Hey everyone. Today I'd love to share with you the story of an inspirational human from the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. I have met Cynthia on this stunning island 2 years ago when I started to chase my own freedom and live life on my own terms. Cynthia was just opening her own yoga studio and I remember perfectly the excitement she was going through at the time. She is the founder of Ocean Sound Yoga Studio & I can happily say that it was my favourite studio on the island. Cynthia's transformation story made it in loads of online articles and her Before & After photos have been reposted by Kayla Itsiness herself, the founder of BBG. First I'd like to share with you Cynthia's health journey before I interview her again about a different topic - How she moved to Thailand & became a BossGirl. This is going to be our new project, and we will be bringing you a new story of a BossGirl from around the world, every single Monday.
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?
Well, as a kid, I was definitely a loner. I’m an only child and didn’t have many friends so I mostly spent my time with animals - I rode horses from the age of 6 and always had lots of pets. I’ve always had a very strong connection with animals. I was a very high achiever, academically, and was definitely the dorky brainy kid that everyone made fun of. I was really shy (I’m still shy, actually), and socially awkward (also still applicable), and had super frizzy hair, big buck teeth, wore terrible old man style glasses, and was very overweight. Let’s just say I didn’t win any popularity contests.
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.
Tropical leggings available here
I began BBG in early July 2016. Three months prior to that I’d begun resistance training following another guide then decided to give BBG a go, as I’d been following Kayla Itsines, the founder of BBG, for quite a while on social media and was impressed by the transformations of the girls who did her workouts, but even more so by the strong, supportive online BBG community. I’ve now finished two full rounds of BBG and am starting my third. I really love it - it challenges me and continues to develop my athletic ability and overall fitness. It’s definitely changed my body but even more so I’ve gained a new level of confidence and appreciation for my body.
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?
I’ve developed a huge passion for weightlifting and bodybuilding. That’s where most of my focus is right now, for sure. But I always like to try new things - I’m heading to Australia and Fiji soon and want to see if I can catch my first wave on a surfboard, and I’m also going to be getting back into the saddle in a few months after spending far too long away from horses.
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.
Thank you Cynthia for taking the time to do this Q&A. We hope you all enjoyed this blog post. If you'd like to know when we have a new blog post up, please subscribe to our Newsletter and you'll be updated with loads of cool and informational content. In 2017 we have decided to bring more through OUR BLOG, where you'll be inspired by AMAZING WOMEN from around the world, awesome breakfasts to have, travel posts, how to live life on your own terms etc. We'd like to inspire you to be the best you can be and we want you to know that you can find loads here at My Mantra Active.
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