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It is possible to start every day with a little fun

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Mastering the art of fan dancing: Nina London (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

Most people start their morning by drinking coffee, checking their phones and driving to work.

But what if we start our day in the new year by having fun with friends and exercising at the same time? Is it even possible?

Yes and yes! I just learnt four different ways to start my day differently – with exotic flavour, great energy and laughs. It all happened in the centre of the bustling capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, beside the jade green waters of mystical Hoan Keim Lake.

The lake is the heart of Hanoi and the buzzing city spreads out from it in all directions. Life on the lake starts at 6am.

I walked there every morning last week in the soft dawn light. As I crossed the red wooden footbridge that arches to the Temple of the Sacred Turtles, I saw under the ancient trees along the shore, a dizzying array of activities.

Vietnamese dressed in both casual work and office attire gathered in informal groups to dance, perform Tai chi, chi gong, martial arts or just stretch and gaze at the morning sky.

I cannot list the “delicious menu” of activities I could choose from!

What did I choose? I walked around the lake and whenever I found a group doing something I liked, I simply joined in. I was welcomed instantly with smiles, and all continued in great fun and often laughter.

Mastering the art of fan dancing: Nina London (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

My picks:

1. Sword dancing

Sword dances in Vietnam began as a military training exercise with swords and spears, which evolved into an elaborate acrobatic dance. Of course, we didn’t use real swords, they were plastic ones, but it was fascinating to see groups of women performing instead of men. It reminded me of how empowered women are in Vietnamese society, and it manifests in many ways.

2. Fan dancing

This graceful, fluid dance originated in Vietnam around 1,000BC and was performed in the royal court. There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam that have variations of this dance, and fan dancing was my favourite exercise! With a red, oriental fan in each hand, it is exotic, colourful and fun! Red is the colour of the revolution in Vietnam, and brilliant, red national flags with a large gold star flutter everywhere.

3. Tai chi with a ball

Tai chi is a series of gentle physical exercises and stretches. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. Originally developed in ancient China as movements for self-defence, Tai chi evolved into a graceful form of exercise that's now used for stress reduction. What was different for me is that we used balls made of wooden strips glued together to make a lightweight sphere which you hold; it makes the movements easier to follow as part of a group and helps tremendously with focus.

4. Dancing to pop music with a boom box

Imagine 50 or more women line-dancing in co-ordination and synchronicity. Dance has been a stylised, formal part of Vietnamese culture since ancient times but this latest take is just pure fun.

Everywhere around the lake were various groups, all doing something they enjoyed together; activities that were entertaining, fun, and good for you. Some started as early as 6am, others closer to 7am, and some just for half an hour before eight o’clock rolled around. Then, as if on cue, they broke apart and walked purposefully to their hundreds of motorbikes parked along the nearby walking path. They jumped on and sped off to work; relaxed, smiling, joking and in a good mood to start their day.

Dear readers, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May 2023 open the doors to wellness, dreams and inspiration!

Nina London is the founder of Mermaid Wellness Centre for Women, a certified Chi Gong and Laughter Yoga teacher. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their bodies and mind. Contact her at www.mermaidwellness.com and on Instagram: mermaid_wellness

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Published December 22, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated December 22, 2022 at 7:15 pm)

It is possible to start every day with a little fun

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