California #CampFire

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Current view from our backyard deck… or lack of it.

I’m taking a moment.  To remember the worst fire in California to date, #CampFire.  It originated 150 miles Northeast of where I live, and it is still going, over a week later.  I am “far” from the fire and we all feel the effects.  The air quality has been in the “purple” 200-300 AQI range.  We all wear an N95 mask if we go outside.  We have coughs.  We have scratchy eyes.  We have headaches.  We are lethargic.  It is no longer just a “am I imagining these symptoms?” to everyone around me has the same exact symptoms – that feeling like you’re just starting to get sick.

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Photo Credit: Purpleair.com

Schools closed yesterday throughout the Bay Area.  I teach for a yoga and fitness studio, and we decided it was no longer beneficial for our students to be “breathing deeply.”  We are all staying home indoors and hoping that that is enough to shield us from the smoke.  But that’s just us, on the outskirts.

Over 150,000 acres burned.  Over 10,000 homes.  Over 70 victims.  Over 1000 missing persons.  Over 5000 people working around the clock to fight the fires.

Ugh.

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Photo Credit: Facebook – If you know the original owner of this photo, please leave a comment so I can give proper credit for this powerful photo!

Sometimes, when it is dark and lost and there are no answers and there is nothing that can be done, I have to find that light.  I have to find that hope.  I have to force myself to find the good.  I just have to.  It’s the only way for me to move forward.  I hope this brings you some hope too.

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What I see
In the midst of our tragedy
Are people
Who rise above

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To remind one another
What is really important
What we have
Who we have 
Right now

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I see big helpers
Our brave firefighters
Thank you
For being on the front lines

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But I also see 
The community
You
And 
Me

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People sharing shelter 
People donating money
People giving clothing
People cooking food
People showing compassion 
People sending prayers
People crying together
People hugging tightly
People choosing kindness
People spreading hope

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What you say 
Matters
What you do 
Matters
What you believe 
Matters

*

Keep shining California  ❤️

With Love, Grace Ling Yu

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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.

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!

Girls, Healthy Doesn’t Mean Skinny

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The truth is: my husband was disappointed when he found out we were having girls.  It sounds harsh, but the reason is because he knows all the problems and drama that girls are more-likely faced with these days, including especially body image issues that lead to anorexia or worse.  And as a father who dearly loves his daughters, it is an added worry and heartache in his life.  As a mom who completely understands these roller coaster emotions, binge eating habits, and struggles with self-esteem, I completely agree with my husband.  I am scared of all the peer pressure, media, and negative influences that are out there telling girls they are not pretty or skinny enough.  This is not OK.

I don’t usually forward articles, in fact, this is the first time I am sharing an article on my website.  However, my friend Jackie Ashton, who also teaches at Marin Power Yoga, published her powerful article, “Why This Mother Is Stopping It With the Cleanses, Diets,” on The Washington Post today and I feel drawn to share it.  Reading this article has brought more awareness into how my own actions may be creating positive or negative examples for my girls.  Teaching my girls healthy eating habits is one thing, but teaching them to love their body is another, much more important lesson.

“I am not my body. My body is an instrument that allows me to do great things in this life: to take care of my children, to be a loving friend, sister, daughter, and wife. In time, my body will decay and ultimately, it will die and dissolve into the ground. But what is inside—the true essence of who I am—will never change.” Jackie Ashton

I hope Jackie’s article speaks to you and all the women and daughters in your life.  Feel free to share your responses below!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/03/31/why-this-mother-is-stopping-it-with-the-cleanses-diets/

“You Must Do The Thing Which You Think You Cannot Do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Marin Power Yoga

This past weekend I taught my Power Yoga class and began with 2 questions for my students to reflect on:

  1. What is something in your yoga practice that you have wanted to try or achieve, but you have been held back because of fear?  (For example, fear of falling, fear of not being strong enough, fear of getting out of your comfort zone, fear of embarrassment…)
  2. What is something in your personal life that you have wanted to change but fear has held you back?  (For example, changing jobs, saying no or yes more, apologizing to someone, fixing a bad habit…)

For myself, I also answered those same questions.  In my yoga classes, one area that I struggle with the most as an instructor is sharing about myself and letting students get to know my “story.” I hold back and usually stick to “textbook teaching” of cueing poses and alignment.  It is what I am comfortable doing.  Although teaching makes me seem like an extrovert because I stand in the front of a room full of people, I am truly an introvert and in all other areas of my life, I prefer to be hidden in the back corner of a room, keeping all my thoughts swirling around in my own head, silent to others.

Well, this weekend I decided to face my fear…

At the end of class, I shared about my hair.  My hair has been incredibly long since my teens, so around 25 years.  My hair is my security blanket.  I associate myself with Violet, from Pixar’s, “The Incredibles.”  Violet is the daughter of a superhero family and she uses her hair to hide behind so she won’t stand out. In fact, her superpower is becoming invisible, which is exactly how I relate to my hair – a symbol of something to hide behind!

The Incredibles "Violet"

As some of you know from my previous posts about migraines and attempts to heal my migraines, I have been suffering from migraines all my life and I am desperate for any chance of relief.  My latest theory is… maybe my 25 years of having long, THICK, hair, plus wearing them in high, heavy ponytails for most of that time during gymnastics, cheerleading, and now yoga/fitness classes, causes too much weight on my neck (my migraine pain seems to originate from my C1, where the base of my skull meets the top of the spine).

So in front of my students, (and facing my first challenge of sharing openly about myself…) I pulled out a pair of scissors (oh I wish I could have videotaped the giant gasps and “NOOO” cries in the room… haha!).  My husband and daughter came into the room and helped me to cut off my braid.  I went from shaking uncontrollably from nervousness and fear, to immediately feeling so refreshed and light!  It is just hair… but cutting my braid symbolized so much more.  I am facing my fears.  I am embracing change.  I am free!

Pantene Beautiful Lengths Haircut

I will be mailing my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths because someone out there with cancer needs my hair more than I do… sending all my love to everyone out there who has been or is fighting the biggest battle of their lives.  Stay strong and know you are loved!

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

The Meaning of Easter Through Dance

What is the meaning of Easter?

To me, Easter is love, sacrifice, and hope.

It is a love that we receive regardless how many times we make mistakes, hurt others, or criticize ourselves.  It is a love that never leaves our side.  It is a love so deep that we were worth dying for.

It is a sacrifice that was unimaginable.  It is a sacrifice that was slow, painful, and absolutely horrific.  It is a sacrifice that led to death so that our lives would be saved.

It is a hope that tells us Jesus died for you and me, but miraculously rose from death 3 days later.  It is a hope that shows God has power over death and that death has been defeated.  It is a hope that through God’s unconditional love and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been saved from eternal death and we have been given the promise of eternal life.

John 11:25-26, New International Version (NIV)

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

It took me about 25 years to believe.  I pray and hope that you will one day soon believe too.

Here is one of my favorite performances that is an interpretive hip hop dance about the story of Mary Magdalene and Jesus.  It begins with Mary Magdalene about to be stoned for adultery and Jesus stepping in to save her.  The dance represents Jesus’ love for all of us regardless of our sins, and continues to show His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.  This performance was at the Hawaiian Islands Ministry Conference in 2009 with my old hip hop dance ministry, Eight Count, and is choreographed to “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Acts of Kindness

Christmas TreeIt started with a recent visit to Starbucks when the barista surprised me and “forgot to enter” one of my two Gingerbread Lattes.  I was so touched because I have never been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness like that.  But it reminded me why this is my absolute favorite time of the year.  Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when holiday music starts playing on the radio, and decorations and lights are found everywhere, a little bit of magic starts to happen.  People start to think about others and how they can bring a smile to someone else’s face.  I absolutely LOVE it and wish that this type of magic happened all year long.  This is my favorite time of the year because a little bit of hope in a kind, compassionate, unselfish humanity is restored into my heart.  The holidays can truly bring out nothing less than amazing miracles.

Here are some recent magical events this holiday season that warmed my heart:

1) Mystery Christmas Tree Floating on Water

A thoughtful neighbor decorated a solar-powered Christmas tree and shared it with the San Rafael Community by sending it on a raft in the San Pablo Bay.

Click here to read the Mystery Christmas Tree article.

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2) WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-Time Giving

Passengers had the opportunity to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and at the end of their flight their wishes came true as their presents came out of the baggage carousel.

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3) Flash Mob: The U.S. Air Force Band at the Smithsonian

Tourists at the Smithsonian Museum were in for a special treat as one by one, instrumentalists and vocalists from the U.S. Air Force Band began performing a holiday medley.

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4) Tips For Jesus

Starting in September this year, an anonymous person began giving extremely generous tips, as in $500 to $10,000, to restaurant servers.

Click here to see the Tips for Jesus Instagram account.

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5) How To Be a Superhero

Two sixteen-year-olds dress up as superheros and do random acts of kindness such as giving someone flowers or balloons, to paying for their meal.

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Those are just a few examples of some really cool people sharing an act of kindness this holiday season.  Perhaps the most realistic story for an everyday person like myself is the last one on how to be a superhero.  Of course, we don’t have to dress up in spandex, or only wait for the holidays to do an act of kindness.  We can, however, make it a habit to look for moments where we could surprise a total stranger and do something that will make them smile, or even better, jump and down screaming with happiness (if you can afford that!).

In the video, they say it best: “All we’re asking you guys to do, is when you see an opportunity to do good, take it.” 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.  Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

– Bob Hope