Yoga With Serene - Part 2 of 3

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After knowing what basic yoga is all about in my previous post Yoga With Serene - Part 1, here's a post to know a little more about the instructor.

Let's hear what Serene says about herself:

I have always been drawn towards discovering how to live better in union with universal forces. Like most people though, I found myself moving through life keeping busy. I dabbled my hands in various activities which included a brief stint working at a maximum security prison as an Assistant Superintendent, tram-guiding at the Singapore Night Safari, banking, teaching and at some point singing in a band. All these experiences enriched me as a person for sure. But, something was still missing. At the end of each day, I often found myself scrambling for a sliver of time to gather my thoughts and reset my energy. I was also struggling to squeeze in time to sleep better, eat right, exercise and take better care of my health.


And so, my journey with yoga started when I realised that I had to stop running away from myself. It came from the realization that doing more does not equate doing better. After experimenting with Ashtanga Yoga and Hot Yoga in Singapore, I found myself completing a RYT 200 yoga training course on the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh (yoga capital of the world). Through my practice, I was better able to see the beauty of embracing wherever I was in life, with all my seeming ‘imperfections’. The complexity of fumbling through a worldwind of daunting choices was beautifully simplified to the decision of  choosing to be laser focused on the task ahead, one breath at a time. The sense of calmness that came with the practice of yoga had a profound spillover effect in possibly every other area of my life. 



Moving forward, I will be opening up 1-1 lessons in the future for students who wish to take private classes in the comfort of their homes as I did receive some enquiries from people who prefer to have more focused attention. I will also be looking at integrating yoga therapy along with transformational life coaching for a more holistic approach at enhancing a person’s wellbeing. I am very excited at this possibility as personal development has always been a strong passion of mine even during my time with the Ministry of Education where I taught for 9 years at college level. 



This integration of yoga therapy and transformational life coaching will be particularly suited for individuals wanting to make breakthroughs in other aspects of their lives beyond their health. They may want to also work on their self-esteem, relationships, careers or other aspects of their lives where they are experiencing challenges. I am currently enrolled with the Inspired Spirit Coaching Academy and have started coaching clients from all over the world. If you would like to find out more about my transformational life coaching services, visit http://www.serenitysecretscoaching.com/. I am offering a complimentary 30mins coaching session for individuals keen on exploring this.

The exact timing of when exactly I will be combining yoga therapy with transformational coaching is yet to be seen but it is an area I’m keen on exploring. The reason is simple. To me, real health and wellbeing goes beyond being able to reach your toes or do a backbend.  Neither is it simply the absence of illness.  It involves having the will to overcome adversities and being committed to using one’s own personal transformation as the first step towards attaining your heart’s desires. 

Thank you so much for featuring me in your blog! It has been a real pleasure!


Serene will be running a Yoga series (Hatha-Yin fusion) in June.  In these Hatha-Yin classes, you will get the opportunity to strike a balance between practising more energetic, active poses in the Hatha sequence and at the same time experience the simplicity and restorative bliss of Yin practice. There will also be nice soothing music sourced from the waters of the Ganges, Rishikesh. You get to enjoy all this in the comfort of the All About Yoga studio that is spacious and full of natural light. 

This Yoga series is suitable for:
Beginners to yoga who are curious about the practice.
Moderate ability practitioners and anyone who would appreciate a programme that balances the rigour of Hatha Yoga with the soothing effects of Yin Yoga.
Mothers who are looking for a means to speed up post-delivery toning and strengthening of their bodies.

It runs from 17th June to 16th July 2016Classes will run every Friday (7.30 pm to 9 pm) & Saturday (1pm to 2.30 pm) for 5 weeks. The usual price is $400, but Serene is giving all an exclusive introductory offer of $200 for these 10 sessions. All the sessions will be held at All About Yoga Studio. For more information on the classes and to sign up, visit www.yogawithserene.com and fill up the contact form at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you may email Serene at yogawithserene@gmail.com. Reservation will be confirmed upon full payment. Registration will close once maximum class size of 20 is reached.


All About Yoga Studio is located at 605B MacPherson Road, #05-11, Citimac, Singapore 368241. It is within walking distance from Tai Seng MRT station.


I will be taking part in the classes, would you like to join me in these Yoga sessions too?

Splash @ Kidz Amaze (Punggol)

[Media Invite]


Residents of Punggol and Seng Kang 有福了! Not only is Safra club opened in Punggol, Splash @ Kidz Amaze waterplay is also in the clubhouse. More than that, it is the first and only indoor waterplay available in Singapore currently. So whether it is rain or shine, you have a place where your active children could unleash their energy.


The ticketing area
Note: No food and drinks are allowed inside

You have to set your expectation right before you step in. This place is not big. It only has a main waterplay area with 5 slides and a wading area with many water jets apparatus.


The Main Waterplay Area







The ceiling is not concealed, I guess it is to enable better circulation of air and to prevent humidity from building up. However, it may also mean when there is strong wind in a storm, rainwater will get in. I'm not sure if this section will be closed if this happens though.

The ceiling

There are a few things I noticed that worth mentioning here. One of them is the adequate number of facilitators around the main waterplay area. I think this safety feature is extremely important for parents who bring children of a ratio of more than 1 adult to 1 child (like 1 adult to 2 children). With more eyes around, there is assurance that water safety measures are observed and that no bullies could take advantage of the situation.


video


The Wading Pool

The Octopus marked the transition from main waterplay area to the wading pool area


The touchscreen projector that sent ripples to the 'ocean' whenever one touches the wall 


video

One other thing that worth mentioning is the availability of water cooler. In event that the water supply you brought along runs low, freak not, you can have it replenished here. It is located beside the toilets at the wading pool area.


And they have really huge party rooms which I think is worthy of mentioning too. Having big party room means you can accommodate more people in your party, more space for the children to run around or more space for you to plan other party activities.

There are a total of 3 such party rooms available in Safra Punggol Splash @ Kidz Amaze


Splash @ Kidz Amaze is only meant for children aged 18 months to 13 years of age. Children have to be strictly in swimming attire. No diapers are allowed in the pool, please use swimming diapers if necessary. For adults who would want to be in the water area with the children, please wear dri-fit top and shorts or swimming attire.



The Splash @ Kidz Amaze is small, in my opinion, it suits children aged 4-8 more. Older kids might find it boring after a while, but if they go with friends, some how they would spend more time playing.  AJ and 2 other friends spent 1.5hours there, not without much persuasion to get them out of the water.

I reckoned that it would be super crowded on weekends and public holidays, so you might want to consider going on a weekday instead. We went there on a Tuesday afternoon and the place was already quite occupied. I can only imagine how the weekend crowd would be. 

A helpful tip to you: schools will be closed on 23rd May (Mon) as an off-in-lieu for the Vesak Day on 21st May (Sat), but most adults have to work. You might want to consider taking leave ;) to bring your kiddos there instead?


Yoga With Serene - Part 1 of 3

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I realised a drastic drop in my health condition and physical being when my biological clock strikes 40. It's scary and alarming. Back in my 20s, I can run in my 3-inch high heels, now I wear flats or at best 1-inch heels. I used to eat like a cow and not grow fat, now I put on weight even when I breathe. I used to live on a 6-hour sleep, now I turned zombie with less than 8-hour sleep.  I used to do cart-wheel even in my 20s, now I think my wrist might break. What's happening here?  Obviously, my metabolism has dropped, my stamina has gone down the drain, my muscles are losing strength and my body is no longer as flexible.

I know I need to do something. So I strive to eat and drink better and do a little running to build up my stamina. But what about core muscles which I need to strengthen and improve their flexibility?


Our body has 29 core muscles located mostly in our back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout our entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support our back, make our spine and body less prone to injury and help us gain greater balance and stability. Pilates and yoga are great for strengthening our core muscles. - Dr. Mercola


So when Serene, a yoga instructor, approached me for collaboration, I was elated! How do you know that I was contemplating Yoga, Serene? It was so timely! But, before I agreed to Serene's proposal, I did my research but ended up with more confusion than not. So I asked the professional instead.




There are many different types of yoga, how do individuals, particularly those new to yoga (like me), figure out which particular one is right for them? I asked Serene Martin for advice.

Serene: Those new to yoga may initially be intimidated as there are several types of yoga including Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Hot Yoga. Individuals should choose a style that really suits their own personal preferences and bodily needs. That requires a certain amount of experimentation with different styles and it would be good to at least try a few sessions of a particular style before deciding if it's your cup of tea as a you will only better appreciate the subtle nuances of the practice over time. Yoga Journal gives a nice breakdown of some of the major styles of yoga and what you can expect. 

Although certain forms of yoga such as Ashtanga or Hot Yoga are often considered more challenging and rigorous compared to other forms like Hatha or Yin Yoga, yoga instructors are constantly customising their classes to cater to the needs of different students. So, you will notice that there are studios offering beginner classes for various styles of yoga. After experimenting with different types of yoga, you may find that one style really suits so you end up sticking with it. However, you may end up being drawn to other styles over time depending on your individual circumstances such as your age, health or energy levels. Every style has its merits and no style is better or worse than the other. So most importantly, assess which style works best for you and enjoy your practice! 


What is Hatha Yoga? And what are the benefits of practising it?

Serene: The "ha" in Hatha means “sun” and the "tha" means “moon.” This refers to the balance of opposing energies within all of us. There are nearly 200 hatha yoga postures with hundreds of variations. You certainly do not need to know how to perform all Hatha postures to benefit from the practice. 

The postures work to make the spine supple and promote circulation in all the organs, glands, and tissues. Hatha postures also stretches and align the body, promotes balance and flexibility. It is a powerful tool for self-transformation as it enhances your breath-body-mind coordination and in doing so makes you more focused on embracing each moment as it unfolds. If done at a faster pace in a flow sequence, it can also be a good form of cardiovascular workout that builds stamina and burns more calories.

Some Hatha Yoga Poses
A classic sequence that is often integrated into Hatha Yoga classes is the Surya Namaskar (‘Sun Salutations’). The sun salutations comprises a sequence of 12 yoga postures which includes a number of forward and backward bends. If done quickly, it provides a good cardiovascular workout.  When done at a slower pace, these postures help tone the muscles and are more meditative and can relaxing. Regular practice of the Sun Salutations improves the functions of the all major bodily organs, reduces stiffness in the body, enhances blood circulation and ensures proper functioning of the nerve centers. You will be exposed to different variations of the Sun Salutations in my classes. But if you are ready to try, watch this video below.





What then is Yin Yoga and what are the benefits of practising it? 

Serene: Compared to other styles of yoga, Yin Yoga is much more passive and consists of a series of stretches that are held for about 3-5 minutes each. The yin poses target the connective tissues that tend to get stiff and immobile because of a variety of reasons ranging from stress, poor postures which disrupt the alignment of the body and age.

Yin yoga enhances the mobility of joints, improves flexibility and can assists with muscle recovery from other more strenuous forms of exercise. This is why it is also a nice complement to a more vigorous style of yoga practice as it induces a sense of deep relaxation. Because of the time between each posture, Yin yoga is also excellent in training the mind to be patient and tune in to the various sensations that are being felt in the body. Students may initially feel bored or impatient when holding the poses. Some may feel discomfort as they have hardly experienced the outcomes of doing such stretches before. But, over time, the relationship that students have with these thoughts change as they learn to surrender into each pose and enjoy the sense of calm and rejuvenation that comes after each yin practice.
     
There are a full range of Yin Yoga poses ranging from the ‘Sphinx’, ‘Stir Up’ to ‘Caterpillar’. A deeply restorative pose that’s often done in Yin Yoga is the reclined butterfly pose. To get into the pose, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the legs to open. Relax the inner thighs and groin.  To deepen the stretch on your thighs, place your hands on your thighs and gently rotate your inner thighs externally, pressing your outer thighs away from the sides of your torso. Although it may seem as if this pose only targets the inner thighs, it also enhances blood circulation in the lower abdomen, improves digestion and increases hip mobility. 


You may also refer to this link for some beginners' yoga poses. 


I understand that you have a Yoga series (
Hatha-Yin fusion) coming up in June, could you share more about it?

Serene: In my Hatha-Yin classes, you will get the opportunity to strike a balance between practising more energetic, active poses in the Hatha sequence and at the same time experience the simplicity and restorative bliss of Yin practice. There will also be nice soothing music sourced from the waters of the Ganges, Rishikesh. You get to enjoy all this in the comfort of the All About Yoga studio that is spacious and full of natural light. 

This Yoga series is suitable for:
Beginners to yoga who are curious about the practice.
Moderate ability practitioners and anyone who would appreciate a programme that balances the rigour of Hatha Yoga with the soothing effects of Yin Yoga.
Mothers who are looking for a means to speed up post-delivery toning and strengthening of their bodies.

It runs from 17th June to 16th July 2016. Classes will run every Friday (7.30 pm-9 pm) & Saturday (1pm-2.30 pm) for 5 weeks. The usual price is $400, but I am giving all an exclusive introductory offer of $200 for these 10 sessions. All the sessions will be held at All About Yoga Studio. For more information on the classes and to sign up, visit www.yogawithserene.com and fill up the contact form at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you may email me at yogawithserene@gmail.com. Reservation will be confirmed upon full payment. Registration will close once maximum class size of 20 is reached.

* All About Yoga Studio is located at 605B MacPherson Road, #05-11, Citimac, Singapore 368241. It is within walking distance from Tai Seng MRT station.


Would you like to join me in these Yoga sessions?






Fostering A Child

[Event Highlight]


Not many parents have thought of adoption or fostering, I know of some who have, and I personally have too. Whether it is adoption or fostering, I am still praying for God's guidance and His timing.

When I was approached by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to share with you the roadshow at Serangoon NEX from 9 to 15 May 2016 to promote the MSF Fostering Scheme, I gladly do so.



What is the Fostering Scheme?

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) administers the Fostering Scheme for children below the age of 18 years. The MSF provide an alternative care arrangement for children whose parents or guardians are unable to look after them. In some cases this is due to their parents’ ill-health or incarceration; some foster children have also been abandoned, neglected or ill-treated by their families.


Foster parents come from different walks of life with one thing in common - they want to make a difference to these children’s lives. More than just a roof over their heads, foster parents step in to provide them with nurturance, stability and love. Foster care allows these vulnerable children to be cared for and thrive in a warm and conducive home environment.



If you can offer a child a home and encouragement for a brighter and more secure future, please call MSF at 6354-8799 or visit www.msf.gov.sg/fostering to find out more. 

There will also be a fostering roadshow starting from 9-15 May, 11am - 9pm daily at NEX Mall Level 1


Touch a Life
Foster a Child 
Makes a Difference



The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) in Singapore - Part 1 of 4


If your child is now in his/her Primary 3 level, studying in a mainstream government school, he/she would have already received notification of this nation-wide exercise called the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) that will be carried out in August (Screening Stage) and October (Selection Stage) respectively.


The eligibility to participate in the Selection Stage is based on pupils’ performance in the 2 papers at the Screening Stage (English Language and Mathematics), and selection for entry into the GEP is based on all the 3 papers at the Selection Stage (English Language, Mathematics, and General Ability).  - MOE GEP website

The August Screening Test is open to all Primary 3 students. Parents who do not want to let their children take part in this test can opt out of it. It is not compulsory to participate. There will be a consent form given out to all students around August and parents can indicate their desire on it.


AJ took his GEP tests last year

The August Screening Test will be held in the students' schools during school hours. This year, 2016, the Screening Test will be held on 26 August. The subjects tested are English (1 hour 15 min) and Mathematics (1 hour 30 min), basing on what they have learnt from Primary 1 to 3 but the questions are more difficult than those usually assigned in schools. There will be multiple-choice and open-ended questions. After the Screening Test, about 10% of the top performers in the cohort will then be invited to participate in the October Selection Test. That would be about 3000-5000 students, depending on the size of the cohort.

Should you allow your child to participate in the GEP August Screening Test? The answer is really up to you. I do have friends who opted out of Screening Test because they are very sure their children would not be able to make it to GEP. These parents know their children well. Their children's academic results have all along been borderline. They see no value-add in taking these tests.  They also find that, given their children's abilities, these tests do more harm than benefits. Their children might get more discouraged about their abilities. Of course, their teachers will also give them advice whether to opt out or not. 

Should you decide to opt in for the Screening Test, whether or not your child got invited to participate in the next stage (the Selection Stage), the results will not be made known to you. All test results are kept confidential in the GE department with Ministry of Education (MOE) for their studies.

If your children are selected for the next stage (the Selection Stage in October), it is highly possible that, even if they are not gifted academically, they are of high ability.  If they have outstanding performance in the Selection Tests but not selected to join the GEP, it is likely that they will be invited to participate in E2K Science and Mathematics programme in Primary 4. I will not be discussing about E2K here. You may click on this link to find out more.

And the next hot discussion topic is: Whether you should prepare your child for this Screening Test. If you ask the MOE, they will say 'No'.


We urge parents not to enrol their children in test-preparation activities for the identification exercise. Test-preparation activities could inflate pupils’ scores and not reflect their actual potential. Pupils who are not ready to handle the intellectual rigour and demands of the GEP will struggle to cope with the enriched curriculum and not benefit fully from it. - MOE GEP Website

There are quite a few reputable enrichment centres which run GEP preparation courses, particularly during the June school holiday. I believe these prep courses will not be able to 'improve' your child's giftedness, but they do provide a good exposure for your child in terms of the test format, the types of questions asked, etc. If you have spare time (because they are intensive) and money (because they don't come cheap), there is no harm attending them as they will expose your child to those questions as long as you have the understanding that it is highly unlikely that your child's IQ will increase as a result.  Do note that these GEP prep courses may backfire too. Your child may get discouraged by the difficulty and as a result, developed an inner fear for the Screening Test which might hinders his/her performance in the real tests.



The GEP route is not a bed of roses, neither should it be deem as elitism. It is really just an alternative route for high intellectual potential students to develop at different rates and allow them to blossom at their own pace. The curriculum (which is different from mainstream) is rigorous and it does not suit everyone. Forcing your child through to this path might bring more harm to him/her than not. GEP or not, ultimately both parties (GEP and mainstream) have to sit on the same judgement throne - the PSLE.

More importantly, you recognise that your child may have other strength other than academic intelligence or cognitive ability. Every child has one or more unique intelligence factors, be it in sports, music, interpersonal, etc. The MOE GEP only sieves out the more academic intelligence ones. The rest of the the intelligence factors have not been taken into consideration.

I happened to come across this blog post about a child going through GEP. You might want to read it. And another one right from the mouth of a GEP student here.

For more information about GEP, please read up on MOE's website.



I will write about the Screening Test and the Selection Test in July and October respectively. Do stay connected via my Facebook Fanpage or Google+ for updates.


Updated on 28th July - Part 2 is here.


Tulipmania At Gardens By The Bay

[Media Invite]


The tulips are back to Gardens by the Bay this year for the fourth time. If you have missed the last three, don't miss it this year. If you have been to any in the last three years, you might want to know that this year's Tulipmania display at Gardens by the Bay features more than 35,000 tulips in the Flower Dome. It is definitely worth visiting it again.




EVENT DETAILS

Date: 8 Apr 2016 - 22 May 2016
Time: 9 am - 9 pm
Admission charge to Flower Dome applies

Local senior citizens (60 years old and above) enjoy 50% off admission tickets to the Flower Dome!
Offer starts Friday, 08 April and lasts till Sunday, 22 May.
Terms and conditions apply.


TULIPMANIA SNAP & WIN!

Contest Period: 18 Apr - 22 May 2016
Capture a moment of happiness at Tulipmania and stand to win an exclusive tulip-inspired designer tulip pouches

How to participate:
Step 1: Take a photo of Tulipmania display, using the photo frame provided in the Flower Dome.
Step 2: Upload your photo on Instagram and add a caption to say why you love Tulipmania
Step 3: Hashtag #gardensbythebay and #GBtulipmania, #KLM for a chance to win exclusive prizes!

There will be 2 winners each week on Instagram and website. Winners will be notified via Instagram on 25 April, 3, 9, 16 and 23 May.