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.
A yoga student told me how happy she was when she walked her dog and her grandson was riding on scooter. Then her grandson decided to walk the dog and she had to ride on his scooter. I am glad she is able to manage it and thanks to her for sharing this funny story.
Balance exercise is one of the four types of exercises along with strength, endurance and flexibility. If we don’t use it, we lose it. Yoga helps improve balance and it’s quite fun to do balance poses. With good balance, we are able to maintain the capacity to do things we enjoy. It also prevents falls and avoids severe injuries. Falling over can cause disability or death.
Balance is all about falling the center of gravity within the base of support. When we come into all fours, we increase the surface of support. Our body weight is more likely to equally distribute between hands, knees and toes. When we stand on the feet or one foot (walking), surface of support is smaller. However, when we learn how to shift body weight (center of gravity) to the base of support, we can balance with one foot, two hands, or even one hand and hold for a few seconds. Stability is enhanced by center of gravity, which means body weight is equally balanced and distributed in all directions.
The base of support
Examine your feet if there are any inversion (turning sole of the feet inward) or eversion (turning sole of the feet outward). Do you lift a few of your toes up when you stand on the ground? Feet being so far away from central nervous system require you to bring awareness to your toes to connect to the earth. The first step to balance is to equally distribute body weight to four corners of the feet. Press the toes down. This is to increase the surface for balance. The more surface we get, the more balance we have.
The center of gravity
The center of gravity of our body depends on different body movements. When we stand on the right leg, we need to shift the body weight to the right. Strong abdominal muscles help falls the center of gravity within the base of support (right foot).
For example, in tree pose, stand on right leg, shift body weight to the right side so center of gravity falls to the surface of right foot. Press down right foot, crown of the head reaches towards the ceiling. Hug everything in, press left foot firmly against the right thigh. Do it slowly.
Half moon pose
How about half moon pose? It’s one leg on the ground and torso is held horizontally. We still need to find the center of gravity and how it falls to one leg. In this case, When standing on right leg, we need to rotate the left hip. Opening up the left side of the body allows the center of gravity falls within the right hip, right leg and right foot.
In some cases, we are worried about falling over rather than poor balance. You may find it easier to balance next to the wall even you are not actually touching the wall. Practicing balance pose also helps us learn how to manage fear and stay focused. Both yoga for grownups and chair yoga for seniors involve balance poses in each class.
Do you have good balance? Is balance exercise in your regular workout routine? If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.
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!
From moving around on all fours to standing upright, human evolution allows us to free our hands to make and use tools. Standing and walking upright also keep us cool as only head and shoulders get exposed to direct solar radiation, rather than the entire back and neck. However, there are a few downsides of human evolution causing body pain.
When our hominid ancestors still moved around on all fours, the feet ad hands were absorbing force. Pressure created by gravity was more evenly distributed along the spine. 4 million years ago, when we started walking upright, our spine gradually lengthened and became more S-shape in order to balance our torso over our hips and feet. Standing upright and having a curved spine increase stress on certain points of the column, such as back pain and neck pain.
When we know which part of the body gets stressed, we can choose yoga poses that will de-stress it afterward. 3 chair yoga poses strives to balance opposing parts of the physical body along the spine, the front and back, the left and right. It is essential to keep our bodies pain-free and function properly.
1. Forward bend
Directions: Place four corners of the feet on the ground. As you Inhale, lengthen the spine; as you exhale, bend forward. Slowly walk your hands towards the shin or ankles. Feel the weight of the head.
By hanging your head upside down and bend forward, you take the pressure of gravity off your spine, increase the space between the vertebras, taking pressure off nerves and relieving pain.
Directions: interlace the fingers and place your hands behind the head for gentle support. As you inhale, lengthen the spine; as you exhale, present the heart to the sky. Bring your awareness to the upper back, rather than the lower back.
This opens up the shoulders and chests. As we have a lot of forward-facing movement in our everyday life, hunching over a keyboard, then steering wheel, then cutting board, this is a great counter pose of our daily life to increase mobility of the spine, improve postures and alleviate back and neck pain.
3. Twisting pose
Directions: Place four corners of the feet on the ground. Then take your right knee over the left. There are two options. 1. Open twist (more gentle), put right elbow on right knee; close twist; 2. Close twist, put left elbow on right knee. Place your palms in your heart centre.
Twisting pose helps realign the shoulder girdle and the spine, as well as the pelvis and the spine. When twisting your body to the right, your right shoulder blade moves closer toward the spine, contracting the muscles that bind it to the ribcage and spine. At the same time the left shoulder blade moves further away from the spine, stretching the muscles that bind it to the rib cage and spine.
Chair yoga is great for seniors who are looking to gentle exercise. It is also great for busy executives sitting too long everyday. In modern lifestyle, we don’t climb trees anymore, and we lose the flexibility and strength of climbing trees. Spinal health takes the same approach. If we don't use it, we lose it. Forward bend, backbend and twisting are essential to our spinal health.
Download a printable version of chair yoga poster at Etsy.
Daniel Lieberman, (2013), The Story of the human body, the Penguin Group
Blogger - Rachel Lau
Yoga brings me physical strength and inner strength to face practical aspects of life while working in the corporate for over 10 years in Hong Kong. My passion for yoga encouraged me to leave the banking world and completed a Certificate IV in Yoga Teacher training in Byron Bay.
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA and an occupational therapist. Her yoga teaching focuses on blending two powerful healings, yoga and occupational therapy solutions, to help people face practical aspects of life.