Why I Went From Monk to Motivator

Why I Went From Monk to Motivator

Instructor Sam Yo shares what he’s learned about self and service.

By PelotonUpdated November 13, 2020


The echo of a bell rouses me. It's 4:00 AM, and as with many mornings before the sun rises, the air has a slight chill that forces my senses to awaken. Having my bed on the floor makes my body stiff, which I can feel as I stumble in the dark to the bathroom. I turn on a light above the basin where I wash my face, and as I look at my reflection in the mirror, I’m still surprised to see ... I have no eyebrows. Even months after shaving them off to become a monk, it still takes a moment to get used to on the rare occasion I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I dress in my orange robes, slip on my slippers and make that short walk to the temple for morning prayers and meditations. The musk of incense builds as the room slowly fills with monks communing to learn about self and service.

Fast forward to many years later, and the ring of a bell wakes me again—but this time it’s not the gong from the temple elder, but an alarm on my iPhone. It’s 4:00 AM, and as with many mornings in London, there’s a chill in the air left over from the overnight rain. I stumble into the bathroom, my body stiff from the 16 classes, four gym sessions and 50 cycling miles I’ve put in during the week. I ask Alexa to turn on the lights so I can get ready in the bathroom, splashing cold water on my face, rubbing my eyes and eyebrows, trying to kick my senses into waking up. I put on my activewear, lace up my Nikes and get on my road bike, heading in for the first of eight fitness classes I will be teaching today. Once I arrive, I fill the studio with the funky tones of Bruno Mars, inviting members to gather together for a workout in betterment of self and service.

Life has a way of repeating a situation with a different twist, and being aware of when it comes around again is what helps us to grow and evolve. If we do the same workout more than once, for example, we’re able to discover something new about ourselves every time. And if you set your motivational mindset to use the workout in order to apply service to others, such as your kids or family, you will be unstoppable. To help navigate these decisions, we can break it down into two things: self and service. Does this better oneself and does this give service to others?

"Life has a way of repeating a situation with a different twist, and being aware of when it comes around again is what helps us to grow and evolve."

— Sam Yo

img-1-Why I Went From Monk to Motivator

My decision to go into the monastery was purely motivated by self, to learn more about my heritage and roots as a first generation Thai/Chinese person growing up in East London. I believe that to know where you are going, you must first understand where you’re from. (As a guy in my twenties, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one still trying to discover who he was!)

What I didn't expect—or even realize until much later—was that the experience of being a monk unconsciously ingrained in me a motivation for service. Having spent 20 years as a professional actor, training as a professional dancer and now going into my 15th year as a fitness professional, that service for others came from my own creative expression and has evolved into helping people invest time into themselves as a priority through health and fitness. As I approach my first anniversary at Peloton, I am grateful for the amount of service I can provide to others, and with this platform, help evolve my own personal growth in order to continue contributing.

Ready to ride with Sam? Join one of his classes to experience his motivational style.

img-2-Why I Went From Monk to Motivator