MEET: Lianne

Lianne is also one of my Shamily (remember Shanghai family ?) members. I met her while she was studying Mandarin in Shanghai, not yet married, not yet a mum, not yet a cancer survivor. I admire her for her "always positive" attitude though she went through so much. She is a great example to me of seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. She is also pure candy sweetness/kindness. You will find her story with her body and yoga very inspiring. A great example of the ever evolving nature of our body and our yoga practice.


Name : Lianne

Age : 34

Nationality : Dutch Indonesian

Current city : Maastricht, The Netherlands

Current job : Hospitality & Guest experience Consultant

Years of yoga practice : 6 years


Could you briefly describe what yoga means to you?

Yoga means quality time with myself. The vitality I feel after each practice, makes me feel happy and proud about myself. It is a treat to my body, to be able to continue the day in a powerful way. Yoga helps me to love and trust my body again, other than being worried about my body, I can enjoy it again.

How did your path to yoga begin and how was the first time?

In my 34 years I have “started” yoga many times. When I was nine years old I started jazz dance and developed to the National highest level. Three times a week practice and every single time we started with “yoga” for 30 minutes. Only in a later stage, I realised we were actually practising yoga before starting jazz dance training!

Six years ago, during my first pregnancy, I “started” yoga again. This time I felt different and very aware of what yoga could do to my body and mind and the goodness for my baby, in a different way than dancing.

Why did you continue your practice? What does yoga bring to your life?

After a long break of physical challenges in my life due to breast cancer, I was happy to start with yoga again as being the first workout after my breast reconstruction and three months recovery phase. Step by step I could get to know my body again, to find out I was able to do more than I expected. I keep surprising myself, which gives me confidence in my body again. It is always eye opening to experience I can actually breath my body into a pose. After a good yoga session, I have the feeling I can continue the day with power.

What insights have you gained through yoga?

The mental part of yoga is important to me, it makes me able to accept the challenges in life and come at peace. It actually empowers me psychologically, which now I even feel, as if I am not in need of any other external help, which often is needed after a cancer diagnosis.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve been facing in your practice in the overall (on and off the mat)?

Ha! It’s the biggest challenge once other (medical) people are deciding what is good for your body, IF you are actually allowed to practice or not. Letting go is the key.

When I was allowed to start yoga again three months after my first breast reconstruction, I was very motivated, practiced three times a week and challenged my body to the max. Knowing that in three more months, I would need to have a second breast reconstruction, with again a recovery period. It was a challenge to accept that I was forced to take a long yoga break again, after being so proud of myself and knowing my body limits. Recently I have received green light of my doctor and started practising yoga again. It feels I have to start all over again, find out what my new body allows me to do, what are my new strengths and weaknesses.

Due to different factors, unfortunately I injured my back a few weeks ago during the “Halasana Pose”. According to my osteopath, I am not allowed to practice yoga for the coming two weeks. It has been a major rollercoaster with my body, I realise this while typing, but I am extremely grateful and proud to have come this far with yoga. Time is precious and I just need a little more patience with my body. The more gentle I am to my body now, the more I will be able to enjoy it later on.

What’s your mantra, if any? Your personal ethos?

During my recovery period I meditated a lot. Although I often couldn’t practice yoga, I could still keep up with the mindfulness part I love. Before my yoga class starts, I prefer to be in the room 15 minutes in advance to start my personal meditation. I used to live in Bali for a few months, walking through the rice fields by myself was meditative to me. So before each practice, I go back to the rice fields in Canggu for a little while, it feels like a little treat.

Outside your yoga practice, what other routines help to support your body and mind?

Following a healthy life style keeps me strong and boosts my immune system. High Fat and Low Carbs is a diet I gradually found my balance in, combined with lots of sinning during the weekends. If I can’t practice yoga, I walk and cycle a lot, I am still a Dutch girl !

I read a lot of enrichment books, to feed my mind and gain new insights in life. These books go very well parallel with yoga. My recent books were “Chi the power from within” from a Dutch writer who even opened a “Chi-centre in The Netherlands and “The way of the Wizard – Deepak Chopra” translated in many languages and almost is like a bible to me. Currently I am reading another Dutch writer “Buddhism in all simplicity”.

What advice from your yoga practice you would like to share with other yogis ?

I would advice to focus in your breathing and stay within yourself, since it’s a gift for your own body & mind. To me focus means I practice peacefully with a little smile on my face, I don’t talk to others and don’t react when some teachers or yogis joke or can’t concentrate. Full focus means I can achieve more with my body. I can even compare it to giving birth; with full focus on mind and breathing, I can take away the pain and my body was able to give birth without any pain, stress and frustration.

MEET: Jasmine

Jasmine, aka Jazzy, is for me one of a kind. Her heart is as big as the oceans, and her spirit as open and sparkling as stars of our galaxy. Yeah it is possible ! ;) She is part of that Yoga Gang we formed with Angie (see previous story) and is the one who initiated me to yoga. She has, as Angie, a very special place in my heart. She taught me so much of life, relationship, friendship and all and all. Good Californian she is, she has sunshine and all in her practice... and smile ! Enjoy the read ! xx C.


Age : 32

Nationality : American

Current city : San Francisco

Current job : Communications for a shared electric vehicle company

Years of yoga practice :12 years (since sophomore year of university)



Could you briefly describe what yoga means to you?

Yoga is me time. It’s what I do to reset and rebalance. When life adds up, I can always find my balance again on the mat. I practice yoga to slow my mind and heart, and to stretch and strengthen my body to give me the flexibility to handle what life throws at me. Over the years, yoga has also become a social activity for me, a place to bring friends together in a healthy way and a practice to share with those I love.

How did your path to yoga begin and how was the first time?

My first yoga class ever was in University. My roommate invited me to a class in a studio on a hill overlooking the ocean. I remember bumbling through the poses and looking around at everyone to make sense of it all. I continued occasionally through school, but it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco and was introduced to Rusty Wells at Yoga Tree that I was hooked. His 100+ person classes with live music became my weekend routine. I used to joke that his classes were my “church”. To this day, I still hear Rusty’s voice when I do backbends or sneak in an extra pushup between vinyasas.

Why did you continue your practice? What does yoga bring to your life?

When I first moved to Shanghai in 2010, I struggled to find a studio that compared to the established ones of San Francsico. I remember going to a class at a gym that was more a gymnastics class than yoga! Yoga was still new to Shanghai and we all have to start somewhere, right? I missed yoga in my life and was thrilled when I found a studio that fit my needs. I felt like I had found home in a foreign place. I began making a yoga routine again, looking forward to it after a busy day or work, and bringing friends along to make it a social event. Yoga brings balance, relaxation and flexibility to my life.

What insights have you gained through yoga?

When my best friend, Angie, started to do yoga with me a couple of years ago, I admired how she always pushed herself. There were a number of poses I had done for years, and never tried to enhance, simply because I was stuck in a routine. Angie would sometimes look over at me during class, with a twinkle in her eye, and say “try it, Jazzy” when the teacher suggested an advanced pose. And the amazing thing? I often could! It was just mind over matter and having the bravery and inspiration to try. That is something I try to always carry with me today, on and off the mat.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve been facing in your practice in the overall (on and off the mat) ?

Not getting to class “enough” and then being hard on myself for not going “enough”. But then I remind myself: it’s all enough. It’s all good. We’re all doing the best we can. Sometimes you can go to yoga every day, and other times, once a week is what’s in the cards. I do sit a lot at work these days, so on a mat or not, it’s important to find ways to move my body and keep it lose and limber. When I don’t have time for class, I like to walk to and from work, or stretch on my living room floor.

What’s your mantra, if any? Your personal ethos?

My family has always been big on those. Probably “ask, believe receive” if I had to pick one. Wait, also “when life adds up, subtract”. When I’m stressed, I like to remind myself “you have all the time in the world”. And when faced with tough decisions, I often hear my father’s voice reminding me “be generous”.

Outside your yoga practice, what other routines help to support your body and mind?

Love. Falling in love. All over the place. With my partner, my family, my job, my home. Remembering that it’s all a big game and we’re here to play and support. Spending a balance of time between friends and down time. Walking places to move my body and process my busy mind. SLEEP. It’s the key to my happiness (maybe too much so!). I’ve been working in the garden and playing with plants recently. That’s always meditative to me.

What advice from your yoga practice you would like to share with other yogis ?

Any time on the mat is time well spent. I love Caroline’s quote the other day that said “the only person you should compare yourself to, is who you were yesterday”. And finally, just try!

MEET : Angie

Angie is one of my best best friend. The kind of friend you felt was always here and will always be here, like real sisters . She and Jazz (coming up next in the Yogis Stories) are the two obvious yoginis i thought of when starting this Yogis Stories section and i feel so happy they accepted to answer few of my questions. Jazz is the one who introduced me to yoga and Angie is the one that followed along with me into the fantastic yoga path. Since then we formed that Yoga Gang Angie mentions in her answers... Read more below about her very own experience of yoga and feel inspired ! Have a good read !


Age : 30+

Nationality : world citizen

Current city : Shanghai, China

Current job : brand director for Naked – a lifestyle company


Could you briefly describe what yoga means to you?

Yoga is an evolution and an exploration. It’s a discovery of your own body, its strengths/weaknesses and its physical limitations; it’s an introspection into the power of your mind; it’s a way to understand your learning preference – what kind of yoga teacher inspires you and do you know why; it’s a way to connect with and get to know a community of like-minded people. On any given day, the way you feel, the way you respond to a teacher, and the way you interact with a class can be completely different depending on the person you are on that particular day, at that particular moment.

How did your path to yoga begin and how was the first time?

I did my first yoga class in my 20s, it was a bikram class, and it was hot, and boring and I remember thinking “I won’t go back”. At that time, I was dancing competitively, which involved 2-3 hours of intense practice at least 5 days a week; I needed something more stimulating, not just sweat inducing. Fast forward a few years, I had a roommate/colleague/best friend who had a consistent yoga practice, and as a curious explorer of body movement, I tagged along for a class, insisting on it being a beginner level. I was pessimistic, and to my surprise, it was OK! In poses involving flexibility, I was in my comfort zone. In poses involving strength, I was hopeless. But that dynamic, along with the exploration of my own body and movement, made the class interesting. And I signed up for another class. For the second class, my friend failed to mention it was NOT beginner until after the class. Luckily (for her!), I found the challenge fun! Aside from the class, I found myself part of a small “yogi gang” that would meet on the mat at the end of a long day at work, which was another incentive to keep on the yoga path.

Why did you continue your practice? What does yoga bring to your life?

I wasn’t hooked after my first class. I was hooked after a class with a particular teacher. I guess it was mostly the music he played, combined with the lightness of a playful practice. The music was modern, including some Bob Marley, hip-hop and sometimes even rap. The practice did not only incorporate by-the-book asanas, but also other exercises. It felt like one long choreographed dance, flowing so much that when the second side came around I couldn’t even remember what I had done the first time around. Each class was was unexpected, exciting and inspiring.

Aside from the obvious physical aspect, every yoga class offers me a moment to work on myself. I always try to end each class with a self check-inHow am I doing? How am I feeling? Am I happy, why or why not? What do I want to change? What am I thankful for? Is there something I can do better? The list of questions is not always the same, and sometimes it’s focused on other people, but it’s a general guide of thought manifestations to share into the universe.

What insights have you gained through yoga?

Your mind is the biggest limitation in your life. I vividly remember one of my first yoga classes, seeing people kicking up into inversions, holding arm balances, and telling myself “Yeah, I’ll never be able to do that!” What a horrible thing to think! I hadn’t simply told myself that I couldn’t do something in that moment, but I had told myself that I could NEVER do it, and I had accepted it. 4+ years into my yoga practice, I am doing those same inversions and arm balances I “never” thought I could do, though not perfectly. “I can’t do that” still crosses my mind, but now instead of accepting it, I instead try it anyway, and sometimes surprise myself!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve been facing in your practice in the overall (on and off the mat)?

I have found it difficult to develop a solo practice. Whether it’s a matter of discipline or knowledge, I’m not sure. But, every time I try to practice at home, it’s a grand failure. It’s difficult to focus, somehow all the poses that I know in class fly out of my head, and all I can remember is Sun Salutation.

What’s your mantra, if any? Your personal ethos?

I guess I have a few:

- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Aside from literal life or death situations, there’s little in the world that cannot be done with a dash of silly and a touch of laughter.

- Everyone is doing his/her best. There’s not enough time for conspiracy theories around every corner, and it’s much easier to take everything at face value.

- If something awful happens, give yourself three days before you decide on a course of action. By that time, you’re a little more sane and thinking more clearly.

Outside your yoga practice, what other routines help to support your body and mind?

I’ve recently taken my non-violence practice off the mat and adopted a vegan diet. It was never something I thought I would do, because of the negative judgment and associations that seem to be involved, but after some self-education and inspiration from dear friends, it seemed to be the only logical step. Next, I am looking to incorporate a meditation practice.

What advice from your yoga practice you would like to share with other yogis?

Don’t focus so much on what things look like, but focus more on how they feel. When things feel right, they will look right. When things look right, they don’t necessarily feel right. Don’t get caught up by the person next to you with her foot on her head that you are not in touch with how you are feeling. Get to know your body – which muscles are tight, and which are flexible? where do you feel strong, and where needs extra work? There’s usually a part of your body that’s used to relaxing, and a part that will overwork; identify this on yourself (sometimes it takes another set of eyes to recognize this in you). If you feel relaxed in a pose, chances are that something can be working harder, stretching more and aligning better. Even the most experienced yogi is always working on his/her weakness!