If you've visited our studio, you know that music is a huge part of the classes at Ocean Sound Yoga. Each teacher carefully cultivates playlists that suits our styles, and reflects our personalities. We often get asked to share our playlists, and now we're all on Spotify so it's easy to find us (and our music) online!
We all love to find new music so if you've got something you think we'll like, let us know!
Hey everyone! A few days ago I posted Part 1 of a two-part interview series by my friend and yoga student, Ina Plesca, who is the founder of My Mantra Active and New Horizon Escapes. While Part 1 focused on how I adopted a healthy lifestyle, and made fitness my passion, after overcoming obesity as a teenager, Part 2 of this interview covered how I came to live my dream as the co-founder and co-owner of Ocean Sound Dive + Yoga. You can view the original interview on the My Mantra website here, or you can read below.
I also want to take a moment to give huge thanks to every single person who has been a part of my journey so far - it's because of all of you that I'm able to live my dream every single day.
Q - So Cynthia, tell us more about life before the island & yoga?
Well I grew up in Canada, and as I mentioned in our previous interview, I grew up as an awkward, brainy kid who mostly just spent time with books and animals. I was very academic, and very unathletic. I went to university with the plan to become a vet. However, I took some courses in ecology (the study of nature and the interactions among living beings), and primatology (the study of monkeys, apes, other primates, and evolution) and loved those courses so much I decided to change my programs and ended up graduating at 23 years of age with two Honours degrees - one in ecology, and one in primatology. I was meant to get my PhD in primatology, and traveled to Belize, in Central America, several times, to live in the jungle and study monkeys. To make a long story short, as much as I loved being in the forest, and was very successful in my program, I didn’t want to end up with a desk job and knew I hadn’t yet found my purpose. So I quit grad school to figure out what exactly I was meant to do with my life. I fell in love with the ocean, and SCUBA diving, while living and traveling through Central America, and that’s what led me to Koh Tao.
Q - How, when & why did you move to Koh Tao?
I came to Koh Tao in February 2009 to do my SCUBA dive instructor training. Basically I was in Canada after returning from Belize a few months prior, with no real plan, and I had a friend who had previously visited Koh Tao to do his divemaster training and raved about the island. It seemed like a cool place so I sold all my possessions and bought a flight.
Q - Why did you decide to open a yoga studio?
Well my good friend and I started Ocean Sound Dive + Yoga first as a website, so that our dive and yoga students could pass our information on to others in a more professional way than just through a Facebook contact, for example. We built the website ourselves, and eventually started getting inquiries from travellers who found us online and liked our vibe. We were teaching diving and yoga out of other establishments on Koh Tao - basically bringing in customers to teach ourselves. In time Ocean Sound evolved to a point where it was logical to open our own dive school and yoga studio. That wasn’t our initial goal - we just wanted to share our passions for yoga and diving, and that’s still what we’re about.
Q - Did you have many negative comments from people around that didn't believe in what you want to do?
Q - How did you fund your business?
Well, the initial investment in Ocean Sound was our $10 domain name registration fee. Since we built the website ourselves and operated out of other dive shops and yoga studios initially, we didn’t have any other overhead costs. Then the business grew from there as we saved up and reinvested into the company as it evolved.
Q - How did you stay calm during the process of opening a business? It can be a very tough and challenging time.
It happened gradually and organically, so I pretty much just rode the wave and kept my priorities in line - which have always been to just do what I love to the best of my abilities. The biggest leap in terms of workload was when we opened our own locations and had to do everything from get dive and yoga equipment to create paperwork to hire staff. My business partners and I are great friends and we make an amazing team, so we just supported each other and worked together to make it happen. It was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t say it was stressful… but maybe that’s just cause of all the yoga I do! Ocean Sound is still a work in progress, of course. We always strive to improve.
Q - Now that you already have 1 business, do you find it easier to come up with & go ahead with other business ventures?
I’m not particularly interested in business ventures themselves. I’m interested in living every day with joy and fulfillment and the knowledge that I’m fulfilling my purpose and benefiting the lives of others. That’s why I started Ocean Sound, and it’s my baby - I haven’t actually pursued any other business ventures as I give OS my all.
Q - If you could do any other business, what would you be and why?
If I was going to pursue another business it would definitely be something involving wellness, like Ocean Sound. It would be an addition to OS, rather than a different venture. Since I love fitness, I’ve been considering getting qualified as a personal trainer, I’ve already studied to be a nutritionist, and I’ve toyed with the idea of opening a healthy, high vibe restaurant since I love to cook (and eat!)... but honestly Ocean Sound keeps me busy and fulfilled!
Q - What advise do you give to someone who'd love to move to another country, start a new business & life the life of their dreams?
Q - If you could change something now about anything you did wrong in your business in the past, what would it be & why?
I wouldn’t change anything! I’ve learned from every bump in the road… evolution moves forward, not backward, so I could never say I’d want to change anything about any aspect of my past.
Q - Take us through a very short list of things to do when wanting to open a yoga studio business...
Q - Is it challenging with the legal side of things when it comes to being a business owner in Thailand?
Not really- we have a great lawyer who facilitates paperwork and all that jazz. We have a fantastic relationship with our surrounding community and Thai friends who are always willing to help us, give advice, or keep us in the loop. We keep our business completely legit and do everything by the book, so we don’t have any troubles.
Q - Do you have any business partners? If so, what is everyone's responsibility?
Sure do! Two of my best friends, Will North and Jesper Ahrentz. We all met on Koh Tao - Jesper has been here since 2000 and Will arrived a few months before I did. They are my family. The guys manage the dive school while I run the yoga studio, and the three of us collaborate on all the overall business responsibilities. We each have different strengths so we’re able to individually focus on what we’re best at and we really make a great team.
Q - We know that it can take anywhere between 1-5 years for a business to make a profit. What's the case for you? Don't give us numbers, just tell us if this kind of business pays bills and allows you to travel, splash out on new yoga leggings etc.
Q - And finally, what advise would you give to someone who wants to become a business owner, but has no business ideas. Where should they start looking?
They should start by looking within to see what makes their souls shine. I’ve become a business owner sort of by default - because I needed to share my passion for yoga and diving and basically just living in the realest, most authentic way possible. The only way I could do that was by being my own boss. My purpose was never to be a business owner. My purpose is to help people believe in themselves and live their lives on their own terms. Owning a yoga studio and dive school is just the medium through which I do my life’s work.
Hey everyone! I recently had the honour of being interviewed my my friend and yoga student, Ina Plesca, who is the founder of My Mantra Active and New Horizon Escapes. You can view the original interview here, or read below. Ocean Sound Yoga stocks a wide range of My Mantra leggings and bikinis so you can get yourself some high quality activewear while you dive and practice yoga with us in paradise!
Q - So Cynthia you are the queen of many things. You have moved to a tropical island, you have started yoga, opened your own yoga studio, started BBG training, lost a lot of weight & toned up, got featured in many online magazines & it looks like things won't end here. How do you feel about your journey so far?
Well, to say that my dreams have all come true would be both super cheesy, and also inaccurate - because I honestly never knew my life could be this great. I really feel like I’ve found my purpose, and I wake up every morning excited for whatever is to come. I truly love my life. Having said that, I’m still on an ongoing journey and will continue to evolve and face new challenges, and to see what the universe has in store for me.
Q - So tell us more about the young girl, before the island life?
Q - What does yoga mean to you & how do you apply it to life?
This is a big question. Really, yoga is the process of connecting to our true selves. It doesn’t have to include yoga asana (the poses), but they are a great tool to apply. When it comes down to it, we are all brave, strong, incredible people who can accomplish anything we put our minds to, and who are capable of making our own dreams come true. But throughout our lives we can disconnect from our natural state, as we are obliged to play certain roles in society, as media gives us certain (unrealistic) expectations to live up to, and we then begin to limit ourselves. Through the practice of yoga (which may or may not take place on a yoga mat) we begin to let go of these artificial limitations we’ve placed on ourselves, and we learn how to take risks, face our fears of failure, and to eventually turn impossible things into everyday things. That’s when magic happens. Yoga is also the process of connecting - once we’re not so caught up in our own stories and our authentic selves shine, we can connect to one another in an authentic manner, and realize that we’re all equals; then, rather than competing against one another, we support each other and our collective vibration can rise. Everyone benefits.
As for how I apply yoga to life, I don’t consider my yoga practice and my daily life to be separate things. Sure, there are times when I am practicing poses on my mat, but I approach my life the way I do my asana practice. I don’t back down from challenges, I push myself to do things that are hard, or scary, I practice letting go of attachment when things don’t work out the way I had hoped or expected, and I give myself the chance to make mistakes and to keep moving forward.
Q: When did you start BBG and how is your exprience with Kayla's programme so far?
Q - So from start to end, how much weight have you lost & what has been the most challenging thing to get to where you are now?
I'm not 100% positive what my highest weight was but I know it was higher than 95kg (over 200lbs). I reached my peak weight when I was around 16 years old. Now I weigh about 63kg, so I’ve lost over 30kg - but in fact I have way more muscle now than I ever did, so I’d say I’ve lost probably at least 40kg of body fat… probably more. I’d say the hardest part of the journey was the beginning - especially as it was at a time when we didn’t have internet and social media to share information, and when fitness wasn’t really a thing among my peers. Of course there were athletes at my school but for the rest of us fitness wasn’t really something that people were into, and so I had no idea where to begin. I was also really unhappy with myself and didn’t really know if it would be possible to change my life - I certainly never expected it to change as much as it did!
Q - How do you stay active on the island?
It’s really easy to stay active on Koh Tao! I currently do BBG 3 days per week, and go to the gym to lift weights another 3 days per week. I teach 3-6 yoga classes per week on average, and most days also take a class at my studio or practice on my own. I also do cardio 4-5 days per week - if I want something high intensity I run treadmill sprints or do skipping intervals at home, but I also really love hiking around the island (in the past 6 days I’ve hiked over 50km!). Of course I also go SCUBA diving when I have the time, and also love stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and swimming.
Q - We know you travel a lot. How do you stay active/healthy while travelling?
I always make sure to keep my activity levels up when I travel - not because I feel like I have to, but because I love to! BBG is great because it’s super easy to maintain when I’m traveling. Each circuit is only 28 minutes, and although some of the exercises use equipment it’s easy to modify or substitute them when I’m on the road. I do also try to stay in hotels with gyms (easy in lots of SE Asia), and if I’m in the western world like Europe or Australia I love to go to their lush gyms (pro tip: lots of gyms give a free day or week trial!). I also pack smart - I always bring a travel yoga mat, lots of activewear, and resistance bands plus a jump rope so I can workout anywhere. Anyway, most of my travels are super adventurous and active. I was in the Philippines not long ago and spent the trip mountain biking, paddleboarding, diving, hiking, etc.. I also love to explore new places on foot so I get in lots of cardio :)
As for nutrition, I do love to eat fresh and natural foods so I maintain a pretty healthy diet when I travel, but I also love to eat and don’t want to limit myself at all so I am happy to indulge, especially as I find food is such a huge part of getting to know a new part of the world. Anyway, I need the fuel for all my activities!
Q - What's your next fitness challenge?
Q - What's your advise for those who want to get healthier in 2017?
My advise is to make slow, gradual changes to your life, because this is how long-term, sustainable, healthy changes happen. While I’m super grateful for social media and the internet, and think it’s an amazing tool for conveying information, I also see a lot of girls putting pressure on themselves to adopt a “healthy lifestyle” all at once, which often means starting a rigorous exercise program while also taking on a drastic change in nutrition and really going to extremes. This isn’t healthy or sustainable. I’ve changed my life slowly, over time - and if, as a 95kg 16 year old, I’d tried to live a day in the life I’m living now, I never would have been able to stick with it (nevermind enjoy it). Evolution needs to happen gradually - and it’s also not a linear process, so be gentle with yourself! Please don’t obsess over a skipped workout, or deny yourself a delicious dessert in a foreign country, or a night out with friends. I’ve been there, and I’ve done that, and I can tell you it’s not worth it. Fitness is part of a healthy lifestyle, but so are nights out and indulgent meals and most of all, having a positive attitude towards yourself. Go slow, and remember that your journey will be unique - you don’t need to follow anyone else’s footsteps, including mine.
Q - And finally how can more women follow their dreams and do what you did? Move to paradise, start a business, dive, travel, eat well & live life on their own terms? We know most of our readers would love to know more about this question, so that's why there will be a part 2 Q&A where Cynthia will tell us more about how to become a GirlBoss (A new motivational Blog Post series coming every single Monday, from female bosses around the world).
My number one bit of advise: stop doing what you don’t want to do. Many people are unsatisfied with their lives but don’t know what they really want, or they are waiting for the “right time” to make a change. There will never be a perfect time to make a change. It’s always going to be risky. That’s why it’s worthwhile. You also don’t need to know what your purpose is, or what you want to do with your lift. It’s enough to know what you don’t want to do, and to stop doing it. When I changed my life, I had no idea I’d end up here. I didn’t even know that’s what I wanted. But I knew what I didn’t want and that was enough. Leap into the unknown, have faith, and trust that everything will work out better than you ever could have imagined.
In my last tutorial, I showed you a couple of ways to introduce blocks into your handstand practice. Once you've given those a try and are ready to take it to the next level, try this:
Use a block under just 1 hand to create an uneven foundation
This is a great prep for a 1-handed handstand, really helps to strengthen the obliques (side abs), and, of course, makes regular handstands feel way easier. Playing with variations like this is also a great reminder that we never need to get caught up in “doing” a pose, as there will always be another pose/ variation/ transition to work on - we’ll never be perfect, and we’ll never be done, so all we can do is work hard + have fun. Start off with just one block under one hand, and eventually build up to using two or more blocks (or other sturdy objects).
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Set a solid foundation
Notice in this video that the bent arm (the one on blocks) is a bit further back than the straight arm. To have healthy alignment in wrists + elbows + shoulders, stack the shoulder of your straight arm over the knuckles (not the wrist) of that hand. For the bent arm, align the elbow directly over the wrist, so your forearm is perpendicular to the ground.
2. Use your core!
When you kick up you’ll need a bit more momentum than if both your hands were on the ground. Keep your top leg straight and come up on the exhale, using your core to pull you up as much as possible.
3. Square your hips
As you lift off, your hips will naturally want to go off to the side that is lower (so if your right hand is on blocks, your hips will want to go to the left). Be mindful of this, and use your obliques to pull your hips over your shoulders.
4. Use your legs for balance
Use your legs to help you balance. If you don't come quite far enough into the handstand, use your top leg to reach forward and help pull your hips up. If you come up a little bit too much, pull your bottom leg either in towards your chest or down towards the ground to restabilize yourself.
Let me know how it goes, or if you have any fun handstand variations for me to try!
1. Place a block under your standing leg
If the block isn't high enough (i.e. if you still feel you need to kick a lot to lift off the ground), just put your foot on something taller such as a sturdy chair or well-mannered Shetland pony (demo not available)
Benefit: Helps build core strength and allows you to learn the feeling of “lifting” rather than “swinging” into the inversion.
2. Place blocks under your hands
Benefit: Builds mega core strength, and makes regular handstands feel easier and more effortless in comparison!
Stay tuned for more tutorials, or check out our Events to see when I'm teaching our next inversions workshop to come practice with me in person!
If you have any questions, comments, or want to know more about my journey, please let me know in the comments below! I've posted lots of photos on my Instagram, so if you want to see more, I'm at @cynthiajoanneyoga. One Love!
Handstand Tip #1
Handstand Tip #2
When people are working on handstand it's very common to kick the legs up overhead while not quite getting the hips up, resulting in a sway back, therefore losing the integrity of the core (this is different than intentionally back bending in an inversion, with core well engaged). A stable core is essential for a steady and comfortable handstand! If you experience this bananaback situation, try kicking up slowly with the top leg straight, but then bend your bottom leg and hug it into your chest, like I'm showing in the video. This will maintain length in the lower back, a strong core, and you will banana back no more! Remember to keep both legs super active- reach your top leg up while you pull your bottom thigh towards your ribs.
PS. The leggings I'm wearing are made by Inner Fire Apparel (out of recycled plastic bottles!) You can use coupon code "CynthiaN" on checkout to save 15% on myinnerfire.com, or "CynNayda" on amazon.ca or amazon.com.
Tutorials, yoga playlists, philosophy, high vibe recipes, and food for thought.