In 2014 winter, I quitted my banking job in Hong Kong and opened to all possibilities. I did google search with keywords ‘Yoga teacher training’, ‘Asia’, ‘Pacific’ (I liked summer) and found out one of the highest qualifications of yoga teacher training course at that time. It was a Certificate IV in Byron Bay. I didn’t know what Byron Bay was about but I decided to go. In the first day, I was amazed by no traffic lights in town. It solely relies on roundabout to manage traffic, cars and pedestrians. In the entire 7 weeks, I couldn’t imagine how much I changed.
I become vegetarian/ pescatarian
My 7 weeks training course only served vegetarian meals. I thought I would be hungry all the time then. Surprisingly, I feel energised. I met an amazing vegetarian chef wongyogafood and discovered benefits, flavours, subtle flavours and international gourmet food of plant-based diet. The first question was ‘Will I get enough nutrition?' I basically eat what my family eats in my whole life and don't think about alternative diet too much. Not until I had this offer, I learned to eat a rainbow. Find Nutrition Australia for more details. We had Mexican Tacos, Malaysian Laksa, Japanese sushi and many more. It’s amazing. I felt my tongue has been more sensitive to taste the subtle flavours of food. After 7 weeks, I thought it’s great that I could eat meat again. However, I found out my digestive system had been changed gradually. My stomach was bloated after eating my first teriyaki chicken sushi roll after 7 weeks.
I then read more about plant-based diet articles/books. We spend lots of energy to pass the nutrient and waste from the mouth to anus. Our ancestors only ate meat whenever they hunted an animal successfully. They occasionally had meat so our bodies didn’t adapt to eat lots of meat.
Deep release and relaxation
I had never done so much yoga in a day. Everyday we woke up at 5am for 6am class, either teaching as a trainee or participating classes so other classmates practiced their teaching skills. After breakfast, we learned how to teach every pose, how to organise sequences and apply basic anatomy. After lunch, we learned different styles of yoga, Hatha, Yin, prenatal, yoga for special needs, chair yoga for seniors and kids yoga. After dinner, it was self-study for online test and teaching. From 5am to 9pm, it’s all about yoga! In the first week, some classmates could not bear and quitted the course. I stayed in but I threw up after a week. Not sure if I had a deep detox by non-stop yoga practice and vegetarian food. A few other classmates started having different sorts of symptoms, dizziness, headache, etc. I didn’t take any medication. After a couple of hours, I was ok and started practicing yoga again.
Apart from throwing up, I cried. During some of the sessions I couldn’t stop crying. What’s going on? I realised as we age, we accumulated not only stress but also grief and frustration beyond control. I felt restless. I thought when I reached to the point I felt released and liberating, I cried.
I didn’t expect the yoga teacher training made a U turn in my life. It’s not just about the beginning of mastering a craft as a Yoga Teacher. However, this is a great way for me to connect to inner self, people and nature. I am conscious about how I spend my time and energy, setting boundaries for myself. What is important? What isn’t? It really helps direct my mind to what truly matters.
Have you brought into tears in yoga class? Do you feel emotional in some yoga poses?
Today is my birthday and I am 38 years old (already!). Time goes so quickly that I don’t want to waste time anymore. I used to do things what I felt like but after living 38 years on earth, I truly understand I have limited resources, i.e. time, money and energy. I need to structure my day so as to keep me well. This may be a moment of mid-life crisis. Anyway, here it is my lessons at 38.
Enjoy awkward conversations
After I left Hong Kong, almost all friendships started with awkward conversations. I have an urge to fit into a new community but I think this is really good for everyone. Start talking with people with different cultural backgrounds, professions, anything different from your life. They will open your eyes and take you to different perspectives that you could ever imagine. While I was in Fiji, I met a lady who worked in Afghanistan for United Nations. She said all UN staff worked in a compound. If they have to leave the compound for a meeting, they must go with a police officer. Their stress is not about workload but the risk of kidnapping. While driving in the desert, you could never stop the car for whatever reasons. Small terrorists want to sell you to big terrorist groups to earn lots of money. My jaw was dropping! When she could manage this stress level, I don't want to complain anything, I know I have to keep my chin up. While I am in Perth, I meet a young lady who has 2 horses. From my point of view, having a horse in the backyard is as special as having an orangutan. She was a vaulting championship. She can do a headstand on a horse’s back and she can stand on the horse’s back while the
horse is galloping!!!
I couldn’t count how much money I spent that was a waste of money. I guess it is a learning process to figure out what you really pay for when you decide to buy something. While I still worked in a bank, I travelled to Europe for a holiday and bought a handbag, costing $5,000. I bought this because I would have to pay $7,000 for the same bag if I bought it in Hong Kong. I thought I saved $2,000. I forgot $5,000 dollar can be spent for another exotic experience that I can learn and explore. Then,... I hardly use it. After using it, I had to massage the surface of the bag with a special leather cloth so it keeps shiny. What a burden! I still like this beautiful handbag, but I’d rather just stare at it for a few minutes when I read fashion magazine.
Sometimes I still pay extra for convenience or what I love but most of the time I assess how I can better use of the money. It’s all about balance. I learn to be a rational buyer and know what I pay for. Is that what I need, or what I want? How am I going to use it or will it be just sitting in the house forever? Do I pay for a symbolic image, and its operating cost? Just need cool down and analyse, rather than impulse purchase and let the emotions run over my head.
Health is wealth
Everyone wants a healthy life. Who is looking for pain? Nobody.
Not until I lost a range of motions and had serious neck and back pain, I realized it has to take an effort consistently for a vibrant health and being able to age gracefully. I forgot about keeping myself well by a balanced diet and workout, but I reached out to gain something else. When I focused on something then I neglected some other things. One day, my muscles and joints just stopped working properly. It’s so important to step back and review how I spend my day. Did I earn money for paying medical bills? Yes. Did I feel unfulfilled and emptiness? Yes. I knew that I had to make a change in my lifestyle. I still enjoy working very hard. I run my yoga business, and it is interesting and challenging. However, I do take good care of my body and mind for a sustainable living.
Today I am blessed. I am grateful I’ve met many interesting people, stay-at-home mum with a PHD., a paediatrician who can swim from Cottesloe to Rottnest, a diplomat who is a good cook, and many others who are committed to be a better version of themselves. I am grateful I live in a country that I can enjoy liberty rights of having all the access to gain wisdom around the world and not being brainwashed.
Have you learned something interesting that you want to share with me? Leave me a comment below.
By the way, thank you for all the Birthday wishes.
It’s been 2 years since I move to Perth. I still find it quite challenging to settle in. I am not sure if I am getting older and less adaptive. Or else, it is because this move is not for study, or work, or travel as I used to. It is solely a family reunion. That means it is full of possibilities, and lack of directions. In 2016, it was crazy. I was in the process of getting driving license, finding a place to live, seeking employment or study opportunities. In 2017, it is still crazy, but I re-establish VAI YOGA, meet lots of interesting people at both work and community events, and learn lots of new things. I am glad I get a bit more understanding of Perth too. It is time to reflect on my 2017:
1. Understanding Perth
I find out everyone loves Bunnings. I feel really isolated in Perth before I know Bunnings. Everyone likes DIY and gardening in his/her houses. They are so excited about their projects, fixing toilets, building steps, etc. I used to live in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong. We don't have energy left to DIY after working long hours. We also don’t live with front yards as well as backyards. Many of us see mangos but never see a mango tree in our life.
Gumtree is also a very interesting platform that you feel more connected with Perthians. When you buy or sell, someone's lifestyle is somehow exposed to you, which may be completely different from you. My husband bought a motorbike from a guy who lives in Rockingham. WOW,…His house is in the middle of nowhere, 13 acres bush land, with a few dogs, a few horses, a few motorbikes, a few cars, etc. The seller is an interesting person. Some others mark up a price of a second hand item higher than a market price of a brand new item. Some others put an ad up and it is free to good home. How funny! We never go to a stranger’s home in Hong Kong.
I used to be a public transport person and enjoy a convenient city life. In Hong Kong, we are able to access to almost all necessities in 20 minutes travel time. "I don't yet arrive" is now always in my mind when I need to go somewhere. Having said that, Perth is such a gigantic and multicultural city. Everyone has more choices if you are willing to travel and look for new experiences. I find more Asian cuisines here than in Hong Kong. I discover many beloved Asian dishes that I’ve never tried before, including Burmese noodle soup Mohinga (hot and sour fish based broth with intense aromatic ingredients) in Girrawheen, Cambodian Amok (diced emperor fish steamed in coconut cream, egg, lemongrass and lime leaves) in Mount Hawthorn. So yum!
Choices of lifestyle in Perth are beyond my imaginations. I’ve met people living in 10- acre bush land with horses and cows. Some others have caravans parked in their front yards and ready to go camping anytime, or live near the beach and enjoy all sorts of water activities. In Hong Kong, we all live in apartments, just a matter of bigger or smaller.
2. Improving English
I am embarrassed to tell you I learned English since I was in kindergarten. However, we never speak English in our daily life in Hong Kong. We are able to write and read, but not speak and listen. Since we don’t have an English-speaking environment, our English is from textbook. Now I know some words like ‘muffin top’, ‘sillybilly’, and so on. It’s funny. I did a few accent reduction trainings. Apparently it is hard to change our accent after 12 years old, but we are able to train our mouth muscles to pronounce some sounds correctly. For example, Cantonese, my first language, doesn’t have any sound you need to put your tongue between upper and lower teeth (the "th" sound). So I practice that. Lucky enough, Perth is very multicultural and they get used to communicating with others in different accent.
3. Meeting lots of people
This is the best part of my life in Perth. I feel alive when I interact with different people who share their life experiences with me. I am grateful I meet lots of interesting and nice people through my work as a yoga teacher. I do chair yoga for seniors in Bassendean 55 plus. One of my students, a 80 year-old man, takes the responsibilities of setting up the room with chairs. He told me in the old days, there are clear roles and responsibilities between women and men. Women do cooking and washing while men do heavy work. I like this gentleman very much. I met a lady who came to Perth by boat 30 years ago due to communism in Vietnam. She told me in those days, they knew they were very lucky to arrive in Australia, as many people could not make it and die in the ocean. After they arrived, they had a very clear goal to settle in Australia, learn English, and make a living. They didn’t waste a second to look back.
4. Learning new marketing skills
I used to work in credit card marketing in banking industry in Hong Kong. I am surprised my corporate marketing skills cannot apply to small business and I have to learn everything again. There are many free or low cost business workshops or business consultations from Business Stations / Business Foundations. I can learn social media marketing, how to write blogs, how to plan a marketing calendar. It is overwhelming when I wear so many hats at once as a small business owner, planning and teaching yoga classes, telling people my existence, managing finance and administration, etc. These workshops are a great platform to learn new skills. It is also important you meet other small business owners and I know I am not alone.
In 2018, sharing the joy of yoga with everyone continues to be my big goal. I am also eager to understand more about the culture of this gigantic city, and what Perthians value, and what they like to spend their leisure time. Could you tell me something about Perth and the people?
Wish you a Happy New Year!
A few years back, I searched kids and family yoga teacher training in the internet all over the world, from Asia to the Pacific, from the Pacific to the States. I am so grateful I found Rainbow yoga and completed the course with Gopala Yaffa, founder of Rainbow Yoga. Since then, I started teaching kids yoga at Multiple Intelligence School in Fiji, and then many private sessions on kids yoga / kids and family yoga in Perth. I remember what Gopala has told me that in kids yoga classes, there are no rules in the classroom other than respect. It is so true. Children require a lot of freedom to explore what they are interested. Every time I am very impressed with their creativity and what they can do intuitively in class. Since there is only one rule, it is easy for them to follow yet learn through play.
Many of us notice the benefits of yoga for kids. Physically, they build body strength and flexibility. If we don’t use it, we lose it. It is important to help children maintain strength and flexibility as a way of life. Mentally, they find inner peace through relaxation and don’t let emotions take over their mind. There are so many different scenarios in this interactive learning environment. I find it more challenging to develop children social skills than their body strength and inner peace.
I used to meet a 10-year old girl in kids yoga course on a weekly basis. She likes hugging a 5-year old classmate when she is free from doing yoga poses in class. Even the little girl looks a bit uncomfortable, she is still hugging her tightly. She is affectionate and her intention is sharing her love. I don’t stop her from hugging the little girl but ask her to look at the little girl’s facial expression. "What does that facial expression mean?" She now understands that she needs to care about the receiver’s feelings when she sends her love in her way. She used to be a bit rough to herself, hurting her toes or nails when doing yoga. She is full of energy and doesn’t know how to manage it yet. She doesn’t know how to be gentle to herself and probably why she doesn’t know how to be gentle to others.
There are many partner poses, group poses that require teamwork, physical touch and body co-ordinations. They learn how to communicate with their partners, find the balance of power between 2 people or in a group, co-ordinate with their legs and arms. These are all required elements setting up for doing yoga poses successfully. For example, when we do boat pose with a partner, pushing legs against each other too hard makes your partner fall over, pushing legs against each other too soft can’t make the pose.
Physical touch is one of the main human connections that allow our hearts to be healed. It’s important to learn the way to self-protect and protect others, self-respect and respect others. Yoga helps children develop into mindful and responsible adults. While you change partners in class, it’s a good way to learn how to do the same poses with different people in different body types, including strength, weight and height, etc.
Kids yoga becomes more dynamic when parents are engaged in yoga classes. Kids enjoy learning new poses with their parents in an equal environment. It is a two-way communications. Parents learn perhaps as much as kids learn from them. We have learned a lot in life, and then we forget something. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn in their way, intuitive, creative, non-judgmental, acceptance and so on.
Or we simply spend quality time together!
VAI YOGA and Bassendean Hotel are delighted to organize a fun-filled, healthy activity that the whole family can enjoy. Yoga session runs from 11:15am to 12pm, followed by kid’s lunch and more play time till 2:30pm. For more details, visit VAI YOGA’s kids and family yoga event on 19 Jan 2018.
Have you tried kids and family yoga before? How was it? Feel free to leave me comments or questions.
We are choices overload when we are looking for a yoga mat. There are different materials and textures, with a price range from $5 to $200. You may also ask how thick of a yoga mat should I get? Which is the best yoga mat? What is a yoga mat made out of?
It is very unlikely to buy the right one as your first yoga mat if you have never done yoga before. When we don’t know how to choose it, we only choose our favorite color within our budget. It is not necessarily to pick the most expensive one, but we can follow some guidelines when we select the yoga mat. You want a yoga mat that helps you get the most out of your yoga practice.
1. Material and texture
Nothing is more annoying than sliding your hands in downward facing dog when your yoga teacher asks you to hold there for three breathes. We need a good grip so as to avoid sliding and slipping when we push ourselves away from the mat and stretch our body. Yoga mats are usually made of TPE, PVC and EVA.
TPE (Thermal Plastic Elastomer) yoga mat is a form of synthetic rubber, consisting of three layers. The middle layer is to keep the shape of the mat, while the top and the bottom of the layers have different grips. It is able to stick between the floor and the mat, as well as the mat and your hands and feet. This mat is eco-friendly and you can use either side of the mat.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) yoga mat is durable, easy to clean and sticky. It is common and popular because it is value for money and effective. However, it is not easy for consumers to know the types of PVC the yoga mat is made of. Heavy chemicals' vinyl should be avoided.
EVC yoga mat is made of light material. It is unable to roll out flat on the floor and easily move around.
Yoga mat price ranges from $5 to $200. When you are not sure if you like yoga or not, probably you don’t want to invest too much. TPE is at the top range, followed by PVC and EVA. Apart from materials and texture, other factors include latex-free, non-toxic materials, eco-friendliness, customised patterns or brands from well-known yoga gear shops or your yoga studios determine the price. Usually students start with PVC with non-toxic yoga mat, basic and durable. You need the one with latex-free if you are allergic to latex. I also start yoga with PVC yoga mat. Not until I practice three times or more in a week, I choose to buy a high quality TPE/natural rubber yoga mat because I avoid exposing to chemicals as much as possible. PVC yoga mat is about $20 - $30. TPE yoga mat is about $40 - $70. EVA yoga mat is as low as $5. Personalised pattern yoga mat is up to $200.
Do you have knee pain? You need extra support for your practice when you have knee pain. There are many gentle postures that we drop one knee down onto the mat. 6mm thickness yoga mat can absorb the shock and prevent joint pain from body movements. It is also suitable for high impact yoga practice like Vinyasa flow. Some yoga mat is as thick as 10mm. It is too soft to do balance pose. It is not easy to feel the connections to the ground. If you do not have knee pain, 4mm is good enough.
The standard length of yoga mat is 173cm. There are yoga mats as long as 183cm. If you are tall, it is good to choose a longer mat for your practice so you don’t squeeze yourself into a small yoga mat.
It is ok to give it a try either TPE or PVC yoga mat. Do you need a thicker mat for extra support to your knees? Are you a tall person? Do you want to protect the environment every time when you purchase? How much are you willing to pay for it? How regular do you practice yoga? No slide. No toxins. Enjoy your class in comfy and cushy mat.
Founder and Yoga Teacher of VAI YOGA
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA. She follows her yoga journey from Hong Kong to Fiji and Australia. She is now sharing the joy of yoga and continues down this path in Perth.