Top five most viewed videos for 2017

I see no reason why we can’t pronounce Chinese places, people and brand names correctly. This prompts me to make ‘how to pronounce’ videos and YouTube and they seem to come in handy for people. Here are my five most viewed videos that I made in 2017.

I love it that when people search for ‘how to pronounce…’ YouTube serves them up one of my videos.

WATCH: My top five most viewed videos for 2017

Have a wonderful holiday and I will see you in 2018.

lots of love

 

Story not tactics

I like books that spark ideas and help me to look at the problem from a different angle. I like receiving inspiration that reminds me to meditate or exercise. But I realise I am tired of the books that give me advice, strategies, tactics and journal writing prompts.  I do not like the idea of fixing myself anymore. I am not going to try and fix or change me or you.

I was given a raw vegan recipe book for my birthday and at the start of the book is a chapter on the author’s story. I really dug in and enjoyed the story of how she found yoga and how it influenced her and how she has met the challenges of her upbringing.

But very quickly the author then started to share hints and answers to questions that a lot people ask her. I get it. She is now famous and people ask her questions about how they can be fitter and healthier but I think learning someone else’s answers to questions about our own life doesn’t help.

Everybody’s story is different and I suppose the author thinks she is being helpful. That people want to be helped. But her story is her path and it worked for her unique life but it won’t work for anyone else. I think once she’d told her story she should have left it at that. There was no need to go on and offer advice on what people should be eating. So many people are telling us what and how to do things. I like hearing the story of the struggle but how someone else got through it with exact tactics won’t work for me.

I think we are interested in other people’s story because people are so interesting. No two lives are ever the same and that is why I love the genre of memoir so much. And it is why I like to read memoir and novels about fictional people’s lives.

I love reading about how other people face the challenges in their life and this does not immediately lead into asking for their advice about the struggles in my life. I don’t need to know their story so I can see how they made it through so I can apply it in my own life, but because the humanness of the story is comforting and I feel inspired to pursue my own life and chase down my aspirations and fight through my struggles just as they have done.

I have just read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, ‘Wild’. I really enjoyed reading it. I am guessing Cheryl would not tell anyone to go hike the Pacific Trail, to solve their spiritual dillemas which is good. What worked for her won’t work for us.

When someone articulates the feelings, they experience when facing a challenge, I feel a sense of being understood and even seen by them. I stop feeling alone. And that is why I like reading and hearing someone else’s story.

Yoga gives me

People’s most common response to me when I tell them I am teaching yoga now is that they are not flexible. I have noticed that a lot of people believe they are not suited to yoga.

Yoga takes you exactly as you are.

  • I don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. But if I practice yoga my mind and body is more flexible.
  • I don’t need to be strong, but if I practice yoga I feel physically and mentally strong and I slowly gain strength.
  • I don’t need to be good at meditating, but if I practice yoga I learn to slip into the pure clean and clear place where I feel my breath floating up and down my spine and I am truly present and I have arrived in my body.
  • Often I think I don’t have time to go to yoga on Tuesday morning to do a yin yoga practice where the poses are held for many minutes. I go anyway and I slow down and enter a deep state of relaxation and I carry that with me through the rest of the week.

I am naturally flexible, so I have focused on strengthening my muscles and mind in my practice. Sometimes I have held so much tension in my body that everywhere feels tight and bound up and yoga has helped to lengthen, twist and release the tension in my muscles. I have often felt anxious and flustered and unable to meditate and I have learnt to stay with my breathing when the urge is to scratch or fidget or fall out of the posture.

I have come to understand that when I go to a yoga class I can expect to find people just like me who are flustered, stressed, anxious, worried, distracted and caught up or smiling too much when deep down they are feeling sad or anger is bubbling just below the surface. And I expect to see these people experiencing what it is to be human there next week.

A close friend of mine works in a stressful workplace where mistakes have great consequences. And the conflict that arises is often not about the actual technical issues at hand, but rather the tone of voice with which someone has spoken to someone or someone feels that their thoughts are not valued or someone is making light of another’s concerns. It always comes down to how the people feel they are being treated. And the energy of the workplace becomes so heavy with the conflict and there is not time and space to process and resolve what has happened because the important caring work must continue.

My friend asked me how to get out of a funk on a day like this in the workplace.

I answered that I understood her dilemma because I had had a similar experience on my birthday. My family was at my house for my birthday dinner. Everyone was helping to prepare the meal and I was being particularly bossy. I felt compelled to tell people what they were doing wrong. I could feel that my energy was off but was too tied up in getting everyone fed to slow down and feel what I was feeling. I knew I was hurtling along and hurting my loved ones in the process but I felt powerless to stop it. In the moment I was so wound up I didn’t have the capacity to breathe and slow down and feel.

When I met one of the Okido yoga teachers from Family Yoga in Japan, Mr Iishi, on a recent visit of his to Brisbane one of my friends asked Mr Iishi how one can change their energy when you know it is off or low. And Mr Iishi had a couple of great suggestions. First, he suggested that if it was an immediate situation like you had to work straight away, one way to switch things up would be to change your breathing. He suggested going somewhere quiet like a cupboard and doing some lion breaths. This is where on your exhale breath you poke out your tongue and stretch your face make a silent roar or growl like a lion. A few lion breaths and you are on your way.

The second suggestion for a longer funk that is hanging around is to go on a holiday. Or maybe just go shopping. How funny that even yoga teachers believe there is a t time and a place for retail therapy!!

I first came to yoga because of how it felt in my body. I explore more deeply because I know it helps with how I feel in my body and heart/mind.

Loving the yoga practice and teaching yoga

It is Tuesday evening as I write this and I was teaching yoga tonight. I am always listening at the end of class to hear people’s reaction to my class. I am careful not to ask people what they thought but rather to wait for the feedback that often fills the quite moments when we finish class.

Tonight, at the end of class one of the people said, “I feel so relaxed…you can’t tell that it is busy out there” (points to the windows). She also asked if I taught anywhere else which is the best compliment I could have hoped for.

Two things are with me now.

Loving to do it

This is my favourite thing to do and I now have the skills to do it. I feel like I was given a raw talent to use my body in this way.  I know if I choose this as my one thing and invest all my energy and time into it, I can make it my life.

When I speak to people about their own businesses there are two types. There are those that work long hours in their business and make enough money to make ends meet. Their work is not exciting to them but a means to an end…paying bills.

The second type are the people who are excited and driven and motivated by their business. They face risk straight on, plotting and planning and are always excited about the next new thing. (As I write this I think of my Dad’s boss who is very successful in business. When I asked him about risk, he said not to worry too much about the risks. He said the things that go wrong are never the things you originally worried about anyway. I thought this was a helpful outlook and the truth.)

I aspire to the have the second kind of business. I like planning new workshops and experiences for people. I start by planning an experience for the people in the room with me. During each class, I focus on being present with people in the room with me. I want to inspire them to come every week. I want to connect the people in my community so they can form friendships at yoga. I hone my craft and share the practice and grow and improve and write and use my talents to become the yoga teacher that I know I can be.

Teaching Yoga – Sharing it

These teachings, the meditation, the poses and the seasonal yoga have been so helpful to me. First, yoga helps me to relax. But I also gain flexibility, mindfulness, health, vitality, strength, power, connection, community and fitness. I want to share it. Now that I have developed such a connection to the practice I feel compelled to share it.

At the end of yoga teacher training, my friend Ella who was on the teacher training with me told me she felt a compulsion to share what she had learned. And now I share that feeling too.

I am unique and I have a unique experience. I don’t have to be more skilled, more experienced, more like anyone else. I just need to be me and teach. I’m ready.

Yoga doesn’t deliver me to a destination, nor does it take away the hard-to-feel emotions but it does train me to go back to my breath and stay with the feelings instead of running from them or trying to distract myself from them, using food or screens or work or running or more sinister drugs of choice.

And that is why you will find me teaching yoga. Sharing the practice. It helps that my body and mind feels like it was made for this and that I love teaching yoga.

~~~

This writing is part of a series of blog posts that I am posting weekly about my curiosity around yoga and movement and the body and our purpose how these can align.

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Plant-based eating – nine months on

It has been nine months since I made the switch to plant-based eating. I became motivated to stop eating all meat and food containing animal products. And now that I have done it, I feel light and fit. I feel clear and conscious. I feel aligned.

What I eat now

I don’t say I eat a vegan diet, because it isn’t that I have replaced meat in my life with non-meat substitutes. I have instead focused on plant-based eating. I eat a lot of starches – a lot of rice, corn, pasta, potatoes, oats and other grains, noodles and some bread.  Along with that I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and tofu. I have substituted soy milk for the milk in my drinks. I eat a lot of 70% chocolate (my favourite is Moser Roth from Aldi). I do eat some packaged foods that don’t contain animal products but I limit these. I have a varied diet and I eat a lot of food. I don’t monitor or track how much I eat.

I know that since I stopped eating meat, eggs and cheese which are very high in calorific value I can eat a lot of plant food. I keep processed plant-based oils low because I don’t think they are good for me. I don’t restrict, salt or sugar I just focus on eating a lot of plants and having that as my focus seems to stand me in good stead. I was already thin but now I am leaner. The fat I was carrying just fell away.

How I made the decision to switch to plant-based eating

I have been interested and curious about a vegan diet for a few of years. Three years ago, on a three-day yoga teacher training a wonderful yoga teacher, Gopala Amir Yaffe told me the story of how he became vegan. He’d been vegetarian for many years. And then he lived on a farm where he kept cows for milk and chicken for eggs. He cared for his animals but he came to notice something. When the cows had calves, the male calves would not give milk so they had no need for them and when the chicken had chicks, the roosters were not to be kept because they would not lay eggs and they didn’t eat the roosters because they were vegetarian. Gopala realised that by being vegetarian animals would still suffer so he decided to not eat animal products anymore.

I was very intrigued by this story. I didn’t feel good that animals were being exploited for my food but food is so habitual and breaking those habits is hard.  What we eat is part of the way we fit in socially and in our families. Comfort food is food to me is food that I have eaten with my family for many years. And I had been told that eating animal products was good for me. I had been taught that I needed meat for iron and protein and milk for calcium. But I don’t.

Meat free Mondays

About one year ago I saw a documentary made by the BBC on the latest science on aging. One thing from that documentary that really stood out to me was the evidence to show that eating too much meat was not healthy. In the documentary, they discussed one way of reducing meat intake was to make Mondays meat free. I committed to meat-free Monday straight away. I felt a bit of resistance to it within myself but after I while realised how easy meat-free Monday could be. And I realised that I could probably go meat free every day and that is how I got my head around it.

How I feel now

Since I became purely plant-based I have a much nicer taste in my mouth when I wake up every morning. I have less body odour. I do not feel tired or lacking in energy.

I found many books, YouTube videos, podcasts and Netflix documentaries that gave me all the evidence to show me that I can get all the fuel I need from plants which feels so light and aligned and connected with the earth and all the animals on earth.

Plant-powered in China

My husband comes from China and his diet growing up was largely plant based with only small servings of meat and animal products. He knows that just because you are fuelled mainly by rice does not make you weak. You can get a lot of power from plants. He told me to look at the labourers on the streets of China, and not to think that because all they eat is a lot of rice and vegetables that they are not strong. He said they are very strong and they have a lot of energy. They are powered by plants.

Our family transitions

My husband is still eating meat. He is now supportive of me choosing to not eat animal products. It hasn’t been a completely smooth transition to me only eating plants in my family – there has been some tension but we’ve traversed the ground and made it out the other side.

The Potato Guy

One of the people that triggered my switch last year was the potato guy. I call him the potato guy, but he is a Melbourne man, Andrew Taylor who realised he was addicted to food and had no joy in is life except food. He was very overweight and depressed and knew he had to quit his food addiction. The only problem was he couldn’t give up food completely because he had to eat something. He did some research and realised that the potato is a perfect food. He uncovered research to show that whole societies of people had survived on potatoes in history. He started a year of eating potatoes only and now he hasn’t looked back.

Three reasons for plant-based eating: Health, Animals and the Environment

Now that I’ve really considered the whole topic of how we eat animals and animal products I’ve become really clear about my choice. I don’t want to eat meat, eggs and dairy anymore because it is unhealthy for me, it is wrong to exploit animals for my food and it is bad for the environment. So those three reasons keep me solid on the ground of eating just plants.

I offer these words so that they might nurture curiosity in those of us who are thinking about eating more consciously, weighing up the impact of the food we eat on our bodies, the environment and for the animals on earth.

~~~

This is the third in a series of blog posts that I am posting every week about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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Posture, ballet and yoga

Ballet as my introduction to posture

My journey from ballet to yoga began when I was five and I had a ballet teacher with great posture. My childhood ballet teacher, Miss McLellan didn’t have an overly athletic figure, although she was fit and strong, but what she did have was immaculate posture. In the twelve years I trained with her I did not see her slouch once. I remember seeing her walk around and simply her beautiful straight spine gave her an air and grace that is unique to ballerinas.

My ballet teacher taught me about maintain correct posture using cues like: tuck your ribs in, hold your stomach in, grow and hold your tail under. These prompts on how to hold your body for good posture are ways that encourage our muscles hug into our spines. It makes you compact and strong. Nothing is wobbling out there. It is kind of like drawing in your core, as you learn in pilates class.

Ballet and yoga

Skip forward thirty something years and I came back to doing what I love and that is being in a room with people working our bodies into poses together. As a child it was ballet. As an adult it is yoga.

A lot of ballet dancers become yogis. Ballet dancers are usually flexible and this is seen as a benefit as a yogi, but yoga is for everyone. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga.

Some people think that ballerinas are drawn to yoga after they stop ballet because ballet can be so harsh on the body that it causes injuries that can be healed and soothed with yoga. I think that the reason is because practising ballet requires you to focus your mental energy on where your body is in space. Yoga does the same thing.

Finding yoga

I found yoga in my thirties and it was the space, the time, the focus on the simple practise of moving my body through certain poses with a concentration that let me escape my mind. I loved the discipline of letting go of the outside world and working on the physical work of bringing my body into set poses repeatedly. It didn’t matter how I felt physically before the class I would always feel better afterwards.

Just loving it

My Mum tells the story of when I was a child and she would pick me up from ballet class after school. I would get to the car and I would be sweating, I would be noticeably exhausted. She would look at me and say, how was class? She said I never once said, that I was tired or hot or that the barre work was too repetitive. I would always reply, that it was great. I would feel exhilarated. I loved it. There was nothing I loved more.

Ballet pain

It did become difficult in the middle of my teenage years when I grew centimetres in height in a short period of time. I felt gangley and I found I had to work harder to be as graceful as I had been when I was younger. But I loved the classes. I loved improvisation. I loved solos, I loved group performances at eisteddfods and concerts.

I had blisters and sore feet. Yep, the sore feet is definitely a pain that I can recall vividly. Imagine trying to get your wooden toed pointe shoes on again when your feet are already blistered. Mine didn’t bleed the skin just rubbed straight off.  A blister never lasted long enough to heal. Jumping all your weight on your toes when they are blistered with only a stocking and a small foam toe pad to cushion the impact is Very sore. But it does look beautiful.

Missing the love of my life

It was many years between when I attended almost daily ballet classes and a regular yoga practice. I learned a second language and travelled and lived abroad. I kept fit in gym classes and my own version of exercise and I had lots of fun and I got married and started a family but this disciplined body work that I had in ballet class and found again in yoga was missing. I feel sad that I let this main love of my life lay idle for so long. I feel happy that I have returned to what I love.

 

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This is a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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Your posture and your overall health

As I walk down the street I notice people’s posture. I notice if they are walking along head first with their mind driving them along, their body barely able to keep up and without a say at all. I notice the people whose hearts are shut off, protected by severely rounded shoulders, the hunch on their back more pronounced the older they are.

Sometimes not. Sometimes the protagonist is a thin young man who maybe grew too quickly and tried not to stand out by rounding his shoulders to bend in with his peers. It is not my place to rock over to the person and place my hands firmly on their shoulders asking them to relax and release the tension in their shoulders and to then lift their shoulders up and back and down. Who am I to coach a stranger? I am not trained in somatic therapy. I am a yoga teacher but I still have so much to learn.

Turned out toes

I notice how my friends walk and how their legs might rotate outwards in their hip joint so that they walk with their toes pointing out. I used to do this as I have high external rotation in my hips and all of the ballet training had turned my toes out. I could turn them straight again on purpose for contemporary dance, but my natural gait had me walking with my toes pointing out. It was only when I started practising yoga and strengthened and lengthened my muscles and gained increased the flexibility in all of my muscles that I was able to walk with optimal alignment of my feet.

Success

I notice successful people have lovely straight spines. I am yet to meet an excellent communicator who stands with a slouch. A straight, aligned spine and strong well-aligned limbs means all the bodies organs are well supported. When our joints are stacked the force of gravity is holding us firmly to earth comfortably. Our heads are very heavy and if the shoulders are slouched and the head is hanging forward it means the neck has to work harder to hold the head up.

One of my teachers who is a somatic therapist, Fran Archer shared at a recent workshop that one of her teachers had responded to the question: “what is the right position for my neck?”  – “the next one”. In other words we should be in constant flow and motion because this means we don’t stay in one position for too long. Any position held for too long is not good for us. Even if we are sitting with a straight spine, anything that is too repetitive without contrasting, counterbalancing movement is not healthy.

Everybody is talking about standing desks. But I think the best idea would be to sit sometimes, stand sometimes and go for walking meetings. Bring movement into your everyday tasks. Just standing all day isn’t any better than sitting all day. Anyone who has worked in a job where they are standing all day is no good for them. Just ask a hairdresser. I know two hairdressers who have had problems with varicose veins for standing for long periods doing repetitive movements focusing on their work.

Posture tells me so much about a person.

Have you examined the alignment of your joints? How is your lumbar curve? Do you walk with your arches of your feet nicely pulled up instead of rolling in. Nothing in our body is set in stone. Our ligaments and tendons and muscles and fascia can all be strengthened and stretched and straightened out. You are never too old and it is never too late. Isn’t this the best news?

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This the first in a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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The story of how I learnt Chinese

People are often very curious about how I came to be fluent in Chinese. It was not an accident. It was something I had always wanted to be fluent in a second language.

I did not get the chance to dedicate time to studying a second language until I started university and I am glad I started then…although it is never too late to learn. But it does take a lot of work.

Chinese is one of those languages that the reason why you start learning it and the reason why you keep learning are often quite different. Have you felt that?

I made a video about how I learnt Chinese…and here it is!

WATCH: The story of how I learnt Chinese

I’d love to hear the story of why you want to learn Chinese or if your reason for keeping on learning has changed from the original motivating factor that made you start.

lots of love

Sally

xxx

Come to China in January

Hello lovely people

Two years ago I hosted two of my dedicated language students for a three week tour in China. We had a fabulous time.

We are going to Qingdao, China again this January to visit the family and I have some time in January to show you around China.

So if you have a spare 10 days in January and want to come to the winter wonderland of North China with me as your personal tour guide, then now is the time.

WATCH: Your own private tour guide

lots of love,

Sallyxxx

partner yoga workshops and retreats where we step off our own mat and celebrate the practice of yoga together