Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting some weight off my shoulders

When I was a not so little girl, I grew up thinking that I was fat. For most of my high school years, I was 160cm, and 53kg. That's a BMI of 20.7 people (nowadays, even BMIs are not an accurate depiction of health). Back in primary school though, we had to go for physicals every year, and on the back of our physical examination book was a little chart which told you what ideal weight you should be at. An adult female of 160cm should weigh 46kg, a number which has stuck in my mind for many, many years.

It's hard being the fatter kid in Asia. Shopping for clothes was never flattering... I always had to shop for Large and Extra Large sizes. At most boutiques, they would only ever have one or two sizes for clothing, and most would not fit me. This was in the 90s - I do believe, and hope, that times are different now.

Moving to Australia was probably one of the best things to happen for my self esteem. For one, I was a size 6, before vanity sizing was even around! I was also away from some people who would constantly remind me of how "large" I was. In college, when my depression hit hard, one of my few joys was that my weight had plummeted to 48kg, only 2kg from my ideal weight!

It's scary, but true. I was a product of a weight-obsessed society. It's the same society that led to this girl losing 8kg to become 38kg, because at 46kg, she too, felt like the fatter girl in Asia. (See, it's not just me!)

A few things have changed for me this year. I'm not sure if it's because I'm just too old to care about body image issues, or if I really am older, but wiser, or if it came about from reading Nia Shanks' post. I began building up my fitness this year, initially wanting to lose weight. I mean, I was 50kg... that's 4kg overweight in my mind! At the start, I did lose some weight, but then the weight piling began, and the kilos weren't coming off. The last time I weighed myself, I was 54kg.

But you know what? I really don't care. I have never felt stronger, faster, fitter, and I like the muscle definition that I have going. I may be heavier, but I am leaner. I can do amazing physical things, and most importantly, I feel great.

Want to know why you shouldn't just weigh yourself?

Read the whole article on Tribesports

That's right. The TL;DR of that article is that weight is just a number, it can't tell you how awesome you are.

Clothes size-wise... I'm now a size 8, because my shoulders and chest are too built to squeeze into a size 6.
And guess what? I'm actually pretty proud of that.

The Bupa Online Health Assessment

So... I really wasn't planning on doing a post till 2013, but I recently did this Bupa online health assessment  and the results were too hilarious not to share.

I like doing these tests, as evidenced here and I've also done a similar Medibank Private one, which is only available to members which is why I haven't posted it publicly.

Without further ado, here are my results. All pictures are screen grabs from Bupa's result page.

I'm quite flattered. That's the best result any of these assessments have ever given me. But wait... there's more...

Here's how I can improve my health.

That's right, by having kids. I don't know about you, but that's a pretty drastic move there to improve my health... Well, looks like the BF and I had better get crackin' O.o

But wait... what are my health risks? What chances do I have of getting breast cancer?

Apparently, not a lot. But, I do have death looming overhead as a leading cause of ... death. Glad to know that when I go, it's highly likely because I died. Thanks Bupa.

Oh, and that bit of red next to breast cancer is meant to indicate the risk incurred due to lifestyle. I tried to work out what in my life could be elevating my chances of getting breast cancer, and then I realized it's because I don't have any children.

Tsk tsk. Me and my unhealthy child-less ways!

My verdict? Probably one of the least helpful assessments that I've done. Seriously! It's given me the best rating for health, and I know for a fact that I'm not a perfect picture of health. That being said, it has given me the most giggles.

If you try the test, let me know how you went and what you think of it. It takes about 15 minutes so make sure you have plenty of time to spare!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The year that's been and the year that will be

I can't believe it's so close to the end of 2012! It only seemed a few months ago that 2012 had begun. 

Random fact: As you age, the days fly by a lot faster because your memory compresses all the mundane activities that you do (eg. going to work, eating etc) so time seems to have flown by when you look back. So, if you want time to slow down, start doing some X-treme activities! :P 

I've felt that 2012 has been (mostly!) a good year for me. This year, I 
  • ran my first 5km (and busted my knee and foot doing it... but oh well!) 
  • returned to my yoga practice, and successfully can execute my headstands and crows again. I think I'm at the level I was at when I stopped because of injury. 
  • stopped using foundation, which has done tremendously wonderful things for my skin. 
  • home-make about 80-85% of my meals 
  • started this blog! 
  • had a financially sound year. I have money in my piggy bank, woohoo! 

Here are my 2013 resolutions. 

I will stop making injuries worse! 
I just can't help myself. I keep wanting to exercise through injury. It's like I see it as the Universe presenting me with a physical challenge, and I always rise at a challenge. I've had so many joint injuries (and they are never any fun)... what I've learnt since is that the Universe is presenting a challenge. The challenge is to take it easy, and back off for awhile. That's definitely something I'm not good at! 

I will cut down on sweets. 
Hard to keep, but I know they're not good for me. It's hard being a teacher, because all students give you are chocolates! 

I will majorly cut down on my online time. 
Ideally, this should be about 1-2 hours a day. No more. 1-2 hours a day sounds like a lot of time. But in comparison to what I'm spending now, it really is a mere nothing. I read The Winter of our Disconnect not too long ago and it really inspired me, I was all ready to pull the plug and everything. Then, practicalitiy sank in and I realized that I would go absolutely bonkers. I reckon it's as hard as quitting smoking... 

I will not intentionally go over the speed limit when driving. 
I'm one of those people who just have to drive at 5km/h above the limit. No really, I even keep my eye on the gauge to make sure it's exactly 5km/h, talk about OCD! I think this has a lot to do with my personality type, of trying to rush through life... so I'm literally putting the brakes on! 

I will cut down on alcohol. 
I've been quite good this second half of 2012. I'm not sure if that's been because there have been little opportunities to drink anyway! In the New Year though, I'm going to monitor how much I drink when I'm out. 

I will be more charitable. 
I haven't decided how I will do this yet. Maybe some volunteering, although I'm not sure if I have the time! But isn't that what everyone says? I already have charities that I regularly donate to... but I feel like I should be doing more than just giving money. 

I will be kinder to everyone.
Apparently, this year, there have been moments where I have been overly aggressive to certain people. Unintentionally and unawares. I would like to have the compassion and strength to give everyone in life the respect that they deserve. 

Those are my 2013 resolutions! Do any of those echo with you? What are your hopes and dreams for 2013 and how do you think your year has been so far? 

To all my readers, have a wonderful holiday, whichever wonderful occasion you are celebrating and a Happy New Year. 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Challenge: Yoga Sequence

So, here's a special challenge, special because I collaborated with Tribesports to create it!

Check out the challenge on Tribesports!

You can click on the image for a larger and hopefully clearer version. I really wasn't expecting my face to be a part of the challenge image (else I would have worn my good yoga clothes hehe :P), so apologies for the slightly zoned out expression.

I do realize that this sequence isn't flowy or fast paced enough for a Vinyasa, I had to limit the poses to 6 poses so it became a lot more hatha influenced. You will still reap a lot of benefits from it though!

To experience the full vinyasa sequence, here are my suggestions for the warm up and warm down 


Child's pose
Cat/cow (10 repeats, alternating)
Downward facing dog - plank - chaturanga- upward facing dog flow (5 repeats of one full circuit)



Double legged forward bend 
Bridge pose/ Wheel pose
Happy baby

I've included links to all the additional poses. If I have some time later this week, I may include some of my own images. For guides to the poses in my challenge, you can find those on the Tribesports challenge page.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Yoga Paws elite gloves and footwear

I'm going overseas in less than a month's time. The thought of going without my yoga practice was daunting to say the least, and as I've mentioned several times in this blog, my Jade yoga mat is hardly travel-friendly.

I was considering purchasing a Mysore style mat, which is a cotton rug that you can use on top of or in place of your regular mat. You can find Mysore mats here if you are interested in checking them out! 

A few weeks ago, I recalled some ads I had seen for Yoga Paws while I was on the search for yoga gloves to assist me with my hyperhydrosis problem. Yoga Paws are not just your run of the mill sticky socks and gloves... they are mats attached to socks and gloves that you can use in place of your mat. These are made from natural rubber, which means they provide excellent grip. 

I thought they would be perfect for travel, so I ordered myself a pair of Elite Yoga Paws, which is the slightly more expensive model. It's US$39.95, plus about US$10 for postage and handling. While you can find these retailing at some Australian websites, they are selling them at Aussie prices of over $60, so it's worth getting it direct from Yoga Paws. 

You can check these out here
Image from the Yoga Paws website

These were despatched the day after I placed the order, and I received them in less than a week! 

Today, I decided to road-test these babies. They were a little snug on my feet, but apparently that's how they are meant to be. It's a little annoying that you choose one standard size for both your hands and your feet (so it's unfortunate if you have massive feet and little hands). They smell a little, as do most natural rubber products until they've been given a little bit of a wash. 

I practiced my regular vinyasa routine today for an hour. These performed beautifully. I was slightly skeptical that the foot grip was only on the front half of the foot, leaving your heels bare, but it provided excellent grip without compromising your feet grounding. You could still easily ground through your heels and not slip, despite not having any mat material there. 

It felt a little unusual performing the chaturanga-upward dog toe flips with these on my feet but I adjusted to them by the end of the practice, and they didn't faze me by the end. 

The only major downside is that there is no padding support for your knees if you have bad knees, as I currently do from my running injury. So, any kneeling poses could hurt. But that would have been an issue as well if I had purchased a Mysore mat, so I'm not complaining at all! 

Here's a little summary of the pros and cons: 

  • lightweight 
  • easy to clean (just handwash in cold water and gentle soap) 
  • works as well as they say - as grippy as a good yoga mat 
  • no padding for other parts of your body (eg. knees for kneeling poses) 
  • you will need a clean floor, so may not be suitable for most public places 

If you travel a lot and you do not want to be away from your practice, think about investing in a pair of these. They take up less space than a yoga mat, and work just as well. I won't be using these to replace my Jade yoga mat in my regular practice at home though, except on days when I'm too lazy to roll it out. 

Please note that this post is an independent review, and has not been sponsored

Friday, December 14, 2012

Keeping a mindful practice

Today was the first day in a long time that I was present in my yoga practice. It's ironic, because I'm doing more yoga now since the wrist injury, but I've never felt more disconnected from my practice. Stranger still is how oblivious I was to how disconnected I have been, until I read Erica Rodefer (the Spoiled Yogi)'s blog on what's really yoga (click to see her post on the Yoga Police). The summary of that post is that we shouldn't judge the "yoga" that someone practices, as long as it holds the meaning of yoga to them.

The word "yoga" means to unite. It's the unity of the mental, physical and the spiritual realm. By delving into asanas without being present in the moment, I'm not uniting anything. Yet, all this while, I have been too distracted to even notice.

For some time this year, I think I lost my way with yoga a little. A little too much fixation on the asanas for sure, none of the other limbs of Yoga.

When I read Neil Pollack's post on public displays of yoga, it dawned upon me that I was indulging in a period of narcissism. These past few months, especially with my time and involvement on the Tribesports website, have been driven by vanity. Yoga isn't about that at all.

Today was the first day in many where I felt I could connect with myself again, like I could lay in savasana for eternity. I'm making this promise to myself to never take my practice for granted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Challenge: 12 Days of Christmas

Here's a fun challenge for the festive times. 

Click on the picture for a bigger image, or view the challenge here

It's easy to forget to work out and to overindulge in all those delicious Christmas goodies at this time of the year. Trust me, teachers have it the worst! (all those chocolates we receive from students!) 

Not sure how this challenge works? 

Here's the song (pinched from the Tribesports blog

On the first day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
A challenging 1 minute plank.
On the second day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the third day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the fourth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
4 full burpees, 
3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the fifth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 
4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the sixth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
6 push ups, 
Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the seventh day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
7 mountain climbers, 
6 push ups, Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the eighth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
8 squats-a-squatting, 
7 mountain climbers, 6 push ups, Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the ninth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
9 lads chair dipping, 
8 squats-a-squatting, 7 mountain climbers, 6 push ups, Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the tenth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,
10 lords tuck-jumping, 
9 lads chair dipping, 8 squats-a-squatting, 7 mountain climbers, 6 push ups, Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the eleventh day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me,11 ladies lunging, 10 lords tuck-jumping, 9 chair dipping, 8 squats-a-squatting, 7 mountain climbers, 6 push ups, Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.
On the twelfth day of fitness, my Tribesports set to me, 12 crunches crunching, 11 ladies lunging, 10 lords tuck-jumping, 9 chair dipping, 8 squats-a-squatting, 7 mountain climbers, 6 push ups, Fiiiiiiive star jumps! 4 full burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 minute wall squat and a challenging 1 minute plank.

I'm up to Day 2 which means I'll be doing the 1 min plank and the 2 min wall squat today. 
So my lovelies, have a wonderful festive season! Let me know if you're doing this challenge :) 

Monday, December 10, 2012

How to control your meal portions

I'm no Martha Stewart. If you've read a little about me, you'll find that only about two years ago did I swap from my Maccas/KFC diet to one that is home-cooked.

To be honest, I find it hard to believe that it took me so long to go from this 

the notorious KFC man burger
to this

Silverbeet (swiss chard) with raisins, toasted sunflower seeds on a bed of quinoa
(Source: My kitchen)

Nutrition aside, some readers have requested that I do a post on portion control. I'm not particularly great at portion control myself. I follow a semi-ayurvedic way of eating, but instead of having my biggest meal at breakfast, I have my biggest meal at lunch, and my smallest meal during an early dinner. 

Reading up about portion control brought back memories of being in school, in that dreaded home economy class. 

If you want the easy way to understand portion control, you can purchase a curry plate from any Indian grocery store 

Curry plates look like this, only they are metal.
Think of the rice compartment as vegies, the meat curry as your protein, and the vegie curry as your starch.

or you can use the image below. 

It's up to you what source of starch/carbs, vegies and protein that you would like to use. You could do the full vegetarian option and choose lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, kale etc option, or you could have your fish, chicken etc, depending on your dietary choices. 

Most vegetarian meals contain a mixture of protein, vegetarian and starch, so it is difficult to portion them out into a portion plate. Some ingredients double as a source of protein and carbs. What do you do then? I'm personally never that rigid about these things. I know superfoods like quinoa are rich in protein and also carbs. If I use quinoa in my cooking, I generally won't have another grain, but I may use another protein source such as chickpeas. I'd still portion out the grains/legumes/tofu to be half the amount of the vegies that I'd use. 

I decided to put the portion plate to the test however, using meat because it was easier to photograph the portions. I made Cajun chicken, with a salad, and some macaroni. 

Cajun chicken, salad and macaroni

I made a lot of salad. There was more in the bowl and it couldn't fit onto the plate. What can I say... I must like my greens. I also feel like there is a little too much macaroni. In my regular meals, if I were to make something like this, I'd skip the macaroni altogether, and just have the chicken fillet and a lot of salad. 

I did enjoy attempting to control my portions though. For the most part, I think my current diet is quite nourishing (I'm flexi-vegetarian, and only have meat mostly on weekends). 

How do you control your portions? Do you ever think about what you put on the plate and if you are getting a balanced diet? 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Awesome discounts on this yoga bundle

Udemy is having a sale on some of their hottest yoga courses, including Sadie Nardini's 14 Day Yoga Detox, which I have done and reviewed. I've also purchased Dashama's 30 day yoga transformation, but I haven't had the opportunity to do it yet. I have glanced at the textbooks though, and they are pretty comprehensive! 

This very same course is on sale here

For a limited time, they are offering 7 yoga courses for only $89. That's way cheaper than what I spent on Udemy's courses, so don't miss out. 

Check out the deal here! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Challenge: Hindu Pushups

It's challenge time at Tribesports again! This time it even has a fancy name - the Hindu pushup. 

View the challenge on Tribesports
If you've done any vinyasa yoga, you might notice that the pushup looks strangely familiar. And that's because it is! It's your usual vinyasa flow.

Not sure what a vinyasa flow is? It's the sequence of poses that flow into each other linked by breath - specifically downward facing dog, chaturanga, upward dog, and then finishing in downward facing dog again.

I haven't done this challenge yet today, but it should be an easy one. I do these regularly in my flow practice. You should give it a go too!

Challenge completed. It doesn't take very long, and it really works your whole body!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Challenge: One Song Workouts

One of the lovely ladies on the Beautyheaven forums posted up these workouts and I think they are too good to pass up! 

I will try them all and we will see if I can do them to a song! (I am going to choose a longer song hahaha Crystal Method here I come!)

Workout 1: Contrary to my own advice of choosing the Crystal Method, I decided to use Anberlin's Feel Good Drag  (from Never Take Friendship Personal... they also have a 2003 song by the same name. What's up with that Anberlin?!) The song goes for 3:24, I fitted everything in except the last 30 Jumping Jacks, which I did anyway but to the next song on my playlist. To do these workouts comfortably, I think you'll need songs of about 4mins long. Definitely don't try to do it to Blur's Your Song 2 

Challenge: Handcream everyday challenge

I hate handcream. As a musician, I use my hands a lot. And as someone who suffers from hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating) on my hands, having moisturiser on makes it so much worse.

This would be fine if I wasn't predisposed to having terrible, icky cracked cuticles and super dry hands.

How disgusting are my cuticles and nails! 

It wasn't just superficial. My cuticles would really hurt when they cracked or ripped apart. And they would just do that, frequently, and become infected as well. How inconsiderate of them!

About four months ago, I decided to do this challenge.The aim was to apply hand cream every day, twice a day until they got better. I would also reapply in the middle of the day if my hands felt dry.

It took a good three months before I finally saw some results.

Same hand, cuticles are definitely healing, still a bit of peeling cuticles

Four months progress. My cuticles have healed and my nails look healthier.

No more peeling cuticles

Lesson learnt. Like it or not, I need my hand cream. Now that I'm used to it, I don't feel uncomfortable with it on, instead I feel dry and uncomfortable with no handcream on.

What products did I use?

Just the Garnier Intensive 7 Day Hand Cream (Shea Butter) and the Nivea Pure & Natural hand cream.

If you have problems with cracked cuticles, try this challenge. It may take awhile to work, but the results are worth the wait.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Just for fun

The good people at Tribesports sent me a rockin t-shirt. One of the Tribesports challenges was to take an epic photo in your Tribesports tee. So I tried. 

Bird of paradise pose

Not a particularly epic background but oh well :P

If you are on Tribesports and would like to follow me, here's my profile page. If you are not yet on Tribesports, it's a really awesome community where you can find new fitness challenges to motivate you and meet other fitness enthusiasts. Warning: Not recommended if you get addicted to these things... 

Why you should invest in a better yoga mat

When I did my first ever yoga class, I didn't own a yoga mat. I just used one at the centre. I did this for a few months until I left that yoga centre. The new place that I was at did not loan out yoga mats (they did rent them out for $2 per session), so I bought my own. It's important to have your own mat anyway... it's more hygienic, you become more familiar with it, and it just brings you a little closer to your yoga practice.

When I started out, I owned a Nike yoga mat.
Nike Yo Girl Yoga Mat Rose $49.99

It's similar to the Yo Girl Yoga Mat Rose (pictured above). It's been discontinued and replaced with the Yo Girl series, and it was about the same price. I thought that was a decent amount to pay for a yoga mat. However, I started having trouble in my yoga classes with holding postures. My hands and feet would get really sweaty and I would slip all the time. After a few months, my yoga mat began to show signs of wear and began thinning out.

Mum also bought me a cheapo yoga mat from a $2 shop in Malaysia, for something like RM10 (approximately AUD$3). I didn't mind it at the time, but now that I do a lot of yoga, I find it really hard, slippery and thin (terrible if you're doing headstands on a wooden floor, or any arm balances).

Then, I was introduced to Jade Yoga mats, and that was when I really fell in love with yoga. Their mats are not cheap, they start from about $80 here in Australia, but they are give you good grip and have ample padding. I use mine frequently, and it has yet to show any signs of wear. The downsides are that it's a heavy mat, so not travel friendly, and dirt shows up on it easily (as in even if your mat is clean, it could still look dirty).

Here's a quick guide to what to look for in a yoga mat

1. Grip 
After changing my mat, I found so many poses to be much easier to do, and I could correct my alignment instead of worrying about slipping. If your mat is slippery, even yoga gloves like Stick-e and Yogloves don't help much.

2. Thickness and padding 
You don't want it to be too thick, but have it too thin and you may end up sustaining injury. Your own personal need may vary, but for the average healthy individual, a decent thickness for yoga mats would be approximately 0.5cm.

3. Softness 
A good yoga mat should have a firm spongey feeling. It shouldn't feel plastic-ky and hard.

4. Weight 
This is where the Jade Yoga mat loses out. I don't mind carting around a heavy mat, but most people would. You may want a travel-friendly mat.

5. Length 
If you are tall, you may need to opt for a large yoga mat. Most reputable yoga mat brands carry an extra large option.

6. Eco-friendly 
Because we want our earth to be sustainable.

Some good reputable yoga mat brands to look out for besides Jade Yoga are Manduka, and Gaiam.

The price factor should really come last. Health and safety should be your first priority after all. :)