My semester break begins. I have time to reflect and write again.
Over the past couple of months, I basically studied all the time when I wasn’t involved in teaching yoga. I declined family and friends gatherings and also lost a bit of sleep. I wouldn’t be able to push myself so hard to learn without studying a master degree. In return, I learned prognosis of the most common diseases in Australia and how different health conditions impacted individual’s daily living, as well as framework of occupational therapy.
A lot of knowledge and learning experiences worth sharing but one comes to my mind - occupational imbalance. In occupational therapy, occupation doesn’t only mean jobs. It includes productivity (e.g. jobs), leisure and self-care. Occupational imbalance refers to an individual’s lifestyle without meeting satisfactory level of his/her physical, psychological and social needs.
We had an interesting activity in class. List all activities you do and the time required in your typical day. Everyone is different, but this is a general idea of how much time adults spend on productivity and self-care in a day.
During the weekend, you have 16 hours to do home maintenance and financial management (buy groceries, clean the toilet, mop the floor, do washing and pay the bills). These are the routines and I haven’t yet mentioned any ad hoc life events, seeing GP, specialists, etc.
These tasks are part of our life in a modern lifestyle. I don’t think I can change much about it unless I pay for someone to do it. I now study full time and need to save money for my yoga dream. Probably it is not a good option for me. I just think how lucky I was as a teenager/young adult that my family took up a lot of responsibilities so I could be able to enjoy my leisure time.
It’s important to keep track of the time and be fair to our body and mind. How much time do you spend for your leisure? Do you have one hour for yourself each day (1 out of 24) and simply do something you enjoy rather than something you have to get it done? This may not happen to you right now. Sometimes life is out of control. However, it’s important to be aware of it and plan for leisure. Things can get better. At the end of the day, we all want happy and healthy life. It's all about balance.
Find occupational balance in our own way. Yoga is a self-healing process, improving physical and mental wellbeing. Body movement and mindfulness connect body and mind. Gardening offers you social support networks and daily routines. In the meantime, you have an opportunity to enjoy the sun and fresh air. Simply having a cuppa and a good chat with friends improve quality of life. Little smiles add up. These are all important elements to balance your life, taking up responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
Of course, personal growth and/or career development is important too. In fact, this is part of the mental wellbeing. Human beings can’t live without hopes and dreams. Little achievement is an achievement. After all commitments, let’s squeeze some time for consistent work. Let’s squeeze some time for leisure.
How do you find time for leisure? Would love to get some more ideas!
A simple day is so good. It means I have plenty of time and space to enjoy what I like to do. What a luxury to be able to sit down and write a blog in my birthday. I have time, space, capability and energy.
I have been living in Perth for 3 years now. I know it will still take a while to establish my life here. However, I am grateful to live a sustainable life and move forward gradually. Here are my lessons at 39.
1. Be a student
I have a huge study commitment this year but studying in a wet lab is unexpected. I need to identify joints and muscles in a cadaver. I have so many questions that never come to my mind before. What kind of personalities of the person is willing to donate their bodies for learning and teaching? How does the school find the right person to cut a cadaver so precisely? I really thanked the bodies to offer me a chance to learn human anatomy. Being a student, I stretch my mind and feel alive. When I learn something new, I can share new ideas with people instead of talking about things in the past. When I learn something new, I can see things in different perspectives and it helps me agree to disagree. Of course, taking a new fitness class has the same benefits. I don't need to be so serious all the time.
2. Be a hunter-gatherer
I really enjoy eating simple and less. I like the feelings of not too full and also there is some rationale behind. When I eat a lot, the blood will be sent to the digestive system instead of other parts of the body. I will feel tired and lack of energy. I like Michael Pollen’s food documentaries. It’s so educational and inspiring. He said, ‘Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food’. He mentioned history tells politicians that raw materials’ price has to be low. If people can’t even afford to buy a loaf of bread, revolution will be coming. Food manufacturers take advantages of low-cost raw materials. There are thousands of choices in supermarkets but only the quiet food is good food, e.g. fresh fruit and veggies. Processed food with advertising message like 99% reduced fat doesn’t tell you how much sugar in it. As I eat so light and plain, I feel a bit unwell and stop before my body is really sick.
3. Be ready to live till 100
Nobody knows when it's time to go but I do think I need to get well prepared to live till 100. The advanced medical system doesn’t allow me to die. If anything goes wrong, it seems surgeon will cut part of my bodies, liver, stomach or intestine to save my life. I may not have a good quality of life but I can’t die. In this case, I’d better keep myself well. I only have one liver, one stomach and one intestine in lifetime.
It doesn’t matter how long actually I am going to live. When I expect to have a long life instead of worrying about death, I feel I still have opportunities and possibilities in life and that’s very important to set up my mind. My yoga teacher reaches 80 and she is still teaching yoga. I want to be like her.
Thank you very much for all your birthday wishes. I am loved and touched.
What makes me worried? Unknown, future, something new, the list goes on. Times pass by. Future becomes present. I know how to cope with what I have to. Worries go away. Worries in mind are always bigger than what I need to be worried. If we are not conscious to be positive, negativity occupies our mind. I learn to stop thinking of worries and shift my mind to what I can take control, and let go of what I can’t control. I am still learning. It takes a lot of effort. Yoga is about building physical and inner strength to face practical aspects of life. I hope yoga helps me become a calm and strong person.
Start something new is scary, yet interesting and challenging. I would like to share my experience about how to start and what to know before you join your first yoga class, because yoga is so good.
How to start:
1. Give yourself a priority
I am pretty sure you have a busy life if you are looking for trying yoga. To be honest, I have been teaching more than a thousand yoga classes and I’ve never met a student who comes to my class to kill time. They all make extra efforts and want to be a better version of themselves. You have many roles to play yet you are well deserved to have at least an hour to look after your body and mind. Keep yourself well and you will be able to enjoy what you like to do not just the next 10 years, but 30 years.
2. Find a class but do not analyse what’s going to happen too much
I like finding new classes for my personal practice. Being a student is awesome! I don’t need to remember teaching scripts while enjoying stretching. I usually glance over the yoga studios’ website before I join and I thought that’s what I want. It’s not always the case. I enjoy new classes most of the time, but not all the time. I guess nobody can please everyone. Some experience may not be very nice but it will make a nice experience even nicer! So, just start somewhere after a bit of research but don’t analyse what’s going to happen too much. Cost is high if we are just thinking without taking actions. Only taking actions make a difference. I am sure you’ll find something that suits you along the way and it’s a process.
3. Do what you feel good
In downward facing dog, you look between your feet; in child pose, you probably close your eyes. As a group, we learn to be a better self in a non-competitive environment. If you need to rest, please take a rest. Re-set, then re-start. You don’t need to do everything the yoga teacher guides you. Do what you feel good and don’t feel bad if you can’t reach your toes or can’t balance. Enjoy the yoga journey and it will come overtime.
What to know:
Stay hydrated and wear comfortable clothes for the class. That’s all you need.
I hope that helps. If you are looking for yoga beginners’ course, please click here for details. Course fees include 6-week yoga beginners’ course, plus free access to 3 other general classes during the 6-week period. I hope this will help you kick-start your first yoga class and make it as a habit.
This year I read a lot, from human biology to psychology, from yoga to entrepreneur stories. It seems irrelevant to each other yet a combination of my yoga dream. Reading is one of my hobbies that make me feel content and stay away from negativity. I really love the story about Penguin Publishing so I start with this. It was a revolution back in 1920.
Revolution in 1920 - Penguin and the Lane Brothers
Back in 1920s, under the Barwell Boys scheme, Richard Lane lived in rundown shacks with no books as an indentured farm laborer in Australia. He became determined to carve out a literary life back in England. He took on Australia’s unpretentious, egalitarian outlook and applied it to traditional grand publishing in Britain. From nice hardbacks to cheap paperbacks, suddenly, people on low incomes could afford to buy books for the first time. The bright orange covers made Penguins looked different and almost wonderful to buy in the grayness of Depression Britain. It was a general lifting up of the population. Penguin publishing is regarded as a “poor man university”.
Resolution in 2019 – Be content
The Penguin story is very inspiring! Be part of something what your core value is. What do you care about most in life? For Richard Lane, he is a book lover and he delivered great literature to the widest possible audience. For me, I want to restore people health through yoga and help people build strength to face practical aspects of life. Yours may be plastic free for environmental sustainability. I believe we can make a change. Everyone has a place in the world. When you pour your heart into something bigger and be part of a revolution, you will feel fulfilled inside and outside. Keep exploring within and the world. Keep this in mind and I think it is really good for my mental health.
Resolution in 2019 - Manage negativity
On the other hand, life is tough. Sadness is unavoidable. I found out cancer came back to one of my yoga students while she has been trying so hard to follow a healthy lifestyle and fight against a cancer battle. When I taught chair yoga at a dementia unit, a lady in my class talked joyfully to a baby doll for one hour. A few ladies were not very kind to each other. One yelled at another and said she didn’t do yoga with me and just like a statue. I knew she wanted to move. It’s sad.
Last October, a 20 year-old Swiss girl came to Perth to learn English and stayed with us. In Switzerland, she works in emergency services. She told me basically Swiss people have all necessities but some of them want more, they become unhappy. Some people are diagnosed with depression and come to emergency services because they want quick fix.
Although sadness is unavoidable, working towards my goal and manage negativity help me live a happy and content life. Yoga helps me structure my day, and my life. I won’t be too sad as yoga practice breaks the state of sadness and I am not involved in any draining activity. Roll out the mat, stay focused, and I don’t have room left for sadness. Regular yoga practice keeps me well physically and mentally. When there is some turbulence in life, I can apply the yoga practice. Stay focused. Do not let emotions run over my head.
I wish you a Happy New Year. Have a fantastic 2019!
When I was born, my head couldn’t turn. When I was young, this had been one of the most interesting life stories about myself. It’s so weird yet didn't cause too much trouble. When I am getting older, it’s not an interesting story at all. This is a physical condition I have to care about in life.
I had no memory about pain and physiotherapy treatment as an infant. My mum and dad told me I was screaming and crying in every physiotherapy treatment. I could imagine. The physiotherapist forcibly turned my head while my neck was completely stiff. Apparently 97% of babies turned automatically into a head-down position to get ready for birth, but I was one of the 3 % that I made a U turn just before birth. It’s been unknown why babies got torticollis (twisted neck). Doctors believed it could be related to abnormal positioning (being in the breech position, where the baby's buttocks face the birth canal). That’s what I did. Luckily my dad discovered my head couldn’t turn after a few months and it's almost healable.
It was just a story in my childhood and teenage hood. It didn’t bother my lifestyle at all. However, the issue exists. My neck has a range of motions but right side of the neck’s muscle is very tight. This muscle is called sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM). This large, rope-like muscle runs on both sides of the neck from the back of the ears to the collarbone.
In my late 20s, I started realizing there were some issues. My neck, shoulder and back of my right side was stiff, sore and tiring very easily. It also went down to my right elbow. I lost so much flexibility and I couldn’t tilt my head back. I was worried my neck couldn’t move one day. I also discovered my right shoulder is higher than my left. My right arm is longer than my left. My right side of my back is tighter than the left. It’s totally imbalance. I know it can cause big problems in the long run.
I am lucky to meet Maria Kirsten in my yoga teacher training in Byron Yoga Centre. Her yoga session is anatomically and functionally based, and she advised that as my right arm/shoulder is longer/higher, I had to focus on the left side when I practice yoga to bring back the balance. When I do plank pose, my right arm is working harder than the left. I had to put some more body weight to my left side consciously. So, my left side of the body is working. This helps loosen tense neck muscles and tighten the loose ones.
I notice that it’s so important to listen to my body, understand my limits and accept whatever it is but still work on it to get better. There are hundreds of yoga poses. The government of India formed a team to collect yoga poses from 35 ancient texts, and identified 900 yoga poses. There are also many inventions of yoga poses/ variations as it evolves. I like the idea that yoga is the journey of the self. We do what we feel good. For me, yoga practice is a self-healing process, both body and mind. I stretch every part of the body yet focus on my neck, shoulder and back.
There are many types of yoga that suit different people needs. I must admit it takes a while to find what suits you best. I love the idea of yoga that is a journey rather than a destination. When I roll out the yoga mat, it’s a time for me to travel to my heart, understand what I need, what I don’t need and take good care of myself. At the end of the day, I gradually build my inner strength and physical strength to face the practical aspects of life.
If you have any physical conditions, you are not alone. In my group class, everyone has some sort of issues. However, we feel better and we are stronger after yoga practice. If you want a private yoga session to follow your own pace, please contact me.
Thanks for reading.
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.