Check out the Daily Hive Vancouver where I got listed in the Top 10 Inspirational Instagram Yogis in Vancouver. Thank you for all those who have supported me on my journey! If you are not already feel free to follow along on my journey @marcustongyoga
Well its been a little while since I have written a blog post. The last few months have been crazy busy and it feels like it flew by so quick. First of all, take a look around my website! I have been working on it over the last little while to give it a mini-makeover. The last few months I was fortunate to be able to work with photographers John Bello (http://johnbello.ca) and Rob Trinh (http://photography.robtrinh.com) to get some amazing shots of me to spice up my site. Check out their websites as well, they do amazing work! I will be releasing more of the photos shortly so stay tuned.
I have also added a new page for anyone interesting in doing private or corporate yoga. I have been fortunate to be able teach private and corporate clients here in Vancouver as well as when I was in Asia. I have found it to be a great way to connect in a deeper way with a small private group setting on a regular basis. I love being able to offer more focussed individual attention and be able to help students through specific modifications/corrections for their personal needs. If you or anyone you know would be interested please get in contact, I would love to be able to help guide you through your yoga journey.
With the fall season starting now and the days get colder and wetter, people are getting more inclined to step back into the hot room. Fall schedules at the studios are coming into effect with more classes being added back. I will be continually keeping you updated on my schedules page with my teachings for the week. I have some new classes I will be teaching and new studios being added as well!
When do we move from the label of a beginner yogi to an advanced yogi? At what point can we start taking intermediate or advanced classes? Do we need to be able to do particular postures or do we need to have practiced for a certain amount of time? These questions can be answered in various ways depending on who you ask, and in my opinion there are no right answer to them either. I know I have been guilty of pausing and questioning myself when I saw "intermediate class" on the schedule. I know my initial reaction was to avoid these classes in fear of not being good enough. I imagined the class being filled with the strong yet flexible yogis who are comfortably doing handstands or graciously doing drop-backs. I would tell myself that my physical practice was not up to par compared to everyone else. But as these thoughts went through my head I knew I had to look past them all and contemplate on what I really thought it meant to practice yoga.
Yoga to me is about self-awareness. It is the ability to distinguish between your ego, your self-doubt, or any other illusion that we have that works to mask the real truth about ourselves. It means to truly know yourself and your body. So, what do I consider an advanced yogi? It is not necessarily someone who does the most aesthetically pleasing postures. It is the person who knows when to use props or knows when they need to modify or knows when to take a different variation of the pose. It is the person who knows when they need take a break and lay down or when to dig a little deeper for that extra push. Maybe that means you need to take a 60-minute savasana. Great! It's all about understanding what is good for you. Know what works for you, listen to your body, and apply it into your practice. Yoga isn't about doing the deepest and most complex postures, the postures are used as a means to develop a greater self-awareness of ourselves. Yoga is about taking an inward journey.
Well, the time has come and gone and it is time to close this chapter of my life. 4 months has passed and I am getting ready for my flight out of China to head back to my home in Canada. I can definitely say it was an experience that I will never forget. During my time here I felt happy, sad, frustrated, challenged and everything in between. My eyes and mind were opened to life outside of North America. I was fortunate enough to be given this opportunity to live in a different part of the world and to embrace a new and different culture. There are parts that I will miss and parts that I am glad are over but it was a great experience nonetheless.
As a teacher, it was inspiring to be able to witness the transformation of all my students. With many of them taking their very first steps onto a yoga mat it was amazing to see how receptive they were to learning. Their open-mindedness and willingness to try new things only helped to speed them along to reaching their goals. It was a pleasure to be apart of that journey.
My time in Beijing has also allowed me to grow as a student of yoga. I was presented with a unique opportunity to explore teaching a new style of yoga without the pressures that I would normally have to deal with back at home. I was in a new environment where no one knew who I was and I was able to feel more free to figure out what works and what does not. I learned to face challenges when it came to language barriers, adapting my classes to fit the needs and skill level of those attending, tap into my creative side when it comes to sequencing, and so much more. I also got to explore deeper into my home practice and tested the level of my commitment I had with yoga. It was definitely different than what I was use to doing, and it had its challenging times, but looking back it was good for me to be able to explore into that aspect of my practice.
Over the 4 months there were many memorable moments during my stay here. Spending Christmas walking the Great Wall of China was probably the one that will stick the most with me. There was also touring the various temples and markets, the adventures of the subway during rush hour, the gatherings and dinners with everyone of Uptown Yoga, touring the Forbidden City, the many many times of me getting sick and losing tons of weight (actually had to go to the hospital once to get checked-up), my visit to Guangzhou for Devin Kelley's workshop, meeting all my wonderful students and being able introduce them to yoga, the days of wearing masks outside, trying to order food when the menu is all in Chinese and no one speaks a word of English, the fruit and vegetable ladies I visit weekly to pick up groceries, visiting Hong Kong and Shanghai, eggy crepes, the Internet connection and VPN, and so much more! I could fill up a page if I listed everything but these are what immediately came to mind.
Like I said before, I experienced a wide range of emotions here and faced both 'good' and 'bad' situations. I use the term 'bad' loosely here because I do not like to classify what I experienced here as something negative even though at the time it may have frustrated or upset me. I instead choose to take everything I went through as a opportunity to learn and grow as a person. Not everything in life may be ideal but you can always take something and learn something from it. China taught me a lot about myself and I had some good times here but Vancouver is still the place that I call home. It feels like the right time to return home and I am looking forward to getting settled back in. I am glad to have went through this experience and I wanted to thank all those who supported me through this part of my life. Goodbye Beijing and see you soon Vancouver!
*I will be teaching full-time again starting April 25 so check out my teaching schedule and come out for class.
It is a part of everyday life; it will frustrate us, it will test us, and it will push us to our limits. I'm talking about 'challenges.' We try to avoid them but they always seem to creep up on us, especially during our toughest times. We will be forced to face them from time to time, varying in intensity and seriousness, but in one way or another we must deal with them.
We can choose to either give in to it, or we can face it head on. Sometimes this decision does not come so easily to us. There can be many reasons why we would be deterred from taking on a challenge. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and self-doubt are a few that comes to mind. We can talk ourselves out of even attempting to push pass the issue out of uncertainty and our lack of self-confidence. It all comes down to our mindset and how much we want the end goal. It is our passion or lack there of that will drive us in either direction.
If we are not passionate towards accomplishing the challenge or do not value the rewards that we would receive from it, we will lack motivation. In our minds there would be no point in putting the time and effort into a task that means little or nothing to us. On the other hand, if the passion and drive is present, this is the time where we must push pass the mental barriers that we put in place for ourselves, and we need to ensure that we do not give in to our fears. This lesson, I learned on my mat.
As I was growing up I was very timid, had little confidence in myself, and I was extremely nervous and embarrassed to fail. I often found myself backing down from any situation that I was unsure of the outcome. It was through my yoga practice that I was able to turn this around. The amazing thing that I learned from yoga is that it provides you with real life challenges on thecomfort of your mat. We are faced with difficult times in our practice, whether it being a particular posture, an adjustment, your energy level, your emotions etc. We are tested, and we are challenged. Do we give in? Or do we persevere? Some days we may do great and somedays not. But we are given that opportunity to push pass, to fail, to know our fears, our weakness, and our strengths. We get comfortable being uncomfortable, we get comfortable failing, and we get comfortable having to push pass our self-imposed limits. We get to gain a wider perspective of ourselves. We are given this safe and nonjudgmental platform to experience all of this so we can take it into our everyday lives.
I have learned not to give into my fears and uncertainties. Do they give me pause sometimes? Yes. Do they make me doubt myself sometimes? Yes. I'd be lying if I said I don't have those thoughts at times. But now that I am more aware and I can see a bigger picture. I no longer am fearful to try or to fail. I try to the best of my abilities and I follow my dreams and passions.
You can pretty much find a yoga class just about anywhere these days. Sometimes it seems like there are as many yoga studios as there are Starbucks. Yoga is also being offered in gyms, community centers, or done privately as well. Yet I still hear countless of excuses of why people are not doing yoga from the very people claiming they want to do yoga. They say they want to try it, that they have heard of all the amazing benefits you can receive from it, and after many months and many conversations they still have not taken a class.
Yes, yoga is available for everyone, regardless of age, gender, body type or skill level, but I also know it is not for everybody. We all have our preferences, and if it does not interest you today, maybe it will in the future. It is not something that you should force upon yourself or anyone else. It is a decision and commitment that you must make for yourself.
But for all of those sitting on the fence or maybe a little nervous to take your first class, I thought I would breakdown some of the common misconceptions that might be holding you back.
I am not flexible enough to do yoga. Probably the most common reason I hear. Looking from just the physical aspect of the practice, a lot of it can be about gaining flexible. You do not need to be flexible to do the postures, that will come in time. There are many variations or props that you can apply to your classes as well. I have heard this analogy used a lot... saying you are not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower. For a lot of people, yoga is just physical, and they are working to gain the flexibility. If you want the flexibility, a yoga class is a great way to get it.
I am too old to do yoga. Let me just get this out of the way, you can be any age to do yoga. Sure, certain forms of yoga may cater to certain people, but not all types of yoga are fast paced that get you to move into handstands. If you like it a little more vigorous, try a power class, or if you like a little slower pace you can try a yin class. I have seen an 85 year old woman do a hot class. I teach classes where there is a huge age gap difference. You do what you can to the best of your abilities, whether you are young or old, and that is all you need to do.
Yoga is too expensive. Yes, with the popularity of yoga on the rise, there is a certain cost with it. I remember when I was a university student I would have difficulties paying for my memberships. But after being around the community for a while now, I can say there are many affordable options if you look around. Some studios offer a sliding scale payment where you pay what you can. Many studios also offer cheap introductory passes to try out their studio. Studios usually hire karma helpers where you help out at the studio and as compensation you get to take classes for free. Also, remember that you do not need to be in the fanciest and most expensive studio. You can even practice from home with DVDs.
Yoga is too hard. My response to that...well, life is hard. The yoga practice offers healing to you physical, mentally, and spiritually, and you also start to build a deeper connection with yourself. The only thing I can tell you to do is to ask yourself 'is it worth the hard work?' Just as in life, if you want something, you need to put the effort into it. Classes can be challenging and they can push you to your limits, but there are so many benefits you receive just by sticking with it. As a beginner, it can be really difficult, but you will eventually build up to it. Just like if you are going to do a marathon, you cannot just jump right into it with no training and expect to perfect. You need to train yourself and as you progress you get better and better. Same with the yoga practice. Commit to it and things will get easier and better over time.
I hope these help clear up any mental blockages that is preventing you from doing class. There is no harm in trying it out. Just go to it with an open mind and try to have some fun. Hopefully I will see some of you on your mats soon :)
We all have those days, you know, the ones where we say we are too tired or too busy... The days where we would rather go meet a friend or sleep in a little while longer. We convince ourselves that we just do not have the time to do yoga today. Is this necessary true? Most the time, probably not.
I thought I would bring this topic up because it has been a little of a struggle for me lately. During my time abroad I do not have access to a yoga studio so I am currently doing my own home practice. Sometimes one of my roommates will join me for class, but for the majority of the time I am practicing on my own. I have never really developed my own home practice before, I love taking my practice to the studio. I enjoy the group energy, the social aspect of a studio, and being able to turn my brain off and just be guided by the teacher. So, my current practice is pretty different than what I am use too. It is so easy to just try to brush it off till later or the next day. I have found that I need to be much more dedicated and self-motivated to keep up with my practice.
Here are my tips for getting yourself to practice when you are having one of those hard days, whether it being a home practice or a studio class:
1. Set a specific time for your practice. Look at your schedule the night before or early in the morning and schedule in a time for you to practice and stick to it.
2. Find someone to practice with. It makes it a little more social and fun and you will help each other stay accountable.
3. Just start getting ready for class. If you are going to a studio, start getting your gear packed up, or if you are practicing from home just step on your mat. Once you start the process going just keep moving and everything will begin to flow from there. Start your warm up or get into your first few sun salutations and just ride the flow throughout the rest of your class.
4. If you are stretched for time, do a 5 or 10 minute session wherever you are. Do a few sun salutations. Your practice does not always have to be this strenuous 90 minute session. A short 10 minute practice can be very transformative both physically and mentally as well.
5. Have fun! If you are enjoying your practice it will not seem so difficult to find the time to practice. Explore and try different things to see what truly motivates you. Try different styles and teachers and see what works for you.
I hope these little tips help you get on your mat today. Let me know in the comments any of your tips that helps keep you going.
Well time sure is starting to move. It feels like I left Vancouver longer than it actually has, and time seems to moving pretty quick here in Beijing. I just hit my month and a half mark here today...almost half way through! Things have been going pretty good lately. The air has been pretty clean; I rarely wear masks when I go out anymore. But it was been very cold out lately. We had a bit of snow the other day as well. Our apartment does not have any thermostats to adjust the heating manually; I guess it is controlled centrally somewhere in the building. But I definitely would not mind pumping some more heat in my room.
Work is starting to slow down a bit as Chinese New Year approaches. A lot of people seem to be heading out of town already as the train stations already looked pretty busy. Most of our classes are postponed until after the New Years. Until then we are doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff; writing blogs and prepping for some new yoga packages we will be offering. We pretty much will be offering a 10 or 21 day package where we teach a class and offer life management, beauty, diet tips, and a bunch of other guides to complement their transformation. Last weekend I also attended the grand opening of new gym that I will be teaching yoga at. I did a yoga demonstration with Jordan for all the guests. I definitely got a little nervous before heading up but the demo went great and I am really happy how it all turned out.
Still trying to get a lot of tourist stuff done over the weekends. Lately we have been visiting a bunch of temples. We went to the Temple of Heaven a couple of weeks ago. The park surrounding temple was very large. Full of elderly people doing tai chi, dancing, tennis, or using the outdoor gym. It was amazing to see everyone so involved in all the activities, especially since it was freezing outside as well. The temple itself was great. Beautiful architecture and a lot of history behind it all. The other temple I went to visit was the Yonghegong Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple. It was busy when we got there and we had to wait in line for a little bit to get in. We went sunday morning and apparently they were giving out some free soup so everyone was going in for that. Luckily we took the route without the line up so we avoided standing there and waiting once we got in the gates. We were given free incenses to burn as we made our way into the different temples. Amazing Buddha statues everywhere. One was 26 meters high and was carved from a single tree. Wish I could have taken pictures but we were not allowed inside. I was able to sit on a prayer session where a monk chanted and blessed people's mala beads and/or Buddha statues. It was a great experience for both temples, and I am hoping to go see a few more in the coming weeks.