BIG INTERVIEW | Anita Cheung On Yoga With Darth Vader And Her Abiding Love For Nutella

February 17, 2016.

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Anita is the founder of The Social Yoga, a nomadic studio offering an alternative to a typical yoga class experience. She is passionate about real talk, connection, good design, and naps. Her intention with her company and her writing is to inspire people to be the kinder, more conscious versions of themselves while keeping it all lighthearted. You can learn more and follow along on all platforms via @thesocialyoga.

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Where do you live and what makes it home? I’m in East Van and I love the convenience of being where I am – equidistant from busy downtown and the quiet of the North Shore. While I wish I could say my home feels like a home, sometimes it feels more like a hotel room (ie. I go back just to eat and sleep).

What was the last live concert you saw? Oh Wonder in Seattle. Such a great little duo and well worth the Monday night drive.

Strangest place you’ve taught a yoga class? Oh man, I’ve taught in some pretty strange environments! A freezing cold woodshop comes to mind – there wasn’t enough electricity to get all of our heaters running. Alternatively, I’ve taught a class in the middle of a party. As in half the people were doing yoga and the other half were in the same room chatting, drinking, snacking, mingling, and watching.

Guidelines you give people wanting to learn to meditate? No rules! Well, the biggest one is to be patient with yourself. Start slow, be kind when you fall off the wagon, and continue at it because it’s a practice. I’d also recommend shopping around and trying out different meditation styles – what works for one person may not work for another.

The thing that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Nutella. We’re in a committed relationship.

Default drink/cocktail of choice? I’m always one for trying the most exotic/newest/strange-sounding cocktails, but when in doubt Gin & Tonic is a classic.

Dogs or cats? Hands down (paws down?), dogs.

Your last halloween costume? The Bieber’s “Sorry” music video had just come out the week before and a bunch of friends and I went as the girls from the video. I was Bulls Jersey girl rocking the same Jordan jersey that I wore when I was a kid. Of course, we had the dance moves to match.

Your all-time best Halloween costume? I was a melted ice cream cone one year, because nothing’s scarier than dropping your ice cream on the ground.

Star Wars character you’d most like to practice yoga with? Darth Vader, because I’m all about them bad boys and he’s got the breathing down pat. (Followed closely by Yoda because he knows all.)

Oddest place you’ve ever slept? Where haven’t I slept? Sometimes I joke about being narcoleptic. Asides from planes, trains, automobiles, and 99 B-line buses, I once fell asleep across three chairs because I couldn’t bring myself to walk all the way to the bedroom.

What keeps you up at night? Nothing. I’m out like a log. (see above)

Your theme song when you walk down the street? I’d like to think every day is a different theme song but on a good day, I’d say Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams Come True.

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Your major character flaw? Impatience.

Coffee or tea? Tea on most days. Coffee for super early mornings and for turning up.

Other than yoga, how do you decompress? Meditation and journalling is a big part of keeping me sane. Other than that, I love naps, working out, and going for dinner with friends.

The strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Being Chinese, I was exposed to a bunch of “weird” things as a kid. Pre-vegetarian, Anita’s eaten the egg white from a baby duck egg (Balut) though not the actual duck fetus, pig’s blood, and solidified bird saliva.

What’s for breakfast at home? A big cup of green tea to start the day followed by hard boiled eggs if it’s a grab and go kind of day, or avo toast if I have a slower morning.

Biggest surprise of the last year? So many great things happened last year but the sweetest surprise was from my best friends on my 25th birthday. A group of us were in Maui watching the sunrise on a volcano and after all the other tourists had left, my best friend whips out a laptop she lugged up there and shows me a video she made with all the people I care about back at home wishing me Happy Birthday.

Three books that made an impact on you in your formative years? Think by Lisa Bloom; The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander & Rosamund Stone Zander; Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

Your biggest fear? Feeling alone. #realtalk

What yoga skills do you find applicable to running your own business? A lot of what us yoga teachers talk about in yoga class serve as good reminders when running a business. Things like staying present and open, allowing things to unfold as they will, and remembering that everything is a practice (with good and bad days). One of the biggest things is remembering to take time for myself and “come home to myself” and my intuition when making decisions or when I feel like I’m caught up in the day to day.

Favourite article of clothing? I have a pair of high waisted black skinny jeans that I live in when I’m not in yoga pants because they basically feel like yoga pants.

The first album that made you love music? Probably Taylor Swift or The Fray in my teens.

A character from a movie that you’d love to share a meal with? Remy from Ratatouille, because he’d cook and I could say I ate a delicious French-inspired meal made by a rat.

Three events you are most looking forward to this year? 1. Doing more “Cheapest Yoga Retreats Ever” yoga camping trips this summer; a good friend’s wedding in June; the second annual Social Yoga Getaway (a weekend of yoga, crafting, and self care in the PNW woods).

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What trend have you followed that you now regret? Skinny 90s/2000s eyebrows. Those babies don’t grow back, folks.

Favourite BC winter activity/excursion? Snowboarding! Followed closely by the après ski.

Favourite BC summer activity/excursion? Kayaking/going out for a paddle and camping. Followed closely by beers with friends around a campfire.

Your go to, no-frills place for dinner in Vancouver? Phnom Penh if you can get in. Otherwise, Chau Veggie, The Union, or Torafuku are some favourites.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you? Australia. Not only is it summer there, but I spent the tail end of my undergrad in Melbourne and I’ll always have a soft spot for the city.

Favourite Vancouver landmark? The Hollow Tree in Stanley Park. Spooky vibes forever.

Three places you like to take out of town visitors? Quarry Rock (do it for the gram), The Diamond for drinks, and Marche St. George for coffee.

Shoe of choice? Strike Movement Chill Pills.

The different career path that you could have gone on? My degree is a B.Sc in Global Resource Systems with a focus on International Nutrition. I envisioned working for the UN in developing countries, focusing on food security. I think it’s safe to say I’m not exactly on that path anymore.

Your ancestry? Chinese. My parents are from Vietnam (they immigrated here in their late teens after the war) so there are some Vietnamese influences in my upbringing.

Three favourite dishes in Vancouver? Corn Porn at The Mackenzie Room; dry noodles at Harvest; Najib’s special at Nuba.

Where did you grow up? Vancouver, born and raised!

Last piece of art you purchased? I bought some printed quote cards a while back (though I have yet to find a home for them).

Forest or beach? Forest.

Most beautiful body of water? The Pacific Ocean. My favourite spot to enjoy its beauty is somewhere between Lighthouse Park and Whytecliffe.

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The best thing about your work? All the wonderful people I meet!

The worst thing about your work? Driving around from one teaching spot to another, or from one meeting to another.

One ritual, tradition, or superstition in you observe? One thing that comes to mind is I don’t open my umbrella indoors. I also make wishes on eyelashes.

If you had a motto, what would it be? It’s either a good time or a good story.

Your favourite curse word? Shit. Pretty good when used alone but way better in, “Oh shit!” Only good times or good stories come after sayings like that.

On a perfect day off, what are the top three things you’d like to see happen? Sleeping in. Brunch. Something active, like a walk in nature or a run somewhere.

Your first memory? I remember going to Toronto as a 3 year old. Two big memories stand out – I was nervous on the plane so my mum pretended to make my Mickey Mouse toy talk to comfort me. I also remember getting lost at the top of the CN tower.

Three words that would describe you as a child? Cautious, disciplined, emotional.

Trait you most admire in others? Bravery and free spiritedness. When someone can break out in boisterous song or dance in front of hundreds of people, I’m in admiration.

Most useful foreign phrase you know? Terima Kasih! It means thank you in Indonesia & Malaysia, two of my favourite places in SE Asia.

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