Leah Kim Blog

I’ve returned to HK from Amsterdam. Photos of my last couple weeks are now posted.

The trip and training were awesome, but really hard work. There is so much content to Nike’s yoga program, which is called Nike Dynamic Yoga (NDY); it’s not like memorizing a 27-pose sequence. There are 40 sequences + 18 warm-up exercises, and sometimes 1 sequence has a dozen movement patterns. I taught + did my first NDY Master Class, and it went pretty well. VERY different from my own practice and how I usually teach, as NDY caters to the athlete. It IS Nike, afterall. And I really respect that about this program. It’s not trying to be something it’s not. Nike isn’t looking to create a new style of yoga, or as I said in the training, to build an ashram in India. That wouldn’t make any sense. Nike is looking to make the practice of yoga poses more accessible to the athlete who doesn’t easily benefit from a regular yoga class because their bodies are very, very different from a yogi’s or dancer’s body. Fellow teachers can attest to this. After the class, many of the trainers there (all of the people attending the training were master trainers, selected as the best of the best from their respective countries in Europe) had lightbulb moments of the brilliance behind this program. Some of them were yoga teachers who’ve had athletes (or other “inflexible” people) in their classes; some were fitness trainers who themselves find yoga too hard or painful. They could see and feel that this really works as far as getting those kinds of bodies into various postures. And like I mentioned before, the “workout” itself is fierce. I was sore for days, and in places I’m not usually sore from my regular yoga practice.

What I also really respect about this program is that they want me to be me. They know I am a yogi, and not an aerobics instructor, so I teach in my authentic voice.

There was a lot of spirit and divine energy supporting us. I met so many cool people, with such passion for what they do. That is one of my favorite things about this new job. Traveling and meeting like-spirited people from all over. There was one brother named Young Ho Kim, who requested me to be his FB friend months ago. I’m usually kind of strict about who I accept, but because he’s a Korean yogi w/ nearly the same name as my dad (Young Se Kim), and also knows a fellow yogini, Twee, I accepted. And then he ended up coming to the training from Germany! Without knowing it would be me leading the training. And there was a yogini named Johanna, who attended Ana Forrest’s TT in NYC a couple weeks ago, and met several of my colleagues from Pure. She was telling me who, and said one girl’s name was also Leah, a redhead. I told her actually, that girl’s name is Diane, but it’s funny she confused us bc we have the same bday, so we’ve always felt quite connected. When I came back to tell Diane the story, she looked on Johanna’s FB and found that all three of us have the same bday! I just love that synergy. It’s this nudge from Big Mind to keep going, that we’re creating beauty + goodness here. Johanna also regularly goes to SM for a month at a time to soak in all the yummy yoga there, including Bryan (Kest, of course)’s and Shiva’s classes, so we’re totally on the same path…but she’s from Sweden! So cool.

Amsterdam is a 12-hour flight from HK, which is as far as – if not slightly further than – going to CA. Luckily they flew me business class on red-eyes, so I was able to sleep. My seat even had a massage function!! Still, you can never really properly rest on a plane, right! I stayed in a posh suburb outside of AMS called Hilversum, which is where the Nike headquarters is. It’s actually the hq for the whole of Europe. I only went into town twice, and because I was in work-mode, I couldn’t play or enjoy the city (and all its treats!) with more ease and freedom. I am sure I’ll go back sometime in the future though.

I finally got a sneak peek at the video footage that will be going online, and will be put on DVD for future trainings. It looks pretty good!

I am in my final 4 weeks teaching at Pure. I feel like I’m bouncing on the diving board ready to dive into more expansion, growth, freedom… I started announcing to my students a couple days ago that I am leaving. That’s been a bit bittersweet, but I know that the ones who really enjoy practicing w/ me will stay in touch somehow.

Lovelovelove!

I recently wrote an article for Hong Kong’s Namaskar magazine about bringing more global consciousness into our daily habits, in an effort to embody our vision of a cleaner, healthier world, both within ourselves and expanding to our greater, tangible planet. In the article, I suggested replacing disposable plastic bottles with a more sustainable option, such as SIGG bottles. In response, a good friend and fellow yogi // truth seeker suggested that actually, SIGG may not be the best recommendation if a clean inner world is what we’re looking to create and maintain. She directed me to Real Green Girl’s blog, and since then, I have somewhat unsuccessfully been trying to unearth the mystery surrounding a debate that apparently has been ongoing for several years, completely unbeknownst to me – and I’m guessing, unbeknownst to most of us. (Unbeknownst is such a good word, I just had to find a way to use it twice!) (Thrice!)

I am not a professional researcher of facts (is that an actual job, I wonder?), a scientist or chemist; I am also not affiliated to any company that manufactures any sort of bottle, sustainable or not, toxic or not. I am simply a yogi, and to me, that means I seek the truth…I do my best to choose the middle, enlightened way closest to nature…I strive for balance…I try to keep my heart and my mind open.

I think it’s important that I share the above with you, so you know what inspired my amateur quest into all of this, and also so you can understand the nature of my so-called research and resulting suggestion to you. So, here it is…

Real Green Girl is adamant that SIGG is not trustworthy. A further read into her two blog entries dated 21 July 2008 and 6 October 2008 (which include external links and comments) will help you understand where she’s coming from, and perhaps even inspire you to do your own research, which is what I have been doing.

SIGG has never been transparent about what the inner lining of their aluminum bottles are made of. Aluminum, of course, has long known to be toxic, so in order for SIGG to make aluminum bottles, they need to line the interior with something non-toxic (or so one would hope). In January 2008, the President of SIGG, Steve Wasik, publicized a letter explaining that the formula of the lining was a secret because their 3rd-party supplier/producer of the formula had SIGG under contract to keep it confidential, to prevent copycat production. I managed to find a morsel of illuminating information through a company that sells SIGG products (and that assured me via email that SIGG was absolutely safe). This company notes on their website: “The special SIGG lining is not plastic – it is a micro-thin epoxy.“ Oh. Okay…but, what’s an epoxy?

Let’s hold that thought for a moment.

So, SIGG is adamant about having to maintain confidentiality regarding their formula, and perhaps on one hand, we can all understand that; it’s why patents and trademarks exist. What seems suspect is that after they made such a big deal about not disclosing their formula, in January 2009, they went and changed it! Devil’s Advocate would postulate that they changed it in response to the conscious public’s problem with their secrecy, and the ensuing suspicion that epoxy might be a fancy way of saying plastic. Plastic, of course, is currently under fire for being toxic, which is the reason a company like SIGG, offering (supposedly) non-plastic, reusable bottles has risen. According to the President’s update letter, their new and (supposedly) improved liner is called the SIGG EcoCare Liner, and he cites “innovation”, “technological advance”, and “sustainability” as reasons for the change. This new liner is “a bake-on, polymer powder coating.” Oh. Okay…but what, now, is a polymer?

Wiki says that epoxy IS a polymer, so even without understanding the chemical composition of these substances, I wonder if the liner perhaps hasn’t essentially changed? Could it all be clever marketing to confuse the average consumer who doesn’t understand this vocabulary? Wiki’s epoxy entry states: “Most common epoxy resins are produced from a reaction between epichlorohydrin and bisphenol-A” (aka “BPA”, aka the major culprit of toxicity in plastic!). According to Real Green Girl’s research, this synthesis results in an amber-colored solid. Furthermore, Wiki lists the common uses of epoxy and polymers, and these uses include paint, adhesives, and plumbing sealants.

(Ew.)

My friend and I inspected the inside of our SIGG bottles (I have four in my home!), and found that my older bottles have an amber-colored lining (possibly the result of the aforementioned synthesis of epichlorohydrin and BPA?) whereas her newer bottle has a silver-colored lining. It could be that hers has the new EcoCare Liner, which possibly is a true improvement, but I personally still don’t feel good about “bake-on polymer powder coating.” It’s like that Breyer’s ice cream commercial, where the ingredients are all words you can pronounce, such as “vanilla” and “milk”, as opposed to the ingredients of less natural brands of ice cream that list chemical names or codes of artificial flavorings and additives.

Sure, SIGG bottles may have undergone “independent” “testing” to ensure no “detectable” leaching, and an “independent” “PhD” may have offered his endorsement of these tests, but I can’t help but be reminded of those cheesy infomercials I used to watch when I was younger, totally convinced that a vibrating exercise belt was going to give me a six-pack if I just wore it around my belly for a few minutes a day. That “independent” “doctor” promised it would work…

So, now what?

I would love it if SIGG were more forthright and clear in their communications, and I wish I could believe their claims of safety and sustainability. But as I run all of this through my own personal filter of what feels right or wrong, I am leaning towards the latter. And I’m totally bummed, not only because I own several SIGG bottles, but also because I have been urging my loved ones to get their own. It seems SIGG has been exploiting my world of yogis and other health-conscious people, whilst they themselves may not be so conscious.

Still, I am aware that I may not really know what I’m talking about. So I offer my personal thoughts to you, and ask you to now move forward with what resonates with you. Perhaps we look in places other than Whole Foods and take Real Green Girl’s suggestion to go with Klean Kanteen’s food-grade, stainless steel bottles (or check out the 100% stainless steel options from Laken or even SIGG). Perhaps we all migrate to the mountains where we can drink fresh water from the source (but then, what about bugs and animal feces, right?!). Perhaps the only choice we can make in this situation is choosing the lesser evil.

Whatever you make of all this and ultimately decide, I urge you to run it through your own personal filter. There is so much divine and worldly intelligence within you. Awaken to that. And then think, speak, and act from that awakened place.

I think it’s fair to say that the last couple weeks have been the busiest I’ve ever experienced. It feels sort of like part of me is a few days behind the part of me that has been whirling through the whirlwind that has been my life as of late, which isn’t hard to imagine, considering I have practically time traveled back and forth from hemisphere to hemisphere within a matter of days. I’m presently mid-layover in Tokyo, awaiting boarding for yet another flight, finally taking me back home to Hong Kong.

It all started with an email from my friend Denise, who owns Your Neighborhood Studio, where I used to teach. She was passing along an email from Misty Tripoli, another friend who teaches at YNS and at other places I used to teach. Misty is a Nike Elite Instructor, and she had received word from Nike that they were seeking a female yoga teacher for a project in the works, and she immediately thought I was perfect for the job. As I read through the email of enquiry, I saw that I just so happened to fit every single quality they were looking for.

Literally on the day I arrived back to HK after spending 3 weeks in CA, I started communications with Nike. Thanks to Misty’s support and my website, which offers a glimpse of who I am, Nike was interested in sponsoring me as a yoga teacher, and perhaps hiring me for what sounded to be a very major project. In the span of roughly 24 hours, I had phone interviews with 3 Nike executives and was booked on a flight to Oregon to meet everyone in person at the Nike Campus.

On Monday morning, I landed in Portland and was taken to the Hotel Lucia, which I absolutely loved. A simple yet swanky boutique hotel right in downtown, the Lucia has a lot of personality and great service. I especially loved that the room had a recycle bin, and you could order pillows of your desired firmness, spiritual texts of your choice, and an iPod pre-programmed with playlists of various genres. After a quick 3-hour nap, I was off to several meetings, most notably with Sports Marketing (who would decide to offer me the Nike sponsorship) and Women’s Training (who would decide to hire me for the aforementioned project). Everyone was very happy and eager to welcome me on board. I partly couldn’t believe it but I partly felt like yeah, I can rock this!

On Tuesday, I signed a contract accepting the Nike sponsorship and agreeing to be the global face and spokesperson for the Nike yoga program, which will be launched this holiday. On Wednesday and Thursday, I filmed the media and online content that is the guts of this program. These might very well have been the 2 hardest days I’ve ever worked in my life, particularly considering the fact that I was jetlagged and exhausted. But all flowed without a hitch. I surprised everyone, including myself, with how comfortable I was in front of all the cameras and lights, being poked and prodded at by the stylist, and having 30+ people depending on me. People kept asking if I had experience as an actress, and I told them, “Nope! I’m just a yogi!”

That’s all I can really get into right now. If all continues to go as planned, all the content will be available online in a few months, and Nike will do a global launch of what they – WE – are offering in yoga. I will help headline the launch, and I hope to help it be very successful all over the world.

As this is a global position, I will continue to be based in Hong Kong, and will travel as needed. Whatever will unfold, I am feeling liberated and relieved to know that I am moving through and beyond the low glass ceiling that has been limiting me for almost 2 years now. I have been praying for an out, a nudge into my next step. I could never have imagined the magnitude and magnificence of the Universe’s plans for me! It is so true that whatever you might envision or wish for, the Universe / God has infinitely bigger plans for you. Be open and receive!

My flight is boarding now, and I am really excited to get back to HK. The more I am away from HK – even to CA – the more I fall in love with my life in HK.

Here’s to huge potentiality,

Leah

I am now officially a published writer! Okay, well, that’s an overstatement. I just wrote a little article for a free yoga magazine called Namaskar, which is published in Hong Kong and distributed through Asia. My article is about recycling and the like, and you can read it here.

Hello from a rainy evening in Hong Kong! Something about the rain makes one rather pensive, doesn’t it? I feel like I am always composing these notes to you on rainy days. Or perhaps it’s just because the rain keeps me indoors…

The past several weeks have flown by, and I have literally flown my way through the past several weeks. Much of my journey is depicted in my Flickr album, which for the first time ever includes VIDEO! The clips are of 2 of my favorite beings in the world – my brother MYK and my dog Nala. Unfortunately, I am a pretty rotten videographer so the clips of my brother performing nowhere near do justice to his talent and stage presence. It’ll just be a glimpse from my perspective of the single most proudest moment of my life – catching my baby brother at the House of Blues on Sunset on his Map the Soul tour with Epik High. Epik High is a hugely popular Korean hip hop-inspired but genre-less group. If you want to see more proper footage of MYK, check out his youtube channel (I particularly recommend the “Live from the MapLab” clips in HD), and become his Fan on Facebook (MYK).
Sending big, limitless love,
Leah

:: my private thoughts upon first receiving word from Nike ::

It is not even 7a yet but I am buzzing with such excitement that I can’t go back to sleep.

Something has been brewing over the past few days, and I will be landing in Oregon on Monday morning to meet with Nike! They want to sponsor me as a Nike Yoga Athlete, and they want me to be the face of their new yoga program, to be launched later this year.

Because my company sets my schedule 2-3 weeks in advance, I had to let them know what was going on in order to be able to leave (again) on Monday. Both my yoga director and CEO are supportive of me on a personal level, and they support my trip to Oregon so that I can make a fully informed choice (on whether to accept the opportunity with Nike). They’ve even said that the door is open if I want to return in the future. While it may have been ideal to be able to hold onto my current teaching post in the short term, I’ve always known that leaving to expand my professional pursuits was in my long term vision. I almost think the Universe is nudging me out of my comfort zone, giving me exactly what I’ve been wanting: a movement in the next step that didn’t come from a reactionary place of any frustrations, but rather from a place of pure positivity + potentiality.

I’ll be routing through LA, so I’ll be back in town again! The timing couldn’t be more perfect because my brother will be performing on Sat nite @ the House of Blues with the band he’s been on tour with, Epik High. His present journey is even more amazing!!

For a better idea of the job, please check this link. If you move through the steps in building a training program, you’ll see the following areas of focus: balance/core/strength/cardio/flexibility. They already have their program from the fitness side, and they are hiring me to do it from the yoga side. If you keep clicking through, you’ll see videos of exercises. If all goes as planned, that’s going to be me! Along with other tasks that come with the job, that basically have to do with me being the global face + main teacher of this program.

*Pinch, pinch, pinch!

So, that’s the latest. I’ve barely just unpacked my suitcase, but I’ll be off again in a couple days!

WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Big, bright, blossoming love,
Leah

Bright blue sky, sunshine, crisp air, and generous greenery. Wow.

Now that I’m a city girl, I really appreciate the suburban simplicity that is Los Altos. I arrived last night, and after a delicious home-cooked meal (“dduk gook” – literally: rice cake soup – my favorite Korean dish), I passed out at the appropriate time of 11p and slept through til 9a. I’m manifesting perfect synchronization with CA time.

For breakfast I had a perfect bagel at my favorite bagel place (Posh St. Bagels, I think it’s called) in “downtown” Los Altos. I hadn’t had a bagel since my last trip here, because they simply don’t taste right in Asia. I sat at a table outside, and witnessed a scene that perfectly sums up my hometown: two 10-year-old girls were walking around, and suddenly said, “Hi Grandma!!” This is the kind of city I grew up in. You walk around, and oh, hello, there’s your grandma! I love it. A couple minutes later, two teenagers walked by in St. Francis High School gym clothes. That was my high school.

I spent the rest of the morning bounding through the aisles of Target and Whole Foods. I re-fell in love with Whole Foods today. I am high from the rainbow colors and flavors of freshness and probably from the Kombucha. I sampled everything I could. At the prepared foods counter, I was considering the Pumpkin Risotto Cakes but wasn’t quite sure, so the guy just gave me a few for free. Whattt! I sampled Ahimsa Cookies from the lady who actually made them, and she was totally impressed that I knew what Ahimsa means (non-violence). I was totally flattered that she was impressed, so I bought a bag…and later found out the bag cost $8 (for about 6 cookies, doh!). I bought treats for my Nala for when I reunite with her in LA. The treats claim to help the dog “maintain a peaceful lifestyle.” PWAHAHAHH! Only in California. I learned that organic milk doesn’t have to be refrigerated, what? I thought that was just soymilk? Bought some to take back with me to HK. And raw cacao + almonds + medjool dates + …

I told you. I’m feeling high right now.

I’ll stay in Los Altos for the next few days. I’ll be in San Francisco tomorrow night. My friend is also in town from HK  (we actually flew in on the same flight) and it’s his birthday this weekend. We’ll be celebrating somewhere in the city, probably the W. Anyone’s welcome to join!! Especially since this might be the only time I’ll be hanging out in SF.

I’ll drive down to LA on Monday and stay in town for 8 days (20th-28th). I’ll actually be in Irvine for the weekend, though, so hopefully we can catch each other during the week. I will be teaching a few classes and having a get-together:
Thurs the 23rd: Class @ 8p-930p @ The Hub
+ Get-together to follow likely at The Viceroy again since it’s outdoors and easy to get into

Sat the 25th: Class @ 9a-1030a @ Your Neighborhood Studio

Mon the 27th: Class @ 8p-930p @ The Hub
+ maybe Late Night Class @ 10:45p-Midnight @ SMPY (unless Jay Co gets back into town on time, in which case he will teach and I will attend)

I’ll also be taking a slew of classes (probably 1 a day), so if you want to try to coordinate taking a class together, let me know!

Best to reach me via email or BBM.

Hope to see you!

Love,
Leah xo

Hello, and happy HUMP day to most of you!

My hump day was spent waking up at 5 AM (after lying in bed restlessly for most of the night…hopelessly grasping for a decent amount of sleep) to teach 3 back-to-back classes starting at 7 AM. The first class I taught is called Hot 2— a 90-minute flow class in a room heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. :o Yes. Kind of crazy.

But it was kind of amazing walking through Hong Kong at 6 AM on a Wednesday, when nothing is really open yet, the sun isn’t out, and there is a quality of quiet and calm that is so rarely found here in the city.

And it was kind of amazing being done with my work day before noon. Even though I spent the rest of the day absolutely delirious. (Oh, who am I kidding? Delirious is fun!)

January was a pretty big month. I spent a couple weeks in Vietnam assisting and training with the amazing Twee Merrigan and celebrated my 29th birthday and both the solar and lunar New Years. I’ve been surrounded by so much love and wisdom, perhaps most notably when I met and received a blessing from His Holiness the Karmapa. I’m presently in the flow of manifesting more travel and yoga studies; I’ll let you know what unfolds. There is so much to celebrate!

In the meantime, please enjoy photos (Vietnam / my birthday), and maybe drop me a note to let me know how you have been celebrating life!

With big, amazing love,
Leah

PS Stay in touch more regularly and easily via Facebook! Search me: leah.beyoga

:: A journey into new lands at the Lunar New Year ::

It is my last night in Vietnam. I write to you from a lesser known city called Da Lat, encased by surprisingly rich pine forests reminiscent of those found in California…dotted with glistening lakes…simply and breathtakingly beautiful.

I have been traveling with my friend Karen, combining a yoga training/retreat (led by one of my teachers, Twee Merrigan) and a journey into new lands. Our travels began a couple weeks ago in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City), with a rude awakening reminder to not be naive little tourists. Though we’d been warned of swindlers, we had been in the country but 10 minutes before getting cheated by an opportunistic taxi driver. He came right up to us and asked if we needed a taxi into the city. We already knew that it should cost about 8 USD but when he told us that it cost 500,000 Vietnamese Dong, we became flustered as we struggled to figure out the conversion. We had just exchanged our Hong Kong Dollars and were still trying to wrap our minds around the exchange rate (2,120 HKD = 1,000 VND or 17,500 USD = 1,000 VND…whattttt???). Karen, much better with numbers than I am, quickly did the math in her head and said he was asking for 30 USD. He said, “Nooo! It is 9 USD!”, making her second guess herself. I stood by totally useless as he grabbed my suitcase and ushered us towards his cab, saying, “9 USD Okay? Okay?” He then literally took the Dong out of my hands, and we were well on our way before we pulled out our BlackBerrys to use the calculator function to confirm that yes, Karen had been correct in her mental calculation and yes, we had just gotten ripped off.

Doh!

We stayed at the Saigon Mini Hotel, a boutique hotel that seems typical to Vietnam. These hotels resemble townhouses, having about 4-5 stories; the first story is like the main floor of any home with a living room and a kitchen and the guest rooms are on the floors above. We stayed in their most expensive room at 50 USD/night. The Saigon Mini is technically a “business” hotel, but it was homey and clean, the staff helpful and friendly. It’s a bit off of any main road, which is nice in a loud and busy city like Saigon.

Armed with the Luxe guide, we walked around town, doing our tourist duty by visiting the Cathedral (closed around noon, so we didn’t get to go inside), the old Post Office (straight from the ‘50s), and the Reunification Palace (could have skipped this one). Ton That Thiep was our favorite little area, with a sweet little spa called Jasmine where we had a massage, a hair wash, and a mani/pedi all for about 45 USD. Such a treat! The best part of our stay in Saigon was the food. We had delicious, fresh, healthy, and super inexpensive meals at Quan An Ngon, Bun Ta, and Cha Ca Hanoi: all DEFINITELY recommended! Other than that, it’s just about walking around and people-watching on major streets such as Le Loi and Dong Khoi, and at Tao Dan Park. Oh, and learning not to get run over by the gazillion motorbikes going in every direction with very little discretion! Strangely, though, I noticed there is an order to the disorder of it all, and you could even say there is an art to weaving in and out of the thick traffic, a dance, if you will. My Budokon teacher Kancho Cameron Shayne once explained the art of practicing martial arts as not being about competition or violence, but rather a skillful dance between two beings, totally present and aware of each others’ intentions and movements. You could say crossing the streets of Saigon was sort of like that. Plus plenty of loud, unnecessary horn honking.

From Saigon we went to Hoi An, a beautiful beach town outside of Da Nang (which itself looked rather uninteresting). Our retreat was held at the Palm Garden Resort, which was just lovely…right on the beach (a vast shoreline of super soft white sand), huge pool, beautiful grounds. Food at the hotel wasn’t exceptional, though, and communication (in general here) was pretty tough. The weather was a comfortably warm 25-ish degrees Celsius most of the time, except for the very first night, which was a freezing 17 degrees – the coldest Hoi An had been since 1975!

The training/retreat was so perfect. Thank you to wonderful Nicky of Breathing Room Yoga for putting it together! Every morning began with a Prana Flow Master Class (sometimes practice would be over 4 hours long!), and the Teacher Training on Energetic Alignment was on the first 3 days. Twee is a senior teacher of Shiva Rea and the Prana Flow tribe. She has been on her Soul Connections Tour over the past couple years, traveling all across the globe to share her love and knowledge of yoga. She is a highly inspiring and inspired teacher, truly embodying the flow of yoga in all of life. I encourage all yogis to seek her out if she’s ever in your town. Please follow the hyperlinks for more information.

Hoi An’s city center is known as Ancient Town, because much of the city’s original architecture has been maintained and turned into shops and cafes for tourists. It is – as all the guidebooks say – completely charming, and the vibe is chilled out and laid back…perfect for this native Californian! Meals in town were simply amazing, particularly the Hoi An specialties of Cao Lau, White Rose (delicately made dumplings), and Fried Wonton. Loads of fresh veggies adorned all plates, and practically everything could be made vegetarian. Our favorite spots were: Mango Room, Ly’s Café 22, Hai Café, Red Bridge Restaurant, and Cargo Club (aka our drug dealer, as their Vietnamese White Coffee was so addictive that we went back day after day for more). Most of these restaurants overlook Hoi An River, which runs along one side of town. There was also this BBQ spot on the beach near the resort where we had some of the freshest seafood ever, especially the squid, which we ordered seconds of before we finished off the first order.

The one thing I could have done without was the evening cooking class at Hai Café. The food at the restaurant is delicious, but the class left much to be desired. It was not at all “hands-on”, as everything was already prepared before our arrival, and we basically watched the chef do it all. Apparently, the full day sessions are much more involving and interesting. The one thing I wish I did do was a bike ride through the rice paddies. A couple of the other girls went, and their photos were just amazing.

I celebrated my birthday in Hoi An, complete with a “sacred chant Twee learned from a Hungarian woman” (ie “Happy Birthday”), balloons, a sunset boat ride down the river, gluttonous chocolate mousse cake, and everything courtesy of my tribe – the whole entire day! It’s Twee’s birthday rule, and I was happy – and so grateful – to oblige. I’m still so high and happy from all the love…not to mention the nearly 200 emails/texts/Facebook messages I have received. Wow! Seriously, I feel so loved, and so humbled by everyone’s thoughtfulness. Thank you for thinking of me!

And so we have found our way to Da Lat, a mountainous area about 300 miles (45 min flight) from Saigon. Like California, much of Da Lat is covered in farmland. Apparently many western fruits and vegetables that don’t normally grow in Southeast Asia, like strawberries, are grown here because of its dryer, milder climate. Fruit here is exceptionally sweet, and we’ve been treated to heaps of pineapple, mango, watermelon, dragon fruit, passion fruit, bananas, and pomelo for breakfast. BREAD is so delicious all over Vietnam, and I’ve definitely taken advantage of that, as it’s very hard to get proper bread in Hong Kong.

We’re staying at Dreams, another boutique hotel that is rated #1 on several travel sites, even before the uber posh Sofitel. We decided that 25 USD/night was too good to pass up. It’s fine…clean enough, with hot water and a recently renovated bathroom, but the bathtub leaks and I dropped a piece of cracker (ok, maybe it was a few pieces…) and in no time we were visited by ants. The included breakfast I mentioned above is fantastic though, and the service is very good. Still, I think next time I will pay twice as much and stay at the Novotel. We had a great Sunday brunch there, as well as high tea at the Sofitel, which were each only 15 USD! Everything in Vietnam is so cheap, but in 13 days, I still managed to spend over 6 MILLION Dong! (Can you figure out the conversion?)

Other than food, Da Lat is about relaxing and strolling around. Whether you take a simple walk around the artificial (but still lovely) Xuan Houng Lake right in the center of town, or take a more intense trek up Pinhatt Mountain like we did (even though we requested a relaxing, easy walk) to take in an incredible view, there are many ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the countryside. It’s been a perfect way to decompress our yoga’d out selves, in preparation for our return to Hong Kong on Lunar New Year’s Day. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my friends and my students, and to more birthday and New Year celebrations!

Gratitude to the beautiful country and people of Vietnam…
Cheers to the Year of the Ox…
Big love to you!

PS 200+ photos here! I suggest viewing in the Detail option as you’ll see about 20 photos per page and can pretty quickly scan through the album.

From one side of the planet to the other and back, crossing multiple time zones and logging countless miles of travel (unfortunately leaving quite the carbon footprint along the way)…I’m back in Hong Kong, feeling more supported, more grounded, and more ME. By taking flight, I’ve reconnected to my roots…by digging deeper into my foundation, I’ve awakened more pranic energy to rebound up and out. Push down into your soles to radiate out through your soul! I am refreshed, I am inspired, I am infinitely grateful.

I’ve been back for a couple weeks and I’m still calculating the time difference to wonder what my loved ones in Cali and NYC might be up to. The weather here was beautiful at first, but it seems China has reopened the factories they shut down for the Olympics because each day seems to bring more and more pollution, and we’re currently under a Typhoon 8 warning which means the city shuts down and everyone’s advised to stay indoors.

I miss the crisp, clean air of the Bay Area. I miss my Nala. I miss all my loved ones and how normal and easy it was to regularly see and talk to everyone. Every now and then I feel the raw emptiness of separation and distance, and it hurts, but through deep breathing it transforms into gratitude that I have such love in my life to miss.

What was confirmed for me on this first trip back to the States since my decision to move is that Hong Kong really is my home now. I love California but I’ve spent practically my whole life there. I had a deliciously good time (delicious and healthy!) being back in town, but I really missed Hong Kong. It’s definitely time to explore and flourish within a different place, culture, and lifestyle.

So here I am – enjoying taking the subway again (the cleanliness of which I appreciate so much more after taking the NYC subway, ew!)…enjoying walking around the ever-changing cityscape and bumping into friends around every corner…enjoying lazy afternoons on the boat, swaying with the water…enjoying these changing, cleansing winds that typhoons bring.

There’s just something intoxicating about this place. Come visit and see for yourselves! ;)

Before I close, a couple offerings for you: photos from my journey and a class for your downloading pleasure on YogiChocolate.com (called Flying High & Twisting It Up). I taught and recorded it at Santa Monica Power Yoga on donation basis and you can download it on donation basis as well! Thanks for your support, enjoy, and pass it on!!

To those of you whom I didn’t get to spend time with – especially near the end of my trip when I was overwhelmed with things I needed to take care of – I’m so sorry to have missed you, but hopefully we will see each other next time around.

Wishing you well on all of your adventures!!

Big love,
Leah

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