Duli, Taiwan: Yoga Retreat for the Body, Mind & Spirit

Katrina Mayer, author and motivational speaker, once said: “Time spent in nature heals your body, mind and spirit.” I found this quote to be especially true as I enter the last leg of my year-long travel journey. After a few months of nonstop travelling from country to country, and then settling back into life in Taipei as a student learning Mandarin once again, I felt I needed a little getaway to reflect, relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with myself. Call it divine intervention or whatever you will, one night as I’m googling away on my laptop searching for travelling to Taitung, I found out about a yoga retreat taking place there at the end of June.

I’m so happy to have discovered Teacher Joe’s (Joe 老師) 3 days/2 nights yoga retreat in the scenic Eastern tropical region of Taiwan. The sceneries along the way from the train station to our retreat centre in Duli, a small village in Taitung county, was absolutely breathtaking: trees so green and lush, and the ocean has 3 to 4 different shades of blue. After seeing this, I now understand why the Taiwanese always recommend people to go to Taitung. Fewer people come here, so it seems as if it is untouched by the human hand. It’s like nature in its true form.

2016-06-24 13.44.01

I love the secluded area of the retreat centre called Oceantree Yogasurf Ecocamp (https://www.facebook.com/TYTguesthouse/). It is run by a very down to earth and extremely welcoming couple, Mark and Kite, and they have two very cute children, plus two friendly and docile dogs. Mark teaches surfing, while Kite teaches yoga.

2016-06-25 14.49.20

From here, I really felt in tune with nature, from listening to the singing of the cicadas,to the chirping of the birds and sounds of the ocean waves. Seeing the neighbouring pineapple field and the farmers harvesting the pineapples, and then eating the pineapples in our vegetarian meals was an incredible experience. I always thought that pineapples came from trees like coconuts, and never thought to investigate it. When I discovered they actually came from the ground, I was in awe and once again am reminded that in life, we take a lot of things for granted, or it’s based on our own ignorance. At that moment, I made a pact to be genuinely more aware of things around me and not to take things for granted.

2016-06-26 06.31.08

The pineapple field

 

The vegetarian meals in the retreat was a reminder to eat healthy and of the connection between earth and us. I’m inspired to cook healthy homemade vegetarian/vegan meals when I return home to Canada, thanks to this retreat centre’s talented creative chef Jake!

At this retreat, I discovered 4 new things about myself:

1. My Mandarin has improved a lot since last year, despite taking a 4 months’ break from it. I was comfortable being in a full-immersion Mandarin speaking environment. For the most part, I understood what everyone was saying and I could communicate with them. Of course at times I would be confused, and could not find the right vocabulary or grammar pattern to talk. I’m still learning the language. At the same time, I realize that taking a break from a language and then getting back into it truly works!

2. Sometimes you just have to cast your fear aside and not think about anything, and do it. Thanks to Mark’s encouragement and attitude that “surfing is fun and like playing in the water”, that is exactly what I decided to do for my first surfing lesson. I have always been afraid of the water even as a kid even though my parents put me through swimming lessons. In the process of letting go, I learned that I love surfing! It is so fun and it is definitely something I want to continue so that goes hand in hand with relearning swimming as an adult.

3. Another huge fear I have decided to cope with this year throughout my travels is to try to overcome my phobia of dogs. In the past if a dog came near me, I would be freaking out, jumping up and down, and even getting on the table to get away from it. Therefore I cannot be in the same room with it. Two months ago, after meeting a very well-trained dog in Macau, I guess I got some courage to see if I can continue to be closer to dogs. This time even though I’m still apprehensive, I noticed that it is okay for me to be in the same room with them if they are well-behaved like Mark and Kite’s dogs, as long as they don’t pay too much attention to me.

4. I used to think that I’ll never be able to do aerial yoga because it requires a lot of flexibility and doing craziness high up. It is amazing to discover what happens when there is a very good encouraging yoga instructor (thank you Joe 老師!!) and when I let go of my doubts. Aerial yoga is actually not as difficult as I perceived it to be, and it is really fun!!!!

2016-06-25 17.19.52

Aside from making connections with the others, here are two of my other favourite moments on this yoga retreat:

-Waking up early at dawn to do beach yoga as we listened to the sounds of nature (ocean waves, birds and cicadas singing) around us, and seeing the sunrise.

1469528536912

-Facing the pineapple field and feeling the ocean spray touch my face once in a while as I’m reading about mindfulness in my quiet spot.

2016-06-25 13.20.26

In reflection, this yoga retreat in beautiful and serene nature was indeed perfect healing for my body, mind and spirit. I am filled with gratitude and look forward to living with mindfulness and finding peace within myself each day! 🙂

Lunar New Year in Taipei & Next Adventure

As promised, I’ll be sharing with you how I celebrated Lunar New Year in Taipei. Today is the second day of Lunar New Year! 🙂

When I arrived to Taipei end of summer last year, I was excited that I’ll be spending Lunar New Year here, and was looking forward to it, because I thought it would be more festive than in Canada. To my shock, it is not as festive as I imagined it to be; even my local friends admit that Taipei is the least festive city during Lunar New Year. The main reason is that most of the people who usually crowd the streets and MRT stations are actually transplants. They live in Taipei because of work and when it’s Lunar New Year, they return to their hometown to celebrate it. I learned that over 50% of whom I assumed were local Taipei residents return to their hometowns. Therefore, the past few days have been eerily quiet and empty, since most stores close too. I’ve actually been enjoying the peace and quiet the past few days, with less people on both the streets and subway.

Nonetheless, there are some little festivities around the city to remind us that it’s still Lunar New Year, such as red decorations and Lunar New Year sales in stores that are opened during this holiday.

Below, I’ll share a few photos with you so you can get a feel of Lunar New Year festivities:

2016-02-04 11.48.47

Of course Taipei 101 Mall is decorated and it’s opened to tourists. 🙂

2016-02-04 12.52.32

Inside of Taipei 101 Mall

20160207_124657

Another department store with beautiful red decoration at front door

2016-02-04 13.23.05

I thought it was cool that even Krispy Kreme celebrates Lunar New Year and sells Lunar New Year themed donuts!

2016-02-04 13.23.56

Top row, sells a few kinds of Lunar New Year donuts, the monkey one is so cute! 🙂

2016-02-05 08.41.49

Of course lots of stores sell Lunar New Year decorations…red means good luck! 🙂

2016-02-05 09.15.37

Some typical New Year snacks Taiwanese eat as introduced to us by my Mandarin professor. 

 

I was very happy that my landlords invited me to go grocery shopping with them and experience the hecticness of buying food to prepare the two most important meals/dinners of Lunar New Year: New Year’s Eve & First Day. It was most crowded with people at the grocery stores and the markets. That was where I felt the most festive atmosphere! 🙂

2016-02-06 16.23.44

2016-02-06 16.42.39

2016-02-06 16.48.51

This is Hua Gao (literal translation: Flower High); it’s a very yummy sweet cake that is eaten during this time because it means in whatever endeavour you pursue (e.g. work place) you will be promoted to a higher level. 

20160207_102615

Busy Nanmen Market on New Year’s Eve

20160208_105325.jpg

I was told by many Taiwanese friends that I won’t be able to see a lion dance in Taipei, but they were wrong! On the first day of Lunar New Year, I was woken up by loud drum sounds so I quickly went to see where the noise came from. I was really thrilled to see the lion dance from afar, on my apartment balcony. This lion dance went on for about 20 minutes in front of the department store. Very festive indeed!!

Eating homemade New Year’s Eve and First Day of New Year dinners with my warm-hearted lovely landlords and their family was a very wonderful experience! I learned it takes them the whole day to prepare such a feast!

20160207_192338

New Year’s Eve Dinner

20160208_192339

First Day of Lunar New Year Dinner

20160209_082043

I found it very interesting my landlords decorated even a refrigerator door with red Spring scrolls. They told me that wherever there are doors, the red Spring scrolls must be put on. The Chinese character on the fridge door means “full”. The word full signifies that all year long one is never hungry, and have enough to eat. 🙂

Living in Taipei has been beyond what I expected…I’m filled with happiness every day and feel so blessed to have met so many warm-hearted and caring souls, and exposed to so many different exciting everyday adventures!!

I am now off on my next adventure, to New Zealand for my 200 hours yoga training and some travelling down under and some other countries for the next few months.

I will not bring my laptop while travelling, but when inspired by what I see and experience, will try my best to share with you via instagram. On the right hand side of my blog, I’ve added an instagram link (violet_everydaygirl), so feel free to click on it whenever you want to see where I am in the world! 🙂

Like this sweet dumpling soup that my landlords are sending me off with (they say it’s for good luck this year and will encourage me to be the best person I can be as only sweet thoughts and words will come from me), I wish you all a very sweet Year of the Monkey, and wherever you are or go, may only sweet and good things follow! ❤

20160209_111121

With love and gratitude,

Violet 

 

 

The Power of Positive Affirmations

This summer I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to get my kids yoga teacher certification. One of my favourite moments during training was a 20 minute drawing and breathing activity where we reflected on who we are in an authentic honest way.

It seems we are constantly surrounded by noises, chaos and the hectic pace and demands of our daily lives whether it is from our family responsibilities, work tasks etc. I find it especially true in the twenty-first century whereby technology or social media plays a really big role in most people’s lives. In the process of meeting the demands of this pace of life where we just live on “autopilot”, we lose ourselves, the core of who we are. There is no time to really think about who we are and what we want to do in our lives to be truly happy. It can be so dire, that some people experience mental, physical and emotional burnout and depression overtime.

This drawing and breathing exercise reminded me once again how important it is to really “pause”, whether it is for a few minutes or one hour out of our daily lives to simply breathe and connect with ourselves and think positive thoughts. Remember: “You are what you think.” These positive thoughts are essentially positive affirmations that help us to realize and actualize our potential and dreams.

One of my dance instructors once shared with us her positive affirmation. She said that every morning when she wakes up, before she does anything, these are the words she utters: “I am happy. I am healthy. I am blessed.” We all thought it was a beautiful way to start the day. As part of her class, we made it into our routine to end the class with these words. I truly felt these words and believed it about myself as I continued my everyday life.

Here are my positive affirmations from my yoga drawing and breathing exercise which I truly see and feel as my true self:

Butterfly_affirmations

I have this on my cell phone that I look at as a daily reminder. 🙂

What are yours?

They can be as short and simple as my dance instructor’s or as long as mine or anyway you want them. It only matters that you are finding time to pause, breathe, reflect and believe in the power of these two words: I AM.

Go and try it, and see how powerful your own positive affirmations can have on your life to achieve genuine happiness!

Greetings from Abroad!

20150827_123824

Hello from Taipei!

I know that it has been a long while since I’ve been here and you may be wondering why the complete silence. So, let me explain…

For the past 6 months, I’ve been busy preparing for my year abroad, from researching, getting paper work completed to finally packing! I feel blessed that my profession allows me to take time for myself to rest, reflect, rejuvenate and grow.

I’m really excited that I’ll be combining my love for travelling, meeting new people, and embracing new cultural experiences with my passion for learning during my sabbatical. To be precise, I’ll be learning Mandarin and getting deeper into yoga! In fact, my travel abroad adventure began in The Big Easy (New Orleans) last month already where I completed my Kids Yoga Teacher Training with an amazing Canadian trainer, Aruna Kathy Humphrys of Young Yoga Masters, and a wonderful supportive like-minded group of American classmates. Sightseeing in New Orleans and eating tons of mouth-watering Southern food has always been on my bucket list, and I’m happy I checked that off!

Fast forward to now, I’m currently living in Taipei. I flew here a week ago and am slowly getting over jetlag and settling into my new home. I’ve enrolled in a university program to learn Mandarin for foreigners at the National Taiwan University, and am looking forward to beginning class next week!

While Taipei will be my home base for the next 12 months, I also have some travel plans for New Zealand, Australia, Bali and other places that I’ve yet to decide on.

Quite a few people asked me before I left if I’m afraid to be travelling solo and not know anyone in any places I’ll be going to, and to be honest, there are moments when I doubt myself and get scared. However, for the most part I’m absolutely thrilled to embark on this adventure of a lifetime and to fulfill some of my dreams. I only think of the positives. I had a beautiful memorable time in New Orleans and met friends whom I know I’ll keep in touch for life. The beginning of my travel adventure in New Orleans was definitely a promise of yet more wonderful things to come. 🙂

One of my good friends shared this quote with me: “To travel alone is to get lost on purpose, in order to be found.” I hope this quote will inspire me to find my own true path as I travel physically, mentally and spiritually throughout some parts of the world.

I can’t wait to share my everyday travelling/learning adventures and bucket list with you and thank you for being part of my journey here!

Stay tuned!

XO, Violet

Some very thoughtful items I've received from dear colleagues and friends (THANK YOU!), or I bought on my own for my year abroad that I've packed with me. :)

Some very thoughtful items I’ve received from dear colleagues and friends (THANK YOU!), or I bought on my own for my year abroad that I’ve packed with me. 🙂

 

 

A Neighbourhood Gem: Robson St. Yoga

Vancouver is known as the yoga capital of Canada. According to my wonderful yoga instructors, literally, in every corner you walk to, there’s a yoga studio tucked in somewhere.  True enough, if you’re in the heart of downtown Vancouver, you’ll find a yoga studio somehow and somewhere.

While staying in Vancouver a few months ago, I didn’t want to miss out on trying a yoga class. After all, I was in the yoga capital of Canada! In between my packed itinerary, I managed to squeeze in a little time for some yoga. To my joy, I found one a few steps away from my hotel on Robson Street, west end of Vancouver.

The location of this yoga studio is so discreet that if one passed by it, you wouldn’t notice it. The outside studio sign is mixed with other signs. It is located in a little market/plaza/mall called “Robson Public Market”.

2014-07-08 11.46.36

The yoga sign is on the side of this market, underneath the Canada Post sign

When I entered this building, I had no idea what to expect. I only had a feeling it wouldn’t be like the fancy studios that I’m used to due to its location.

2014-07-08 11.45.29

Robson St. Yoga shares space with an eclectic variety of shops

Robson St. Yoga is on the second floor, above the produce market. Yogis are greeted by this nice entrance with its logo sign plastered at the front, and leave their shoes outside before entering the yoga space.

2014-07-08 11.45.03

2014-07-08 11.24.31

To my pleasant surprise the yoga space was simply a basic room with minimal decoration (there are 2 photos of people doing a yoga pose, a buddha statue and a handmade yoga sign on the high back wall). The room was only big enough to fit in 12 people, which was why, I found out when I arrived, students were supposed to sign up online for a space in class. Luckily, I was able to squeeze in as the last student and pay the drop in fee ($15). Our yoga instructor had an iPad to sign all of us in. Another delightful surprise awaiting me was that yoga mats were provided for free and already laid out for every student who signed up. Instead of using my travel yoga mat, I decided to use one of these mats. I really liked this idea and after class, we just had to clean the mat with the studio’s spray and towel.

2014-07-08 11.22.35

Yoga mats already laid out for students

2014-07-08 11.22.57

A view of yoga room from the front

 

2014-07-08 11.28.05

Cleaning towel and spray provided for us to clean our yoga mats after class

I did the one hour “Morning Flow” class with Katy as my instructor. Since this was a morning class, it had an energetic pace to it and the poses were based on Ashtanga. Katy introduced me to a few new poses I’ve never done before and I really liked the way she taught us through her easy to follow instructions. Therefore, I felt even though I’ve never done these poses before I could do it! At the end of class, I felt rejuvenated and calm and could continue my hectic day of sightseeing around Vancouver. 🙂

At the end of class, I had a chance to chat with Katy about this studio, life and the simplicity of it all. I learned that the owner of this studio wanted to offer a quiet sanctuary that is easily accessible and affordable for everyone in the neighbourhood; hence, Robson St. Yoga was created. This is why only the locals know about it.

From my conversation with Katy, and this yoga studio, I learned that”less is more”. You don’t need a lot of fanciness to open a yoga studio or do yoga; all you need is a welcoming space (room) where the students feel safe to participate in an ancient healthy practise that’s good for the body, mind and soul. In the same way, keep life simple by following your heart and do what you love, and then you’ll find happiness and peacefulness: body, mind and soul.

I think Robson St. Yoga is a true reflection of the simplicity of life and the use of a purposeful space for community building.

I highly recommend this gem of a yoga studio to anyone living in or visiting Vancouver! 🙂

2014-07-08 11.25.06

This inviting table is placed in front of the entrance door, and allows anyone in the community to browse through the resources and learn a bit what yoga is all about.

To learn more about this yoga studio, visit http://www.robsonstyoga.ca

 

 

Being Thankful: Life’s a Piece of Cake!

It’s our Thanksgiving in Canada, and as always it’s time for many of us to pause, reflect, surround ourselves with loved ones and be thankful for all we have in our lives.

Over the Thanksgiving long weekend, I caught up with my vegan friend, Emma, whom I met this summer in Korea and we became really good friends in a short span of 3 weeks. We decided to meet up in my favourite Korean cafe in town since we both miss our time in Korea and wish to reminisce the good times we had this summer.

While I ordered the cake and tea combo (I think this cafe has the best red velvet cake in town, and I decided to cheat by having some gluten and dairy; after all, life is all about balance right? 😉 ), I couldn’t help but think about how simple and sweet life can be like a piece of cake! So, the quote “life’s a piece of cake” came to my mind while I was chatting with Emma. When you really think about it, life is simple, and so many wonderful things happen along the way such as the many adventures I had this summer and the promise of a lasting friendship. 🙂

You may argue, but what about the “bad” things that happen to us in life? Well, I will argue it’s all in our mindset: the way we look at and interpret events that happen to us. Don’t you think that when we over-think, our minds go in turmoil and that’s when we find our lives are complicated? Even with uncontrollable events that happen to us, we can look at it from a different lense. This lense is what I call the positive mindset.

When we cultivate a positive mindset, things in life become crystal clear and simple. Yes, we will stumble along the way with challenges and have unexpected detours, but in the end, we become stronger and find something that is beautiful and are more appreciative and happier than we can ever imagine. If we don’t experience such challenges in life, how can we realize how sweet that piece of cake is? Just take a moment and think how powerful positive thinking can be. For me, it makes me be thankful that I am alive and breathing, and can enjoy that piece of cake fully!

"Life's a piece of cake! Enjoy it to the fullest!" :)

“Life’s a piece of cake! Enjoy it to the fullest!” 🙂

In addition, I am thankful for my family, old friends I still keep in touch with and new friends I made through my life’s adventures!

What are you thankful for?

Wishing you all a bountiful, beautiful and peaceful Thanksgiving!

XO,

Violet

 

 

 

Lazy Sundays are Good for You!

To my dear readers:

The past 2 weeks have passed by like a whirlwind. I’ve been so busy adjusting back to my regular and new routines, also fitting in socializing and family times that I realize I am neglecting something very important in achieving work-life balance. It is ME!

Where I am, we have been blessed with warm summer-like weather for the past 2 weekends even though it’s Fall. Last Sunday I was thinking I should take advantage of the beautiful sunny day by doing something outdoorsy. However, I finally listened to what I really wanted and needed which was a lazy Sunday spent in my pajamas and doing nothing at all. I have been mentally and physically exhausted for a while now. My version of a lazy Sunday was being in my PJs and baking some goodies with the windows wide open so the sun can shine into the kitchen, while listening to peaceful music. Having a lazy Sunday all to myself made a world of difference for the rest of the week whether I am at work, exercising or being with other people. I felt more refreshed, energized and happier. 🙂

My lazy Sunday reminded me gently that all of us have to slow down once in a while and really listen to what our body and mind need to rejuvenate our soul. Having “Me” time allows us to enjoy and live in the moment and makes us feel more calmer, re-energized and confident in dealing with anything that comes our way in the upcoming days.

What is your version of a lazy Sunday? 😀

Wishing you all a happy beautiful Sunday & week ahead!! ❤

XO,

Violet

I found this awesome online poster on pinterest and it describes my version of lazy Sundays perfectly! Enjoy! :)

I found this awesome online poster on pinterest and it describes my version of lazy Sundays perfectly! Enjoy! 🙂