Yeatoeh Lhamo Penjore is Bhutan’s first woman to venture into bodybuilding

PROFILE: Sitting behind a desk piled heavy with books, twenty-four-year-old Yeatoeh Lhamo Penjore looks up.  Her office in Thimphu primary school is small but neat.  She is a teacher there.

Yeatoeh is the first Bhutanese woman to venture into bodybuilding, a sport largely dominated by men, especially in a country like Bhutan.  Women don’t take up bodybuilding because they think the sport may turn them into burly giants.

That, Yeatoeh says, is a misconception many women have.  She took up bodybuilding to keep herself fit and healthy.

“Female body is different from male’s. Bodybuilding isn’t just about building big muscles,” said Yeatoeh.  The sport can help women stay in shape. “I started off three years ago with small weight lifting and cardio, just to keep myself fit,” said Yeatoeh. “I was chubby and not really a sports enthusiast back then.”

After a few months of serious cardio at the gym, she saw drastic change in her body. “I started to look good. I felt good about myself,” she said. “The outcome encouraged me to strive and achieve more in this field. I’d found my kind of sport finally.”

The five-foot-six-inch teacher from Thimphu weighed 65kg before she started to train.  Now she weighs 57kg and maintains this weight.

Yeatoeh has represented Bhutan in three international competitions.  And in all the three she has proven her will and might.  She won a bronze at the 48th Asian bodybuilding, fitness and physique sports championship in Macau last year.  The same year, she was among the top five positions during the World bodybuilding and physique sports championship in India.

“It’s really a very nerve-wrecking experience to be on stage,” said Yeatoeh, looking back. “But with support from my family and friends, I did fine. I’ll always cherish those moments.” Her mother, who is sitting next to her, gives an approving smile.

Yeatoeh said teaching and working out continuously could sometime be a challenge. “But I manage my time properly and make sure that I’ve time for both, however little.”

With the National Bodybuilding Championship just around the corner, Yeatoeh is training hard.  She said her goal is to win the title and to promote the sport in the country. “I want to win, not just for myself, but also for my family, friends and all my supporters, who’ve been the source of my courage.”

Yeatoeh said that bodybuilding not only helps individuals live a healthy life, but it also fosters values, such as time management, discipline and determination, to achieve your life goals. “I want to encourage women and young girls to take up bodybuilding. Working out will, of course, make you feel tired and drained, but it helps you become healthier and happier at the end of the day.

By Younten Tshedup