In this interview, Raisa Gabrielli, yoga instructor and the founder of Love, Light, Lemons, shares a little about what she does and how the pandemic has affected the way she operates.
What do you do?
I teach yoga and manage Love, Light, Lemons – a brand currently curating ethical and sustainable activewear doubling as loungewear.
How did you get into the industry?
It’s interesting because I was not an active person until around six years ago and was not aware of sustainable consumerism before 2016. So that being said, I entered the industry unexpectedly.
To cut the story short, I became a Yoga Alliance certified teacher after attending a 200 Hours Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) at the Himalayan Yoga Academy in Kathmandu, Nepal.
As for Love, Light, Lemons, I knew from the start that I wanted to uplift communities in need and my customers simultaneously. Initially, I sold eco-friendly candles but then realised eco-friendly sportswear was lacking in Malaysia, so I switched it up.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes:
One day during my YTT, I heard someone calling my name. My guru, Dr Subodh, insisted on my presence while he demonstrated Vaman Dhauti. Blissfully unaware, I arrived at the scene and was introduced to a practice that detoxes the body and loosely translates into self-induced vomiting. Every time I think of the sight, I can’t help but smile or laugh because of how absurd it was. Yes, it was shocking to see, but it opened my eyes to the depths of yoga.
What’s a food memory from your childhood or travels that stands out?
Before I switched to a vegan diet, I would eat anything and everything literally. When I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I convinced the friend that I was travelling with to eat unconventional food with me; such as ants, crickets, a scorpion, silkworms, a spider, and crocodile. Instead of trying exotic food on the street, we opted for Bugs Café (now closed) as the French chef conventionally prepared the dishes. Think a Danish filled with ants, crocodile curry, and the likes. To be honest, I really enjoyed the succulent silkworms and how much the spider tasted like soft shell crab!
As for after I became vegan, a food memory that makes me giggle would be when I was solo backpacking through Europe and was enjoying a pizza along the Grand Canal in Venice, accompanied by a seagull. The waiter had just placed a bread basket on the table when the seagull swooped in and successfully stole a piece. Immediately, the waiter started yelling, “Mama Mia! Mama Mia!” and I burst out laughing.
What food and beverage pairings do you enjoy?
Totally basic of me, but Japanese food with either green tea, hojicha, or matcha.
What’s your favourite yoga pose?
I oscillate between several, but the yoga pose I perform most frequently would be forward fold. If I notice myself sitting for too long, I’ll just stand up and perform forward fold. If I’m on my phone for a prolonged time (to reply to messages, to check social media etc.), I’ll most likely be in forward fold – my sister walked in on me like this once and was wondering what I was doing with my phone in between my legs haha!
What yoga pose took you the longest to master?
I’m still learning to master many, many poses, so the answer is too long to list. Still, the question is a reminder that yoga is never about mastering a pose but about how you feel in a pose and what that feeling can teach you.
What’s one of the wildest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
Without going into details, learning through experience that people can appear to embody yogic principles but, in reality, embody the exact opposite was wild. Simply because my employer then really seemed like the ‘perfect picture’ of what a spiritual person should be. The experience taught me about spiritual bypassing, similar to toxic positivity, and how some people hide behind yogic or spiritual concepts to avoid actual – oftentimes, difficult – inner work. Not to forget, it solidified my opinion on how ‘perfect’ truly is a societal construct.
The perfect day off would be:
Any day spent in or around nature is a perfect day, but if we’re speaking
strictly off-work, then not needing to answer messages or check my phone is an ideal time for me!
A day in the life of a Raisa Gabrielli is…
More busy than one would assume, that’s for sure! I plan 99% of my classes so that can take time as it’s several classes that I’m planning. If I’m not planning classes, I’m trying to brush up on my knowledge by watching and learning from other teachers around the world.
For Love, Light, Lemons, a typical day can range from planning the Instagram feed to generating invoices to calculating finances and more.
What does Raisa Gabrielli do for fun?
The answer really depends on the day and on my mood, haha! Some days I’m indoors binge-watching Gaia.com, and other days I’m outdoors exploring nature. I genuinely love cooking, especially intuitive cooking, so I do that a lot, too, and it’s fun for me.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about yoga and Love, Light, Lemons?
Yoga is for anyone and everyone, so forget about whatever misconception you may have heard and just try it! Considering the various effects of the pandemic, yoga may just be what helps you feel more balanced.
Yoga aside, for those unaware, refugees in Malaysia are not granted access to education or work. Luckily, UNHCR permits refugees to work under NGOs. I’ve partnered with two refugee-run sewing centres in Kuala Lumpur. Each item produced by Love, Light, Lemons contributes to fair wages. Instead of ranting about fast fashion and the amount of plastic in our clothes, I’ll highlight how I use only GOTS certified 100% organic cotton and that you should do your own research.
What’s your view on the yoga scene in KL?
To be blunt, I’ve encountered numerous studios not allowing teachers to incorporate breathwork or chanting into classes. However, since 2018, I’ve noticed more yoga studios are open to the idea of a more traditional practice. Yes, purely physical yoga is great, but breathwork and chanting elevate the practice and connect the student deeper to themselves. That being said, I’m looking forward to the fitness industry, in general, incorporating more mindful practices not centred around weight loss.
How has the pandemic changed you as a person?
During the first lockdown in 2020, everyone was provided with a lot of time to think, so that’s what I did. Since then, I’ve identified countless triggers – some have been worked through, and others are work in progress. As a result, I’ve gotten clearer than ever on my goals and am continuously working towards achieving them. Another lesson I learned was the importance of taking time to connect but to disconnect, too.
How has the pandemic changed you as a teacher/ manager?
In terms of yoga, it’s made me more technologically competent. It’s taught me to focus on correct cueing as well due to not being able to physically adjust my students.
For Love, Light, Lemons, it’s changed the way I interact with the artisans. For example, FaceTime meetings and collecting samples via Grab Delivery. It’s strengthened my connection with the community I’m supporting, too. During Ramadan, I collaborated with Nadi Tenang Studio by teaching a pay-as-you-wish class; the donations provided The Craft Shop with a delicious Iftar meal. Recently, I collaborated with AkasaFit to fundraise money for Mang Tha to help with their rent.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
Once the restrictions ease, I’m hoping to shoot more content for AkasaFit – a streaming platform focused on fitness content – and finalise the upcoming collection by Love, Light, Lemons.
Thank you, Monica, for taking the time to interview me and thank you to all the readers that have gotten to the end of this interview!