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!

Practical Motherhood Tips

Nanayis the Filipino word for mother. Although, many use “Mommy”, “Mama” or “Mamang, there’s still a lot who call their moms “Nanay.” This article is part of a published book entitled Nanay Knows Best which is a compilation of 35 beautiful stories curated by Ms. Janice Senorin-Dela Cruz which I am privileged to be part of.

This book is dedicated to all mothers which started as a series of interviews featured on facebook which became an e-book and turned into this book due to popular demand.

“Motherhood is a wonderful blessing. Imagine being able to impact the next generations by doing our role in the best way we can.”

~Bing

When I got married at 35, I prayed to God to bless me with even just one child. He answered my prayer and gave me just one (we actually we wanted two; that’s why you have to be careful what you ask for!). I gave birth to my daughter, Venezia Ysabelle or Venice after 30 hours of labor! Yes, 30 hours! But the pain I felt during those long hours of labor was erased instantly when I heard her first cry and saw her in my husband’s arms, who was in the delivery room to witness this amazing sight!

It’s been said that children arrive without a manual or guide on what to do. So, with a firstborn child, it can be daunting. I asked myself, how can I make sure that my child turns out to be a good person? I bought a good number of books and read up on how to raise a child, but it was never enough. Then, I remembered what I learned from my parents: “Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) This was my parents’ way of bringing us up and I thought, I should do the same! Bringing her to Sunday School was such a big help in inculcating good values. Values Formation was one of our primary considerations in the choice of school for her early education.

I also remembered my pediatrician’s advice to observe my child closely to know what her interests are and then support these interests. With that in mind, I enrolled her in voice lessons, ballet classes and baking classes. I also supported her in her sports activities – never forcing her to do what she doesn’t want. Now, she is the Team Captain of her school’s Girl’s Basketball Varsity; she sings and dances very well and is a young entrepreneur baking cookies and earning quite well from it that she now has her own investment account.

I really believe that if we expose our kids to opportunities where they can develop their talents, we give them more choices in life. Venice also excels in academics as an honor student and I think, has a well-rounded personality. Looking at how she has turned out at 17 now, I feel blessed and grateful.

With my Psychology background, I know that modelling plays a key role in child development. As Venice was growing up, being a model to her was challenging but I did my best. I wanted her to learn proper time management as I believe that quality family time includes quantity as well. As a working mom, with a very hectic schedule and numerous targets to deliver, I needed to balance my day to ensure I get to spend quality time with my family. My work also required me to travel and be away a lot during the weekdays. I made a commitment that I will be at home during weekends and be present at her school activities. I will never compromise our family time.

“Me time” is also something I value, which I would like my child to learn. We also need to give time and attention to ourselves. We should know what recharges our energy. For me, reading a book at my favourite nook in the house, going to the salon on Sundays, and having a good massage are ways I recharge myself for another gruelling work week ahead. Taking care of ourselves lifts our spirits and when we feel good, it shows in how we relate with our family and other people.

I am a staunch advocate of healthy lifestyle that includes eating well and having regular exercise. I want to enjoy a quality retirement and I know that I cannot possibly have that if I do not keep myself healthy. I do yoga at home and I run long distances. I have also influenced my family to run so we would participate in runs both here and abroad like Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, which are good bonding times for us.

I find it amazing to have something that we enjoy doing together. When we travel every year, we explore the new place by running early in the morning when the neighbourhood is still quiet.

I was training to participate in the Boston Marathon this year, and though it got cancelled due to the pandemic, I am still looking forward to participating next year. I think what I find truly wonderful about running is the fact that it allows me to engage in social advocacies as well. For my participation in the Boston Marathon, for example, I was able to raise close to P800,000 Philippine Pesos (more than $17,000) for the construction of 15 houses for a homeless Muslim community in my hometown in Midsayap, Cotabato. (As of this writing, the village still needs 14 more houses and it is my prayer that these families in-waiting will have their homes soon.) https://m.facebook.com/glad1project/

My fundraising campaign for my supposed to-be participation in the Boston Marathon 2020 made possible the construction of 15 houses in Glad 1 Village located in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

As a parent, I fervently pray for Venice to learn the value of generosity. I always tell her that not everyone is given the comforts of life that we are enjoying. We should be a channel of blessings to others. When you are given the ability and opportunity to be generous, make sure you make the most out of it as not everyone has the chance to share their time and resources.

Financial Planning is also important to achieve a quality lifestyle. One of the best decisions we made as parents was to set-up a college education fund for Venice when she turned one year old . After 15 years, our policies have matured and provided available funds for her college education . It also gave us the ability to save and invest more for our retirement. I have been in the financial services sector for more than 30 years and I am a firm believer that financial literacy begins at home.

As a Filipino parent, I really hope that I am able to contribute to the plight of the Filipinos by helping improve the financial literacy of the next generations. I believe if we, as parents, teach money management at home, we will have future generations of families who are better prepared, more secure and can enjoy financial freedom.

Here are 5 tips that I would like to share to improve the money behaviour of our children:

1. Start them early – discuss investment or savings principles in simple terms; open a bank account with cash gifts they get during birthdays, etc.

2. Make them understand the difference between saving and investing.

3. Make them understand the difference between wants versus needs.

4. Make financial principles relevant – for example, take them to get groceries with you and make them compare prices to learn value of money; and

5. Lead by example – live the principles; discuss your plans and aspirations for the future and show them how you are saving up or investing to achieve them.

Motherhood is a wonderful blessing. Imagine being able to impact the next generations by doing our role in the best way we can. If we show and demonstrate to our children how much they are loved and how much they feel secure in our love, then they’ll grow up to be confident individuals ready to love and care for others.

“Let us remember always that the mother is a child’s first teacher and a mother’s heart is the child’s first classroom.”

~Henry Ward Beecher

How I discovered running

I can say I had always lived an active lifestyle that includes visits to the gym and when it became boring, I moved to boxing and Muay Thai and then yoga. So, I juggled these work-outs and even did a combination at some point but never got into running. I got interested from the sharing of my office mate and close colleague, Div, after he participated in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2015 where our company is a major sponsor of. He related the gala night before the run held inside Angkor Wat with one of the temples as the back drop. It seemed so interesting and it was affirmed by two of my team members, Bimbo and Nicole, who participated in 2017.

The pre-run gala dinner with a temple as a backdrop lit by a thousand candles.

So on July of 2018 at age 52, I started training to run 10K in the same event that is held annually in the 1st week of December. I downloaded a training app and began my training. I realised running 5 minutes straight is challenging even if I was relatively physically fit. Indeed, one cannot join a marathon at whim as it requires months or even years of building endurance lest you either faint or get injured.

To keep me motivated, I encouraged my teenage daughter, my sister and her son and even our househelp to run too and I would register everyone in fun runs. I started with 5K then progressed to 10K just in time for the Angkor Wat run. I also encouraged a couple of my team members to participate so we can travel together. That’s how my “destination runs” started.

That’s how my “destination runs” started.

As a UNESCO world heritage site, what draws tourists to Siem Reap, Cambodia is Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world! Events held in the complex are limited and running with those amazing temples of almost a thousand years old is just so surreal. The run route is so amazing passing through a beautiful lake while the sun rises colouring the sky red orange is magical! You run through arches and bridges that are attractions in themselves which speak of so much history; you run surrounded by several centuries-old trees that grew on walls and structures like nature conquering what men made. There’s no wonder it is such a popular event with over 10,000 runners that year, over 5,000 are foreigners from 76 countries (www.runsociety.com).

Training for 10K requires at least 3 times a week of run days building endurance to be able to run at a good pace and after doing it for almost 5 months, I got hooked into it. I went back to run half marathon (21K) in 2019 with my husband and sister, Ging (in orange in the photo) and another officemate and team member, June, running 10K and would love to do it again! 

From the time I discovered running and started training in July 2018, I have never stopped. I continue to run at least three times a week and my husband has joined me in this passion which we have incorporated in our family travels. Oh yes, I am looking forward to run my first full marathon and I hope it will be soon.