12 Rules While Visiting Japan

Some people may think that Japan has many “rules,” but I think it creates order and a sense of calm. I love rules and I love when people respect and follow rules. I was a Kindergarten teacher after all 😛. These were some of my observations from my one week vacationing in Japan last week:

1) Stay quiet in tight spaces like subways, buses, or elevators so as not to distract the sound space we all share. I remember boarding our first bus after getting off the plane and it was crowded. Like really crowded, standing-room only. And it was completely silent. I was in awe in the best way. Welcome to Japan!

2) Carry your own trash and dispose of it at home. Most people carry plastic bags to carry bigger trash like food containers. There are very few garbage cans. Definitely none are on the streets or in every corner like we are used to. This was my second realization because I was holding an empty water bottle from the airplane all around as we got our luggage, figured out the subway, and got to our hotel. The whole time I was thinking, “Why can’t I find a trash or recycling bin?”

3) Eat in designated areas like benches, tables, or picnic blankets, not while walking around and definitely not in indoor spaces like department stores. I am so used to eating on the go, especially if I buy a hot snack or something. Nope. Resist eating it right away and walk to the side of the road to find a more private spot. Goes along with probably why there is no trash (or crumbs) on the floor.

4) Line up in the order you arrive. Seems like a straightforward rule right? But where else in the world do you see clear, distinguished straight lines for getting on to the subway? Less than a handful of other places I would think. I personally LOVE this unspoken rule because it makes me so anxious in other Asian countries where a huge crowd just forms in front of the subway door and it’s a pushing game. Ugh.

5) Walk on the left, yield on the right. This is the opposite direction for me, but you get used to it. Even on the escalators, everyone lines up on the left side, generously leaving space on the right for anyone who is in a rush and wants to walk up the steps. No need to say “Excuse Me” to pass by. People are just always thinking about each other.

6) Keep your body to yourself. How does such a crowded city like Tokyo manage to walk by each other without pushing or shoving shoulders? Yes, during rush hour the subways will be completely jammed and you will be squished like never before (when this happened for the first time, I started getting a laugh attack because I had never been so tightly packed before, ever, but I kept it a silent laugh because, well, it’s silent on the subway, which made me start to cry and sweat profusely). Even so, it wasn’t creepy. Everyone just looked away, stood still and quiet, and stayed respectful.

7) Respect your elders, and each other. I saw 2 geishas walk by each other, and although they both bowed, the “younger” one clearly bowed deeper. And when you start to observe two people saying goodbye, one bows, the other bows, then they continue bowing back and forth as they walk away. It was so interesting to watch. Ok more about bowing next.

8) Body attention. You know when you talk to someone and then you see their eyes looking somewhere else, or they look down at their phone, or they fidget, or they interrupt, or you generally feel like their attention is just not fully there? Well in Japan, when you greet someone, it is a full on eye contact and physical bow to acknowledge the other person. Somehow the “arigato gozaimasu” or thank you, combined with a full attention bow is much more powerful. For our last night we ate at Kikunoi, a 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Kyoto. At the end of dinner, we had a special tour by the chef. He brought us to the kitchen where all the workers were eating after a long night, and they all immediately stopped eating, stood up and froze looking at us. Complete stillness, complete respect, complete attention. Wow.

9) Bring hand sanitizer and a handkerchief – one thing I wish I had brought. To go along with the no trash rule in number 2, bathrooms have no paper towels to dry your hands with and many do not have soap either. Just a sink with water. I would keep Kleenex too just in case because some public tourist spots did not have toilet paper. Generally however, Japanese toilets are the best. They have warm seats and a million buttons to play with, like even a “music” button if you need more privacy going poop. Ha! And babies? Many bathrooms have built in booster seats for babies so you can go potty without figuring out to hold your baby at the same time! They think of everything!

10) Be prepared to walk. I averaged 12 miles a day just walking around Japan, and that includes a ton of stairs! What I noticed is that elderly Japanese people also walk. I mean, their food is already pretty healthy, so you combine that with the amount of walking they must do??? Easy recipe for a naturally healthy long life!

11) Be on time. My best example is the train system. It is so efficient and the trains are so precise, like 10:52 is your time? You can be sure your train will not wait until 10:53! Even if half of your party is on the train and the other half are trying to get on – those doors will close. Yes we learned that the hard way – I was left behind.

12) Finally, just be observant. When I visit another place, I am an ultra sensitive person to trying to fit in. Probably too much so. You don’t need to completely conform to that culture, however, we just have to remember to be respectful. To open up our eyes and our ears and be willing to change some of our old habits while we are visitors.

Of course there are exceptions to what I wrote above, and these were just my experiences. Yours may be different. But I do hope that you find the Japanese culture as one to admire. I really felt safe. I felt clean. I felt like they were doing something right. Want to know the unemployment rate? It is 2%. That’s something right.

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10 Tips For Migraine Relief


So you suffer from migraines too?

I’m sorry… I understand.  I really do.  And for the first time in probably 25 years, I’ve finally figured out how to find *some* relief.  Some.  And if you truly get migraines, you are like me and desperate for ANY relief.  So read on…

I started getting them in my teens, about every 6 weeks, and consistently for 3 days each time.  For 24 years.  Yes the dark room, yes nausea and throwing up, yes please crush my head with some metal plates.

Not my finest moment, but I documented my last migraine attack:

 


Just like everyone’s symptoms and frequencies are different, relief comes in different combinations.

Combinations.  There is not one thing to relieve migraines.  It’s a lot of factors.  I am convinced I get them because my personality is go go GO, so much that I am anxious and stressed all the time, not sleeping enough, not eating regularly, saying yes to everything and then the migraines hit because it is the ONLY way I become forced to do absolutely nothing for 3 days.  Well, I do the bare minimum like go to work still and finish my responsibilities (while literally dying inside), then running home and crashing on the bed not because it makes me feel better but because I  just need to close my eyes and dig my fists into my temples. Sound familiar to anyone?  Oh and you have kids too?  Forget about it.  Worst mom ever.

Wow that was a lot of venting.  Moving on.

Here are 10 tips (or superstitions) that have worked for me:


1) Stay really hydrated.  I literally chug a glass of water about every hour.  Don’t believe me?  This is my water bottle, I mean 64 ounce jug.  I put my daughter’s 8 ounce cup on the side for comparison.  I don’t care how much you hate water.  That’s why I said chug.


2) Goodbye caffeine!  When I got pregnant with my first daughter 6 years ago, I gave up caffeine. If you really need coffee, switch to Decaf and just  let the flavor convince you that there’s a caffeine kick.  Otherwise, tea.  Decaf tea has worked for me… but make sure the tannins in tea are not your trigger.


3) And that is my husband’s wine collection… yup, goodbye alcohol.  Remember, do you want a migraine???  I’m sorry… but it’s the truth.  Alcohol is definitely a trigger…


As a side note, if your significant other is like mine and loves wine but now has no one to enjoy it with, you must get them a Coravin.  It is a device that allows you to pour out a portion of wine through a little needle without popping open the cork and the wine stays fresh.  Pretty innovative!


4) Uh oh.  I know you hate me now.  I hate this post too.  My weakness: chocolate… mmm chocolate.  I love chocolate chip cookies.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I love these chocolate covered caramel macadamia nuts.  $&@!  Everything comes in moderation and is a trial and error PER PERSON.  My solution is everyday I have a whey protein smoothie that uses natural chocolate flavors and it has worked to satisfy my craving without triggering my migraine!  Whew!


5) Aspartame: An artificial sweetener used in lots of drinks or foods is a trigger.  I used to love having Diet Coke everyday.  Or Barq’s root beer.  Reach for that glass of water instead.  Chug chug chug!!!

6) Eat regularly and eat natural foods more often than not.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, basically the less processed the better.  Opposite of fresh food: hot dogs. Sausages.  Those also have nitrates which I know trigger my migraines.  Opposite of fresh food.  Ramen packages that I grew up on and crave, but also have MSG, another trigger.  Natural, fresh, I know where this came from and how it was made or what ingredients it has… and eat regularly, aka let your body have a little bit of nourishment throughout the day.


7) Sleep enough.  Like my girls.  Strict bedtimes.  Full night’s rest.  Ha!  Guilty guilty guilty.  I said I had some ideas for relief… but trust me it’s hard!!!  I went to Hawaii and slept in, took naps, felt great, and the first day I get back?  5 hours of sleep.  Went straight through teaching 3 intense classes in a row plus 4 loads of laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, catching up on work, all while taking care of my 2 and 5 year olds who were cranky from the time change.  Slept 5 hours at the end of that day.  How can I not expect to get a Migraine?


8) Bodywork.  I knew I always loved deep tissue massages but now I know that regular bodywork actually helps prevent migraine attacks.  I carry so much stress (as most people do) in my neck and shoulders.  I used to get massages randomly as a special treat, but a year and a half ago, I started seeing my amazing friend Bill Vrabel at Marin Power Yoga regularly as a form of treatment.  And he’s not a “follow a sequence I was taught” type person.  I don’t have to say anything about where it is hurting and he can follow the energy lines in my body to know where I am tight on any particular day.  You need to find someone like that.  And see them regularly.  My home treatment?  Lying on random tennis balls or using this truMedic massager at home.  Better than nothing!


9) Medication.  I tried meds before and they never worked because I would always take the pills too late.  But I kept taking them in hopes of some magic.  I stopped meds when I became pregnant and was off meds for the past 5 years… and my migraines were worse than ever.  Just last year I was desperate and restarted Sumatriptan.  The difference is I know my body better now that I have had migraines for 25 years.  I know before the migraine is coming.  I know that cloudiness that begins to fog up my brain.  I know that general whole body unwell feeling and loss of appetite.  If you catch that moment BEFORE your migraine, the medicine is magic.  At least it has been for me… and I completely believe my yoga practice has been what has helped me distinguish a deeper level of mind and body awareness.  I am more in tune with my body when it starts to drift into migraine mode.  On to my final tip: #10.


10) Do you do too much?  Are you constantly thinking?  Are you running around like a headless chicken most of the day?  If so, you need some form of stress relief that lets your brain stop thinking.  I recommend yoga.  And just like bodywork, you have to find the yoga class and teacher and studio and community that resonates with you.  You’ll know if you take a class, and simply feel better afterwards.  That’s it.  You’ve found something good.

I started yoga 15 years ago in hopes of relieving my migraines.  But I still drank coffee, alcohol, didn’t watch what I ate, basically did not follow anything else on this list… so… yup still had chronic migraines.  But it’s the combination of all the above.  Maybe it’s because I am a mom now and have to take care of others… that I started to really notice what I needed to do to take care of myself.  You know, like how they say on an airplane to first put on your oxygen mask before your child’s?  All I know is I cannot live with migraines and I cannot take care of my kids when I get an attack.  I needed to find relief, so for the past year I have committed to this list above.  Not perfectly by all means, but *more often than not.*
And for the first year in 25 years, I had only FOUR migraines in 2016 compared to an average of TEN each year (of 24 years!!!) before.  This year, it is April 2017 and boy am I due for one… but *knock on wood,* I haven’t had one yet.  I must be doing something right.

And to me, that shows there is HOPE.  The only reason I wrote this post spontaneously is because for the very very very first time in my entire life, I found hope with my migraines, and I pray that you do too.  I feel you.  I understand you.  These steps are not fun nor easy, and they do absolutely take commitment, but I wish for your healing.  Please leave a comment if any of this has helped.

Love,

Grace

PS #11) Do NOT do no-handed headstands.  They are absolutely a trigger for me!!!  Bad Grace BAD!!!

Mommy and Me Yoga Poses

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Double Butterflies

Our kids just want to spend time with us.  They want to come to work with us, join our date nights, and help with errands.  In my household, I am always doing yoga, so therefore my kids want to do yoga with me all the time!

Teaching our kids yoga can provide them with so many benefits including: having healthy exercise habits, learning body awareness, and building strength and flexibility.  In addition, kids learn emotional skills such as: determination, patience, and focus.  Perhaps the most important lesson is learning how to breathe, and teaching our children to take slow deep breaths when they are faced with challenges to stay calm.

Next time you step on your mat at home, instead of practicing alone, try out some of these fun mommy and me poses!  I guarantee you will both love your time together!

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Double Upward Facing Dogs

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Double Planks

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Double Boats

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Double Chairs

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Double Trees

And one more if you are feeling adventurous… have fun!

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Supported Cobra Pose

 

How To Do A Sun Salutation

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So what exactly is a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)?  There are several variations, but in general a sun salutation is a series of poses that flow continuously with your breath, and are often performed in the beginning of vinyasa yoga classes to warm up the body.  The most common sun salutation A consists of 8 main poses:

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  1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This is your starting and ending pose.  As a stand alone pose, your feet can be hip distance apart, although in a sun salutation flow, your feet can be together.  Spread weight evenly through the four corners of your feet (outer edges of balls and heels of feet).  Engage your kneecaps, lengthen your spine and lift the crown of your head towards the sky.  At the same time, draw your shoulders back and down, and engage your ribs and naval back towards your spine.  Ignite energy from your feet to the crown of your head, and energize your fingertips towards the floor.  Take as many breaths as needed here to become grounded and still.

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2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

On your inhale, lift your arms up towards the sky and perhaps come into a gentle backbend.  Think of backbending from your upper back, lifting from your sternum versus collapsing in your lower back.

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3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

On your exhale, fold forward by hinging from your hips and keeping your spine long.  As you fold, your arms can either swan dive out by your sides, or you can bring your hands together in prayer as you fold.  Soften your knees if

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4. Halfway Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)

On your inhale, lengthen your spine.  Your fingertips can be on the floor or on your shins, and your knees can soften as much as needed to create the extension in your spine.

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5. Plank (High Plank)

On your exhale, step back into plank, keeping your shoulders over your wrists and heels stacked over the balls of your feet.  Engage your core as you continue to lift your naval up towards your spine and prevent your hips from sagging.  Push down through your palms and lift your back side towards the sky.

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6. Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

On that same exhale as your plank, shift your weight forward so that your shoulders move beyond your fingertips and your heels glide forward over the balls of your feet.  Bend your elbows at a 90 degree, hugging your elbows to your ribs.  From the side profile,  your shoulders, elbows, and hips should be in a straight line, and your elbows stay stacked over your wrists.

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7. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

On your inhale, press down on your palms and place the tops of your feet on the ground.  Engage your triceps as well as your quadriceps so only your hands and feet touch the floor.  Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling and draw your shoulders down away from your ears.  Keeping the legs active will prevent “dumping” weight into your lower back.

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8. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

On your exhale, use your core to lift your hips away from the floor and roll back onto the soles of your feet.  Press weight evenly throughout your palms, especially your fingers.  Straighten your arms and externally rotate your upper arms and shoulders, making space around your neck.  Move your chest towards your thighs and lift your tailbone towards the ceiling, creating as much length in your spine as possible.  Continue to draw your ribs in.  Reach your heels towards the mat, but it is not important for them to touch the mat.  Sometimes softening the knees will help you feel more length in the spine.  Rest for 1-5 breaths.

To return back to the starting Mountain Pose:

9. On your exhale, walk or hop your feet together between your hands.

10. On your inhale, Halfway Standing Forward Fold.

11. On your exhale, Forward Fold.

12. On your inhale, soften your knees, keep your spine straight and reverse swan dive to your Upward Salute.

13. On your exhale, return to Mountain Pose.  Stay for 1-5 breaths and complete the whole Sun Salutation A cycle 3-5 more times.  Feel the warmth in your body that you have created.

“As the sun spirals its longest dance, cleanse us.

As nature shows bounty and fertility, bless us.

Let all things live with loving intent

And to fulfill their truest destiny.”

~ Summer Solstice Blessing

 

 

 

#StopDropAndDance With Grace Ling Yu

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Can’t Stop the Feeling with Justin Timberlake #StopDropAndDance with Grace Ling Yu!

So you know when a catchy song comes on the radio, and your body just wants to MOVE? Well, that’s exactly how I feel, pretty much on a daily basis.  Justin Timberlake’s latest song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” is no joke.  When I first heard that song, it was around 10pm.  And I stayed up another 2 hours dancing.  By myself.  This was the video I ended up recording because I had to document my ridiculousness.

Of course that dance is very choreographed and if I were to teach it to you, I would have to break down all the steps and counts.

I’ve decided to start posting EASY TO PICK UP dance videos that require absolutely no breakdown of steps.  You can literally turn on the video and start dancing with me!!!  And it is such a good cardio workout, not to mention the obvious… it is SO MUCH FUN.  I even got a bunch of “backup dancers” from Marin Power Yoga to show you how much we love this!

I’m officially using the hashtag #StopDropAndDance with Grace Ling Yu.  If you like my videos, there are more videos posted on the #StopDropAndDance tab on this blog, or you can do one of the following to stay up to date:

  1. Press LIKE on my Facebook Page to receive the latest updates: www.facebook.com/PowerWithGrace
  2. SHARE my #StopDropAndDance Videos and TAG your friends to dance too!
  3. Press SUBSCRIBE on my YouTube page: www.youtube.com/gracelingyu
  4. FOLLOW me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/gracelingyu
  5. Optional: Post a video of you doing part or all of one of my dances and TAG @Power With Grace as well as the hashtag #StopDropAndDance to spread the LOVE!!!

My ultimate goal is that a particular song could come on the radio, and you would start dancing the #StopDropAndDance moves simply because you remember them and you just CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!!!

Enjoy!!!

 

 

Prenatal Yoga Dance to “How Long Will I Love You,” By Ellie Goulding

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Mother’s Day just passed two days ago, and at times I am still in disbelief that Mother’s Day is now a celebration for me too!  How much changes in 5 years… from never sleeping in anymore, to taking 1 hour to get out of the house in the mornings versus 15 minutes, to having stuff… just stuff… all over the house.   And now… to having endless kisses and snuggles, to having a helper put away dishes or laundry, to knowing a love that is so deep and so great that my heart actually hurts thinking about my kids.

Motherhood has been a wild ride, starting with being bedridden for 3 months in my first pregnancy!  Fortunately, my second pregnancy was smooth sailing and I was able to teach my fitness and yoga classes literally until the morning of my labor.

18 months ago, I shot this impromptu yoga dance video with Jamie Ginsberg at Marin Power Yoga when I was pregnant with my second child.  I am so grateful I have this footage.  My heart is full.

Some other yoga dances I’ve made:

Yoga Dance – “Make You Feel My Love”

Yoga Dance – “Amazing Grace”

 

Other pregnancy posts I wrote:

Prenatal Yoga For Experienced Yogis

I Am Going to Miss Being Pregnant!

4 Ways I Balance Family, Fitness, and Fun!

 

Hiking in Yosemite with my daughters.

I would be lying if I told you it is easy to be the primary caretaker for my two girls, 4 and 1 years old, while working full time teaching 15 fitness and yoga classes a week, and serving as the Lead 200RYT Teacher Trainer and Director of Operations and TRX at Marin Power Yoga.    The struggle is real, but I am truly doing everything that I love!

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Here are some tips on how I try to balance it all:

1) Make Exercise A Priority

I have a hard time getting through a day without moving around, or stretching at the very least.  I feel restless, easily irritable, and end up having little to no energy.  I just feel bad.  When I do get to exercise, I feel like I am a battery that is fully charged and ready to go!  I have that much more energy (and patience) to give to my family.

Create a predictable and reasonable routine that you can follow every week.  Decide how many days per week and when is the best time of the day for you to exercise.  Perhaps it is at midnight like me after the kids have gone to sleep and finally all my work is done!  Set your routine, and make exercise a priority for your health, so that you can take care of your family.

2) Set Aside Quality Family Time Everyday

When I get home after a long day, I dread the endless list of chores I have to do – dishes, dinner, laundry, cleaning, lunches for the next day… I could easily spend the entire evening multi-tasking between these chores and spending time with my family.  Actually, up until recently, dinnertime looked like my kids eating at the table while I ran back and forth between the kitchen doing chores versus sitting down to have a meaningful meal together.

Now I am making a conscious effort to give my complete attention to my family especially during dinnertime as a priceless opportunity for conversation, as well as during bath time as a place for silliness and play, and during bedtime routines where we read stories together.  Set aside quality family time everyday with no multi-tasking, no interruptions, and no distractions (that includes the phone!).  It can be as short as 5 minutes one day, it can be an hour another day.  When you give your full attention to your family, they will notice and appreciate it.

3) Be Fit Together

When I started teaching at Marin Power Yoga, one of the open time slots was Saturday at 9:30am.  Right away I said no because I did not have childcare on the weekends.  Jamie, the owner of MPY, offered to open a concurrent kids yoga class so that my daughter would not only have childcare, but would also learn yoga too.  How could I say no to that?

We are role models for our kids, and when they see us leading active lifestyles, they will naturally too.  Everyday, my daughters take our dog out for walks with me even though we live on a big, steep hill.  I am often doing Yoga or TRX at home for my Instagram posts (@gracelingyu), and you see my kids playing around me or my older daughter trying some poses too.  What else is fun?  A DANCE PARTY of course!  Fitness and family time are not exclusive of one another.  We can be fit together.

4) Get Outside and Play

My most favorite way to balance family and fitness is to plan day trips or vacations together.  I literally go through my calendar and plan out these special family excursions or else it will simply not happen.

We just went to Yosemite with my sister’s family and my parents, and all of us from ages 1 to 70, went hiking for 3 days in a row.  We saw waterfalls, lakes, meadows, tunnels, and animals, and my daughter gained confidence climbing on logs, crossing bridges, and jumping off logs.  She learned to get back up after falling down, and most importantly, it was the best quality time with the ones I love, doing something active and healthy for all of us.  There are so many beautiful places right next door to you.  With the weather getting warmer, we have no excuse not to be outside in nature.

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I thank my parents for always being my role model when I was young.  I distinctly remember our evening bike rides after dinner, annual family trips to go skiing, and their support enrolling me in all my favorite fitness activities.  Even now, they wear pedometers and walk 10,000 steps daily.  I hope one day to be a role model to my daughters, and see them living healthy, active, fit lifestyles with their future families.

“Family, nature, and health all go together.”

~ Olivia Newton-John