The Yogini from Manila

Wellness in mind, body and spirit

July 3, 2014
by jane

Today, I take a baby step towards becoming a yin yoga teacher

There. I finally said it. Today, I am taking the first step to be certified as a yin yoga teacher.

From my first yoga class in 2006, this is where the universe is bringing me.

This was never in my life radar, to be honest. From the time I began this yoga blog in 2006, I’ve gotten numerous inquiries on this blog and via email asking where I taught, whether I could teach a class, could I be interviewed about yoga and what my teaching rates are. I found that funny because people thought that just because I had a yoga blog, I HAD TO BE a yoga teacher. NOT!

So why didn’t I take any teacher training?

Because I never felt the desire to. Sure, I loved yoga and loved practising but I never felt the inclination to get up before a class and teach. I just loved being the student. Let others do the teaching.

But in 2011 when I took my first yin yoga class with Dona, I think a seed was planted. And over the years, that seed has taken root and began to sprout. As I learned about its healing benefits, the meridian connection to organs and its relationship to Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts, I began to sit up and listen. When Victor started coming to teach yin yoga in 2012, I began taking notes. Suddenly, I found purpose in teaching.

(Read all about Victor Chng and his yin yoga philosophy here)

In 2012, as a number of my yoga friends were planning to travel to Singapore to take Victor’s teacher training, I too wanted to join in. However, a little voice inside strongly told me to hold back. I didn’t know why, but I listened to that voice. As it turned out, in the latter part of that year, my husband became very ill. I became a caregiver. And this medical journey would last a year and a half thereabouts.

I was disappointed, to be honest. Many things were put on hold. I asked Victor to come instead to Manila to hold teacher training because I knew traveling abroad was out of the question then. Of course, Victor just gave me that smile, with no promises. I knew it was too much to ask back then. Yin yoga was still very new in Manila. It was not yet even known outside the Metro. WHO would he teach?

But I kept holding out hope that one day, ONE DAY, Victor will finally deem it feasible to teach in Manila.

That day has come because this September, Victor will be coming back to Manila to hold his first Yin Yoga Teacher Training. Yay!!!


On hindsight, I now know that everything has a reason and a season. I was not meant to take teacher training in 2012; I had to go through that medical journey with my husband. And you know what? I am thankful I did. Somehow, once you have seen serious illness up close, you are forced to learn many things about wellness, nutrition and holistic therapies and truly appreciate good health. I would like to think that journey also taught me more compassion and sensitivity.

So here I am. Just 2 months away from September. Today, we began a 4-day yoga immersion workshop with Dona. And there are other workshops coming up in the following weeks like Lek’s anatomy class that will also help prepare our batch of aspiring yin yoga teachers.

I’m excited not just to learn from Dona, Victor and Lek. I’m excited to share my practice. I am sure my other classmates have their own stories that led them down this path. Whatever it is, it has made our paths cross. For that I am grateful. Wish me and my classmates luck as we begin a new journey! And as I posted on Instagram earlier….no turning back! :-)


Thanks to Kai Magsanoc, one of my classmates, for taking this “historic” photo!



June 16, 2014
by jane

Matstone Slow Juicer: Preserving Precious Enzymes While Juicing

I always thought a juicer was a juicer was a juicer.

But when i attended my first vegan workshop at Sugarleaf with raw food chef Mona Lisa Neuboeck, they were using a different kind of juicer — a slow Matstone juicer.

At that time, I was not really compelled to consider getting a slow juicer. I already had a juicer (two, in fact because someone gave us another one which was still unopened). And I had a blender too. I thought those were more than sufficient for what we needed in terms of blending and juicing at home.

But what I heard from that workshop and a few more to come, as well as from a naturopathic doctor that we have been seeing, stuck with me and over time, I slowly came to learn that there is a difference between high speed and low speed juicers.

In the wellness world, the emphasis on choice of food and drink is extracting those precious enzymes that our body needs. In other words, we need to choose food from which we can get amino acids and enzymes from

Centrifugal Juicers. These are the most popular and affordable types of juicers, the kind I had. They are great for juicing fresh fruits and some of the more juicy vegetables but have more difficulty squeezing juice out of grass and leafy vegetables. Because they are centrifugal and high speed in nature, juicing is fast; however, the speed and movement creates heat build-up which can destroy heat-sensitive enzymes in the fruits and vegetables which you actually want to preserve and consume in the first place. Also, the centrifugal movement allows more air to get in between the juice which then shortens its shelf life. Usually with centrifugal juicers, you need to consume the juice as you make them.

Masticating Juicers. Imagine yourself chewing on food and masticating them with your teeth. To us that is just eating. But the chewing process slowly squeezes out the juices containing  from whatever it is you are eating. This is what slow juicers do. Rotating at only 80 RPM (revolutions per minute), a slow juicer produces no heat build-up and enzymes are preserved more than on the high-speed juicers.

Finally, after months of procrastinating, I decided that my husband, who is recuperating from a long-drawn medical condition, had to have as much of these precious enzymes as I can provide him with. Kasali na ako diyan (Including me). So I went off to Sugarleaf, my suki when it comes to organic food items, and got myself the Matstone juicer.

Matstone comes in 2 colors: maroon and white. White would have been nice but I went for maroon so that scratches or smudges won’t be too visible.

The main body of the juicer holds the motor. It’s got 3 buttons: ON and OFF buttons as well as one labeled REV which stands for Reverse (used in case food catches on the auger and has to be reversed to free it up. Thoughtfully, it sports a handle on top for ease of lifting and moving around.


Body of Matstone juicer with motor


Each part is inserted into the main body one at a time. First the juicing chamber, followed by the auger, then the stainless steel, tongue-like juicer. Last come two covers where the pulp comes out. Two plastic containers catch the juice and the pulp underneath the Matstone. A stainless steel strainer covers one of the containers for the juiced liquid.

It’s been a year already since I bought the Matstone. We use it every day to juice a combination of seeds, cereals and nuts for the hubby and a combination of fruits and vegetables for both of us. There has been no major hitch with the motor although I noticed that it was having difficulty with long strips of carrots. It works better when diced very small so it is juiced well by the auger. The amazing thing is how it is able to squeeze juice from vegetables I never thought had water content. We’ve put in broccoli, celery, spinach, petchay and a few other veggies as well.

To order your own Matstone slow juicer, contact Angelo Songco of Sugarleaf, mobile (0917) 803-9055 or email Angelo at The current SRP of the juicer is PhP 14,000 but mention to Angelo that you saw the post on The Yogini from Manila’s blog and he’ll give you a discount. Depending on availability, he also gives freebies with an order. He can also have it delivered to your home (with a demo on how to assemble/use) or deliver by courier.

June 15, 2014
by jane

Toe power – you won’t ignore it after reading this

Let me first tell you a short story.

I took ballet lessons as a young girl under my tita and her daughter in the province. For many years, I wore flat ballet shoes in class as I moved from the beginners to the intermediate class. I’d often look at the advance class pirouette around in toe shoes and long for the day that I would graduate to being a toe dancer. Every summer, tita would sit her intermediate students down to check their feet. She’d examine their ankles and toes. You could not get your toe shoes until she gave the thumbs up. One summer, I was one of those students lined up for the check. I did not pass. She told me to wait another year. I was so disappointed! It took another year of dancing, practicing and working my feet before I finally got her nod of approval. Receiving my Capezio toe shoes all the way from New York was probably one of the happiest moments in my life.

Fast forward to the present.

I’ve long noticed how yin yoga classes put great emphasis on the strength of the toes. In a recent yin yoga workshop with Singapore-based Jo Phee, she began our class on the floor with toe rotations. Taking each toe in turn, we slowly turned them clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Those used to the active and dynamic styles of yoga would probably find this very odd for a yoga class. And in Victor Chng’s yin yoga intensives, he’d have us doing “high-heeled shoes” (his description for poses that have you on your toes, bearing the weight of your body). And fair warning — holding those poses for 3 to 5 minutes was not a walk in the park.

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May 30, 2014
by jane

Book Review: Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi by Brian Leaf

The first time I encountered Brian Leaf’s humorous, candid writing style was when I reviewed his first book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. So when I was asked if I wanted to do one on his second book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi, I did not hesitate one second, knowing that I’d be treated to another round of humor and entertaining stories from a not-so-typical yogi.


One thing is sure. Brian Leaf is a hands-on parent. It was very amusing to find him in humorous situations with his newborn baby. When he began talking about cloth diapers I immediately related to him because all my children grew up with cloth diapers. He lost me though when I could not recognize any of the brands of cloth diapers he had mentioned like BumGenius, FuzziBunz, Bottom Bumpers and the like. The only brand of cloth diapers I bought a lot of was Curity (and yes, that dates me).


The author, Brian Leaf, with his sons Noah and Benji

I am also a yogi,” writes Brian. “Ten years ago that was easier to prove. My pockets were filled with half-used class cards, a bookstore receipt for Light on Yoga or The Ayurvedic Cookbook, and folded-up handouts of Rumi or Kabir quotes. Now, ten years later, there’s less time for yoga classes, and I’m reading parenting books instead of yoga books. But, still, my yoga is alive and well. My attempts at mindfulness and union are stronger than ever.

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May 27, 2014
by jane

My greatest takeaway from Yin Yoga Intensives with Victor Chng

“Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare.” ~ Japanese proverb



Right after Victor Chng’s Yin Yoga Intensives, my doctor friend Kit posted this on our yin yoga group:

How has the recent visit of Victor Chng, his workshops and teachings impacted your yoga practice?

I did not readily respond because I wanted to think through what my real takeaway from Victor’s weekend with us was.

Truth to tell, there were so many!!! But for me, the most profound words that hit me were simple but deep. TWO. SIMPLE. WORDS.


Just those 2 words. While there was a lot of meridian information I picked up, deeper discussions on the yin-yang symbol, and other insightful stuff Victor shared with us, it was his “What for?” or “What’s the point?” that got me thinking.

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May 4, 2014
by jane
1 Comment

Book Review – Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan by Alanna Kaivalya

']);">Book coverWhile I have been into yoga for quite some time now, there is one aspect of it that I have not settled into too comfortably – and that is the matter of the mantra. I’ve been in yoga classes that dive straight into quiet meditation (without the chanting) and asanas. But in a few other classes, mantra chanting precedes the class. My teacher also once invited me to join a kirtan and while I enjoyed the dancing and singing, it was superficial then because I could not relate to it on a deeper level for lack of understanding.

Nada yoga (or the yoga of sound) often gets short shrift in the West because, as I myself experienced, mantras and kirtans are not readily understood. However, its chants are held sacred in all types of Eastern spiritual practice. They are believed to help practitioners bypass the mental chatter constantly going on in the mind in order to reach a higher state of awareness and self-realization.

In her new book, “Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan“, celebrated yoga teacher and author Alanna Kaivalya explores both the myth and meaning behind twenty-one mantras, or chants, that stem from the yogic tradition. She also describes the myth, text, or context each mantra comes from or is associated with, and explains how these rich myths relate to our modern-day spiritual practice.

I’m sure some of you are also not as comfortable as I am with mantras. I used to think “What am I saying here? How do I know I’m not verbalizing some spell or something like that?“. And a lot of this fear and anxiety is coming definitely from my traditional Catholic roots where anything mystical or Eastern is outside my faith. Alanna explains it this way: “…if you are brand-new to yoga or Eastern spiritual practices, know that chanting mantras doesn’t make you a Hindu. By chanting, you are not joining a religion or expressing your belief in any religions dogma. The aim is spiritual, not denominational. The power of mantra lies in the vibrations, and these vibrations work on many levels, whether the sayings are pronounced out loud or silently, correctly or incorrectly.

Alanna’s relationship with sound is special because she was born with a hearing impairment. We know that when one or more senses are impaired or absent, it somehow heightens sensitivity to those senses that we have. We see this in sight-impaired people, for example, who develop a greater sense of touch. In Alanna’s case, she became highly sensitive to sound, vibration, tone and intonation in order to fully access her world. This was second nature to her but her practice of yoga suddenly gave her more reason behind her relationship with sound. Alanna says: “It is from this perspective that I have always practiced and taught, fueled by the belief that sound has the power to harmonize us and myth brings forth what is alive within us.” It’s no wonder then that Alanna always ends her lectures and workshops with these words: Don’t miss the vibrations.

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April 23, 2014
by jane

Giveaway: A Healing Yin Yoga Practice with Victor Chng (winner announced)

(Update: And the winner is…Nicole Ereneta. Congratulations, Nicole. I hope you enjoy this class with my yin yoga teacher, Victor Chng. May this purposeful journey lead you to better health.)


I really would want more people to get into the yin yoga practice. Whether you already have a dynamic yoga practice or you are a total newbie wondering whether to get into yoga at all, yin yoga will be a great introduction for you.

Luckily, I have ONE FREE PASS to the May 6 workshop of Victor Chng, a leading yin yoga teacher in Asia (and my yin yoga teacher!) and I’d like one of you to get it. This will be at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), and with him are my first yin yoga teacher and integrative nutrition counselor, Dona Tumacder-Esteban, and another yin yoga teacher, Dr. Francisco Navarro who is also a specialist in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as head of Complementary Medicine at St. Luke’s BGC. See details below.


So this is what we’ll do.

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April 18, 2014
by jane

Victor Chng – Up close as he talks about Yin Yoga

Next month (May 2014), my yin yoga teacher from Singapore, Victor Chng, will be coming again to hold a series of workshops in different places.

My first encounter with yin yoga was in 2011, with Dona, the very first yin yoga teacher in the Philippines. Dona had trained with Victor in 2010 and her background as a stress management consultant and integrative nutrition counselor combined very well with her yin yoga practice. While my first introduction to yoga was via the practice of vinyasa in late 2006, I never had a strong urge to share my practice — at least not until yin yoga came into my life. Its healing properties aligned with the Taoist concepts and traditional Chinese medicine that I was beginning to read about more closely around the time my hubby fell ill and we were pursuing naturopath remedies. I had a strong feeling that I had found the practice that I needed for myself, for my loved ones and for the greater community circles I was in.

Read about my first yin yoga experience here.']);">Read about my first yin yoga experience here.

Victor Chng came to the Philippines for the very first time in 2012 (a year after my first encounter with Dona) and every year since then, around this time, he returns to continue teaching his students (including me!). Of course, in his absence, Dona continues the practice of yoga through her own classes and workshops. But Dona is good for another, separate post that I want to do later.



My first encounter with Victor Chng. After that, there was no turning back from yin yoga.

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April 2, 2014
by jane

A Yogini gets the Best “Prank It Fwd” for April Fools Day

I love happy stories and this one deserves a short blog post.

Yesterday being April Fools Day saw a lot of pranks online. Many were harmless and just elicited laughter. There were a few though that were so good that you had to read the articles carefully to spot the prank items. And I also became addicted to Google’s awesome search for the Pokemon Master by having all of us searching through Google Maps for countries where 150 Pokemon were scattered and trying to catch as many of them as you could within 24 hours. And while I haven’t heard of any, some people also like to play not-so-nice pranks sometimes during this day.

But somewhere in the United States, a yogini was getting the best “Prank It Fwd”.

Chelsea Roff was a waiter who had been putting a younger sister through school for years. She overcame an eating disorder and she used that experience to start teaching yoga to help other women with eating disorders. Her car was also one for the dumps with bumps all over it.


Screenshot of Chelsea from Break’s YouTube channel

But look what happens when some wonderful people decide to make her the recipient of their positive prank. I love it when a yogini who has given so much of herself to others gets the best that life has to offer.


Pick Your Yoga Practice book cover

January 15, 2014
by jane

Book review: Pick Your Yoga Practice by Meagan McCrary

“I want to try yoga. Can you suggest what style is best for me?”

It’s pretty tough when you need to face such a question because there is not just one style of yoga nor any one “best” style. Way back in 2006 when I first discovered yoga, there were only very few styles available in Manila – ashtanga, bikram and vinyasa. Maybe one or two more. Nothing else. So we did not really have that many choicesNow there are so many different yoga styles and offerings available and studios are all over the place!

So when I am asked what yoga someone should do, I tend to suggest that they try different yoga styles first before settling into one because really, what I may love is not what another yogi would love. And what my body needs is not what your body would need. The yoga style really depends on the individual and many times, age and medical conditions, as well as psycho-emotional and spiritual needs are factors in which type to go with. So there is my usual dilemma.

But now THIS can help those who are struggling with which style to try and where. Yoga teacher and author Meagan McCrary has written the first encyclopedia of different yoga styles out there for both beginner and experienced yogis — Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Types of Yoga  (New World Library, December 15, 2013). It can be a helpful tool as well for yoga teachers in case similar questions are posed to them by their students.


(click to view enlarged image)


Meagan McCrary


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