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! 🙂

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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/

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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! 🙂

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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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.

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-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.

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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! 🙂

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! 🙂

 

Surya Kriya: Discovering the Classical Roots of Yoga

At the Surya Kriya Program,  Toronto, July 2013

At the Surya Kriya Program, Toronto, July 6-7 2013

Over the first weekend of July, I attended a two-day yoga program/workshop organized by Isha Foundation.  I learned about this non-profit and non-religious yoga organization when I attended the Yoga Show in Toronto with 2 of my yoga friends a few months ago, and was attracted by the intensive teacher training program it offered to aspiring yogis/yoginis like me. 🙂  Therefore, I kept in touch with this foundation and learned that it was offering a program in Toronto, so of course I signed up for it!

Although I had no idea what kind of program I signed up for, I found the title “Surya Kriya” very mysterious and its name promising me further enlightenment of yoga.  I was super excited and thrilled to attend the workshop and didn’t mind the fact that I had to practise yoga on an empty stomach for both days.  Each day was 4 hours long of yoga practise.  As it turned out, I was in for a pleasant and new yoga experience!

Firstly, my perception of yoga has changed as a result of this unique learning experience.  I didn’t realize that the yoga I have been practising is actually a fusion of or modified versions of classical yoga poses.  For example, I’ve always done the Cat Stretch in 3 steps in my yoga studio.  Boy, was I in for a surprise, when I learned that the Cat Stretch can be stretched into 9 steps at this workshop!  It’s truly yoga in its purest classical form.  Lastly, I have learned that yoga should be part of my daily life and can be practised at home.  Prior to this workshop, I would schedule to go to my yoga classes 2-3 times a week, and practise yoga only at the studio.  From this workshop, I discovered that the most powerful yoga practise is when you can do it every day, which becomes daily routine like brushing teeth in the morning.

Now, I will share with you a few things that really stood out for me in the Surya Kriya Program, which has helped to deepen my understanding of yoga & practising it:

1. Yoga is not exercise.  It’s a body, mind and spirit experience, where we become whole with the universe.

~On our second day of the workshop, I felt this body/mind/spirit connection when we were asked as we practised our Surya Kriya routine, to visualize (mind) our better self (spirit) performing the poses perfectly, as we are doing it (body) simultaneously.  All 3 should always be active during yoga.

 

2. Yoga practise is internal cleansing.

 

3. Yoga is an enhancement of perceptiveness.

 

4. Practise yoga with devotion and reverence.

 

5. Wearing loose and comfortable cotton clothing is best.

 

6. There is no ego in yoga.

~Unlike the studio I go to for my yoga classes, this workshop is held in a huge room with no mirrors.  Sadhguru, the founder of Isha Foundation, explains that we need to be simple, back to the origins, when practising yoga.  We don’t need mirrors to watch ourselves to be the best or even use any props to help us achieve certain poses.  We simply let go of our ego, and listen to our inner self/voice, and try our best and do poses at our own pace or level.  We do not need to perfect a difficult pose right away.  It is ok to work towards it slowly.  It is only when we let go of our ego, we can find true inner peace or well-being, which is what yoga is all about in the first place.

 

Ultimately, I learned that I need to make Surya Kriya as part of my everyday life.  Surya Kriya is a 21 steps yoga routine that is required to be practised with devotion and reverence.  The definition of Surya Kriya is activating the energy of the sun within ourselves. (see here for more details: http://www.ishayoga.org/hata/teachertraining/surya-kriya/)  It needs to be practised twice a day for 40 days, and then once a day daily.  The idea is that after 40 days, it becomes a habit, which makes yoga practise so much more powerful and profound.  I am now in the process of making Surya Kriya become my daily routine, and will keep you posted on the impact it will have on me, when I’m ready. 🙂  Namaste!

Here are 3 quotes I love from Sadhguru: 1. "With proper practice of yoga , you create the right kind of chemistry where you are naturally peaceful, naturally joyous, naturally loving within you." 2. "You know everything about the world, but you do not know anything about yourself. This is a ridiculous way to live." 3. “How deeply you touch another life is how rich your life is.”

Here are 3 quotes I love from Sadhguru:
1. “With proper practice of yoga , you create the right kind of chemistry where you are naturally peaceful, naturally joyous, naturally loving within you.”
2. “You know everything about the world, but you do not know anything about yourself.
This is a ridiculous way to live.”
3. “How deeply you touch another life is how rich your life is.”