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The Last Time Nadya Hutagalung's Manager Saw Her Angry Was... 15 Years Ago

How does the yogi and former MTV VJ keep calm and carry on?

We live in times when rage incidents, some involving celebs, are not uncommon (ahem, Rui En's spat with her neighbours). If you think you need a little more Zen in your life, let Nadya Hutagalung show you how.

The Indonesian-Australian erstwhile MTV VJ and model, 42, is now based in Bali, where she lives with her husband (ex-national swimmer Desmond Koh) and three kids. “I don’t have any projects there, but I have some projects in [other Indonesian cities]. I’m working on something with Lifetime Channel now, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime project (laughs). It’s been a year in the making, but I can’t say anything about it right now, except that it’s a gift to the people I’m working with,” she says.

The avid eco-activist and UN ambassador (“We just finished a Clean Seas campaign [to raise awareness about plastic waste in oceans]”) is also the face of new yoga boutique studio The Yoga School, and was recently in town for the official launch.

Nadya at The Yoga School in Singapore, where she's an ambassador

8 DAYS: You come across as someone who can’t be ruffled. Have you always been so Zen?
NADYA HUTAGALUNG: Oh, no (laughs). As a working mum, it’s really, really hard to be Zen. We develop certain expectations of success, and just keep working towards it. You just have to be proactive about seeking [calmness].

When your inner world is at peace, it reflects on your outer self too. I know it sounds clichéd! I don’t think any one of us can reach the point of perfect Zen-ness, but I try. The natural state of our mind is a calm one, but we tend to throw other things in there through our compulsive actions or habits and stop being mindful.

Do you ever get annoyed?
My manager has seen me get angry once, but that was about 15 years ago. [Nadya’s manager: “She was hangry (angry ’cos she was hungry)!”) I don’t have any major pet peeves, but I get upset when people turn a blind eye to things just ’cos it doesn’t benefit them to help out in the short run. [For instance,] the actions of keyboard warriors are really useless. If you’re unsatisfied with something, then you should go out and make a difference.

As a yogi, how often do you meditate?
Every day, in one form or another. I lead a meditation group in Bali once a week. When I have more time to meditate, I can really feel its benefits in my life. When I first wake up and sit up in bed in the morning, I’d meditate for five minutes, unless I’m running late or my kids are pulling at me. Even having five minutes helps me find my pause button before I rush into the thick of things.

Nadya and her youngest daughter Nyla

How do you react when your kids are throwing a tantrum? 
It has gotten a lot easier [to deal with my kids], even though I’m not the perfect mum. It takes a lot of practice. I let them throw their tantrums and I tell them, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m here for you and we can talk when you’re feeling better.” I used to be very, very strict with them when they were younger. No meant no and that was it. I’d tell them, “You can cry and throw a tantrum all you want, but nothing’s gonna change!” But if you try to fight fire with fire, of course the fire gets bigger, right? So now I try to pacify my kids instead of going against them. I’ve become a lot more patient in recent years, especially since my youngest [daughter], Nyla, requires a lot of patience. 


Some people vent frustration by smashing things up, like at a rage room that was launched here recently. Would you ever go for that? 
Ooh, I saw that. Honestly, I think it’s counter-productive, sorry! A lot of things in this world work through cause and effect, and you’re just going to perpetuate your rage if you smash things. When you leave [the place], the issues you’re angry about are still going to be there. When I’m angry, I’d pause, take a walk and look at where my anger is coming from. When you realise how destructive anger is and how it doesn’t benefit you, it changes you.

What do you do to unwind after a long day? 
Yin yoga, [a form of yoga where you mindfully hold a pose for two to three minutes]. You really need to clear your mind, and yin yoga helps you do that. A lot of people experience emotional release when they do yin yoga. Some actually cry after a session! ’Cos they’re finally letting go of what’s bothering them, and the ‘armour’ that they put on to protect themselves.

How has yoga helped your kids? 
Nyla does yoga. She’s nine and way too flexible (laughs). At one point, she was leading the meditation class in her school in Bali. She attends the [the non-profit private school] Green School, where there’s a school-wide policy for students to meditate. My eldest son [Tyrone, 22] is doing yoga as well, but not my middle kid [Finn, 15]. He’s a teenager, so he’s like (pretends to roll her eyes). But he had to do it in school ’cos he’s attending the Green School too (laughs). We just don’t force him to practise yoga at home, ’cos everyone needs to be inspired to do something.

For more info about The Yoga School, go to www.yogaschool.asia

SELECT PHOTOS: EALBERT HO

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