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!

From a makeup artist to a yoga instructor

Thao is the person, which has a fantastic energy and very harmonious body. She made her way from physical beauty to inner one in the true sense of the word.

I met her in “California Club” fitness club in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She is an instructor of Satyananda yoga. Thao impressed me at first sight and at first class of yoga. Her body is a very athletic and well shaped. It is not typical for Asian girls; usually they are slim but not athletic. Thao’s energy is the best for yoga. Her training methods are intensive and soft at the same time and she pays the same attention to every student. In Thao I found a balance for my yoga practice, which I had been long looking for. After the class we talked and I realized that she had been doing many kinds of sports. This is just my opinion, that it’s impossible to have such a well-shaped body if you practice yoga only. We often talked after the classes about the health, fitness and diet.

Today we finally met and shared our experience in a café with the cup of coffee for me and strawberry smoothie for Thao. I should mention Thao ordered sugar-free smoothie, which is also not typical for the Vietnamese people. Most of them like sweet smoothies and ice juices.

Thao has always been an active person but never did sports regularly. She started to do it when she was 30. Her friend asked her to go to the gym with her. It’s been six years and Thao still goes there. Her friend stopped after two months.

She found enjoyment in exercises, got “addicted” to them. She started to go to the gym every day. She practiced everything: TRX, body pump, body balance, step aerobics, weightlifting, yoga… Thao never thought that she would become a yoga instructor but two years ago she became one. She has finished 200-hours class for yoga instructors and passed international exams. Now yoga is her occupation.

Today she is 36; her height is 166 cm, weight – 55 kg. Her son is 11 years old. She wakes up at 4:30 – 5:00 AM and having breakfast at 6:00. It usually contains quinoa, eggs or fruits. As most sportsmen she eats about six times a day. Dinnertime depends on yoga classes schedule but it is not later than 7:00 PM. She goes to bed at 9:30 – 10:00 PM.

As opposed to most Vietnamese people she doesn’t eat white rice and prefers brown. Thao prefers not to mix carbohydrates and proteins but once a week she can eat, for example, some fish with brown rice. Usually she eats proteins with vegetables but if there is enough time she eats them separated – vegetables first and then chicken, meat or fish 30 minutes later. Two years ago she was a vegetarian but it was not good for the health (she felt dizzy all the time) and doctor told her to eat animal protein again. So six months ago she started to eat fish again, sometimes she eats chicken and meat. She eats sweets very seldom just because she doesn’t like it.

I asked Thao to give some advice to people who want to build the body. She said: “Go to the gym, do exercises! You will be enjoying it after some time. But exercises must be combined with a healthy diet; otherwise you won’t have enough energy to do it”.

By the end of my first Thao’s class I realized that I wanted to be her student. She is doing some magical procedure while you’re resting lying on your back with your eyes closed. She comes to you, carefully stretches your legs and hands, then gently stretches your head and finally massages your head. I don’t know where she has learnt to do this but it feels amazing and I want to be her student only because of this 🙂

This is my first sports story. I hope there will be more soon because I meet interesting people almost every day. After the Vietnamese story I’m going to post Japanese, Russian, American and many other stories, because there are people from the entire world here in Saigon. Plus I travel a lot 🙂 Get inspired by other people’s experience and let it lead you to positive results!