Yoga…it’s more than just toned muscles

There are two sets of reactions that I get when I mention that I do yoga – there are those who gesture a meditation pose and say “uhmmmm” and others say, “oh, I can’t do those poses” – both reflect the common impression that yoga is just about meditation and headstands.

That’s a very limited view of yoga. Both meditation and headstands are part of it and as yoga is a journey, you start from where you are. There are yoga routines for everyone. (So, for those with medical or physical conditions, it is always best to consult your doctor and a trained yoga practitioner (yogi).

There are many types of yoga. In fact, there are over a dozen so you can choose what suits you. I consider myself just a little above a beginner and while I can do some challenging asanas (yoga poses), I still continue to work on my headstand with some progress especially during this time (of pandemic) where I can practice more. I love Vinyasa Yoga (vinyasa is a Sanskrit word for “flow”) which is fun and as the term implies, makes you do a series of poses that flow gracefully. Hatha yoga is another favourite as it focuses on posture and is a great stress reliever especially after a long day. I also love Jivamukti yoga classes that I used to attend which includes chants and meditative music as well as various asanas that will surely challenge your strength, flexibility and balance. There’s Bikram (hot yoga) and Iyengar (uses props like ropes, chairs, blocks, , straps, etc) too and the latter is oftentimes prescribed with those who have physical conditions.

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self and to the self. ~The Bhagavad Gita http://www.happier.com

The Harvard Medical School lists 5 benefits of doing yoga which summarises what we can get out of it: Read more https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat

  • A better body image – yoga practice encourages acceptance of self as a starting point and it cultivates your awareness on how you feel; never forcing something you cannot do yet at this time (but if you choose to, you can in due time as you gain strength and flexibility (which you will for as long as you are committed to practice)
  • Becoming a mindful eater – researchers found a link between mindful eating (eating based on what’s good for you) and yoga practice
  • A boost to weight loss and maintenance – studies show that those who practice yoga for at least 30 minutes three times a week gained less weight in the 4-year duration of the research than those who did not and those who practised had lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Enhancing fitness – practising yoga improves one’s flexibility and mobility and tones the muscles in a balanced way from head to toe; it also improves strength, balance and endurance.
  • Cardiovascular benefits – many studies show improved conditions in people with hypertension and diabetes; medical studies also point that yoga improve lipid profiles of both healthy individuals as well as those with coronary artery diseases.

Since I also do long distance running, yoga is the perfect complement. Running uses the same muscle groups and stretching the hard-to-reach muscles and joints which yoga does help avoid injuries.

Another great benefit from yoga is the fact that it teaches correct breathing. That kind of breathing that nourishes the entire body. Each practice makes you focus on the breath and as you do, allows you to slow down your heart beat. As a result, you feel so relaxed. Yoga Breathing or pranayama had been extensively studied and has been proven to decrease stress, improve sleep quality, increase mindfulness, reduce high blood pressure and improve lung function. Read more of this: https://www.healthline.com/health/pranayama-benefits

Just doing the basic poses like downward and upward dog, warrior 1, 2 and 3, plank and side plank, vinyasa flow, chair and bridge is enough to release buckets of sweat and gives you that sense of accomplishment giving you the passage to do the well-deserved savasana (final resting pose) which integrates everything you did during the session.

I hope I have provided you more reasons and motivation to start your yoga journey. So…see you on the mat!

What’s in a house? A story of service and compassion…Glad 1 The Promised Land

Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”

Psalm 41:1

Growing up near the campus of the biggest school in my hometown in Midsayap, North Cotabato is something I consider a blessing as it gave me a front seat observing the academic community to which, I attribute to a significant extent, the moulding of my values and character.

The moment I stepped in a classroom at Southern Christian College (SCC) as a Grade 1 pupil, there was this one figure that from the eyes of an innocent child then, was bigger than life. He spoke with so much wisdom and vigor and when he talked, I couldn’t get my eyes and ears off him as he did not only speak of great stories about God and application of parables but he genuinely spoke from the heart. He was Reverend Dr. Eliezer Mapanao, the President of SCC from 1967-1987; 1994-1997- practically the entire time I was studying in this esteemed school from Grade 1 up to High School.

Despite his Harvard Master’s Degree in Theology and while serving as resident director for International Study Fellowship at Princeton University, he decided to accept the call of his father-in-law to “save” a struggling school which at that time was at rock bottom and moved his family from California to settle in our hometown to spread the light through education. He introduced the paradigm of soil and soul for social well-being. He was a great fundraiser using his pen and tongue to bring dollars for the construction of school buildings and implementation of academic and community programs. Read more about his inspiring life: https://southernchristiancollege.edu.ph/remembering-his-elyness-in-scc-a-tribute-to-dr-eliezer-d-mapanao/

“While we are a small college, we serve a big God, and he bids us to grow and glow… The first and best resource of SCC is its un-surrendering people. Lesser mortals would have presided over her funeral long ago.” ~Rev. Dr. Eliezer D. Mapanao

Jowena, his eldest daughter graduated with a degree in Psychology from the University of the Philippines and immediately after graduation, he asked her to teach in the program of the school for underprivileged children. She agreed to do so and as she was teaching, she observed that these Muslim children kept on missing classes as they would always get sick. A further survey revealed that it was because of their poor living conditions that caused the frequent absences which was exacerbated by a fire that destroyed almost all of their houses in that squatters’ area.

Such led to a fundraising effort by Jowena to buy a land and relocate these families. Later, through the leadership of Mrs. Leda Moralde, two hectares of land was purchased. Fast forward to 2015, those children whose families were recipients of the village are now young adults and while they had been given the land, they could not transfer because of some legal requisites and lack of funds.

The passing of Dr. Mapanao on October 13, 2015 at age 89, sparked the aspiration of the Muslim young adults led by Mrs. Norma Umali and Bai Puti to relocate. Moved by the appeal of these young adults (who were Jowena’s pupils 25 years ago), his wife, Mrs. Portia Mapanao responded which led to the founding of the Bangsamoro Young Adults Association (BYAA) whose Vision and Mission is to build the homes of 65 Muslim families and implement livelihood programs to make the community sustainable. She tapped her network, talked to government officials and appealed to the current SCC leadership through Dr. Edwin Balaki (incumbent President) for things to get moving.

I was privileged to be part of this relocation project becoming a reality which is aptly referred to as Glad 1, The Promised Land. A couple of years back, I got a letter from Mrs. Portia soliciting help and in my own humble way heeded to such call. A bigger opportunity came when I got in to be part of Team Manulife-John Hancock runners for the 2020 Boston Marathon (where my company Manulife-John Hancock is a proud sponsor for 35 years now). Each runner is required to do a fund-raising campaign. I chose this relocation project to be my recipient and raised close to 700,000 Philippines Pesos (roughly $15,000) from 92 generous individuals to construct 15 houses overshooting my target of 10 houses! Even if the usual Marathon did not happen this year, this worthy endeavour came out of it which I am truly honoured to initiate. To all my friends and family who generously opened their hearts to my call, may God bless you many times over. It was so inspiring to say the least!

Each house is built on a 150 sqm space (more or less) and is a one-room space with no divisions when it is turned-over. A house is built when the recipients thru BYAA are able to raise their share of 20,000 Pesos (which they save up for over a year on the average as the source of income of these families is peddling sliced fruits, vegetables and candies) as counterpart. The Foundation raises funds of 45,000 Pesos ($935 US) as each house costs 65,000 Pesos ($1,350 US) to build. Imagine how low-cost the houses are considering the small amount to build them but for each of these families, it is a dream come true.

For those from the Philippines and those knowledgeable about Mindanao, I grew up very much aware of the differences and conflicts between and among Christians and Muslims and this is what makes this project even more meaningful. As one anonymous donor said, it crosses cultural boundaries and is really an initiative to demonstrate that we can co-exist and live harmoniously. It takes a visionary leader with a compassionate heart to make it happen and such was Dr. Mapanao and Mrs. Portia Mapanao.

Now we are down to just 10 more houses to go. Ten more families waiting to have a house they can call their own. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we call on you to respond. This year had been beset by many challenges but there is still so much to be thankful for and giving to this worthy cause may just be one way to give back. No amount is small not to matter. Every heartfelt donation will be much appreciated.

Mrs. Portia just celebrated her 86th birthday last November 21 and her only wish is to complete this project as envisioned by her late husband. What a life testimony this is!

It is my prayer that you will be moved to donate and together, let us realise the dream of The Promised Land.

For your donations, please give to https://www.gofundme.com/f/glad1relocationproject?sharetype=teams&member=3527002&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na%20share-sheet&rcid=c1dbcb935ac6455bbd8654c5a3ebb844&fbclid=IwAR3tTjB_jOPttwXHBUl1KjkBtNpldpQa8YbulTbCIp7Vj-Z2zine9w9rgvU

Estate Planning…It’s not a copy-paste thing!

In my over 30 years in the financial services industry, I’ve encountered so many happy and sad stories on estate distribution and quite a number of these can be traced to wrong advice of simply “copying” what other family members or friends did with their properties or failing to make a wealth distribution plan.

Our values and goals as well as aspirations differ from others and as our circumstances change, some of these change too. Thus, it is important that we review our estate plan if we have started with it already or prioritise drafting it if we haven’t started yet. I am sure that the reason why we invest and accumulate assets is to live a quality life and ensure that our children as well as our children’s children live comfortably as well.

Many think that Estate Planning is only for the rich. No it is not! It’s for middle-class families like most of us who have started buying assets and the best time to think about what to do with these assets is while everything is going well with us. That way, a more thought-of and well-processed distribution may be carried out.

The following is a guide to start the process (credits to Martin Ledesma, a fellow veteran in the financial services sector who I consider an expert in this area having guided family corporations actually implement arrangements related to Estate Planning and Distribution):

  • Make an inventory of your Assets (indicate the estimate value of each)
  • Know which ones you own and which ones you co-own (by virtue of the property regime in place at the time of the celebration of your marriage which dictates the ownership of these assets).
  • Decide which ones you keep and which ones you will transfer now (depending on the purpose of the assets: is it to be used as your passive income when you retire or is it something you can transfer now to your child/children as something you want them to have or is it both of these?)
  • Devise a plan on what to do with the ones you keep (considering their function to you and your loved ones) and provide for payment of estate taxes (a life insurance policy enough to pay the estate taxes due is your best option; make sure you provide enough life insurance for the needs of your family too especially if your kids are still young).

Estate Planning is not only about reducing taxes but more importantly, it’s about keeping the family ties intact for what good are our riches if your family ends up not talking to each other anymore?

Prepare your estate while you’re around to give your family the wisdom that only comes from you and the life you lived.

For a more comprehensive reference on Estate Planning in the Philippine context, I highly endorse the book “Thy Will Be Done” by Atty. Angelo Cabrera, whose field of practice is Estate and Business Succession Planning. His book is written in a very interesting manner complete with real-life stories. (It is available at Amazon).