How to Start Doing Self-Directed Yoga from Home

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

I am no yoga expert, by any means. However, I have been dabbling in it since I was 15, unfortunately, not consistently, until the past few months when I moved to Toronto.

The truth is that it is really easy to make excuses to not do things that you ought to do, but don’t really want to. Why would you buy whole grain rye bread when you can get white bread for a dollar less? There can’t be that big of a health benefit, right? Why would I take a street car in -20 degree weather and pay $40 a class to do yoga?

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Eventually, I decided that I need to make it impossible for me to make excuses. I know that I’ve never, ever felt worse after going to a yoga class, so I do enjoy doing it, it’s just… getting myself to do it. That’s when I started mimicking routines I did in class to the best of my ability, and started to develop my own routine, targeting the areas that I felt had more tension on my own accord. If me, a semi-rookie to yoga and meditation, can start my own routine, you can, too!

Benefits of Yoga and Meditation

You can read about the many benefits of yoga and meditation, but I’ll talk a bit about why it makes sense to me. If you were to take 10, 20, or 30 minutes of your day to completely de-stress and give your psyche a rest, whether that be reading, watching a Youtube video, etc, then  you’d probably be more effective in your productivity (unless you continue to watch random Youtube videos for far too long). When you combine that with breathing and stretching exercises, engaging muscles of your body that you might not engage all the time, you literally can’t help but feel better.

Also, I know that a good bulk of my readers are like me and are hunched over their computers or books for long periods of time, and/or have to deal with awful spring mattresses because they’re going to move in 4 months anyways, or fractured their foot because they thought it was a good idea to wear heeled-boots when walking from Trinity Bellwoods to Chinatown every day …  or is that just me?? Bad posture catches up to you, fam.

Getting Started

The basics: get a mat (one that’s a pretty color that makes you happy to look at), have a water bottle handy, and some comfy clothes. Since yoga is kind of static, I’d recommend wearing something a little on the warmer side so you don’t get chilly.

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Plan.

If you’ve never done yoga before, start by watching videos of instructors on Youtube, or read up on different poses and warm-ups. Since I’ve been doing yoga for a while, I have a good idea of what a typical warm-up for me should feel like, and was able to just write out the different poses I wanted to go through in a notebook. It’s okay to look at your notes and remind yourself of what your routine is the first few times- you’ll get into the hang of it eventually!

If you know anything about me, it’s that I make a playlist for literally every occasion and mood. By making a playlist that I thought had a good planned warm-up phase, “work-out” phase, and cool-down songs was really helpful in teaching myself cues. If the songs started to slow down, I knew it was time for me to slow down. I’m honoured to share my yoga playlist with you guys, titled, “Yoga from the Trap”. It’s an hour long because that’s how long I like to take, but you can always skip a few to shorten your routine!

Pick a time and honor it.

It’s easier to get into the routine of things if you do them at the same time every day and build them around existing habits. For example, I always do yoga after I finish eating breakfast, and I never miss breakfast. Over time, it’ll feel like clock work!

I say to honor it because it’s so easy to tell yourself that you don’t need to do it today. Or that you’ll do it later. It’s not a chore, this is a treat for yourself! Or it’s an essential for some.

Always end with Savasana.

This is the corpse pose, where you lie on your back with palms facing up. Take a few minutes at the end of your routine to recentre your breath, and reap the rewards of your “work-out” by identifying how each part of your body feels. I notoriously fall asleep during Savasana (it’s incredibly embarrassing especially if you snore…)  because it’s so relaxing!

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Have some fun, don’t take it too seriously!

At the end of the day, you should be doing this for you, so allow yourself some wiggle room in your routine for new moves and poses, methods, music, or allow yourself to indulge in one that you’re particularly fond of. One of my favorite yoga instructors ever once told my class that we could lay in corpse pose the whole class if we wanted- the time was for us to do what our body’s “calling” was!

 

Forward-folds are hard I’m really not flexible 😦 

I’m Proud of my Parents’ Accents- and you should be too

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

When I was younger, my parents often told me stories about their life journey. Sometimes these stories came up when they were scolding my sisters and I, saying that they used to dodge bombs while walking to school, and that I have it good to be living here, and sometimes it was a chance for my parents to teach us where our true roots came from.

My parents left their hometown of Hai Phong, Vietnam with my newborn sister during the post-war era. Things looked shaky in terms of economic stability, and there were rumors of western countries filled with opportunity for new beginnings and creating a life for oneself. One day, they snuck onto a cargo ship filled packed to the rim with other people fleeing Vietnam. After grueling days at sea, they finally landed in Hong Kong and settled in a refugee camp, where my other older sister, Linda, was born. From there, they went to another refugee camp in the Philippines, and when Canadian officials visited the camp, my mom decked my sisters out in Canadian gear, giving them the chance to apply and get accepted to immigrate to Canada. This entire journey, which this paragraph truly does not do justice to, took around 6 years. These 6 years were filled with uncertainty, isolation from family, nostalgia, and heart-break, as my parents made sacrifice after sacrifice, missing out on integral family events back in Vietnam because they wanted so badly to provide a fruitful life for my sisters and I.

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My sisters and parents visiting the Niagara Falls shortly after arriving in Canada (prior to my conception, a much sadder time for everyone, I’m sure)

In 1995, they came to Canada and started their new lives. My mom babysat the other Vietnamese (and not Vietnamese!) children in the neighborhood, many of them with parents just like mine, while my dad worked odd jobs, studied for his G1 (which he failed multiple times because of the language barrier), tested for his G2, and purchased his first car by 1997, which was when I was born. Eventually, my parents found more fulfilling and better paying work, and we moved to my current home in the lovely and quiet neighborhoods of South Windsor. Here, they made sure my sisters and I attended good schools and got good marks while they continued to support us.

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My family getting their Canadian Citizenship (sans moi, I was just there for moral support in the middle).

I know that this story is one that many can relate to, and one that strikes a chord for all. It’s the story of the immigrant’s dream. It certainly does not come without struggle, even now. Sometimes it’s big things, like the fact that my parents celebrate Lunar New Year over the course of one evening, as opposed to the week-long celebrations that happen in Vietnam. Sometimes it’s small things, like the cashier at Burger King who rolls his eyes when he asks my dad to repeat himself because he didn’t understand him the first time as a result of English that came from a mouth that was born and raised speaking Vietnamese.

Honestly, I am incredibly ashamed that I’ve ever been embarrassed to hear my parents speak English. Growing up, I’d hate having my friends over in fear that they would mock the way my parents speak to me, or the way that the conversation was just.. a little harder to get on, due to the slightly broken English that my parents spoke. This eventually turned into indifference to their accents in my adolescent years. I didn’t harbor negative feelings, but I certainly would rather not think about it. It wasn’t until I moved out for university that I truly began to appreciate the symbolism behind their accented English.

For me, their accents represent a life and culture that they know like the back of their hand. The accents represent the families that they left behind in order for me to seize the land of opportunity. They represent my mom spending hours on the phone catching up with her siblings and parents on Christmas and Lunar New Year. They represent my dad missing the funeral of his parents because he had newly moved to Canada, with no money and no documentation to fly back home to be with his siblings. They represent the long and crazy hours my parents worked to afford the house we live in now, the clothes I wear, and the education I am so honoured to receive.

While you can tell that English is my parents’ second (but certainly not inferior) language, you can also tell that their lives are incredibly rich in experiences, success, failures, love, and sacrifice. So when I see my mom practicing her Tim Horton’s order before she gets to the drive through so that the worker understands her, I can’t help but beam with pride.