Blind-ish Yoga and Balancing

Last week I slept with my contacts on for a night and gave myself an eye infection. Woe is me. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that I got one. Two years ago I got one for wearing my contacts on a plane after staying up almost all night for a wedding in Chicago.

So now I have to spend 2 weeks wearing my ultra-thick glasses. How thick are they? -750 thick. To put this in perspective, to be considered legally blind, you have to see greater than -1000 with glasses on. I can’t wear glasses during yoga because they constantly slip off and fog during a warm vinyasa class. This means I see -750 in class.

Last time this happened, I spent most of the class flopping and struggling to balance. I spent so much time being self conscious about how unstable I was, not just in balancing poses, but in simple things like knowing where to put my hands and feet in dog dog. I had become so dependent on the visual cues of my physical practice that I hadn’t quite built the intuition to listen to what feels right for me.

This time around however, after a few more years of yoga + teaching students to do yoga with their eyes closed + learning to trust myself more while rock climbing, I find blind-ish yoga strangely awesome.  I can’t look around class at all. I’m fairly certain I was doing something different sometimes because teachers would mis-cue poses or mis-name poses, but it didn’t matter. My balance felt great because I trusted my feet, my core, my stability. Dancer’s pose, handstands, downdog all felt natural.

If you’ve never done this before, put on a blind fold or take out your contacts for class – it will change your perception. Maybe you will doubt yourself at first, but you’ll build on it over time. Fall a few times or fall a lot. Get up, brush yourself off and try. Trust yourself or learn to build the trust.

The Case for Inversions

Towards the end of my power class yesterday, I offered up a select-your-own inversion moment for students. In an effort to motivate them to try something, even if it was just viparita karani, I mentioned this article I read on Quartz about a woman who developed cankles from using her standing desk all day.

[FYI, someone in class asked what cankles were, which caused an outbreak of laughter, toppling over a few students. I apologize for those who may have fallen from laughter.]

I won’t go into a speech about the benefits or contraindications for inversions because I’m not a doctor. Plus you can probably find better articles written online. I just find them fun + it channels my inner kid who wants to run around doing cartwheels. 🙂 Isn’t that a good enough reason?

Throw in concentration and discipline for bonus.

Co-Teaching Workshop w/Wayne Tow

[Sorry for the grainy photo – apparently we don’t like to take photos together. But when we did, he happened to be dressed up like SpiderMan while teaching class.]

When I first started working on my handstands, Wayne offered a lot of (well-meaning) advice to me involving bent elbows and pressing up. Alas, when I bent my elbows, they never straightened back up again.

After I met the lovely Grace Yu, I learned a lot more tips that benefited me because she was more able to relate to the struggles I was having with handstands. I was excited and I decided to share with my friends (including Wayne) what I learned. The tips did not resonate with Wayne (who does not have my open hamstrings.)

The lesson in all this is that we all have very different bodies. Despite being much taller than me (sorry Wayne, I forgot how tall you are, but I know you’re taller than me), I have a longer torso than he does. He has broader shoulders and a narrow waist. I have skinny arms and a very low center of gravity. All of these physical characteristics means that we have found very different methods to approach the same thing.

Thus, Wayne and I have banded together to create an arm balance and inversion workshop to cater to all body types. We will start with a brief anatomy discussion, a warm up class and then we’ll work our way through foundational arm balances (such as bakasana/crow), and foundational inversions (namely sirsasana/headstand.)

Wayne is excellent at breaking down the most complex of poses (except for that handstand fail) in such a way that they are a lot less intimidating. Hopefully I can help bring some inspiration to those who worry that they aren’t strong enough (yet) to get to where they hope to me. It’s all about attitude and patience. 🙂

There will be a foundations workshop “Get Your Wings” on 10/18/2014 from 12:30PM-3:30PM at Y@C’s El Camino location.

Advanced workshop “Let’s Soar” will be the following week 10/25/2014 from 12:30PM-3:30PM at Y@C’s El Camino location.

$45 Pre-registration by 10/18 -OR- $54 Drop in after 10/18 
$70 Pre registration by 10/11 for BOTH “Get Your Wings” AND “Let’s Soar” Workshops

To sign up for the arm balance workshop [click here]!

Congrats To Diane Khuu On Her New Primetime Slot!

It was a short-lived co-teaching summer romance (not unlike my other short-lived co-teaching spring romance with Linh). Why do my co-teachers keep running away?

Co-teaching started when Linh took my class and realized that I wasn’t being myself when I teach. Normally I crack lame jokes (and laugh at myself) and have a goofy-fun time in class and with my friends. At some point I became a robot – stoically teaching each class. I’m not sure why it happened.

I met Linh in yoga class but didn't really talk to her until we did teacher training together. We eventually became good friends and even traveled to Argentina together. She's very blunt and I'm grateful that she's honest with me.
I met Linh in yoga class but didn’t really talk to her until we did teacher training together. We eventually became good friends and even traveled to Argentina together. She’s very blunt and I’m grateful that she’s honest with me.

When Linh joined, I started to open up to my students more (I’m actually a very private person, so this is a big deal) and in the process, I became more comfortable and had more fun.

Diane started off as my very first personal mentee. During her teacher training at Yoga @ Cindy’s, she was given the opportunity to select a teacher who she wanted to shadow and learn from and she picked me! (I had mentored others in the past, but they were assigned to me, so I’m not sure if they really wanted to be with me at all. :P) It was easy to mentor Diane because she always asks questions and is open to constructive advice.

I’m glad to have had a my fun co-teachers – their energy and attitudes made class a lot more fun to teach, and I feel like the students felt like it was a lot more fun to take. I was able to create more of a community with a little help from my friends.

Our last class together will be August 27, 2014. Afterwards… who knows. Maybe I’ll bring them back if I turn into an automaton again.

Happy Anniversary

Dear Self-From-Five-Years-Ago,

Relationships are hard and require a lot of commitment and dedication. Some times you get frustrated as hell and want to quit. Other days things seem to click. So goes the natural fluctuations in life. Be mindful of your actions and reactions, since you have control of these.

A truly healthy relationship allows both parties to become better. Keep an open mind.

Tell them you love them every day.


Photo was taken in Egypt the week that Morsi’s government was overthrown. We were sitting in the Port of Aqaba in Jordan [Y’all should watch “Lawrence of Arabia” if you have not] waiting for our ferry. The ferry was delayed since the political situation in Egypt was tense and our departure was contingent on whether Morsi would step down or not. I won’t go into the political details about this since I’m not knowledgeable enough to talk about it.

While in Egypt, we were given the opportunity to ride camels. I originally said no since they smelled and it cost $10… and I was being cheap. But after seeing him mount a camel, I decided why not? I mean, how often can most people get the opportunity to ride a camel in front of the Great Pyramids? If it were not for his enthusiasm to do EVERYTHING (literally, everything), I wouldn’t have these photos. At the same time, he never would have thought to visit this place if I didn’t throw a dart at a map. (He had his eye on more popular tourist destinations in Europe.)

While we have drastically different travel styles, I think we decided that I was the limiting reagent when it comes to energy. It used to frustrate him that I would get tired all the time and it would frustrate me that he wanted to keep going out until the sun came out. He learned to accept my limits. [I tried to go out at night but after some time, I become a sleep-deprived monster. It’s not pretty.]

Compromises are hard. Rarely is it 50/50. More like 60/40 or 70/30. Once you agree to the terms, agree to them without regret.

What Is/Is Not Yoga?

Every time something comes along, backlash isn’t too far behind.

Yoga is/isn’t a community practice, but a solitary one. Yoga is/isn’t a solitary practice, but a community practice. It isn’t physical asana, it’s all mental. It’s some physical incorporated as mental. Include quote from Rumi, a passage from a book, pop music/no music. Fun, extroverted teacher or quiet, contemplative teacher. Yoga is/isn’t hot women doing yoga half naked posting themselves on Instagram. Ashtanga is the original. Iyengar is the original. Bikram? Vinyasa? Power? “Hatha”?

So much judging happens when you say you practice yoga. Depending on where you go, what style and who you practice under, others seem to judge the authenticity of your yoga or the hipness of your practice.

The greatest aspect of yoga is it’s reach and it’s ability to tailor itself to each individual. If you crave the singalong, heart-pumping community feel, try for a Bhakti class. Want to quiet the mind and stretch the body? Try for Yin or Restorative. Yoga for bonding with your partner/baby/toddler? Done. Solely here for silent contemplation? Meditate. Is what you are doing yoga? It is, if you want it to be.

Photo Credit to my husband, Fernando Cheng. Taken in Bangkok, Thailand from one of many many many temples we visited.

Quest for the Press Day 7

Where I was as of last night. Videos taken by my friend AJ “Huggles” at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale.

I was taking class at Yoga Inside Out a few weeks ago and placed my mat next to another person. Didn’t think much of it since it’s we’re always surrounded by anonymous people in class.

However once class started, it became apparent that she had a similar physical practice to mine, save for one major thing: she could press into handstand. Something crossed my mind:
I suck. How come I can’t do that? (Boo for negative thoughts.)
Quickly followed by:
Wait. This means that I have hope! (Yay for turning it around.)

I had always used my plethora of excuses as to why I couldn’t do certain things, until I realized that they weren’t true. My excuse for not trying arm balances? Skinny arms. Completely blown away by watching another girl with even skinnier arms do it. Inversions? Same excuse.

In an effort to learn how to press up, I had asked my (male) friends who gave me useless tips. They meant well, but the tips were still about 5 levels above where I was. So I remained stuck since I couldn’t figure out steps 1-4.

After class, I tapped her on the shoulders and shamelessly asked her for help. With all of her tips, a light turned on in my head. One that reignited a desire to improve myself. To learn more. She wasn’t a glamorous rock star yogi, but she was so much more real to me because she was next to me without the glamorous lululemon/toesox/whatever photoshoot.

[A slightly creepy admission: I googled her later and found out that she was a yoga teacher in Marin, which explains why she was so good on step by step tips.]

I was able to modify a few of her tips to suit where I was in my practice (I had a bit more ways to go than she did, so I started with higher elevation.) In any case, I would highly recommend this page for information. The great thing about her videos is that she doesn’t just show her with her perfect press-ups, but all of the struggles and “failings” that brought her to where she is.

Two things to take out of this:
1. Never be afraid to ask for help. Even though I “teach” yoga, I still have a lot to learn. Knowing that I still have a long way to go makes it more fun. Each step forward sets off a fire of dopamine in my brain.
2. Everything takes time. It took time for me to find the right person to give me guidance on my next steps. You are where you need to be for now. It will take more time for me to figure out how to get to the next step and I am okay with that.

Upavistha Konasana Inverted in Aerial Yoga


This actually doesn’t require as much upper body as it might look. This is more like a party trick that *looks* cool and complicated, but it’s actually not bad once you get over the fear of flipping upside down.

Keep your shoulders integrated into the torso. You can either wrap your hands around both sides of the hammock or put you thumb and index finger around one side with the remaining fingers wrapping around the other.
Use your core strength to lift the legs up and over. Try not to kick up (but if you need the booster until you build the strenght, you can.)

In terms of difficulty, this is one of those cool tricks that *looks* cool, but it’s not hard. A large part of it is getting over the fear that you’re going to die. 🙂

To practice lowering down, see if you can keep your legs lift as you unroll the torso and work to straighten the arms. The strength for this builds pretty quickly if you do this even just once a week.

Vinyasa Time!

This is my day zero. I am practicing pressing up into handstands and I will document the process. I am currently only able to get up with some little hops, but I’ll write out what I have been focusing on to get there.

I know yoga isn’t supposed to be all about the asana, but I think setting physical goals demonstrates a few things:
1. Discipline. How able are you to stick to your goals?
2. Your current state of mind. What is your attitude towards working towards your goals? Are you trying 100% every day? Are you just grateful that you even tried? Have you gone on autopilot?
3. How willing are you to ask for help? This has been a big one for me. Will talk about it in my next post.

Overtraining + Learning to Relax

I’m not sure exactly when I realized I was overtraining – it does manifest itself differently for different people.

It could have been when my muscles continued to feel sore days on end no matter how much time I took off.
It could have been the weight gain (ok, ok, it wasn’t a ton of weight, but it was definitely the heaviest I have ever been) and the increase in body fat (mostly belly fat.)
It could have been the constant feeling of being unbearably cold at work (admittedly, it is super cold in general at work, but it felt arctic.)

In some ways, even though I knew that I was overtraining, I couldn’t stop pushing myself, lest I become weaker. In some ways, maybe I was addicted to the constant high intensity aspect of my regimen. I wasn’t listening to my body [the complete anti-thesis of what yogis preach.] I did try to cut back, but after a day or two of rest, I was antsy to get back to the yoga studio or the climbing gym.

Relaxing halfway up our hike to Sugarloaf. I guess it was a fairly brutal hike, but we rested lots and I had a lot of fun...
Relaxing halfway up our hike to Sugarloaf. I guess it was a fairly brutal hike, but we rested lots and I had a lot of fun. Stayed active without stressing out my heart and spiking those cortisol levels.

During my last vacation, I was limited to 2 whole yoga classes over a course of 2 weeks and lots of walking and hiking. The minimal high-intensity and large quantity of low-impact exercise reset my system. Coming back from my trip, I noticed that I was no longer freezing at work. I had managed to shed the excess weight that had crept on the previous year. I came back to my physical practice stronger.

Now my exercise routine is a lot less intense than it used to be. I used to teach yoga, take power yoga and then go rock-climbing all in one day. I beat my body with intense forms of yoga 5-6 times, climbed 3+ times and did whatever I could to just keep moving. I’ve cut everything in half and just try to get some simple low impact exercise (walking around a lot more) and it works perfectly for me.

Of course, this will vary from person to person. I have a co-worker who can run marathons without training and be 100% okay. Good for him. I would probably die (possibly, literally.)

This was all a recent occurrence/discovery (~2 months ago) so we’ll see how this sticks. If you don’t see me around the yoga studio, I may just be taking a simple walk around the neighborhood or just playing around with some simple yoga at home. I do encourage daily movement, but it doesn’t always have to push you past your boundaries every day. [I am chuckling now because if you had asked me 3 years ago, I would vouched for daily butt-whooping.] Learn to take care of yourself. For some, it means more exercise. For others (like me), I need to learn to relax.

the miscellaneous thoughts of a daydreamer