• Richard McDonough

Co-Movement Gym: A is A Health Podcast S1E26 - Man Hue Duong Owner and Yoga Instructor at Yoga Shala

Man Hue was a toddler when her family escaped Saigon in 1978. After living in a refugee camp in Malesia, her family eventually moved to Utica, NY. Man went on to graduate with a Fine Arts degree from Munson Williams Proctor Institute, a bachelor’s in Ceramics from SUNY New Paltz, and a master’s degree in Art Education from Queen’s College. Man is also an experienced Yoga Instructor, and has been teaching this practice for over 10 years. She is certified in children’s yoga, aerial yoga, and received her 2-hour yoga training at the acclaimed White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara California. She has also done advanced yoga training in Indonesia. Man is currently completing her 500-hour yoga training at the renowned Kripalu Yoga Center. She is the owner of Yoga Shala in Clinton, NY.

Can you tell us about your journey to Utica, NY?

Man recounts coming first to Oriskany Falls, where the community showed her a tremendous amount of support and hospitality that she is extremely grateful for. She talks about her family leaving Saigon and crossing the South China Sea to Malesia. They ended up in the refugee camp there for one year. This was a challenging time, they had very little food, had to walk up a mountain for water, and Man almost died of fever while in the camp.

What brought you to practice yoga once you made it to the US?

Man talks about a series of robberies taking place in her neighborhood. She says it was a scary time but it taught her that material stuff doesn’t matter. She wanted to become absorbed in something more important than superficial material things, this led her to take up yoga as a practice. Man feels that you don’t need anything more than your body and mind to be fulfilled and happy.

What exactly is yoga? What is the point of it and what should people hope to get out of it?

Man cautions against seeking to “obtain” something from yoga. She says that her practice saved her life many times though. She feels it has become a part of her. Man says yoga is not just about the physical asanas, it is also about breath and presence, meditation and mindfulness, etc. She says that yoga makes you feel whole, continuous, and connected.

Here in the west, many people see yoga as a physical practice, a way to increase flexibility and strength. Do you think we’ve lost a little of what yoga was originally meant to be?

Man says that she thinks it’s perfectly fine for things to evolve, including yoga and the way it is practiced. She feels that we’re in a moment where people are exploring the physical aspect more, but western yoga will continue to evolve and people will undoubtable explore other aspects as well.

When you work with clients and see them start taking charge of their own health, what habits do you see them changing or creating?

Man talks about the importance of making a dedication to something. She also encourages clients to create a relationship with themselves, and to develop more self-awareness. She feels yoga is an excellent practice to develop this. Man also feels that the number one thing she is teaching is love. She feels that people grow when they love themselves and others.

Many people are afraid of silence because they don’t like to be alone with their thoughts, is this something you’ve seen with people?

Man says she sees this all the time. She says that people have to decide on their own that they’re ready to meet themselves and face their thoughts. This is challenging but it’s the first step to self-awareness.

We’ve seen a big decline in physical health over the last several years. What are you noticing in your clients in this regard?

Man says the struggles of the body are real, but manageable. The key is replacing non-supportive habits with supportive ones. She encourages setting intentions, such as “I honor my body.” She warns against segmenting ourselves – our body to the gym, our mind to school, our spirit to church, etc. Rather, she says we should practice seeing ourselves as whole, in all situations. Honor your whole self in the present moment.

What have you changed nutritionally that has made a big difference?

Man says she struggled early on. Coming to the US from a place of deprivation she over-indulged at first. She had to rethink about the role of food as nourishment, and this led to new habits and improved health. Man says she experimented a lot to find the foods that worked best for her. She says there is no one size fits all diet, and she encourages everyone to experiment to find what’s best for them.

Can you provide some clarity around the many different styles of yoga?

Man says hatha yoga is an umbrella term, and then there are many other “raindrops” underneath. She discusses gentle yoga styles, which allow you to relax into long stretches until you feel things release. There are ashtanga practices, which have set series of movements where you stay in poses that are difficult for you until you can do them. There is hot yoga, flow yoga, power yoga, etc. Ultimately there are many different styles, and people should explore to find what feels beneficial to them.

You’ve mentioned that we shouldn’t be “grasping” for anything with yoga, yet we often hear yoga described as a process that culminates in samadhi or enlightenment. How do we reconcile the notion that there is no finish line, with the common conception of samadhi as the highest achievement of yoga?

Man describes how she used to think in these terms, and used to think of yoga as a path from point A to point B. Over time, she began to realize that yoga could be entered from anywhere, and there is no particular destination. Now, instead of a path, she visualizes yoga as a dot. The dot represents being centered, present, and whole. She says we don’t have to go anywhere, and that we already have all we need here and now.

If the work yoga means “to yoke” or “to join”, what are the things that we are trying to join together?

Man says this refers to bringing together all aspects of our being into one. Bringing our body, mind, heart, and spirit all together into one unified whole.

Society is heavily divided today, how do we bring everyone together into one collective whole?

Man suggests that we love one person at a time. Talk to, listen to, hug, and care for one person at a time. She suggests that we start interacting more at the individual level, not at the larger, systems level. She also encourages us to be more conscious about the words we use. She says we should remember to look past labels and reconnect as humans.

What are 1-3 books that have had a big influence on your life?

The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama. The works of Jack Cornfield. Books by John Kabat-Zinn on mindfulness. Dan Siegel’s work on the brain and mind-body connection.

If you could put up a road sign anywhere, what would it say and why?

The infinity sign, to represent the on-going path we’re all on.

Do you have a favorite failure?

Man says she loves failure and encourages people to fail. She doesn’t see anything as a failure, she says you can take any situation and perceive it however you want. She tries to find something good in any situation.

Advice for people?

Take a breath.





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