Inspirational Mover - Emily Lola Tan

January 21, 2020

Emily pushing weights across a gym floor

When it comes to serious inspiration in the movement world, one of the individuals we can't get enough of is Emily Lola Tan ( @theemilytan ). We honestly don't think there's anything she can't do. "A self-described ‘jack of all trades’, Emily Lola Tan is a Malaysian, Hong Kong-based fitness guru and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in the wellness industry as a performer, practitioner, and teacher. A major figure in the fitness industry, she appeared on the TV series Body Blaze Get Fired Up on LiTV and has been featured in numerous magazines including CosmoBody HK, Core Magazine HK and The Star News Online." - Hive Life, Female Fitness Warrior Talks Strength, Resilience & Career After Battling Cancer

Emily mid-leap dancing on a rooftop

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I enjoy experiments.  That has been my MO throughout work, which has been adopted so much as my lifestyle.  Experimenting revealed interests I never thought of I would adopt from young, most significantly since a decade and a half ago in the industry of health, fitness, and movement.  I was involved in school sports since primary school, plus my parents were both advocates of strength training. Naturally, the gym environment hardy felt foreign when I started working in sales for a global gym in 2004.  After a few years in management roles, I joined as business partner and founding member of Malaysia's first pole and aerial arts academy - Viva Vertical. Since then, my experiences have expanded to business development, marketing, coaching, performing, and education development, as we had developed a pole instructor certification program that's accredited internationally.  Despite having "narrowed in" on a niche audience, I maintained a professional interest in mainstream fitness, gaining experiences with roles like TV show host, choreographer, educator, presenter and of course, coach. My personal interests have been broad too but a few that are still current today are dance, movement, martial arts, and self-enrichment education. I identify with my work and personal interests because those experiences had opened up opportunities to travel A LOT and live in multiple cities.  Since my cancer diagnosis, multiple bouts of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, I had relied on my interest in experimenting to strengthen my way back and beyond the desire to live. The latest project I am determined to keep ongoing, is me, and how mental health plays an important role in how I live and how I love.

What kind of mover are you?

Intuitive.  Ask me that a few years ago I would have said "freestyle" but the term is essentially intuitive.  Today, I move without the pressure or need of labels. Terminology fluidity only exists to allow other people a way of identifying and finding common ground.

What motivates you to move?

Energy.  I took having an abundance of energy for granted before cancer.  Now that I'm so grateful to feel energy surging through my body, I choose to pay more attention to it.  Taking the time to feel what kind of energy is present and then deciding which movement tool to channel it.

What are your go-to warm-up and cool down rituals?

I have not practiced any warm-ups or cool downs routines for a few years now, not since I've decided the concept of them served me very little for the time spent on traditional, cookie-cutter routines.  However, reframing the time spent prior and after a dedicated training/practice session helped me adopt it as part of the day's work, as opposed to them being separate entities. Simply put, how I prepare for movement will depend on what the movement is for the day.  Sometimes warm-ups are cognitively planned movement prep, sometimes warm-ups are to invoke a primal state through play, sometimes warm-ups are intimately with creativity.

Who has previously or is currently inspiring you in movement? And why?

Over the years, a few names stand out.  Fraser Quelch, VP of TRX Training education, brought to light a firm yet progressive stance of human movement in a rigid fitness industry perspective.  Dan Edwards, founder of Parkour Generations, I would describe his teachings of human movement adaptation as movement philosophy. Marlo Fisken, creator of Flow Movement, her teaching methods broke me out of my own labeling imprisonment.  I've unlocked a whole different way to approach moving, that I don't need to move like someone else, and start to love the way I made to move. These are authentic people I personally have friendships with and couldn't be more grateful.

"I enjoy experiments." -Emily TanCan you tell me about a favorite movement moment you experienced and what made that moment so special?

Moving with my eyes closed.  If you can imagine how cautious you'd need to be so as to not smash any toes, fingers and face on something, while allowing that beastly energy express itself through an array of movement that might look raw, elegant, clumsy, animalistic, dynamic, soft intertwined, it's that edge of a cliff you're moving to music to.  That one session took me somewhere I never imagined, and I moved in ways I never planned - that was special.

What is one thing you never go to the gym/studio without?


What does diversity and inclusion in your movement practice mean to you?

Being a movement ninja! HA! Diversity and inclusion enables me to explore with less fear.  And we all like to fear a little less, don't we?

A little note from Exhale Movement:

Emily underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2018. Since then she has had to make recovery her primary focus. Unfortunately, a bone marrow transplant and continued cancer treatment is tremendously expensive. If you have the means to financially help Emily so she can continue to recover it would be appreciated. Thank you!

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