The Yoga girl challenge

Saturday 23rd of August I started the Yoga girl challenge. I’m posting this almost a year later, finding that I wrote about each day but never published it. My life has taken quite the turn around from this once life and it was nice to read back and reflect on my life in Japan but also how far I’ve come since. I was living a life that was extremely demanding mentally, physically and emotionally and doing this challenge helped me so much, giving me a positive intention each day outside of work. We can live so much in our heads sometimes and for other people that it can be such a beautiful thing to have something to ground you and bring you back to what’s really important.

With some links to some great places in Japan and also some tips to manage a busy lifestyle I hope you enjoy this forgotten post.

Yoga every damn day:

I woke up and knew how I would achieve this first challenge, it was time to make yoga a priority in my life. I try to practice every day anyway but it’s more so something I’ve been throwing in here and there when I had time which inevitable made it rushed and the true benefits have not been able to be reached. So this morning I woke up and made it the first thing I did before anything else that day. It was only 8 sun salutes but I made sure that my thoughts and my body were completely present and from this it allowed me to be present in my other activities that day, I knew what I needed to nourish body and soul and that was nature and adventure. See my blog post.


I’m not very good at meditation, for me it’s about relaxing and time to just sit, be, reflect and draw within. Today meditation would be about finding the time for just me. When I’m on tour I’m constantly thinking about my passengers needs and dreams, that sometimes I can leave myself behind, this year especially as much as I’ve had so much good and opportunities it has also been one of the hardest emotionally. To be alone and let myself feel and process all of this, it’s accepting the sad things that have happened and this is a challenge in its self. I found myself having a day where I was on top of my work and nothing new coming in so I took a ride to a cacao café I’d been wanting to try, (yes it was amazing!) When I walked in there was calming music, crystals, a carpet lounge looking out the Japanese garden and many books to choose from. I made myself comfortable and picked up a book by Paulo Coelho one of my favourite authors, who’s books are the kind that you can call “life changing” I sat there with the book and read it cover to cover, breathing in every sentence and question listening to the rain outside, not feeling guilty for a second and completely giving myself that time, for me it was perfect and my meditation.

Rise and shine:

I didn’t want to leave my bed this morning, I was cosy, I knew I had a lot to do for work and I just didn’t want to face it but I opened my curtains to let in the light, I did my yoga, I worked hard and then found and found a place to completely light me up, it wasn’t an IMG_0370 ocean but it was a place I could submerge myself and that was a local pool. It had been so long since I last swam I wasn’t sure if that fitness would still be there, but I ended up not wanting to stop, letting the water cleanse me and complete me I swam 60 laps, by the end I was more awake than ever and could go back to work feeling fresh and revitalized.
Random act of kindness:

I woke up this morning to a message on facebook telling me my friend in England had nominated me to participate and one to the ice bucket Alstrom Syndrome challenge. My friend Elsa and I spoke about this at breakfast on whether I should do it or not with all the controversy about water wastage and the way people were going about it, in the end we agreed it was these people missing the point and what was happening is that many were searching their pockets to give to a cause. The challenge is creating awareness whether it’s silly or not it’s a way of marketing and it’s working, I decided to give to another charity for poverty and starvation as well. We walked to Toki temple I stood by the moat and poured a bucket of ice and water on my head letting the ducks have the water. The challenge is random but it’s working so I say brilliant!
Getting rid of a bad habit:

For me this was actually giving myself time to do an hour’s worth of yoga a whole ashtanga practice which i hardly ever give myself anymore. The sun was shining this morning so I found a spot in Toji temples garden, it was my private area for that hour and I managed to move through the whole series. Unfortunately my work motivation left me this day and I was unproductive.
Start a new routine.

After my previous days productivity this was exactly what I needed. I woke to do my yoga but this time put my ear phones in blocked out the world and found myself doing dance yoga instead of savasna I crazy danced in my room and swung in my hammock, Bring on what’s next I ticked my boxes and was feeling good.

Thank you:

Today started with a run to Katsugara River, and an active stretch in the park, it was so beautiful and set me up for my day. My house mate was also home working so we took a lunch break together to explore some Kyoto sites researching for clients, visiting the craft museum, trying new restaurants, we went back home thankful to be living the life we do. Yes we’re busy but we have been given the opportunity to live in Japan and in one of the most beautiful and historical cities with new gifts to find around every corner.

Manifesting dreams:

I was so excited for today, I had been planning for weeks to attend a guided meditation workshIMG_0170op on happiness that my friend Kaori had recommended. I practically sprung out of bed making myself a delicious green smoothie I did a little bit of work for the early morning and then road my bike to the event. My friend was also there and the yoga instructor Toshi who I had met at a surf film premier so I didn’t feel completely on my own. It was to be three hours and I sat there listening feeling at once how long it had been since I let myself relax, my body felt tense, it was sore, it was fighting this sitting position but I let my breath calm me I let it guide its way through each muscle allowing me to calm and sink in to this position comfortably. As I relaxed further I could now listen to his words, these lessons to have gratitude each day to see the beauty in each day, to see myself as not a name or a materialistic object but of the things I love and that make my best person. The meaning of life is to exist to learn, to live every moment as if it were your first.

True forgiveness:

I didn’IMG_0176t really know what I needed to forgive today, I woke up feeling slightly hung over after my first night out in 6 months living in Kyoto with my housemate, perhaps I needed to not feel guilty about this little splurge because it is so rare and was so nice to let loose with a friend and make new friends. We didn’t stay in bed all day rather we hired bikes and had a 13 course Kaiseki lunch for work research, which was beyond amazing in the most beautiful temple at Kanga-IMG_0191an. I did not rush home but instead practiced yoga by the River Kamogawa and watched the children play in the small falls, it was so beautiful.
Get creative:

It was Monday and after such a relaxing Sunday it was time to get back to work, and so I got creative with my work space. I chose for this to be a great day and I enjoyed the morning at home as the rain fell. I rode my bike for a delicious lunch at a vegan restaurant before enjoying the time to be in solitude and be productive. I had time that evening to go out to the 100 yen store to buy some pastels calming my mind with some art before bed.IMG_0156

Random act of kindness:

As I worked today I felt as if something was missing, my housemate Elsa was with me and she was feeling stressed with work. I went on a cycle that afternoon and stopped to buy her flowers. It’s those tiny things that can bring the beauty and calmness back to people and our home as our work space became a lot brighter.
Get shit dIMG_0259one:

Today it was all about creating a system, if you have good systems in place it is so much easier to be organized, to prioritize things, is how you can be most effective you’re your time. This is exactly what I did and set myself a finishing goal and reward. I made my work goals that day then told my boss I would be out that evening before my housemate Elsa and I rode our bikes to the foot of Mt Daimonji and had a picnic on the mountain overlooking the sunset. It was perfect, and how each day should be, balanced with work productivity, to learn, to be active, to be with those you love and to find tranquility.
Be fearless:

Today we had thunder and rain all day, it could have been easy to stay in all day but instead, I put on a raincoat and rode my bike to the local pool and did laps. The water will always be my happy place, to calm me, to excite me, to give me strength it is where I feel at home. I removed all the obstacles and gave myself exactly what I had been craving.
Clean out-

With a lot of work scheduled today I looked forward to trying out a local studio in Kyoto. After working the morning I rode to the studio Tamisa to have lunch at the vegetarian cafe downstairs. It was so delicious and you could see out to the street and enjoy some great art work, organic produce and clothes on sale. They even sold my favourite nakula coconut water. The class was exactly what I needed, of course it was in Japanese but it helped me learn and he spoke in english for any corrections to my postures. The group was so nice and I realized how much I missed connecting in these like minded communities. Living on the Mornington Peninsula it may be quite large but it’s still a small town feeling and especially working with lululemon community has always been a big thing for me. I rode home feeling cleansed so for me, to “clean out” it was to cleanse myself from within.

I woke up feeling flat today and sad, whenever father’s day is near it feels like my heart is emptying a little and I miss my dad (dec) so much. I decided to get my hair done to pick me up. Compared to my last experience in Takayama where I became a flaming red head from a blonde the experience was much better. I had four staff working on me, one to cut, one to colour, one for a massage, and one to IMG_0311bring me green tea. Yeah the experience so far was kicking ass! They were hilarious as well and we joked of me being a geisha and them a ninja and samurai. I came out feeling more relaxed with only a more yellow hair colour this time…. Yeah still not amazing but it’s a working progress. There would be a full moon tonight and this week plenty of harvest festivals. I decided to ride my bike to one of my favourite places, Arashiyama. Daikakuji temple was holding their annual Kangetsu-no-yube (moon viewing party) on the Osawa-no-ike pond. The autumn colours were just starting and the place was lit with candle light. I took part in a special tea ceremony where matcha green tea would be traditionally made and you could enjoy it overlooking the temple scenery and enjoy a delicious sweet as well. The IMG_0306rain that I had not even thought about had already started to fall however and I sat there at first enjoying it, but as the sky grew darker I was colder in my long skirt and t-shirt. I waited and waited until finally it was decided the weather would indeed cancel the event. I go my bike saturated and rode to a cafe starving and destroyed some dinner. I then rode the 8km back home in the pouring rain. It was exactly what I needed today, I felt alive, I was sweating and man was the night beautiful! I laughed the whole way and slept happier and my heart was more fulfilled that night.

The alter-

An ironic challenge today being Father’s day. I thought how people say you end up searching for the man most like your father. So I thought a little about who my ideal man would be. In the end all I could think of was adventure, my dad always took us camping and on such great adventures in nature and that’s exactly what I needed today to remember him and give him a gift from Japan. After my bike tour that morning I decided to visit another favourite place in Kisaichi.So 3 trains later from the city of Kyoto you reach a town of forest and rivers. I ran right towards the great suspension bridge, it was phenomenal! You could see that in another month the entire place would be a rainbow of autumn colour. Running back I decided to go a different way but actually had no idea where I was going. I met an older man maybe in his 70’s (you can never tell with the youthful Japanese). He asked me where I needed to go and I told him, he asked me to follow and just like that we were sprinting down a mountain. I was almost struggling to actually keep up, I was so impressed! It was fun as well 🙂 We made it back to the start and looked at each other laughing, I had no words and just high fived him with a lot of “sugoi’s” (Translating to awesome or amazing). Last time I was here I had ran left from the station and swam in a secluded waterfall, so I decided to run back here before night would come. About 5 minutes running and a dude on a scooter pulled up next to me, it was the older man I had just ran with. He asked if I needed a lift, I didn’t but who was I to say no to a ride on the back of a bike, (sorry dad, the don’t talk to strangers or accept lifts from strangers doesn’t apply in Japan). “Ahhhh” I felt alive with the wind in my hair around the bends. He took me to the start of the track, and again we were both so overwhelmed with excitement with this meeting so in Japanese style we took photo’s of each other to remember this experience. I ran through the wonderland of forest, of moss growing over the flowing stream and rocks. Leaving the track and rock jumping was my secret waterfall. I let the water cleanse me, and the peaceful air of adventure and nature fill me. “The alter” if this is to represent a commitment of your life with respect and happiness well I promise to myself to always listen to my heart, to be open to opportunity and the kindness of others, and to forever explore and do the things that light me up, the things that make me feel close to my dad and that ignite those treasured memories. I will never forget and only live more years for him.

I love you-

A hard one perhaps when your living so far from all those you love most. That’s the greatest thing about technology, I practiced yoga at Toji temple and then called my grandparents. Perhaps the most memorable call now I could have made because as I edit this the memory of my beautiful Nana who would pass away only a month later brings heart ache and tears to my eyes. On this call I told her of Japan and told her how much I loved her and missed her. I thought for some reason she would be disappointing I was in a foreign country working and with a non existent love life. She wasn’t though, she actually told me, I was still young, that men will come in and out, but those experiences for me I should make the most of, she told me she was proud of me. This call, walking through my Japanese neighborhood and speaking with her I will never forget. My Nana I will love always, I’m proud of her and so happy to have so many beautiful memories of her and her life, she was one amazing story teller, but not those you make up, those of truth and real life events and I will be forever grateful to her for giving me those of my dads childhood and of her. Even the stories of her many boyfriends and proposals before grandpa. I love you always my Nana.

Mother nature-

I was looking forward to this one! I woke to have porridge and berries from inside an open coconut. I then took my bike at 7am and rode to the West River in kyoto with my laptop to work. Sometimes it’s good not having somewhere to charge your computer battery, it’s like a race to get it done. I had finished the work I needed before it died and decided to do a research trip to Asuka a place which was named one of Japans first capitols and where I would soon take passengers on trip. It was getting late but I had my running gear and took in as much ground as I could, visiting the tourist office for key info, visiting accommodations to introduce myself and finding key tourist areas, but also those that that they dont speak of in the tourist books. This is the job of a tour guide, and one that a tourist guide like myself has to work very hard at, mentally and physically, “damn I covered some kilometers!” One place I found was an ice cream store, but not just any ice cream, it was the best I have ever experienced in all my life! It was soft serve mixed with seasonal fruits in the mix and man was it delicious. I spoke with the owner and also the bike rental owner next door. Both not speaking much English I managed to get some good info that i could take away as extra info for my group, and I would definitely be taking them here. The trip was short but the ground covered was extensive, and I could not wait to come back, the rolling hills and ancient properties in this area was incredible! Mother nature I will always be grateful.

Random act of kindness-

Time to fly home to Australia for a quick two week tour. I wasn’t sure how I would do this challenge but managed to do my yoga practice in the airport lounge as I waited for my flight. I then realized that by acknowledging people I was actually performing an act of kindness. I kept my head up instead of dodging peoples eye gaze to see everyone as an equal, I said hello, I smiled, and said “thank you” these small things we can take for granted can actually go a very long way to influence someones day positively.

Something new-

I arrived in Sydney, oh my goodness I may have been far from Melbourne but it was home enough. I had been to Sydney before but it was still “something new” for me. I called my sister on my Australian number and almost broke down in tears from excitement. I walked the city that day, taking it all in slowly, I didn’t want to miss a thing. To see, to listen, we take for granted the ability to understand, I could understand every word from peoples conversations, i could read every sign. Sometimes it takes being in an environment completely foreign to see the “new” or the miracles we can miss that happen in our familiar environments and routines.

I’m so happy I took part in this challenge and stuck to it, having an intention or goal each day can be so rewarding. To give you direction but to also have gratitude to see things with open eyes.

Published by jdv05

I'm an Exercise Scientist leading Personal Training and active tours around Parks Victoria protected spaces of Warburton and the Mornington Peninsula. A lover all things movement, incorporating nature into our sessions and personal workouts. I spent 2014 in Japan working as a tour guide and researching trails and writing active trips for both Australia and Japan. I enjoy competing in fun runs and trail runs, with my favourite being the Two Bays trail run. You can check out some of my workouts and fitness tips on my personal blog, Qualifications include: Bachelor in Sport and Exercise Science, Certificates III and IV in fitness, Level 1 instructor in Mat Pilates, Wild fitness trainer, Level I and II boxing instructor, Surf instructor.

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