Can Yoga Transend Barriers?

It wasn’t easy finding quality yoga instruction when I was in Shenzhen. By that I meant that it was close to impossible to find a teacher who spoke English. When I started practicing regularly 4 years ago, I wasn’t totally bought into the practice. I went to a nice studio, but I felt quite alienated because my Chinese speaking skills were pretty much non-existent. I’d always be at the back of the room, and look at the instructor and those around me to figure out what poses to maneuver into next. I had a sciatic nerve issue once and I was too scared to try and ask how to modify poses to prevent further straining it. Did I breathe ‘properly’ during vinyasa classes? Heck no! I’d go to a class, sweat for a an hour, rush to the showers, and leave as fast as I could. Even the 5 minutes of waiting before the classes was a chore. Add to the fact that many of the patrons that frequent this place were all staring at everyone one else, like they were competing to see who was the best at yoga. Many come in these haute couture yoga outfits, and I swear these two ladies were going to have it out one day because they happen to sit beside one another and they wore the same outfit.

I kept going back because I wanted to be active, and I paid a lot of money for a two year membership (kind of stupid in retrospect, I know).

Don’t get me wrong, the instructors were always friendly to me, but it was hard to connect in any way because of the language barriers, or so I thought.

Her name is 李杭生 (Shanti). I never once addressed her by her name.

Enter the teacher above. I went to about two of her classes before she tried to talk to me. I remember having to sit at the front of the class (sacrilege!) and she tried to ask me how long I’ve been doing yoga. Luckily there was a nice lady who spoke some English to translate.  I remember feeling really embarrassed over the whole thing. I did the usual, rush out of class and back home as quickly as I can.

One Sunday, I signed up for another one of her early morning classes.  I did what I usually do and sat at the back. She enters and closes the door. We both realize then and there that I was the only student there that showed up for the class! She must have remembered me because she smiled and motioned for me to pick a mat at the front of the room. I would have loved then and there to bolt out of the room, but I’m sure I would never be able to show up at this place again if I had done that.  We sit down and she tries to talk to me. I try to reply in English.

Then, a miracle of sorts happened. She started breathing in and out, and motions for me to do so. We breathe in silence for a bit. Then she starts inhaling and says “inhale”, both in English and Chinese. She does the same when she exhales.  Instead of sitting at her usual spot, she sits at the mat beside me and motions for me to look at her. She demonstrates the pose she wants to teach me and shows when to inhale and exhale. I do the same.  If I didn’t need any modifications, she does a thumbs up and smiles. If I didn’t do something correctly, she does the pose again until I do it ‘correctly’. At the end of the class we sat and chanted ‘om’ three times together.

Instead of rushing out, I bowed and said thank you in Chinese and she said it back to me in English.

In subsequent classes, she always had a full room, but made sure to stop by me and check I was doing my poses correctly. I learned to breathe properly because I learned what those words were in Chinese.

She was one of the first locals that I was able to connect with and made my time in China easier. And I am very grateful for that.

If you are ever in Shenzhen, she now teaches at Hotz Yoga. They apparently have instructors that speak English now.

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Moving Forward

I’ll admit, I was emotional this morning. I had shed a few tears, overwhelmed by something I don’t really know. In the past I would have used this as an excuse to not do any yoga and allow myself to wallow in the depths of my sadness, or whatever it was. Today I didn’t. I let myself sit and breathe, shed the tears, roll out the mat and tried my best to put my distracting thoughts away for the hour I was practicing. After savasana (corpse pose), I felt better. I even concentrated with my full heart hearing the closing prayer today.  I was immediately proud of myself. Why? Well because I feel like I’ve grown after this one practice. I didn’t let myself use any excuse to stop myself from doing something that benefited me. I sucked it up and got over myself. Even in times of sadness and turmoil, people need to pick themselves whenever and wherever they can and try to live life.

Afterwards, I watched a cool Kino video and read an article about David Swenson and his journey into yoga.  What I got from both posts was that yoga will find you, and when you are ready, things will come.  I’ve been practicing on and off for a few years now, and am now finally falling in love with Ashtanga yoga.  I would love to dwell on the past and what I could have done to get to where I am now, in terms of my practice and life in general. But I have to focus on the present and move forward. Don’t have doubt. The answers are there when I am ready for them.

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The Battle with Humidity

ugh. As the weather is getting hotter and hotter,  a wackload of humidity follows. I had planned a bunch of walks to baishizhou and around the older neighbourhoods behind my house, but when I’m out the door, a five minute walk just ends up taking me straight back indoors, where it is nice and cool. I was shopping for presents this past weekend and I was drenched by 10am. My yoga routine has also gone to the dogs, since it is so hot I get dizzy even with the air conditioner on. There is wonderful mould growing too, yuck!

What to do? A lot of people are getting sick from this, and I’m sure other people are having the same issues. Here’s what I do to cope with the humidity here:

1. Stay inside as much as possible – yes, it is the obvious one, but the pollution here plus the humidity here is ready to send anyone into crazy spells. I usually find routes (if I’m walking and doing errands)  where I can walk into buildings for most of my walks. You wouldn’t believe how many buildings are actually connected to each other in Shenzhen.

2. Drink lots and lots of water, and avoid juices/alcohol/caffene until evening – I got crazy drunk once during the afternoon, at a wine festival, and I only had about six sips of wine! I learned my lesson quickly after that. People also get dizzy/overheated/dehydrated and you’ll just wind up doing your body more harm than good. If you do consume these types of drinks, at least make sure you’re not going outside for long after you drink them.

3. Bring an umbrella and use it when it is sunny – I probably won’t get away with this outside of Asia, but when it is absolutely scorching and sunny, you need something other than a hat and sunscreen to get the sun away from you. It helps me cool down a bit more since it the sun is not shining down directly on me.  The only downside to this is when there are millions of umbrellas and you have to navigate through the crowd with yours.

4. turn on the air conditioner (if they are seperate units) even if you are not in the room, but not all day of course  – this helps get the moisture out of the rooms in your home. Those disposable demunidifiers also work wonders, and there are ones for your shoes in case you sweat lots in them (and don’t wear socks!)

5. Wear breathable, light, and loose clothing – Work is hard enough without having to chase after kiddies or walk in and out of the classroom (our hallways are outside) and sweat is just plain gross. Then awesome things like heat rash appear (mmmmmmmmmmmm…………).  And heat rash is just not fun, nor sweating and having to deal with the itch. Do yourself a favour and just prevent it.

Those are about it. Do you have any additional tips to deal with the humidity?

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Allergy update

Ever since my allergy diagnosis, I’ve had to eat in a lot more. I’ll admit, it really SUCKED in the beginning.  Now, almost two years later, I’m taking the same test again (of course on the insistence of the husband) to see if any of my allergies have lessened.

If for any reason you suspect allergies may the culprit of whatever is bothering you, I highly recommend where I went, HK Biotek (I think they have offices in other parts of the world too).  They are a US based company which takes a blood sample and tests it against 96 different foods to see how severe your allergies are.  It can be anything from no reaction, need to rotate the foods, up to avoiding the food for 6-9 months. I know that after I got my test results and as soon as I started rotating my foods and avoided others, my ezcema symptoms went away, I had more energy, and I got a lot less colds.  I also ate a lot less processed foods, junk foods, and sugar as a result which also contributed to my overall health.

The test is a bit pricey (the delayed reactions test cost about HKD 2800, other tests, such as immediate allergic reactions and environmental allergens test cost about HKD 4000), but if you can afford it, do it for the sake of your health.  If you say a friend recommended you (you can always use me as a referral, just message me privately) I think you get a discount. I got 20% off because I had taken the test before.

Last week, when I called to arrange an appointment for the second test, I was told that I had to eat a variety of foods, and if there were any foods that I avoided for a long time, I should eat them in order for the test to be as accurate as possible. Hearing this, I starting naming all the foods I hadn’t eaten in a while and got very kind of excited about it, because some of the foods I didn’t have for over a year included the following:

-muffins/cakes  and pastry of any kind

-breads of any kind

-Caesar salad (which used to be my favourite)



-any type of pasta at restaurants

For the sake of the test, I ate to my heart’s delight. I thought I would have been relishing at this chance.  Tonight, after eating a lovely meal, I had a piece of chocolate cake. As I took my last bites, I came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if I can have any of these foods without any allergic reactions anymore. Simply put, these foods are still damaging to my body in the long run.  I’ll probably still feel tired. I won’t put my body at risk like that anymore. I’ve discovered a lot of simple, home cooked meals. They’re also cheaper, which is always a bonus. I love trying new things in the kitchen (yes, do bitch everybody and their dogs when it doesn’t work out, I am working on that).  I love reading and talking about food.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, I’m not going to go back to my old ways if my test results shows me I can eat whatever I want. I’m getting a lot of compliments about how great I look, and I want to keep it that way.

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