Everything happens for a reason

Natalia and I studied together. We were both television journalism students with prior TV work experience. You might expect something interesting with such a background, right? Natalia, now 29 years old, first worked as a translator and then as a PR-manager in a foreign company before eventually ending up as a yoga instructor.

In Natalia’s words, everything in her life has flowed naturally: twice living and working in the USA, a second higher education degree at the Department of Oriental Studies, teaching yoga, studying Japanese in Tokyo for three years and working in a show business. But I don’t think people’s lives are determined by luck. Natalia knows how to dream, and perhaps more importantly, how to make her dreams a reality.

Me: Why did you go to the East, to the origins of yoga?

It had always been my dream. After living in America I could speak English pretty well at the age of 22 and I decided that one foreign language was not enough for me. I had always wanted to visit Japan that is why I chose Japanese. This language is interesting and pretty hard to learn. Plus, three years of living in Japan is a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve experienced and compared European, American and Asian ways of thinking. And it’s been fascinating in speaking of our perceptions of the world.

The photo is a personal archive of Natalia. Model's work in Tokyo
The photo is a personal archive of Natalia. Model’s work in Tokyo

Me: Did yoga change you?

Yes, it did. Nothing would have happened without it; I couldn’t have earned enough money for my education and I wouldn’t have had the strength to change my life so radically.  I feel it gave me the belief that no matter what I chose to do everything would be fine.

Me: So how did it happen?

My plan was to learn Japanese and to get to know the country but sometimes things do not go according to a plan. So I first worked as a translator, then as a model, and then finally found my place in show business. I met many famous people and went to the gigs of rock bands that I’d been listening to since I was a teenager. I never thought I would see them perform live!

Natalia and Paul Stanly in Tokyo
Natalia and Paul Stanly in Tokyo

Me: Wow, how do you combine yoga and rock music?

Easily! I’ve loved rock music since I was 14 years old. This is one of the reasons why I was so lucky to be able to work with rock musicians in Japan. When you’re able to tell Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit: “Hey dude, I was listening to your songs when I was a teen, thank you for your music!”,  you can understand each other pretty well. By the way, there is a popular American yoga instructor with black eyeliner and leather bracelets whose motto is, “Rock your pose! Rock your body!”

Me: Does she practice with rock music?

No (laughing). I’m also true to my temperament and I prefer dynamic yoga – ashtanga vinyasa. This yoga is for energetic people; it suits better to people with western cost of mind. Madonna, Sting and many other successful people do practice it. Yoga helps them to balance their eventful life and prevents them from getting bored during practice.

The photo is a personal archive of Natalia
The photo is a personal archive of Natalia

Me: When you just getting started, which way is better – to practice yoga with instructor or to do it by yourself?

I recommend to practice with professional instructor for the first months. As soon as you get the basics and learn how to feel your body you can try to do it by yourself. Goes without saying that practice with instructor cannot be compared to practice with videotape.

Me: Some beginners have health problems after yoga. What do you think about that?

It happens, and it is quite normal. When you are doing yoga all your muscles are working really hard. Some of them cannot actually be trained on any gym machines. So when you touch some previously stabilized old problems you can feel some pain. Your old injuries can “wake up”. You can even feel something than have never bothered you before. Do not panic. Just tell your instructor about it and he or she will help you to deal with it. You should not endure the pain or give up doing yoga. Your task is to find your optimal load. After that the pain will be gone and will never disturb you again. It applies to musculoskeletal system. But if you have some problems with your blood pressure or headaches, it is better to see a doctor and find a cause.

Me: Who comes to practice yoga?

Yoga is intellectual training. It is usually the choice of educated and successful people. Some people are doing yoga for muscle stretching or because of health problems and they are getting more than expected. Yoga means strength and flexibility of your body, balance and calmness of your mind. If your spine is healthy, you are healthy. Many people cannot live without final shavasana relaxation. It is an ideal asana for having rest after a workday.

Me: That’s right! I’m ready to see my Vietnamese instructor anytime only because of shavasana with stroking and head massage!

Yeah, I use this technique too. And I learnt it in Asia. It is not actually “stroking” (laughing). It is the way your instructor can help you to relax and take more comfortable position. Sometimes you cannot lie down comfortably by yourself, and it is very important. And also an energetic aspect should not be excepted.

Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio
Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio

Me: Can yoga be combined with gym workouts?

Yes, but not at the same day. You should not underestimate the exercise stress of yoga. If you combine them, you will just be tired. It is really cool to do yoga with run or any other cardio exercises.

Me: What about your nutrition?

My basic principle is to listen to the body. If you want to eat some cake: find a reason why. And then let yourself to eat this cake easily and with pleasure. If you want to eat cakes every day, you should definitely find a reason. Maybe it is lack of glucose. You should check it with a dietician. Do not eat something that makes you feel heaviness; eat the food, which you are enjoying to eat. My diet is based on a principle of inverted pyramid: I eat most of the food in the morning and noon. In the afternoon I eat less, proteins prevail, and I exclude carbohydrates and floury food.

Me: Do you eat meat?

I used to eat a lot of meat. In the last six months I eat only white meat and it is not because any ethical issues. I realized that red meat makes my body heavier. Sometimes I have up to 5 workouts a day so I need proteins. That is why I prefer to eat fish and chicken. My only weakness is Korean cuisine.

Me: How did you come to love Korean cuisine while living in Japan?

It happened accidentally. My language school was in a Korean district of Tokyo.

Me: What is the conception of your life?

I like yoga principles in respect to modern life. In every period of life things should happen when they are supposed to be happening. You should not give up your youth for enlightenment. If you like to drink with your friends, do it even if you practice yoga. Do stupid things, gain some life experience. There are many limitations in our life, don’t make more. Practice yoga and try to feel your body. Do no harm. Give more than you take. Don’t wait for anything in return. “Practice yoga and you’ll have everything”. I am the best example of this saying.

Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio
Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio

Me: What is your ideal of beauty?

It is when everything is real and natural. You have to do a lot to look naturally beautiful. I mean sport and healthy nutrition. It is much easier to do make up.

Me: What is the freedom?

In my opinion, freedom is wrong idea. What kind of happiness can be found in the freedom? For example, it is so good to be depending on your beloved person! Or find your place in society. Friends and job are limiting our freedom but give us a lot more instead

Me: Why did you come back to Russia?

I decided that it was time to progress in yoga. Neon lights of Tokyo led me a bit away from my main goal. I have just passed through selection into international fitness holding company “Citrus” fitness-club. So now intensive training is in process. Now I’m on the way that I’m going to be on for all my life. I had to change something. It is always a regress without a progress.

Me: What’s next? What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to go to California soon to have a 200-hours class of yoga instructor and get an international level certificate. In my greater plans I’m going to create my own unique approach of yoga practice.

That is so awesome! Will you come to our production studio for some pictures and videos before you go?

Yes, with pleasure!

The sport takes place in all weathers

We can find many reasons to postpone our sport activities: with children and job we have no time for sport, not enough money to buy a gym membership, can’t go to workout alone and so on. But there are many people among us who can’t find any reason to refuse to have healthy lifestyle. Andrey has a wife, a daughter, a job and many additional projects. He doesn’t spend a single ruble to a gym membership because for more than a year he works out outdoors in all weathers. Yes, that’s right! He’s outdoors even in the severe Russian winter!

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Schoolboy in a gym

Andrey’s first sports motivation was Alexey Serebryakov, the son of his mother’s friend. Alexey is Powerlifting Junior World Champion; record holder of Russia in squats and holder of the Guinness record in pulling trains and a TU-134. Ninth grader Andrey wanted to be such strong and big too. He began his workouts in a school gym, and then continued in university. Alexey and other experienced guys were helping him answering numerous questions. Sports magazines were informational source for workout programs.

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Family, couch and TV-set

The adult life has begun: family, home, a child. There were no free of charge school or university gym anymore. But there were a couch and a TV-set, and even an alcohol. And also cookies, waffles and a computer chair in the office. So in a year Andrey’s weight increased from 83 to 110 kg. He still remembers his reflection and the moment when he said to himself: “I am never going to be fat again!”

Reappearance

Five workouts a week for 40 minutes each did the job. Andrey has lost 20 kg in six months! It was usual isolated workouts for different muscle groups plus qualitative nutrition and 20 km on the bike every day.

For the last two years Andrey is having workouts only on city training areas (street workout). He is doing it in the morning before going to work, when there’s nobody to interrupt, he is in the forest and birds are singing. By the way, this training area is considered to be the biggest street workout area in the world (750 square meters in Chelyabinsk city, Russia). Andrey still uses his bike every day and gets home faster than his wife driving a car during a rush hour.

Andrey uses training programs of two teams: madbars.com and barstarzz.com. You can find many motivating factors in street workout: studying different elements on a horizontal bar, combining them and forming a program with some cool music. Per se, it is a self-expression.

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Street workouts during winter

Last winter Andrey had workouts every day despite weather. He decided to use planning thinking so he had goals with specific time frames. One of his goals was to workout hundred days without a break. He was doing static exercises and planks instead of having rest. They say that a person needs 21 days to form a habit. Andrey did it in 35 days. On the next day he realized that he just was ready to get up and have a workout. His record is 20-minute training when it was -37 degrees Celsius outside! That moment when you are awesome just because you walked to the training area :). It turned out he was not the only awesome person that day as Andrey has met a man on a bike (!) and skiers in the forest!

Andrey had full one-hour workouts when it was -20-25 degrees of Russian winter in Ural. He doesn’t like to have workouts at home. Because it is some kind of ritual when you go somewhere out. And home is a place for having rest.

Motivation of the life

I asked Andrey about his life concept and he answered: “Life is a project with no specified time frames, but it is limited. All people have something in common. This is a death. Everybody lives how he or she wants to. You can drink or do something else. It is up to you. The point is that every day the time frames of your life project are decreasing. I want my daughter to have positive image of the father. That is why I quit smoking and drinking. My child sees me eating healthy food and having regular workouts, riding a bike, thinking of something new. That is my motivation”.

Sports family

I finally arrived in Russia! I always spend first two days recovering from the effects of jet lag and acclimatizing. That’s why I don’t do any weightlifting or cardio exercises. These days I did yoga at home on an empty stomach.

On third day (it was a day-off) I went to neighboring city to visit my brother Dima and his wife Alyona. We had a cottage cheese and banana cake for breakfast, and went to a gym an hour after. That day I started muscle-strengthening exercises again and trained my legs and buttocks. My brother had been doing exercises for the back and arms and Alyona went to aerobic session.

with bro :)
with bro 🙂

In 20 minutes after training I always eat a fruit. The point is to stop muscle damage after the training when adrenaline and cortisol levels are increasing. Alyona and I don’t want to increase muscle bulk (we want to lose weight) so we ate apples. My brother is gaining weight, so he ate two bananas. On the way home we bought frozen seafood and then had lunch – buckwheat noodles with vegetables and seafood. Very delicious!

Delicious latter with hazelnut in a chocolate in a cheating Saturday :)
Delicious latter with hazelnut in a chocolate in a cheating Saturday 🙂

So I spent excellent family day off: relatives, delicious and healthy food, training and walking through the city. I also had a hot latte with hazelnut in chocolate as a snack! Saturday is the only day when I can allow myself to eat some sweets.

Miss my bro! :) Didn't see each other for almost a year
Miss my bro! 🙂 Didn’t see each other for almost a year

 

Food and sleep of a Buddhist monk

This man lives in Thien Vien (that’s a Buddhist monastery). I had a word with him (in English, of course) and I found out some interesting facts.

The monks sleep about five hours a day. They go to bed at 10:00 PM, wake up at 3:30 AM. Some of them prefer to go to bed at 10:00 PM or 10:30 PM and to wake up at 2:30 AM. It means they have just 3,5 hours of sleep. They meditate a lot that is why they need less time for sleep and recovery.

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The monks eat just twice a day – breakfast and lunch. They are vegetarians. During the day they are allowed to drink water, coffee and tea. They often feel hungry past noon but they think the mind is stronger than the body and hunger can be controlled.

Childhood dreams come true or how I’m learning to play tennis!

В детстве я много мечтала. Например, очень хотела играть в большой теннис. Но играла только в настольный, на большой у семьи бюджета не было. Помню, даже как-то в 12 лет я сама позвонила в школу олимпийского резерва с телефонного аппарата на улице. Узнать условия приема в школу. Но мне сказали, что я уже стара для большого тенниса.

I dreamed a lot when I was a kid. One of my dreams was to play tennis. My family didn’t have enough money to pay for it so I played a table tennis. Once, when I was 12, I called Tennis Olympic Reserve Center from a telephone booth and asked if I could play. They told me I was too old. But now I’m learning to play tennis here in Saigon! First of all it is much cheaper than in Russia, and I’m especially glad to do it with my boyfriend – he shows me how to play.

We play once a week on Saturday but this Saturday we had to work, so I completely forgot about the practice. I remembered about it 10 minutes before the start. Luckily the tennis court is just 5 minutes away so I wasn’t late. I had to go alone because my boyfriend forgot about it. And had the business meeting.

I practiced to serve the ball and then asked a ball boy (a boy who supply players with new balls) to play with me. He’s pretty good player (better than I am, that’s for sure), and it was a great game! I don’t know how many calories I spent but I was sweating heavily and my face was so red that people was staring at me! The last round was long enough but I’ve lost the game.

Tennis is a perfect cardio! And we should realize our childhood dreams at any age, shouldn’t we? Once a week is enough, just do it regularly. You can master your skills and it helps to keep your body fit.

Вот так без фильтров выглядит мое лицо после супер кардио тренировки в виде тенниса :)

My personal sport story

Childhood

I was lean and often sick when I was a kid. I never did sports regularly except two years of playing table-tennis and one year of shaping-up exercises in high school. I was a nerd and wanted to accomplish everything by myself.

November 2014
November 2014

What’s with the kidneys?

Around four years ago I lost weight again. As a result it was nephroptosis and frequent pains. Sometimes it was so bad that I wanted to cry. The doctor said that there were two options: get some weight or strengthen my back and waist. I chose the second variant and went to a gym to workout with a personal trainer.

I went to the gym twice a week but I did it regularly and never missed. After some time I started to do it three times a week. I would have never thought that I would enjoy doing exercises. My trainer Eugenia Bazunova helped me to understand that training in the gym is not just weightlifting. We did different aerobic exercises, body balance, TRX exercises and I started to enjoy it! Plus, my diet was in line with a diet of a sportsman at that time.

One more life test

After two months I felt better. My kidneys went to normal position but my knees started to hurt. It turned out I had chronic ailment – an osteoarthrosis. The doctors said it was hereditary disease.

That was a hard time – pain in the knees, tears… I wanted to continue my sport activities but didn’t know how. But my way of systematic thinking helped me again. I asked several doctors and they all said that I should continue to do sports, but all the exercises must be done while sitting or lying. So I found lots of information, created the special diet and exercises for myself. For the next six months I had been training every day and I succeeded!

How to deal with excess weight

I was training three times a week and was on a diet but after another months I had some hormonal problems and as a result I gained 7 kg of weight. Human organism can adapt to everything very quickly that’s why I must change my diet and exercises. And just after new workout program and new diet my body started to burn fat. Currently my weight is 50 kg. So this is 7 kg difference during 10 months.

November 2013 vs November 2014
November 2013 vs November 2014

I have been training myself about six to seven times a week. Usually in the mornings before the work. That’s why I trained myself to wake up at 6:00 AM. In the evenings and on weekends I read a lot of medical and sport literature. I make training programs and diets for myself, and then I test and correct them if necessary. Also I communicate with trainers from different countries. My weekly training schedule includes exercises for the legs, back, shoulders and arms plus I do yoga few times a week and play tennis one time a week. Sometimes I go swimming after a workout.

Happiness

The main thing is that I enjoy fitness, sports and healthy diet! My goal is the same as when I started training – health on the first place and then the beauty.