Monthly Archives: January 2012

Slow your breath down, just take it slow, find your smile now


I love a song with meaningful lyrics. Especially the kind that is accompanied by an equally wonderful melody. I first heard this song while watching an episode of One Tree Hill. One simple Google search, and some Youtube videos later I am fully acquainted with Future of Forestry

Their song titled ‘Slow your breath down’ reminds me of what I tend to forget to do for most of the time. And that is to breathe. Slowly and deeply.

One of the first things that I learned when I begin to attend Dr. Dhillip’s yoga classes was that the depth of your breath determines the length of your life. The deeper your breathe, the longer you live. That was one lesson that never left me and it is also one of the reason why I have been attending his classes regularly since 2006.

A typical class with him will usually end with about 20 minutes of breathing exercises. And I have to admit, despite the whole idea of longevity tied to the quality of your breath, this final part of the class is always something that I dread. You’re probably thinking, but it’s breathing! How hard can it be right? We all learn how to breathe the minute we were born when that doctor smacked us across the bum to welcome us into the world. Right? Maybe not. Stress, worrying and anxiety often leads many to either forget to breathe for long moments at a time (next time you are stressed, pay attention to your breathing!) or to take quick shallow breaths which leads one to utilize only 1/4 capacity of their lungs.

Yoga consists of a number of breathing exercises (pranayama) all of which are different in lengths of inhalation and/or exhalation. The Kapalbhati Pranayama is something that we practice regularly in our weekly classes that involves quick forceful exhalation followed by natural inhalation. 15 seconds into this, and if like me, you are a shallow breather, everything starts aching. Your back starts aching, your lungs starts to groan a little in pain, your abdomen protesting quietly and sometimes, you feel like you are running out of breath.

But you keep going, gentle in and forceful out, gentle in and forceful out, in quick rapid succession. And eventually the pain falls away and your head starts to lighten and your mind begins to quiet the noisy protests that’s going on in your head. And eventually you achieve a level of relaxation that you have been craving all week. It’s like climbing a hill, get past the hard work of getting up there, and when you eventually reach the summit, all you want to do is kick back and enjoy the view.

A recent article from Food Matters (7 Health Benefits of Meditation) talks about a study which found that deep relaxation can contribute towards an increase of disease fighting genes. Yeap, that’s right, regular meditation that achieves deep relaxation can actually change your genes!

So when that colleague in your office is ruffling your feathers all in the wrong way, or when your day is just not going the way you expect it to, remember the wise words of Eric Owyoung form the Future of Forestry “slow your breath down, just take it slow, find your smile now“.


Be choosy about choosing


How many choices have you had to make today?

Two nights ago, against my better judgment and what Oprah has said about snacking past 8 at night, I decided that Garrett’s Chicago Mix Popcorn will make a great late night dessert. I know this blog is meant to talk about healthy and organic way of living, and trust me there isn’t anything remotely healthy about shoving those giant oversized popped corn into your mouth so late at night while watching Ice Age with your family.

But early on when I made the conscious decision to eat healthier, I was also quick to realise that in order to ensure my decision remains sustainable, I would have to adopt the 80/20 rule. Conscious, healthy organic choices 80% of the time, whilst giving myself the 20% break in between to allow myself the not-so-healthy choices to take place so that I can be happy (or at least try to be) 100% of the time with what I eventually choose to nourish me.

Needless to say however, my decision to indulge that night left me with a sugar high that kept me wide awake until 1 in the morning. Choices made against your better judgement are almost always the kind that makes you pay for its consequences doesn’t it?

So to pass the time, I decided to watch and learn something on Ted. I am currently hooked on Ted. It’s like a whole library of youtube that actually makes sense and teaches you something new in less than 20 minutes. My inner geek could not be any more happier.

Sheena Iyengar gave a talk recently on making choosing easier. Sheena Iyengar is one of those people whose academic work conjures a deep respect from me. She’s an expert on choices. Someone who studies the human behaviour and what influences them to choose certain things over others. I first encountered her work through her book published last year entitled The Art of Choosing. If there is one book you want to read this year to help you jumpstart conversations with strangers at dreaded networking events and still come out sounding smart, this book will be it.

In her 16 minutes presentation, she reveals some findings and eventually concludes with a simple advice. Be choosy about choosing.

We all encounter numerous choices to make every day. Some consciously, while others unconsciously driven by habit and what we already know over time. If you actually count the number of decision you had to make today, I am sure you can easily come up with a pretty long list of it. Shall I roll out of bed now or shall I lie in a little longer? Shall I get up and do some yoga or just sit here, eat my breakfast and read the newspapers instead? Shall I buy that organic brown rice instead of the washed white rice, which is probably cheaper anyway? Shall I satisfy my need to be healthy or this darn sweet-tooth right now?

A hundred choices, every single day. And you cannot always get them right every single time. According to Sheena, the more choices you are faced with (like if you are faced with 100 different jam flavors in the supermarket aisle), the more unlikely it is for you to make that choice (to buy a jar of jam).

And I totally get this. With the growing organic business in Malaysia, I still feel like a little kid in a candy store every time I walk into a shop that carries everything and anything organic. I will walk through every single aisle, turn over all the jars, touch and smell the soaps and eventually feeling completely overwhelmed, walk out empty handed totally forgetting that I am only there because I needed to buy a pack of organic rice.

Most people whom I’ve talked to always start with a ‘wanting’ to eat and live healthier lifestlye, but they always say they do not know where to start. Sometimes coming up with excuses can be so much easier than trying to choose from the hundreds different line of organic produce at the supermarket. But a no answer is still an answer. Same goes to choices, choosing not to eat healthier is still a choice made about your eating habit.

So here’s my 2 cents on this – start slowly, allow yourself to make ‘unhealthy’ choices 20% of the time when you’re transitioning (but be prepared to ride out the aftermath like I did!), and research about the food, herb and spices that you are interested in. So many health supplements these days claim to do wonders, but not all can actually live up to their own marketing ploy which is why I totally agree with Sheena when it comes to choosing. Be choosy.


In with the new, out with the Euro


Last week, I was invited along for a pre-Chinese New Year lunch. Whilst waiting for our Thai version of Yee Sang (I’m still trying to figure out why we had Yee Sang at a Thai restaurant..)and with Chinese New Year just being days away, naturally the conversation veered to sharing this year’s dos and don’ts with regards to Feng Shui in the Year of the Dragon.

From one end of the table, a woman announced that she went home earlier that week and sieved through her coin box to ‘weed out’ any spare change she may have in Euro currency.

“Feng Shui master says you must keep all your Euro money either in your wallet, or in your drawers where people won’t be able to see it”, she explained while I quietly wondered if her Feng Shui master said anything about passing him the Euro instead to coincide with his Italian trip sometime this year.

I repeated this piece of story to another woman who attends the same yoga class with me on Sunday mornings. Far from being superstitious, I only did this as a conversational piece, something to bemuse over together as I try to understand this growing worldwide disdain over anything monetarily related to the European countries.

Our teacher overheard our conversation and what started out as a small piece of Sunday morning, pre-Sun salutation conversation became a full blown advice. One which I thought would be worthwhile sharing with the rest of the world.

“People would be much better off trusting themselves, and in God/Universe”, he declares, though more so in a gentle fatherly way rather than in a condescending way.

I am in no way shooting down all those Feng Shui masters out there, or any other type of career that bases itself on predicting the future. But just because I personally do not believe in it, does not mean the rest of the world should not. Like I am still wondering how babies born in the Year of the Dragon can be any better off than say babies who were born in the Year of the Ox (or Monkey, or Pig or the rest of the animals that appear in the Chinese calendar), but that does not mean there aren’t millions of hopeful parents and determined newly weds out there who will be making good use of their bedrooms (and everywhere else possible) this year to make sure that does happen.

My yoga teacher did have a very good point though. We are our worst critiques sometimes, and I do not know anyone who is not hard on themselves when it comes to personal and professional achievements. I have been guilty of this way too many times than I care to keep track of. I second-guess, triple-guess, quadruple-guess my decisions. I question over and over what the future may bring, and if I choose this today, will it bring me the things that I desire most tomorrow?

Faith. One simple word that demands a person to believe in something and/or someone without first seeing or having real, tangible proof in front of your eyes. Faith. One of those things that I am constantly finding and losing, and finding it again in places least expected. Faith is definitely one thing I believe the world can do with more. Because faith, leads to trust, and with trust, there is hope.

So nevermind if Nostradamus said that the world will end this year, nevermind if Euro is one currency you won’t want to be showing off to your house guests (if you really don’t know what to do with them, you can mail it to me for my trip in March!). Instead of worrying, let us all have a bit more faith in the goodness of strangers, in the people whom we love the most as well as the unknown future. I’ll end this post today with a Chinese New Year commercial advertisement filmed a little under 3 years ago, by one of the most talented film producer Malaysia has ever seen – the late Yasmin Ahmad who sadly passed away from stroke a few months after this was filmed in 2009.

To those who will be driving out of town this long weekend, stay safe and to those celebrating – Gong Xi Fa Cai!