10 Things Yoga Taught Me

In the beginning of 2016 I delved deeper into yoga by completing my 200 hours yoga teacher training in New Zealand and ended the year, and began 2017 with a yoga retreat in the United States.

Aside from practising the asanas, mantra chanting and meditation that are all part of yoga, it is the yoga philosophy which I call “life lessons” that has a profound impact on how I think, act and feel now.

Yoga taught me…

1. The most important time is NOW.

Life is short and nothing stays the same forever. Everything is in constant motion and change is inevitable, so enjoy, be mindful and live in the present moment.

2.The most important person is the person you spend time with NOW.

Whether you are at home with your family, or at work with your coworkers or elsewhere with others, be mindful and present with them.

3.The most important pursuit is making the person you are with NOW happy.

For me this means bringing joy to those around me, so be kind through thoughts, words and actions.

4. To let go!

Whether it is things, people, emotions or situations, letting go is essential to be able to live in the now and enjoy it at the same time. What is done in the past cannot be undone, so it stays in the past, and the future is uncertain, so why not live in the present? Also letting go of things that no longer serves you is important, whether it is a relationship that has run its course or possessions that may be tying you down or you actually no longer need, but you’re still hoarding it.

5.To spend time in nature as it grounds us in the present moment and calms the mind.

6. To trust the universe to provide.

Trust what you’ve done, it is enough.

7. To stay open-minded and open-hearted.

When you do this, you’ll be surprised by what you learn from people and situations and most importantly, about yourself!

8. Self-care is essential.

In order to help others and be there for them 100%, taking care of self first is crucial, so “me time” is not selfish and it’s also a form of meditation.

9. To cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

It has been scientifically proven that grateful people are physically and mentally healthier, experience more joy, have higher self-esteem and are more resilient in difficult life circumstances. Therefore, practising gratitude is a no brainer!

10. To breathe deeply.

On a daily basis we tend to forget to breathe deeply due to our hectic modern lifestyle. Inhaling and exhaling deeply has great benefits for our health such as reducing stress and promoting relaxation, and improving the digestion. In addition, breathing deeply equates to longer life.

 

I hope this post inspires you to live mindfully and joyfully this year.

May your 2017 be filled with wondrous little moments and you enjoy them as they are unfolding! 🙂

lotus2017

Finding Affordable Yoga in Taipei

It’s now September, and most people say goodbye to summer and transition into their “back to school” routine or life. I remember exactly a year ago I moved to Taipei to start my life as a university student again, learning a new language. At the same time I wanted to maintain my daily yoga classes as I’ve had back in Canada, preparing myself for my yoga teacher training in New Zealand for February 2016, which meant finding a suitable yoga studio to attend classes regularly.

To my disappointment, I did not find a lot of online English information on yoga in Taipei, so I hope by writing this blog post, for those of you who are currently thinking of finding affordable yoga classes in Taipei, this will help you! 🙂

The big fancy yoga studios in Taipei (True Yoga, Pure Yoga, Space Yoga, and Yoga Journey) are very expensive since once has to sign a one year contract with them on top of initial membership fee. These studios are very rigid with their one year contract, so even if you opt out before 12 months is over, you still have to pay the full year. Another undesirable factor in joining these studios is that some of these yoga studios may charge foreigners a higher fee than a local; I found this out when I visited one of the locations of True Yoga. The sales representative told me because I’m a foreigner, I have to pay higher. I found that very discriminatory. Needless to say, I found these big fancy yoga studios unappealing in terms of the high pricing ($150-200 USD/month) and big class size (maximum 50 in a class).

When I was about to give up on ever finding affordable yoga classes with a smaller class size while living in Taipei, an American classmate introduced me to her neighbourhood yoga studio: Bodhi Yoga. At the same time I discovered that if I knew better Mandarin, I would be able to find smaller yoga studios with affordable pricing.

During my year of living in Taipei, I’ve discovered 3 nice affordable places to do yoga, and below, I’ll describe them briefly to you:

1.Bodhi Yoga

What it offers: Hatha Yoga, Hatha Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow, Prenatal Yoga

When: Daily yoga classes from morning (time varies each day) till 8pm at night

Where: They have 2 locations in Taipei, Guting and Songjiang. I’ve only been to the Guting location since it was close to my university and it was convenient to youbike there or take the MRT, as it was right in front of exit 1, Guting MRT.

Cost: drop in fee=$650 NTD, for first time users you can pay this price and get the second class for free (buy one get one free deal)

They also offer various packages for students such as 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months unlimited. Students can also buy 20 class or 40 class package deals. I chose the 3 months package for around $350 USD.

Why:Friendly front desk staff (receptionists) and fellow yogi classmates,a variety of yoga teachers with different styles, small class size (anywhere from 2-15), welcoming atmosphere to relax before and after class (Guting location), free water refill, tea and coffee, yoga mats and props are provided, and many classes offered throughout the day

Website: http://www.bodhiyoga.com.tw/eng/index.html

 

2. Unison Yoga Taipei

What: Hatha, Vinyasa flow, Ashtanga, Yin Yang Yoga, Dance Yoga,  Prenatal Yoga, Kids Yoga, Mommy and Baby Yoga

When: daily classes, a few in the morning but most classes are from 12:15pm onwards till 7:30pm as the last class (time varies each day)

Where: It is a relatively new yoga studio, about 13 months old. A few minutes walk from Liuzhangli MRT station.

Cost: first class free, drop in fee=$600 NTD;  10 classes package can be bought for $3600 NTD

Why: Cozy, small classes ranging from 1 student per class to 10, caring and dedicated yoga teachers who take their time to get to know you and chat with you after class if you have any questions, a variety of different creative yoga classes offered such as combining yoga with dance, and there’s also Pilates class, friendly front desk staff, free water refill and light snacks for after class, yoga mats and props are provided, and warm welcoming atmosphere.

Website: http://www.unisonyoga.com.tw/about.php

 

3. Yoga in Daan Forest Park (Harmony Yoga)

What: Any type of yoga style according to yoga teacher of the week. It is run by a group of volunteer yoga teachers who teach donation yoga classes weekly.

When: every Sunday at 9am (usually 1 hour class)

Where: Daan Forest Park (their website has a map to show the location in the park)

Cost: whatever you can afford ($200 NTD is a decent amount)

Why: outdoor yoga with sounds of nature and fresh air found in the city

Website: https://www.facebook.com/HarmonyYogaTaiwan/

daan-park-yoga

For me, the best part of taking these yoga classes is that they are all in Mandarin, so I was fully immersed in the Mandarin-speaking environment even when doing yoga! 🙂

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!

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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yoga mats already laid out for students

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A view of yoga room from the front

 

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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! 🙂

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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

 

 

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! 🙂

 

Take a Moment for Mesothelioma

Sometimes when you think you know almost everything (which is actually never true!!) about a certain topic/issue, you are surprised that there is actually more to learn about it and of this world. This is exactly what happened. I thought I had a general understanding of most types of cancer after what my dad went through and other people I knew who experienced other types of cancer. Emily Walsh, the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, contacted me to help her in spreading the word about mesothelioma through her organization’s summer campaign called “Moment for Meso”. It was my first time hearing about this type of cancer and it is with pleasure I share with you some important facts I learned.

 
I ask you to please kindly take a moment for mesothelioma and read about this type of cancer below.

mesothelioma_awareness_ribbon

First of all, like me, you may wonder what is mesothelioma? I learned that it is an aggressive cancer that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. One of the leading causes of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is an insulating material consisting of magnesium-silicate mineral fibres. It is invisible to the naked eye and often found in many older homes, schools, factories and commercial buildings as it was favoured by builders and contractors for many years for its low heat conductivity and resistance to melting and burning. Once it becomes worn or damaged, it causes fibres to flake off and become airborne; it is at this point that it becomes a great risk. When research showed that there is a link between mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos, this material was then used less. However, millions of people, both in America, Canada and around the world, are exposed to this harmful substance already.

 

Here are 5 startling facts about asbestos:

1. It was once used in more than 3000 American consumer products (e.g. household items like toasters and hair dryers) and some of which may still be in use today.

2. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe.

3. It is still not banned in the United States and about 30 million pounds are still used today.

4. It is possible to experience second-hand asbestos exposure by touching clothing or items that have asbestos fibers on them.

5. Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational cancer in the USA even more than 30 years after its peak.

 

Now that you know what is asbestos and have a better understanding of how it is linked to mesothelioma, here are 5  interesting facts about this type of cancer:

1. Every year around 3000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma and are given an average of 10 months to live.

2. It can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms closely resemble other respiratory conditions.

3. Symptoms may not appear until 30-60 years later, after first exposure to asbestos.

4. Navy veterans are at the most risk of to develop mesothelioma since asbestos was widely used in Naval ships and shipyards.

5. Men are 4 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma; however, women are becoming victims to it through second-hand exposure.

 

Mesothelioma in Canada
As a Canadian citizen, I was curious to see if mesothelioma is becoming as prominent as in the United States, so I did a little bit of research. To my astonishment, I discovered that Canada has the highest mesothelioma cancer rate in the world. It is no wonder since Canada was heavily involved in the chrysotile asbestos industry since the late 19th century through mining and the federal government allowed its production and use in thousands of products. Similar to the United States, the most significant increases happened in the shipbuilding areas around Vancouver, and in Quebec. Quebec was home to many of Canada’s early asbestos mines.

According to medical experts, about 2.1 of 100, 000 Canadians are diagnosed every year with mesothelioma. Today, only 1 of the original 13 mines are in operation. The Canadian government did set some safety regulations on asbestos use. As well, it is spending billions of dollars to remove asbestos from schools, factories, plants and other commercial buildings. High-risk professions and trades affected by exposure to asbestos includes miners, ship loaders, truck drivers, carpenters, construction workers, insulation installers, plumbers, roofers, shipbuilders and textile workers.

 

International Connection
While Canada is trying to protect its own citizens from asbestos exposure (as given examples above), it is interesting to note that it led a successful campaign to block the listing of asbestos as a toxic material as proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and many countries at the Rotterdam Convention in 2004 and 2008. It also continues to be a major exporter of chrysotile asbestos to second and third world countries who do not monitor asbestos exposure or regulate its use, as it makes $100 million dollars.  All 27 European Union countries, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Chile and Japan have banned asbestos in their countries. Second and third world countries such as India and Vietnam continue to use asbestos products in construction. However, on a positive note, it appears the Canadian government is changing its tune. In 2012, it revealed that it will no longer block international efforts to add chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material at the Rotterdam Convention. The next Rotterdam Convention will be held in 2015. Let’s see if Canada will keep its promise next year.

 

Thank you for taking your time to read about mesothelioma and being part of  “Moment for Meso”. I hope you have learned something about it, and are more aware of it now. Feel free to spread the word to others and let’s all help to raise awareness! 🙂

mesothelioma-ribbon

 

If you like, you can learn more about mesothelioma by reading the following sites that I’ve used to put this post together.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/

http://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/canada/

http://www.cmfonline.org/http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/mesothelioma/mesothelioma/?region=on

http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/health-sante/environment-environnement/outdoor-air-exterieur/asbestos-amiante-eng.php

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-suzuki/absestos-canada_b_1681659.html

http://www.mining.com/canada-waves-au-revoir-to-asbestos-mining-20394/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-does-u-turn-on-asbestos-mining/article4545704/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/no-safe-use-as-the-top-workplace-killer-asbestos-leaves-a-deadly-legacy/article19151351/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/canada-won-t-oppose-asbestos-limits-1.1254033

Top 4 Natural Home Remedies for Cold

Part of the reason that I haven’t been feeling well has to do with me getting the cold and losing my voice.  After a few months of being strong, despite many people around me getting the cold, I finally succumbed to it.  I didn’t want to go see my family doctor; I knew he would just prescribe me some antibiotics from past experiences.  Too much antibiotics is not good for the body, and I didn’t want any of them in my body.  I wanted to self-heal from this cold using natural ingredients, and see if they would work.  Amazingly, I did get better in a week! 🙂

Below, I will share with you 4 natural remedies that were helpful for me in combating and getting better from the cold.  Please keep in mind, this list is for informational purposes and based on my own experience; I am not a medical professional.  If you have any questions and/or concerns, please consult your doctor, before you try any of these.

1. TURMERIC HOT WATER

I learned from my cooking instructor that turmeric is anti-inflammatory and she has a glass of hot milk with turmeric every night.  She says her nightly turmeric drink has helped to boost her immune system and she feels healthy all the time.  As soon as I felt the beginnings of a sore throat (often the first sign of a cold), I decided to give the turmeric a try.  Instead of putting it into milk, I decided to add 1 teaspoon of it to hot water.  I had one cup daily of this for a week, and believe it is one of the reasons I feel better quickly. 🙂

2. RAW HONEY LEMON WATER

When my sore throat persisted, I began adding raw honey into my daily morning lemon water.  I learned that raw honey (not heated, pasteurized or processed) is an alkaline-forming food with natural vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. Furthermore, its antibacterial properties is perfect in treating a sore throat, as the honey coats the throat and eases the irritation.  To my delight, I discovered that pairing up 1 tablespoon of raw honey with half a freshly squeezed lemon into a hot/warm cup of water is such a natural soother for the sore throat.

3. HONEY DATES & AMERICAN GINSENG TEA

My brother is currently studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and he was the one who recommended me to drink this concoction after he diagnosed my tongue and heard my cough.

Here is an excellent link to the benefits of the ingredients in this tea and how to make it:

http://soupqueen.blogspot.ca/2007/07/cough-cure-american-ginseng-and-honey.html

4. SLEEP

Last but not least, the most important natural remedy is allowing our body to rest and recover on its own.  Despite my healthy eating and regular exercise routine, I knew I was lacking in sleep during the past few weeks due to various reasons.  When I finally lost my voice in addition to the above two symptoms of the cold I mentioned, I knew my immune system was endangered.  Therefore, I decided to take two days off from work.  I was lucky those days were attached to the weekend so I had four days to fully rest both my body and voice at home, and by Monday, I was almost back to normal. 🙂

Baby-Sleep

Here are 2 links that I found helpful in explaining why sleep is so important to our health.  Sleeping well is definitely one of the keys in maintaining good health.  Check it out when you have time:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health