic energy medicine practitioner, Reiki Master and a trained bodyworker.
Why were you originally drawn to Yoga?
I started Yoga in acting conservatory in my hometown New York. It was part of our curriculum to help us clear the mind-body. The purpose was to help us deepen our awareness of unconscious physical movement ticks and patterns we had, so that we could create characters from a place of neutrality. I eventually delved more into the spiritual aspects of yoga and meditation because the practice helped me with my nerves and anxiety as a very insecure performer. I started learning and teaching pilates because it gave me a deeper understanding of structural anatomy and it was really beneficial for strengthening all of my injuries from dance and performance.
Has your relationship with the practice changed over time?
From a physical and mental space, I do not think nearly as much while I’m practicing. I am able to access of state of focus where I am experiencing the fullness of my breath, while scanning the sensations and emotions that are moving through me at any given time, without attaching to them. I am also less scattered mentally during the practice. Instead of going over a laundry list of things I have to do, my mind drops into a state of emptiness during the practice. So in that way, my practice has evolved. I have gotten more injured over the years doing various extreme things, like landing incorrectly trampolining, etc and so I approach the practice not looking to go into the extremes. Instead, it’s more about meeting my edges, and acknowledging my limitations and moving on.
Can you tell us about what you do with your stones?
Yes those are my medicine stones. Or kuyas. I use them in shamanic healing sessions to help clients remove the hoocha, or stuck energy blocking their chakras.
Has your perception of home changed in the last few months?
I don’t perceive home to be a physical location. So my perception of home has not really shifted because to me, home is where ever I feel safe and fully in alignment with what I am doing. However, I will say I feel more grounded than I have been in a long time. It’s the first time in 10 years that I have been in the same country for so long. And in that way, I feel really blessed because it’s enabled me to reevaluate and reprioritise what is important in my life, and where I want to go in my career in holistic wellness.
What do you love about what you do?
I love seeing people on the pathway to health. I love having to step up every class and make sure the people there have a great experience. I love being involved in something where you can never be good enough. It’s impossible to reach a point where you have mastered teaching a class. You can always teach a better class and I love the constant evolving nature of it. I love the variety. Every class is different with new people, new capacities and, of course, new tunes.
What does your home practice mean to you?
Home practice is not something that I tend to do in my physical home. When we were in a full blown lockdown, I preferred to practice outside in the park. I have very clear delineated spaces for where I do things. I cannot work out in my bedroom or living room. I have a meditation room specifically for that and healing work. And my home practice is often done outdoors in a neutral space, or now, I go into the studio to practice.
How do you feel when you’re in your flow?
When I feel like I’m in my flow, I feel creative and divinely inspired. I feel that time stops, and there is this sense of pervasive peace that washes over me.
Have you had any insights about yourself or life during the pandemic?
I’ve been in Australia a little over a year, and moved here from Singapore where I lived for 6 years. I got here just in time for the bush fires last year and then the COVID lockdown. It actually was a big reminder for me of how the universe really has my back because I couldn’t imagine a better place to be during the pandemic. So I have been very grateful and blessed to be here in Australia. Other insights I’ve had myself and helped clients work through revolves around the nature of reality and the conditioned patterns we think are true which are not in fact true. Because we have slowed down to such a degree and certain liberties we once took for granted, like international travel, was stripped from us, it really forced me to look at every thought and action that I made. Is everything I am thinking, saying and doing in the fullest integrity to who I am and who I want to become.
How do you foster your mental wellbeing?
I meditate. I dance. I write. I do yoga, pilates and work out. I head out to nature. I eat a plant-based diet to keep my body clean. I read inspirational personal development books and spiritual books. I try to connect with my friends or like minded people as regularly as I can. I also run my spiritual programs, create meditative experiences for people and run my own podcast called Truth Wisdom Freedom Conversations as a way of contributing back to those who want it or need it. Being of service is a sure-fired way of staying in holistic wellbeing. Because to me, mental wellbeing must have a spiritual component as well, otherwise it’s not complete.
You are almost unfailingly upbeat? Does anything get you down?
Of course, I’m human like the rest of us. Just because I work in the wellness space doesn’t mean that I’m immune to stress and the overwhelm of life sometimes. I just bounce back quicker because I have trained myself and worked a lot on it. What puts me into a low wave is when I slip out of integrity for a moment and do something that might step on someone else’s toes. I become more disappointed in myself when I do something out of alignment with my values rather than being affected negatively by external circumstances. I can’t really think of anything external that has bothered me so much, not Trump, not COVID, I’ve remained quite neutral about it all.
Who are your teachers/who inspires you?
What are you watching/reading/listening to?
Evolving Dharma – Meditation, Buddhism and the Next Generation of Enlightenment by Dr Jay Michaelson.
Tell us something silly you have missed during the pandemic?
I’m silly all the time. So I don’t feel like I have been not silly during the pandemic. If anything I’m more silly. I created a drag persona called Mayflower Tadpole who makes fun of overly spiritual people in these silly instagram videos I made. I miss being silly with my friends abroad since I’m rather new to Australia I don’t yet have a solid circle of physical friends here. I also miss traveling abroad and teaching my retreats and workshops internationally. Practice with Johnson live and online, and connect with him on instagram.
About Chloe Paul
Chloe Paul is a portrait and social photographer from Sydney, Australia. Over the last decade, she has created imagery for Prada, Dior, Moet&Chandon, Burberry and Christian Louboutin. Her work has featured in Harpers Bazaar, Vogue, Elle and Instyle. When not working with influential publications and high profile personalities, she can be found capturing the world on her Hassleblad.