"The Way Out is In", a heart opening journey with Win-Sie Tow

Win-Sid Tow, a determined and with mild temperament young woman, has ventured her way from her birth city, New York, to Hong Kong to connect with her ancestral root.  Then she starts to pursue her life callings.  At Luxe Nova, she has been teaching Yin & Restorative Yoga.  And there is more...


Of all the yoga teachers whom you have encountered, who has made the most impact on you?

Elena Brower. She teaches meditation and yoga in New York and wrote the book, “The Art of Attention,” which is a beautiful and creative study guide for your personal daily practice. I first knew her as an Anahata yoga teacher, which awakens the heart chakra, and now she teaches Katonah-style yoga, a Hatha practice with Taoist philosophy.

What has gravitated me to her evolving style is not only the asana practice but also her personal stories and authenticity, including her own struggles with addiction. I find her very inspiring, knowledgeable and heartfelt. Every practice with her has been a refreshing reboot for my mind, body, and spirit.

What asana would make you laugh when you practice? Why?

Shoulder-stand. I was teaching my boyfriend (then a friend) shoulder-stand when I lost my balance, and my butt ran into his face. Following suit, he also dropped down as he thought that was how the pose worked. I couldn’t stop laughing. He looked at me so strangely, trying to figure out what was going on and then cracked up himself. Every time I practice this pose, I remember that moment.

What is your favourite Yin asana?

Viparita kirani (legs up the wall). It’s a passive inversion and very calming, especially if you’re feeling anxious. I like to do it before I sleep.

What’s your second favourite Yin Asana? Why?

Pigeon. If you’ve been sitting a lot, feel hip compression, or have period cramps, it’s a great pose to release tension in the hips. I like to have a cushion underneath, like I’m receiving a soft hug from the ground. The longer you’re in it, the more you can relax into the pose. It can be intense yet calming.

You mention a lot about “heart-opening” when you talk about yoga. It clearly shows a huge significance for you. Why is that?

Other than the fact that our heart is what keeps us alive, it’s also the centre for our compassion and our ability to give and receive love, which is essentially why we’re here. Everything we do leads back to love and happiness. In busy HK, we’re multi-tasking and facing digital screens all the time, so it’s easy to compress and slump in our posture, which in turn creates a barrier in our interactions. Whether or not we’re aware of it, we’re constantly absorbing toxins, trauma, negative energies—big or small—from our daily interactions. When you counteract this with chest-opening poses, you can experience lightness, joy, and real connection. Be it yoga, dance, singing, writing or playing violin—whatever your method is to connect back to your heart, do it.

What was the most recent retreat that you’ve done?

I just participated in a Mindfulness teachers retreat and conference at Plum Village on Lantau Island. They follow the Buddhist teachings of Vietnamese monk, Thich Naht Hanh, who is so accessible to monastics and lay people alike.  

We were singing a lot and sharing meals with the monks and nuns. We prepared food and exercised together, which was refreshing. They stress the importance of “Sangha,” which means community. I didn’t have any expectations going into the retreat, so I had a fantastic time. I’d like to visit Plum Village in France where Brother Thay is based.

What resonated with me the most is their motto: “The way out is in.” We tend to look outside for answers instead of trusting in ourselves. The medicine we are looking for is already inside of each and every one of us. It was a nice reminder that we’re all on the same path even if we approach it from different perspectives.

Where is your next retreat?

I’ll be serving a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Kyoto. It’s an ancient Indian meditation technique, which means “insight” and to see things as they are. 

What’s so great about vipassana is that it’s non-sectarian and anyone can practice it anywhere in the world. The retreats are donation-based and open to anyone so long as you agree to 10 days of silence; no communication with others; no killing, lying, stealing, intoxicants or sex. You wake up at 4am, meditate for about 10 hours a day, and are in bed by 9:30pm. The method is deceptively simple: to observe the breath and your body sensations; and in doing so, realize that everything is impermanent. A lot of memories and thoughts start to bubble up to the surface, things you’ve been compartmentalizing or too busy to think about. It’s my annual “mental” detox. I did my first course two years ago and it was transformative. All of these methods bring me back to my heart centre.

So, what will be your “last meal” before going into this retreat?

Something vegetarian. 

To follow Win-Sie's yoga classes and other activities, please join "Small Group Yoga Hong Kong" on Facebook.