Yogis We Love: Yoga with Joyce in aid of FEED

ro/an yoga illustration handstand in jungle

This has been a strange year for many reasons and we count ourselves lucky that we have been able to explore new ways of connecting with people. From zoom classes with our friends or reaching out to yoga teachers whose classes we’ve always loved but never quite got the chance to chat to. As the global situation keeps changing, it’s been inspiring to see friends’ powering through the uncertainty, and encouraging to see communities around us support each other.  After weeks of being stuck in quarantine in Manila, lawyer and yogi Joyce Raboca decided to give online yoga classes in exchange for a donation to a charitable organisation: Fostering Education & Environment for Development (FEED), an NGO that, among other initiatives, plants trees and mangroves in the north of the Philippines. Her class has been a wonderful way to share an activity across oceans. As the world fluctuates between various lockdowns and restrictions, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to have this common goal of staying fit, flexible and giving back.  Here, we catch up with Joyce where she tells us all about her yoga journey and more: From getting her yoga certificate in Costa Rica (sign us up ASAP, it sounds dreamy), to why she chose FEED to partner with for her classes, and her favourite coffee spots in HK and Manila.

How / why did you start yoga?

I started yoga for superficial reasons. I was massively unfit at 20 years old and I had zero exercise. A friend of mine looked amazing and had zero belly fat because she did hot yoga almost daily — so I tried it. I got hooked and never stopped. It was only years later that I realised it changed more than my body. I noticed that I was suddenly calmer, more focused, more aware of my body and my thoughts. I started because of the physical aspect, and stayed for the mental.

How has it fit into your life as a lawyer? 

It's not a secret that being a lawyer is stressful. That being said, I can't do my job properly unless I do yoga, whether it's just a quick meditation and stretch during the day or a 2-hour session. Otherwise, there's a lot of clutter in my mind and I can't focus on one thing at a time. 
 

Where did you train/get your certificate?

I got my certificate in Malpais, Costa Rica under Sacred Paths Yoga in February 2019. It was hands-down the best decision I have ever made in my life. We'd wake up in the morning to the sound of birds and monkeys and head to the shala at 6:30AM for a 30-minute meditation, have sunset sessions on the beach or by some tide pools, and end the day with a bonfire. It was an absolutely magical experience that was more a journey of self-discovery than anything else. I could not recommend it enough to anyone — even if they don't plan on becoming teachers eventually.

What do you love about teaching? 

I love seeing my students "unlock an achievement." Whether it's a challenging asana that has never been available to them or finally being able to sleep after anxiety-filled nights. It's a warm feeling that isn't quite replicated in any other aspect of my life.

Where did you get the idea of doing 'yoga for forests'?

The eerie silence of the pandemic forced me to think about how I really wanted to make a difference in this world from my own home. I was already giving dole-outs to organizations helping those who couldn't afford to work from home, but I wanted something more long-term than that. I started teaching a number of people on zoom for free and I was happy that I could help people find the space to breathe and release tension, but they were asking me how they could repay me. Since I didn't want to reinforce my love for teaching with money (I'm strange that way), I decided it could be a barter. I'm a huge fan of trees — I don't know how else to say it. I've always dreamed of buying land and just planting a whole rainforest. I put two and two together and voila! Yoga for forests.

Why did you choose this particular NGO to donate to?

I looked for a very transparent NGO that would track the trees' growth via GPS coordinates. FEED does this and they're very professional. I noticed that right away when I emailed the director, Anne Bakker. She is so accommodating and sent me a whole deck with their programs that I didn't even look for any other NGO. It turns out I already met her on one of my surf trips to La Union, Philippines. She's a surf instructor at the surf school I learned from and we hung out on the beach at some point. How crazy is that?

Secret skill?

Understanding cats

Favourite yoga pose?

Pincha mayurasana — I feel so empowered in this pose. When I first discovered it, it was as if I unearthed a treasure that was meant only for me!

Favourite coffee place in HK? What about in Manila?

Easy — Winston's coffee in SYP. Their flat white is sorely missed by this yogi. In Manila, it's Commune. I used to study here all the time when I was in law school and have some espresso shots in a cookie shaped like a shot glass.

Favourite place for yumcha in HK? 

That's hard! Although a go-to for me would be Northern Yuan dumpling in Wan Chai. Nothing fancy but they just serve such delicious dumplings.

What do you miss most about HK when you’re in Manila?

My friends and loved ones of course! 

What do you miss most about Manila when you’re in HK?

Same! Life is about relationships. If I could gather all my friends in one place and live in a little village altogether, I would do it.

Favourite snack?

Pomelo

Night owl or early bird?

It varies, so both. Night owl for creativity, early-bird for physical activity.

Favourite place to hang out in HK? In Manila?

In Hong Kong it would probably just be somewhere in SoHo, walking around. Along Peel street, at night I'm bound to bump into someone I know, which I love. In Manila somewhere in Poblacion, where there are a lot of cool themed bars.

Best place to find peace (in HK)?

Tai Long Wan during a full moon. Enjoying our blog posts? Sign up to our mailing list below so we can update you on our launch.