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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.
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!
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.