My very first interview!

Check out my very first interview at Aqua Wellness Resort with the lovely Anthony Mandela from Retreat Conextions!

Interview with Jaclyn Keoh

A new chapter in Nicaragua

It’s always hard saying goodbye to loved ones and places you love. But there are just some opportunities that you just can’t say no to. And Aqua Wellness Resort in Nicaragua was one of them. Nestled 2 1/2 hours south of Managua in Redonda Bay, Aqua has captured eco-luxury perfectly. Picture wooden tree houses scattered down a hill descending to a private beach.

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The said private beach.

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The yoga platform is insane. Yes that’s the bay and the beach behind me.

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The people that I work with are lovely. The restaurant is organic and the food is delicious. Oh and this is the view from my room right now.

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Since a picture is worth a thousand words I think I’ve gone over my quota. All I can say is I think it’s time you come and visit… Now.

Lazing around in Lembongan

On the road again and I’m feelin fine! There’s something so cleansing and exciting about going somewhere new. It’s a feast for the senses and something that I welcome with open arms. My destination – Nusa Lembongan – a quaint little island off the south-east coast of Bali. Nusa Lembongan is a surfers and divers dream. Crystal clear turquoise water, laid back vibe and an abundance of sea life. Although the island is becoming popular with tourists it is still relatively untouched. It has kept it’s Balinese hospitality and charm, but still has an adequate range of accommodation and eateries.

What to do?

Hire a scooter and take a ride around the island and neighbouring island Nusa Ceningan. You wont be disappointed. There are hidden beaches, spectacular vistas and adventures to be had at every turn. And the good thing? It’s tough to get lost. So ditch the maps, be spontaneous and you’ll be amazed at what you find.

Snorkel or scuba dive. Words and pictures cannot do what is under the water any justice. But I’ll just leave this here anyway…

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Where to eat?

For healthy, sustainable and vegetarian eats and drinks, you can’t go past Bali Eco Deli. They reward plastic bottle recyclers with 10% off the bill and everything is sourced locally. Some of my favourites from the menu include:
– Morning dates packed smoothie
– Banana bread
– Purple boost smoothie
– Cucumber mint chiller

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If you’re looking for fabulous service, a great view, and an extensive food and wine menu all conveniently situated next to an infinity pool then you can’t go past The Deck. Just click the link then click your ruby heels 3 times repeating the phrase “there’s no place like home” and if you’re lucky you’ll get transported to laid back luxury heaven.

Another beach side alternative is Hai Tide in Mushroom Bay. Think white sand, cool breeze, cocktails, open air cinema and scrumptious pizza. Their local delicacies are also worth a mention (especially the Soto Ayam). They also have Bintang beer on tap if you are that way inclined!

Where to relax?

Sandy Bay Beach Club – kick back by the pool, lounge on the the beach, order a cocktail, read a book and hey presto your day is done! You can also stop by their shop ‘The Walking Tree’ to pick up some new threads, homewares and international wines and cheeses.

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Where to yoga?

The Yoga Shack is the place to go! The octagonal open-air bamboo yoga shala is simply stunning. Classes cost 100,000 rph and are suited to all levels. Styles include hatha, vinyasa and yin. All equipment is provided. And the owner used to teach and H20 Yoga and Meditation so you know you’re going to get quality teachers.

Though there are plenty of things to do in Nusa Lembongan, my suggestion is to soak up the island lifestyle and JUST RELAX. Enjoy the slow pace, the smell of the sea, and being in nature. And if Nusa Lembongan isn’t quite the place to do it, come and visit me on Gili Air on the 30th of April for my ‘Rest and Renew‘ workshop.

My next stop, Amed!

H20 Rest & Renew Workshop

The Yogi’s guide to the Universe

As I sit here staring at palm trees and sunsets on paradise island (Gili Air) I realise that it doesn’t matter how beautiful or peaceful a place is, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you love, if you’re not aligned, nothing feels right. It is approaching on 3 months that I’ve had the courage to post something up on Nourish Yoga. Mostly because my words, thoughts and actions have been flying all over the place – completely disparate.

I am ok to admit that I am currently in a pretty dark place. Emotional crises are not my forte. But you know what? This game we play called life – it can be tough. There is no light without dark, happiness without sadness, good without bad. In our society where there are thousands of books on the ‘pursuit of happiness’ it can be easy to fall in the trap of thinking ‘there is something wrong with me’ if you’re not always happy. But those on the yogic path know that attachment (towards material things or emotions) comes from our ego and the practice of Aparigraha (non-attachment) is one of the many ways our yoga practice can set us free.

I believe that true yoga begins when times get tough. You may see some things you dislike, or didn’t even know you were capable of. And for most of us, we are our own worst critic. But all we can do is learn, grow, forgive, share and pick ourselves back up again. So it’s time to get on the mat, hit the reset button again, and figure out my true nature – to align my words, thoughts and actions. And what better way to do it than being in nature surrounded by beautiful people. To all my friends in Melbourne and around the world, I miss you dearly and to all the people that have been around for me these last 3 months thank you for sticking by me.

Good news is that this little yogi is traversing the universe again and her next destination is Nusa Lembongan off the South-East coast of Bali to celebrate Nyepi (Balinese New Year). I can’t wait to show you pictures and share how the Balinese celebrate their New Year!

Namaste peeps xx

Penang: Home is where the heart is

Penang – a small island off the north west coast of west Malaysia. Most famous for it’s hawker food and shoe designer Jimmy Choo. It is my place of birth, my parents place of birth and the place where the majority of my extended family reside. My grandmother’s ailing health and the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing drew me back home this time. And although I have lived in Melbourne for nearly 26 of my 28 years, I have been caught plenty of times confusing my friends with my use of the word ‘home’. I’ve always just dismissed it as my general looseness with the English language or perhaps my understanding of the limits of language, but I’ve never really delved deep into the notion of home. But now, as I sit here in my mother’s family home, seems like a fitting moment in time.

The Merrium-Webster dictionary defines home as ‘a place where something normally or naturally lives or is located’. Upon reflection and contemplation I have never felt a huge amount of attachment to any place. When I use the phrase ‘I want to go home’, what I mean is that I want to get out of the place where I am into a place of comfort. So homesickness is a feeling unfamiliar to me. I’ve heard people describe it as a nostalgic feeling towards familiar things such as family, friends and pets and in some cases I’ve seen it result in depression and anxiety. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss some things about Melbourne – my rabbits, friends, food and fresh air. There are some things I miss about Penang . But I look at these things with a sense of fondness rather than it eliciting any ill feelings or longing.

I guess for me, home is where the heart is. As cliche as it sounds, it is a feeling of comfort rather than a destination. Though I believe my most anxious years have passed the practice of Yoga has helped me feel at home within myself. It has helped me let go of some physical attachments and at the risk of sounding like a fluffy Yogini, I really feel like I am a child of the universe. I can feel at home in a place, with a person, on my yoga mat – anywhere. But since I’m not just anywhere, here are my must do’s of Penang:

  1. Eat: Laksa, Hokkien Mee, Curry Mee, Char Koey Teow, Mamak, Wonton Mee and Song River Chicken Wings. And off the side of the street is the best… Just don’t watch how they cook it.
  2. Drink: G Hotel bar on Gurney Drive.
  3. Shop: Paragon and Gurney Plaza – next to each other on Gurney Drive.
  4. Stay: Eastern & Oriental Hotel in George Town
  5. Do: Go on a walk through the beautiful colonial shop houses in town and view the street art.

See where else I have been and where else I end up by following my blog.

The best of Ubud (Part 1)

I wish I could say that I was going to break the stereotypical Yogi mould and tell you how horrible and underwhelming Ubud is, but unfortunately I can’t. It’s simply amazing and blatantly obvious as to why Yogis and those seeking spiritual solace flock here. With more greenery than a green room, the rolling hills and rice paddy fields provide the perfect backdrop for self-discovery and some much needed silence. With a name that comes from the Balinese word Ubad, which means medicine, Ubud has long been known as a mystical place, rich in healing powers and I whole heartedly agree.

As more people gravitate to Ubud, more amazing restaurants, health spas and yoga shalas pop up. So I’ve gone ahead and created a list of ‘best of’s’ for anyone visiting this beautiful haven.

The best organic vegan food: Sage

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Sage have got organic vegan Mexican food completely down pat. I’ve worked my way through most of this menu and EVERYTHING is a winner, which is why it has earned the nod for the best organic vegan food in Ubud. Located just a little further out of the centre of town, this new restaurant boasts clean, simple and stylish decor with friendly and professional waiters. Upside – because this restaurant is relatively new, you can always manage to find yourself a seat and are guaranteed a healthy and tasty meal. Downside – compared to a lot of other cafes and restaurants in Ubud the menu is relatively small, however if that’s what it takes to keep up this quality of food then Amen to that!

The best health food store: Earth Cafe

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Although Earth Cafe is probably most well known for it’s restaurant (with a huge array of vegetarian meals, snacks and drinks) they also have one of the largest range of organic food and health products in town. Stocking a decent array of international and local products, Earth Cafe has everything from organic Balinese wine to facial products. Their dried organic fruit is definitely worth a mention as is their locally made Konscious Kombucha. Upside – you won’t be without natural and organic products during your stay in Bali. Downside – if you compare the range to places such as Wholefoods or Terra Madre you will be disappointed.

The best health spa: Taksu

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Taksu is a hidden gem located just down the road from Earth Cafe near the markets in Ubud. At first glance the facilities look clean, simple and humble. Then came time for my massage. As I was escorted down into a valley with with tropical vines, flowers, palms and shown into my private room I was left wondering is this what nirvana is? It was ridiculous. But in the most beautiful way possible and the massage didn’t disappoint either. Compared to other places you may go in Bali, this place is on the more expensive side but compared to Western prices it is still an absolute bargain. Worth every cent. Upside – everywhere you look is stunning. There was so much beauty, my little brain didn’t know what to do with itself. Downside – it’s not wheelchair friendly.

The best place to do yoga: The Yoga Barn

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The Yoga Barn is an institution here in Ubud. Located right in the heart of town, The Yoga Barn hosts and houses some of the best international yoga teachers in the world. No matter what studio you find yourself in, you will be guaranteed a lush green view. Their ‘Garden Kafe’ is also worth a mention if raw vegan food is your thing. Upside – huge schedule of yoga classes and other holistic practices all of a world-class standard. Downside – classes are almost always full, so get in at least 15 minutes early to ensure you can squeeze your mat in. I also recommend bringing your own mat or better yet, spoiling yourself with a new ZenFlow Air. It’s superior grippiness is  a must in this humid weather!

The best view: Clear Cafe

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Clear Cafe is a huge 3 story restaurant situated opposite the Blanco museum with a million dollar view (USD not rupiah). I would do it a huge an injustice if I tried to describe it to you, even the picture doesn’t do it justice. Words that come into my head include vast, breath taking, inspirational – I even got a bit teary. This is a DEFINITE must see and the organic/all natural menu is filled with options and also deserves a nod.  Upside – you will always be able to find a table here. Downside – it’s not wheelchair friendly either.

That’s a wrap! I’ll be heading back to Ubud before trekking to Thailand, so keep your eyes peeled for part 2! Next stop, the Gili Islands for some much needed beach time and diving. See you there!

To New Beginnings

I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a few days now. It has been far too long between drinks, but I know you would all understand if you had just experienced the month I had! After overcoming my post-holiday blues, moving house and losing a loved one, I’ve finally managed to piece myself together again and though it was one of the most trying periods of my life, I can honestly say that I am proud of the way I’ve carried myself through all of it. Years, even months ago I could have seen myself reacting in a very different way. Retreating back to old habits, indulging in the negative and being self-deprecating. But not this time. This time was different. But why?

The short answer to this is Yoga. On Wednesday my colleague asked me why I practice Yoga. I listed off some health benefits and how it makes me feel great and other standard responses. But upon reflection, that question gets answered for me every day in the way I interact with myself and with the world around me. Through this trying time, I practiced self-discipline (tapas), self-inquiry (svadhyaya) and compassion (ahimsa) at all times along with some awesome asana and pilates classes (thanks Kaya Health Clubs). And all my hard work (yes it was damn tough) paid off.

Piecing myself back together again has been a magical and eye-opening experience. Here are some pearls of wisdom I got out of it:

  • Every moment is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again.
  • When a broken bone starts to heal it is actually stronger than before it was broken. The same thing applies to the human spirit.
  • You can never practice love and compassion too often.
  • “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  Viktor E. Frankl
  • Listen to Alan Watts’ podcast. You will be a better human being afterwards. I promise.

“Why yoga? It allows me to see how beautiful the world is, it cleans the slate, gets rid of my own lense and fog of illusion inside and connects me to what is…” Rodney Yee

Why thank you Rodney, I could not have put it better myself!

Come and see what benefits yoga has to offer you at Nourish Yoga class on Monday nights from 6:30pm-7:45pm at 116 Murphy St, Richmond VIC. Book in now to save your spot, or just turn up with a smile!

Here’s to new beginnings!

Hanging in Heavenly Hanoi

Hanoi – the second largest city and my last stop in Vietnam. Second in size behind Ho Chi Minh, but not second in charm. Like Melbourne and Sydney, there are some clear differences:

  1. Hanoi – Communist, French architecture, picturesque and wealthy.
  2. Ho Chi Minh – Socialist, rooftops, modern cafes and edgy.

But what they do have in common is that the food is amazing and so are the people. During my stay I found Zenith Yoga & Cafe, a one-stop-shop for all things Yoga and healthy vegetarian/vegan food located in the old quarter of Hanoi. As much as I loved the street food in Vietnam, I was definitely ready for a salad and kombucha! I wasn’t disappointed. As a matter of fact I was so impressed, I ended up back there every lunch. If you’re a yogi, or just want a fresh vegetarian meal in a laidback environment, put this at the top of your list.

The Yoga class was delightful. I didn’t realise how much I missed Iyengar ropes until I found myself hanging in an inverted supta baddha konasana (bound-angle pose). For those who have no idea what I am talking about get to your nearest Iyengar or Aerial Yoga class IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. Apart from being energising, increasing your immunity, improving blood circulation and making you taller, inversions can literally give you a new view on life!

And a new view was exactly what I needed. Despite loving everywhere I have travelled to so far, there have been more than a few hiccups and challenges along the way. Continuous natural disasters causing several re-routes, the lack of coeliac-friendly food giving me tummy issues, and my grandmother’s health rapidly deteriorating – the ‘relaxing holiday’ I had hoped for was yet to unfold and I was letting the stress get to me. I needed to go back to basics. After a few minutes upside down and a few minutes of yogic breathing (I like to call this combo ‘hitting the reset button’), I realised it was time to let go of my expectations and embrace all the exciting new experiences the rest of my holiday had in store for me. Ishvara Pranidhana – surrendering to highest. It was that, or continue to suffer – no brainer.

So if you’re ever in conflict, or struggling to make sense of a situation, perhaps it’s time to hit the reset button, get a new perspective and realise that there is very little in life we can actually control. Life unfolds in front of us, all we need to do is hop on for the ride. Sounds pretty damn exciting to me!

A big thank you to Zenith Yoga & Cafe for nourishing my mind, body and soul during my time in Hanoi and to ZenFlow for helping me make sure I’m on my mat when I need to be! Next stop – Bangkok, Thailand. Check out where I’ve been and where I’m going by following my blog.

See you in Thailand!

Getting Centred in Central Vietnam

This is what I’ve been waiting for. Central Vietnam – Da Nang and Hoi An. I expected pristine beaches, tropical vegetation, UNESCO heritage listed buildings and extraordinary people. I wasn’t disappointed. But before I continue, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the tragic effects of the Vietnam war on the people of Vietnam.

Prior to arriving, I knew little of the war. And I still don’t know much about it. But what I did learn and what impacted me the most, was the use of Agent Orange and the effect it is still having on the Vietnamese people. Without going into too much depth, Agent Orange is a herbicide that the American’s air-dropped throughout Vietnam to destroy plants and trees where Vietnamese troops could find refuge. They used more than 43 million litres of the deadly herbicide and though his happened more than 40 years ago, the effects continue to be catastrophic. And I don’t use that word lightly. No one can be sure how many people have been affected and how many more will be affected. And despite this, the people still have smiles on their faces and I felt welcomed with open arms.

Da Nang was home to one of the major airbases used in the war, but today it is becoming one of the most tourist-frequented places in Vietnam. A stroll down the boulevard by the river in the evening is world class, as is China beach. There is something about doing Yoga on the beach. The sound of waves lapping on shore, the smell of  salt in the air, but what I enjoy most is that you need to get a little dirty. The sand is uneven, it goes absolutely everywhere, every pose feels different and so does every experience. It reminded me to approach everything with a beginner’s mind, that we are all eternal students and we can learn something from every experience, even if it is a pose we’ve done a million times.

After 2 days in Da Nang, it was off to Hoi An. I don’t like playing favourites, but if I had to, Hoi An would be it. It was the first place where I can truly say I was consistently relaxed. The pace at which the town moved was delightful, the beaches were pristine, and the architecture is a beautiful fusion of native and international flavours. It is also a shoppers paradise, so pack light! What I truly loved about Hoi An, was that the locals moved at their own pace. There was very little rushing and a sense of complete presence in everything they did. Our Western society is so caught up on multi-tasking and doing everything quickly that we don’t actually DO what we are DOING. When we eat, we’re on our phones. When we walk, we’re thinking about where we’re going. Even when we sleep our minds are filled with thoughts….

So my challenge for you is to practice presence and see if you can approach the most seemingly mundane tasks with a beginners mind. I’d love to hear how you go via the Nourish Yoga facebook page.

Next stop Hanoi! To see what else I’ve been up to and what’s in store for the back half of my adventure around South-East Asia with ZenFlow, follow the Nourish Yoga blog.

Namaste!

Stillness in Saigon with ZenFlow

Vietnam has always been near the top of the bucket list for me. The picturesque views of Ha Long Bay and landscapes of central Vietnam are among the world’s best. But I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of large Asian cities. Most are loud, polluted, congested, my personal space gets constantly invaded and my senses overloaded. So as you can imagine, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) was always going to be an interesting experience! In some ways, Saigon is all of these things, but there is something harmonious about the madness. Yoga (union) can be found everywhere. But there have been 2 distinct instances, both very different from each other, that I have felt this vast sense of spaciousness similar to that found in meditation.

My first experience was on the back of a motorbike. I must admit it was nice to be on the other side of the chaos. Crossing a road in a city with over 5 million motor bikes and incessant honking feels like a life threatening experience… Every. Single. Time. But the traffic is like a moving organism, a well oiled machine. It is honestly a spectacle. Though people don’t really obey road rules and there are no such thing as lanes, it all just works. Someone speeds up, the other slows down. You drive on the other side of the road, others go around you. And all this happens just centimetres apart from each other. Like a flock of birds, there are little to no collisions and road rage just doesn’t exist. I’ve never felt so calm and safe in or on a vehicle. Everyone moving together as one – it was simply magical.

The second experience was on a rooftop of a building I found down an inconspicuous little lane way off the main drag. If you think Melbourne has awesome rooftop bars and grungy lane ways, you aint seen nothing yet! I was alone, the air was fresher, the breeze was light, it was about to rain, and the noise of the city slightly muffled – I had never felt so present. The vastness of the city and the 360 view of the never ending landscape of buildings helped me feel spacious and surprisingly grounded. It felt like my heart was beating with the pulse of the city and we were one in the same. Very cool.

Yoga seems to have stuck pretty close to its roots here in Saigon. Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar and philosophy classes was all I found and I thoroughly appreciated how they respected the tradition. Poses were instructed in Sanskrit and most people didn’t use mats. Thankfully, I had my ZenFlow Air with me. Humid weather and my sweaty palms does not make for steadiness and ease! Coming soon – my official review of ZenFlow’s Air.

Next stop, Da Nang in central Vietnam. Famous for being one of the cleanest cities in the world with exquisite beaches and marble mountains, you don’t want to miss out on what’s coming next! Follow my blog  to see where else I land in South-East Asia!