Using Themes in Yoga Class

In my teaching, I often utilize a theme for each class. Themes vary from “heart opening,” which refers to the types of asanas I’m using in the sequence, to a quality such as “mindfulness,” to aspects of the yogic philosophy. In doing so, I set a purpose for why I am teaching the class, and I give students a possible reminder as to why they decided to practice.

The practice of yoga extends beyond the mat, but the mat is a powerful tool in cultivating a yogic mindset. Using asanas and moving with the breath bring the practitioner into a mindful meditation. Linking, or yoking, the body and the mind is the spiritual practice of yoga. While this can be done just by concentrating on the breath, it is sometimes more effective if the whole body is engaged in a stretching posture, or asana.

Although many people approach yoga as a physical exercise, the true teaching of yoga is as a spiritual practice. There are many ways to teach a student how to yoke the body and the mind through asanas. An experienced teacher can develop sequences from scratch. As a new teacher, I like to use a theme to guide the class and to serve as a reminder for why we practice yoga.

How I deal with feelings of romantic love and attraction

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and it has me thinking about why I tend to dwell on memories and thoughts of certain people with whom I’ve shared warm and fuzzy feelings. The truth is, I’m single now because those relationships were not meant to be. While I can intellectually accept the idea that those relationships weren’t meant to last, it’s harder to feel emotionally stable, especially when I’m spending time alone and would rather have someone to share the moments with.

After discussing these memories with my awesome art therapist, I realized I was trying to recall the feelings of romantic love and attraction. I realized I wanted to feel those feelings, and not necessarily be with those people again. That prompted me to come up with a strategy for dealing with those feelings when they arise attached to memories and thoughts of people no longer in my life.

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Here are the steps:

STEP 1: Consciously separate the feelings of romantic love and attraction from thoughts and memories of specific people. Quietly meditate on what you feel in your body, while letting thoughts come and go. Recognize the reality that you felt those feelings at one point in your life, and now you are recalling them again. Let go of the memory and focus on the feelings generated by the memory.

STEP 2: Recognize that the feelings come with body sensations and, therefore, energy. Notice how the feelings manifest in your body. Try to relax as you sit with the feelings. Does it make you want to smile? to cry? maybe both? There is no right way to feel. If you feel like crying, allow yourself to release the energy that way. It’s okay to cry, and you are releasing toxins in the process!

STEP 3: Put that energy out into the universe.

You can . . .

-Do a loving kindness meditation to surround yourself with good thoughts and extend those affirmations to others in your life.

-Do some visual art to express what the feelings mean to you in forms, images, or colors.

-Do exercise such as yoga to show respect and love for your own body.

-Make a gift for someone you love, such as valentines for your family and friends.

STEP 4: Talk about the feelings with someone you trust, such as a therapist or close friend. Processing feelings, thoughts, and body sensations outwardly can lead to more clarity. Try not to suppress how you are feeling, as that will only lead to anxiety. Open your heart to a person you trust and gain understanding and compassion in return.

STEP 5: Feel loving vibrations coming back to you from all directions! Write down what you have to be grateful for. Recognize all the people and animals in your life who care about you. Remember that God loves you, guides you, and helps create the path you were meant to walk.

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I’m really proud that I came up with this strategy because it makes me feel resilient and happy to be single. I’m also happy to share it with you because I think a lot of people can benefit from taking these steps, not just around Valentine’s Day, but anytime they are dealing with the feelings of loss or loneliness and wanting to feel romantic love and attraction as a way to make themselves feel better. This is what I’ve experienced, and I hope my strategy works for you too, anytime you’re looking to feel more gratitude and joy for being single.

Racing 10k and celebrating Mid Autumn festival!

Dragon Lantern in Victoria Park, Hong Kong
Dragon Lantern in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

This weekend we celebrated the mid Autumn festival and I ran a ten kilometer race. Needless to say it was a big weekend. Mid Autumn festival is the second biggest holiday in Hong Kong, just like Thanksgiving and Christmas in America, we have the Lunar New Year and mid Autumn festival. Mid Autumn festival is a celebration for the harvest that comes in the autumn around the autumnal equinox, which is marked by the appearance of the full moon between September and October. This year the festival fell on September 27, the same day as the Jamieson 10k race.

I got up at 5:15 to get ready for the race and take the 6am ferry out of Lamma Island. Choi and I met Leung in Causeway Bay and went to the Shatin Sportsground via taxi. For those of you who are wondering, the sunrise happens just after 6 and it is a glorious view from the ferry. (I enjoyed this everyday during my yoga training). Check out the sky in the photo below!

Island landscape glows with the first rays of the sun.
Island landscape glows with the first rays of the sun.

I was very full from a breakfast of two eggs, wheat bread and marmalade. I chose eggs for breakfast in keeping with my veggie diet and to pack some protein before the long run. I sipped warm water to help with digestion. The book Yoga Yajñavalkya recommends filling one third of the stomach with food, one third with warm water, and leaving the other third empty. Not too too much room in there as the size of your stomach is only about the size of the fist. Don’t worry though, it expands, and it is possible to get an idea of how much to eat and drink during a meal by following this ratio.

Pre-race there wasn’t much time to warm up. We took a quick photo then put our belongings in the stands. I love the good running buddy juju that got us the numbers 1693 and 1639!!! True running buddies for life!

Our Pre race photo. I look so sleepy -__- zzz.
Our Pre race photo. I look so sleepy -__- zzz.

The race went really well. There were less than two thousand people, but it was still pretty crowded on the race course which followed a bike path over the Shing Mun river and started and finished at the stadium. During the race we steadily worked our way forwards, passing one person after another until about the seventh kilometer when we evened out with our competitors. For the first five kilometers or so, I did not think about anything! I was completely absorbed in running (and passing other people) and it felt really carefree. After the fifth kilometer, I focused more on breathing, making sure every inhale and exhale was accompanied by 3-4 strides. I asked myself “Are you enjoying running in this race?” and I confidently answered “YES!” in my head. Everything was going smoothly, my muscles were working and not cramping which was a relief. I was on adrenaline since the start of the race and it felt like  it was being steadily supplied to me throughout the whole race from start to finish.

Finishing the race. See my competitor about ten strides in front of me?
Finishing the race. See my competitor about ten strides in front of me?

Towards the second half of the race, I met my main competitor: another female in my age group (20-24). Funny thing is I did not even know there were prizes being given out at this race. She had a steady gait and quick rhythm. I was definitely working hard on keeping my breath together while she was not breathing hard at all. I chased her down at the last two hundred meters of the race, and I finished about 10 strides behind her.

Post race. I finished with a PR of 55.45!
Post race. I finished with a PR of 55.45!

We took some time to rest, drink water, eat Asian pears (Why I love HK: because they give out pears at the end of races instead of granola bars, etc.), and stretch. It is so essential to stretch after every run so that your muscles can relax and grow bigger. I cannot stress that point enough. It will also reduce the lactic acid in your muscles so that you don’t feel as much pain the next day or in the hours after the run.

I met a team of “veggie runners” with the most adorable jerseys, with pictures of animals on the front and the words “love and respect” and “go veggie”. Definitely I must join this organization’s running team if I venture to stay in HK longer. What a great message to share about diet while running.

As we were heading out of the stadium, we saw a results board. Neither of us were expecting anything, but we wanted to see the official times which had been kept by an electronic attachment to our bibs. Lo and behold, my name was listed at #3 in females ages 20-24! With a time of 55.45, I had won a prize in this competition which came as such a surprise, and I am still wondering why this race was not more popular for woman in my age group. Here I am receiving my medal and gift certificate to Jamieson, already changed out of my running clothes.

I won the prize for 2nd runner up in females age 20-24.
I won the prize for 2nd runner up in females age 20-24.

On to the second part of the mid Autumn festival celebration! The family reunion may be the most essential part as the round moon represents unity and wholeness, such a the family unit. Of course I celebrated with my almost-foster family here, the Chan family.

IMG-20150927-WA0010Having a big dinner and then going out to the streets of Causeway Bay to watch the dragon dance made the evening super special. The dragon dance was not the typical big and brightly colored dragon costume. For this celebration, they create the body of the dragon out of hay, then stick incense all over the body, so a fragrant aroma is carried throughout the city streets. Drums are being played to announce it’s arrival and keep the atmosphere lively. Children carry lanterns of paper or plastic (electric), and there’s confetti everywhere. I don’t have a picture or video of this because I was rushing to catch a bus back to Aberdeen where I take the ferry home to Lamma. From the pier at Aberdeen I watched the moon, its pale silver light reflected down from the sky and I felt peaceful. I truly am a moongirl. To me that means I go with the ebb and flow of nature, I always turn to the moon to feel nourished and comforted because her light is so gentle. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Dinner for a whole family!
Dinner for a whole family!

Writer’s Statement

I am so excited to start my first blog, which I hope will evolve into a communication platform for all topics that interest me (ie. women’s issues, LGBTQ, food, agriculture, yoga, running, books, health, and environment). This first post is like a purpose statement, so that I and my readers have a clear understanding of why I write and what I hope to share through this blogging experience.

First of all, I want to give you a warm welcome. This is a space that is uplifting, encouraging and positive. I want to create articles that generate a feeling of hope and promote openness to important issues in the world. As global citizens I believe we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. We need to pare down and think critically about our basic needs, cherish them if they have been served, and use the rest of our energy to live out our dreams and create beauty in this world. More often than not, the news brings us down, people leave hate comments on the internet, and children get bullied in school. Our planet needs some serious healing, and we need to turn our minds inside out in order for real life to manifest itself. I hope that my writing serves the community as I promote awareness and sensitivity to hot topic issues in our world today. Please jump on board with comments, constructive criticism, and questions to create a rich learning environment that brings inspiration to all.