21 Questions Yoga Challenge – Part 2

Markham’s yogi Jessie Lam poses 21 philosophical, metaphysical and existential questions meant to bend your mind as well as your body. To help you reach deep inside yourself for a possible answer, she offers a yoga pose to contemplate each question. This is part 2 of the three-part yoga series. You can find Part 1 here.

For 3 weeks in December, I will be drawing selected questions from Gregory Stock’s book “The Book of Questions”, sharing a brief reflection on it, along with a yoga pose. Yoga is not just an activity, it is a way of life. I want to show you how yoga can be applied to different situations, both through the body and mindset. This daily exercise can help you get started and maybe find out more about yourself, to dig deeper and start discovering what your heart truly desires and what is important to you. They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. These three weeks are a perfect way to stay mindful, grateful, and organized during the busiest time of the year. Enjoy and cherish the time with loved ones over the holidays, but don’t lose track of your goals and personal well-being.

8. Would you be willing to do something very unsatisfying (for example, clean toilets) for five years if you were certain that the experience would afterwards bring you a deep sense of personal fulfillment for the rest of your life?

The pose is Shoulder Stand – Salamba Sarvangasana.

Shoulder Stand, Supported Sālamba Sarvāṅgāsana

At first, this pose may be uncomfortable. You may find it hard to breathe. As you continue to work on the rest of your practice, opening your neck, chest, and shoulders, coming into the pose will be easier, stacking your joints and lifting the chin away from your chest will allow you to breathe easy. This inversion can be very therapeutic and I practice it during my restorative classes as well.

“There is no elevator to success, You have to take the stairs.”

JL: Why must one need to endure something that is not appealing in order to be happy? Sometimes, I don’t want to do anything. Sometimes, I feel like people don’t take notice, no one cares, why am I doing this? Because I don’t want to go back to where I was before. Because I love the good that comes with all I do. It is all perspective; I am rewarded every morning with a new day, fresh air, a strong body and mind to keep doing what I love, and I am blessed with the most amazing husband, friends, family, and clients.

9. What has been your biggest disappointment in life? Your biggest failure?

The pose is handstand – Adho Mukha Vrkasana

Handstand Adho Mukha Vṛkṣāsana

The death of me! This pose has taken me years to master and I am still far from it. But I am not going to give up. I’ve come very far from my first attempt where I couldn’t even kick myself up the wall because of low strength, confidence and heightened fears. Each fall is not a failure but another chance to get up and try again.

“Don’t feear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” – Bruce Lee

JL: My biggest failure was the first time I had ever failed anything – the CFA. When I was younger, I didn’t have to work very hard to get good grades, I did well and got things I wanted on the first try. I passed CFA level 1 on the first try. I passed level 2 on the 3rd try (which was already devastating), and I failed the final level twice and said f**k it. I was stressed, unhappy, tired, anxious, and lost sight of who I was. I felt like a failure and I couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to finish it. Once I gave myself permission to let go of the need to pass, and realized that my happiness and health were more important, I opened my eyes up to other strengths in my life, such as my ability to help people, teach people about their own health and happiness, and I discovered my deep passion for yoga.

10. Would you accept a guaranteed, lifetime allowance of $50,000 per year (adjusted annually for inflation) if accepting it meant that you could never again earn money from either work or investments?

The pose is Easy pose – Sukasana/Lotus – Padmasanaeasypose-lotus 1Photos from Christina Jagusiak’s

If lotus is uncomfortable, sit in easy pose. If easy pose is not easy, use blocks for support.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

JL: Yes.I would take that $50k to travel and eat. I wouldn’t be able to make living out of the two things I enjoy – teaching yoga and trading stocks, but what if I took the money to travel while teaching yoga on my travels, and being compensated with a place to stay or food? I do love what I do and I would do it for free. I HAVE done it for free. Money is important because we make it so, but it is not my motivation.

11. Would you accept a much less enjoyable job paying twice what you make now? If you received the same pay regardless of your job, what kind of work would you do? If you were financially independent, would you continue to work? If not, what would you do?

The pose is Monkey pose – Hanumanasana

hanumanasana splits

This is probably my favourite yoga pose and stretch. when the teacher gives us the freedom and tells us to pick a hip opening pose during restorative, to hold for 5-10 minutes, I do the splits.

“So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.” – A.J. Materi

JL: No. Even with what I am doing now, I have been approached to do projects, teach in a particular location or do other things that may be related to what I am doing and pay more, but I’ve turned them down. If I know it was something I would enjoy less than what I do now, I would not take it just for the money.

12. Does living as though you control your own destiny lead to a more powerful life?


The pose is Tiger – Vyaghrasana

Tiger Pose Vyaghrasana

I love how this pose makes me feel – the physical stretch in my chest, shoulders and hips, as well as the power I feel internally, with a strong core and proud chest.

JL: Yes. I can control and schedule my days, the clients I see, when I exercise, eat or sleep. I am my own boss and I will never have to allow anyone else to tell me how to do my job, unless I am specifically seeking advice and feedback from my coach, friends, and clients, which is something I do often and thrive for.

13. What would you do if you realized that unless you changed jobs and took a 25 percent pay cut, you would have moderate insomnia and a nightmare every month or so? Is there anything worse than the worst nightmare?

The pose is Half Moon – Ardha Chandrasana

Half Moon Ardha Chandrāsana

This pose encompasses multiple aspects of fitness and movement such as core strength and stability, balance and focus. It is a beautiful pose and feels incredible once you’re able to open up your body

JL: This took me a long time to look past. From 2010-2012 I was in a job where I thought I really wanted to move up, roll with the big boys, and make lots of money. I left my most recent job, the benefits, the corporate credit card, the parties and the year end bonuses to start my own business. My worst nightmare is to live that painful life I used to, and not be true to myself. Also, one of my worst nightmares would probably be losing my physical abilities because then I wouldn’t be able to do what I love. some things aren’t controllable such as a fatal disease or accident, but what I can control in the meantime is my fitness.

14. Walking along an empty street, you notice a wallet. It contains $5,000 in cash but no name or address. What would you do? Would it alter your decision if inside you found the name, address, and picture of either a wealthy-looking young man or a frail-looking old woman?

The pose is Flying Crow – Eka Pada Galavasana

There are many prep poses leading up to this, such as crow, pigeon, toe stand, figure four, lotus. Often times you can’t just jump into something and expect everything to go your way. You need to give it time, practice and patience, otherwise, everything could come crashing down.

JL: IF there was no name of address I would keep the money. If it had the owners information inside, no matter what they looked like, I would return everything to them. I believe in Karma and I have a tendency to blame supernatural or outrageous things when something bad happens, so the less I have riding on my conscience, the better. I’m not crazy superstitious, but I will avoid what I can.

Jessie Lam is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor and Nutrition & Wellness Specialist with Can-Fit-Pro. She is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and has been in the fitness industry since 2002; she is a 200 Hr Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance under Yoga Medicine and is currently pursuing 500 hrs. She began competing at the Ontario Physique Association in March 2014 and has since completed 3 shows, placing top 10 in her bikini class. Jessie and her husband Joe left their corporate finance jobs in November 2014 to focus on their passion for health and wellness full time.


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