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Stories from FIT, Inspire

A Day in the Life of Mark Seeto, Virgin Active’s Global Head of Yoga & Pilates

by Voices Wellness 05 May 2022
Photo: Virgin Active

Mark tells us what he envisions the post-pandemic wellness scene to be like, how he destresses, and what’s the biggest difference between yoga and Pilates. Interview by SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

From eschewing the corporate life to becoming a personal trainer at Virgin Active in early 2009, Mark Seeto has come a long way in his journey to find a career that he truly connects to. Today, he prides himself as the global head of yoga and Pilates for the international fitness club chain. We chat with him to find out what he envisions the post-pandemic wellness scene to be like, how he destresses, as well as his tips for aspiring yoga teachers.

 What’s in a day’s work for you?

I’ve made a career out of two programs that I adore, and that became a passion long before my career in health and wellbeing. Due to the ongoing pandemic, I’ve been working mostly from home, engaging with our teams across the globe via Microsoft teams and Zoom. My role is to support our teams in bringing high-quality yoga and Pilates experiences to more people. 

As the global head of yoga and Pilates at Virgin Active, what’s the most fulfilling part about your job, and what’s the most challenging?

It’s fulfilling to bring yoga and Pilates to thousands of people across the globe. Virgin Active is present in six countries across Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Now, we also have an online presence, which means that members can practice with us no matter where they are.

The most challenging part is the physical distance. I wish I could be everywhere, all the time, but I need to be mindful of how I spend my time supporting my teams. Right now, I’m in Singapore, so that feels fantastic after spending two and a half years in Australia.

What do you envision the post-pandemic wellness scene to be like?

Simply put, busy. People are more ready and willing to take care of themselves than ever. Flexible working arrangements are the norm now, which matters as people want to continue spending more time with their families and their non-work activities. Businesses will become more flexible, as well as take their employees’ well-being seriously.

More than just doing yoga classes once a week, wellbeing includes emotional, intellectual, occupational, social, spiritual, and environmental aspects.

Any tips for those visiting Virgin Active for the very first time?

Just do it. At Virgin Active, we know health clubs can be scary and that attending classes for the first time can be intimidating. It’s good to remember that we don’t have any expectations of you at Virgin Active. You don’t need to be fit, you don’t need to be flexible, you don’t need to wear the right clothes or look a certain way. You can be anyone, at any stage of your well-being journey, and we will meet you where you’re at, I promise.

Photo: Virgin Active

What’s some advice you’d give to someone hoping to become a yoga teacher?

Again, just do it. It’s such an incredible journey, and as much as we become yoga teachers to share the gift of yoga, we as teachers receive much more in return. Becoming a teacher has helped me shine a light on myself. I recommend practicing and embodying yoga and all eight limbs of it, from asana (yoga postures) todhyana (meditation), to ensure that you’re a well-rounded teacher.

What would you say is the biggest difference between yoga and Pilates?

The greatest difference is history. Yoga has had more than 5,000 years of history, while Pilates has around 100 years. As such, yoga has had time to develop its philosophical and spiritual side. But that’s not to say that Pilates doesn’t bring purpose and meaning. It absolutely does. No matter what you practice, there are life lessons to learn from both.

 What does wellness mean to you and why?

Wholeness. Aside from having a healthy body and mind, wellness is about the way we interact with the world around us. It’s how we feel about ourselves, how we understand our place and purpose, as well as how we build loving and trusting relationships, to care for one another and our planet.

How do you destress when life and work get overwhelming?

Shinrin yoku or forest bathing is my destress method of choice. I’m very blessed to live in Australia where I can be as far away from civilisation as I need. If I’m stressed out and need a moment, I go to a local park in Sydney and sit in the sun among the trees. I’ll leave my phone at home and absorb the natural world around me. Without any goal in mind, I just sit and observe the trees, grass, flowers, birds, insects, clouds, and more.

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