Posted in Change, Life Style

The Healing Power of A Makeover

Earlier this year, I spoke at Quality Forum’s Health Talks event. We were asked to speak on what we wished for the future of health care.

This style of speech is Pecha Kucha Style. 20 seconds per slide.

Posted in Life Style

To Love Yourself Unconditionally, The Mighty Mantra Power

I Am Enough

One of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can’t find someone to love, wear a bathing suit, find a better job or leave a situation that no longer serves us until we lose weight. Instead of viewing the world around us as a place where we can not have the things we desire until we are thin enough, perhaps we should start by telling ourselves, “We are enough.”

Last Year I participated in the #IAmEnough Campaign by Raw Beauty Talks.


I got caught up in my day to day life and sometimes forgot. This quote came up on my facebook. Instead of reading it and sharing it, and forgetting about it when the next inspirational quote came along, I’ve been practicing it. In the privacy of my room, I am comfortable looking at myself in the mirror and really seeing myself. When I look at my reflection, I can say,”I accept myself unconditionally right now.”



Where my self doubt and negative self talk threatens to destroy my self esteem is the occasional glimpse of myself in the mirror at a fitness class. Long held behaviour pattern that threatened my self esteem whenever I saw myself in the mirror at ballet class as a child. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from my image but wanted to curl up in fetal position and hide from the reflection of myself in the mirror. Although I’ve had a lot of support of shifting my perception, occasionally I struggle with body image issues.

Myself, Emily, Randi and Amanda - our Saturday morning team at Tantra Fitness Mount Pleasant. Photo by Winnie
Myself, Emily, Randi and Amanda – our Saturday morning team at Tantra Fitness Mount Pleasant. Photo by Winnie

On Monday, I dropped into my friend, Emily’s TNA (tush and abs) class at Tantra Fitness. I was terrified to take her class. Emily is an amazing instructor and friend. When she only taught on Saturdays, I told myself that I would be too tired to teach my flexibility yoga class. With the new January schedule, Emily added additional TNA classes to her teaching schedule. “Now you can come to my class,” she said. With a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I agreed.

TNA is a cardio class with strength training and conditioning.  The sequences of grapevines, hamstring curls, jumping jacks, squats, and V steps reminded me of a 1980s aerobics class. That could be because with the exception of taking my group fitness training 12 years ago, I haven’t been near a cardio styled class. (Maybe because it is in water, aquafit doesn’t seem to be in that category. If I sweat, I don’t notice it). With a smile on her face, Emily led us through the sequences.

To my surprise, I loved it. A room packed full of like-minded women moving in sequence to the energetic music made me smile. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and faltered. Red faced and sweaty, the parts of my body that I get self-conscious of seemed magnified. For a moment I fumbled through the class a few steps behind everyone else. I couldn’t stop looking at myself in the mirror. Before I could do anything else, I took a deep breath. As the breath travelled through my body, I heard my inside voice saying, “I accept myself unconditionally right now.”

I accept myself unconditionally right now, I told myself. When I took a second look in the mirror as I repeated the mantra in my head, I felt a burst of energy. I could feel my shoulders melting away from my ears and my spine uncoiling itself. I smiled at myself and caught Emily’s eye in the mirror. She smiled. As I felt my body lengthen, I was grateful for my body. I could feel my heart pounding. I noticed I had melded into the rhythm of the class. I no longer stuck out like the girl on the wrong foot in a chorus line. I was me and that was okay.

With a burst of exhilaration, I felt so euphoric that I was able to finish Emily’s class and stay for the next class. On my way home, I marvelled over the burst of energy I infused myself with. By accepting myself unconditionally, I was able to do something that I thought I couldn’t do. When our self confidence fades for a moment or we fall into old behaviour patterns, if we can remember to breathe, sometimes we can move past it. And when we do, we can do anything!


Posted in Life Style

Trust, Leads to Friendship, Travel and Fun!

And So The Adventure Begins!

“Do you normally go to a different country to pick up a total stranger?” the border guard asked my friend, Alyssa. She paused for a moment before responding,”No. But I flew to Florida and that’s how I met my husband.” Bemused with her answer, the border guard let her drive from the Bellingham border into Canada to pick me up.

Alyssa wasn’t the only one who had people express concerns about meeting a complete stranger in another country. That Saturday afternoon, my friend, Catherine also expressed reservations about this adventure. “You don’t have this person’s phone number or the address of where you will be staying?” she asked. I appreciated Catherine’s concerns.  Although I knew this journey of heading across the border to get my Mind Body Barre training in Ferndale, Washington was low on the threat scale, I was a bit nervous too.

Growing up with an over-protective mother who wouldn’t let me go to people’s homes for play dates in case I “might get molested” created a life-long fear of going to people’s homes. When I dabbled in online dating, it was common practice for me to call my friend, Allan to say,”I’m meeting this guy at ______  (the public place for a meeting). He told me his name is _______________ and the contact info is (Phone number, email address, photo, dating website, and dating profile name). Please hang onto this just in case I end up chopped up into a million pieces.” In a slightly less dramatic fashion, I have shared this advice about meeting people on my old radio show, Sexy in Vancity Radio many times. Thankfully I’ve lived to tell many colourful stories of my dating adventures to the amusement and relief of my friends and radio show listeners.

Why was I breaking all of the rules on this journey? My new year’s resolution is to embrace adventure of wellness, laughter and friendship. Part of that journey is to let go of fear and learning how to trust. Trust doesn’t come easy to me. Walking down the street at night, I am ready to run. My eyes constantly scan behind parked cars and trees in case there might be a stranger ready to jump out at me. My heart pounds with fear and I remind myself to breathe.

Maybe the people who talk about manifesting what we want, are correct. If we have deep-rooted misgivings about something, the world around us comes up with situations to prove that we are right. What we believe to be true is true. It colours the lens we perceive the world through. When one sees the world through fear, the world seems like a scary place.

What might seem simple to some people seemed like challenges to me. I spent the next few weeks applying for a replacement driver’s license and new passport. At one point, I thought I wouldn’t be able to cross the border. I didn’t think my photo identification would arrive on time. What a relief it was to wrap up 2015 with a new passport and replacement for my drivers license.


Alyssa, the owner of Flow Motion studio who was hosting the MindBody Barre Training offered to pick me up the day before the training. I assumed I would be sleeping on her couch the night before the training.

Before I headed home to pack, I shared the details of the MindBody Barre training and studio with Catherine and said that I would let her know the details of where I would be staying as soon as I knew.

Through Facebook messaging, Alyssa let me know when she was leaving Ferndale. Once she crossed the border, she told me that she was turning off the data off her phone. Nervously I waited for her to arrive.

When the buzzer announced her arrival, I let her up. As soon as I opened the apartment door, I relaxed. As I met my new friend, I knew I had met another soul sister. There are certain people I’ve met where I instinctively trust. Alyssa was one of those people.

During the drive to Ferndale, I thanked her for driving to another country to pick me up for training. She said that sometimes she drives into Vancouver for lunch. To her it was simple. To me, it was a was an adventure. When she shared her story about crossing the border to come and get me, she told the border guard ,”She (yours truly)  teaches yoga and fitness – we are going to get along.”

I was inspired and moved by her trust and graciousness. I wondered what life could be like if I looked at it with trust instead of caution. Maybe I might see opportunities that I couldn’t see before. By approaching life with excitement instead of fear, maybe life would feel easier.

When we crossed the border and drove into the state of Washington, I felt like a girl going to her first dance. Although it was less than an 1.5 hour drive, I was in a different country.

We stopped at Flow Motion 1920 Main Street Suite 19, Carnation Building, Ferndale, Washington. The best description of Flow Motion is a “wellness sanctuary.” The care and grace Alyssa had shown to me, was reflected in every inch of her studio. The heritage building had high ceilings and felt like a spa. Chandeleir, and fireplace in the reception area, zero gravity massage chair, relaxation loungeinfrared therapy room, essential oil stations, dressing rooms, and aromatouch room made me wish I lived in Ferndale. I was shocked that for her gold membership to Flow Motion, one could get unlimited classes including ( yoga, piyo, belly dance fitness, insanity and deep stretch, and zumba), 4 zero gravity massage chair sessions and 4 aroma touch treatments was only $139 per month. If I lived closer to the border, it would be hard to keep me away from there! The tranquil space immediately relaxed me and inspired me.

She asked if I wanted to check into my hotel before heading to dinner. I said,”Yes.” I thanked her for making a reservation and wondered how much the rate would be. I hadn’t factored in the cost of a hotel but was excited to be staying at one.  One of my favourite parts of staying at a hotel is swimming in the pool and enjoying a soak in the hotel. I chattered about that as we pulled into the Hampton Hotel driveway. When we checked in, she gave them a gift certificate to cover the cost of the room.


I was overwhelmed with her generosity. As we dropped my bag off in the hotel room, we discussed going for dinner and details for the following day. After a delicious dinner at a Greek restaurant, she dropped me off. Although the hotel pool was closed for the season, the bath tub had jets in it. I ran a bath and soaked in the hot, bubbling water.

A therapeutic soak in the tub at Ferndale’s Hampton Hotel was just what I needed before rolling into bed for a deep sleep.

The next day we jumped into our MindBody Barre training. The  care and thought that went into the way Alyssa researched the design of each room at her studio, the essential oils used for treatments and massage chairs, was visible in the training offered for MindBody Barre. Although I’ve been teaching ballet body and barre classes for the past few years, I really enjoyed the training with Angela, our trainer. With simplicity and humour, she broke down the class structure, sequencing, the aromatherapy, and signature reiki cool down.

As I told Alyssa on the drive back to Vancouver, BC, I enjoyed the training so much that I forgot to take photos of the studio or the training. With my data on my phone turned off, I realized that sometimes I spend more time taking photos to remember events that I do experiencing them. Thanks to my lock down on access to data, I was able to disengage and experience the training fully.

This is the second time, I’ve met a soul sister online. In our modern world meeting people that we connect with is a gift. When we crossed the border, the guard asked how Alyssa and I knew each other. I looked at Alyssa as I said,”We are friends through fitness and yoga.” As we drove across the border and back into Canada, I realized just how true those words were.

As I look forward to teaching MindBody Barre classes in Vancouver, I am also looking forward to the next time Alyssa comes up for an impromptu lunch. (I was already trying to get to her to come up next weekend!)










Posted in Life Style

Polar Bear Swim 2016 in Vancouver

Life Is either a daring adventure or it is nothing – Helen Keller

Why do we make new year’s resolutions? January is named after Janus, the Roman God with two faces. One face looks forward as the other looks back. As we look forward, we reflect on the past. Through the reflection, we resolve to make changes to shift our future by the choices we make today. For myself, 2015 was full of transformation and big changes. The end of a seven year relationship led to moving to a new home. New space equals new community. Although change is important for personal growth, I found it incredibly painful. As I move forward into 2016, I resolve to embrace adventure through wellness, laughter, and challenges.

Welcome to Polar Bear Swim 2016 Photo by Catherine
Welcome to Polar Bear Swim 2016
Photo by Catherine

What a perfect way to mark the new year by participating in Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim? Several weeks ago, my friend, Wade asked me if I would consider doing the swim with him. In the summer, I’m an avid swimmer. Its difficult to keep me out of the ocean. In the winter, I try stay warm. Warmth is another word for dry in my vocabulary. Although I’ve had yoga teachers tell me that a cold dip in the morning can cleanse the aura, I’ve noticed I tend to stay healthier by keeping my body and my diet warm in winter months.

As Wade continued to talk about the swim, my heart went out to him. He told me that he used to do the annual swim with his sister in law, Cheryl. Cheryl passed away of breast cancer. I liked her. It would be a great way to honour her. Heart fought with fear. I was a “definite maybe.”

Wednesday night, my friend, Catherine and I were enjoying a post workout dinner. When I mentioned Wade’s request, Catherine asked, “Should we do it?” After a pause, I said, “Yes!” I texted Wade to confirm and let him know that I had recruited a friend.

This morning, I woke up and wondered exactly what I committed to. I reached out to my facebook community. “It’s my first polar bear swim Advice is welcome,” I posted. Advice flowed through the comments:

1) Keep your feet warm. The sand is cold. Warm shoes like Uggs and a bathrobe.
Keeping my feet warm made logical sense. Common sense warred with my experience with earthing. Earthing is the practice of connecting your bare feet to the earth. Last year practicing medical qi gong with my classmates in the winter months, I decided to try it. My friends, herbologist Michele Collins Vergara and her husband, acupuncturist Andres Vergara of 4 Branches Chinese Medicine Centre recommended it. I found practicing qi gong on the frosted grass by Stanley Park Pavillon in bare feet easier. Some of the health benefits from the practice of earthing include increased energy, reduction of imflammation, improves recovery time from fitness, and many more. For myself, the most important benefit was adjusting to temperature changes. Based on that experience, I decided to go barefoot.
2) Two towels – one to keep warm, one to dry off.
Two towels sounded like a luxury. It could be too much to carry, so I chose to bring one. I didn’t want to bombard Ellen (our fearless cheerleader who supported this endeavour) with stuff to carry, so I decided not to.
4) Hot Chocolate or tea.
Warmth is a beautiful adjective. Something that I aspired to be.

I thought about how often I change behind a towel at Kits Beach in the summer. I wore my bikini underneath clothing that I would describe as “easy to put on.” Warm socks and zip up snow boots. I packed my warmest sweater and jacket. For a moment, my inner diva considered creating a costume. The thought of cold, wet fabric clinging to my skin made me change my mind.

Caroline MacGillivray, Wade Westling, Catherine and Polar Bear Swim Veteran
Caroline MacGillivray, Wade Westling, Catherine and Polar Bear Swim Veteran

Dressed as Elvis, Wade greeted Catherine and I. Ellen and our friend photographer, Steph Schumann came to support our adventure. The beach was packed with people dressed in costumes. Eye candy for the crowd, was a buffet for a photographer like Steph. Jelly fish, angels, Batman, Santa and many more people looked fantastic on this sunny January day. Only in Vancouver might we see the truly Canadian sighting of police officers riding horses along the shores of English Bay. With a combination of excitement and dread, Catherine and I muttered, “I can’t believe we are doing this!”

Catherine and I swimming in the water. Photo by Steph Schumann Photography

Over the PA system, we heard that the swim was beginning in 15 minutes. We asked someone for the time. It was 2:23pm. It was scheduled to start at 2:30pm but in Vancouver time, it was going to start late, I thought. I thought incorrectly. The wave of anticipation was too much for my fellow Polar Bear Swimmers. Hundreds of people ran to splash in the water before the swim began! Wade ran ahead and dunked immediately. As he was coming back to the shore after his first dive, I asked him if we would join me. He said, “Yes.” We ran into the water. “Oh my goodness, it is freezing,” I muttered as the water wrapped around my waist to my toes.

Vancouverites Run to Ocean for Polar Bear Swim 2016 English Bay, Vancouver, BC Photo By Catherine
Vancouverites Run to Ocean for Polar Bear Swim 2016 English Bay, Vancouver, BC
Photo By Catherine

“Come on in!” Wade encouraged.

I dove in and allowed my stomach to graze along the bottom of the ocean. In shallow waters it was a gentle dive. As I came up to the surface, it felt warmer. I could see Catherine looking for us on the shore. “Catherine!” I called. She looked over and I came towards the shore. Originally she had planned to just wade in the waters. She changed her mind and dunked her head.

Catherine Yeung and Caroline MacGillivray at Polar Bear Swim 2016. Photo by Catherine
Catherine and Caroline MacGillivray at Polar Bear Swim 2016. Photo by Catherine

Steph spotted us. As she made her way over to us, our bodies adjusted to the cold. My feet felt like they were burning. Drunk on ocean therapy, laughter, and disbelief, I felt euphoric. When Steph asked us to jump back in for photos, we said, “Yes!” Wade popped back in for photos. “Where were you?” I asked. I learned the downside of costumes and cold was being asked to pose for photos like a celebrity. Wade, a veteran of nineteen polar bear swims, adapted easily.
As I changed on the beach, a cameraman and reporter from CTV, came by to interview him.

We did it! Catherine, Wade & I – Polar Bear Swim 2016! Photo by Steph Schumann Photography

Afterwards we wandered over to Cafe Phin & Pho (976 Denman Street). Hot chicken pho soup warmed me from the inside out. As I listened to my friends reflect on the day, I thought it was the perfect start to 2016. A beautiful blend of new and old friends participating in an event that started in the 1920s. The combination of tradition and a new adventure, with the fusion of friendships was a way to look forward and reflect back. Like Janus, the Roman God being able to see the past and move forward in the future made January 1, 2016 a beautiful day!