“When I keep my meditation practice going, I can be more patient with my kids,” laughs Sharon Yeung, the founder of Five Seasons Healing. “If they have a bad day or bad attitude, I can navigate that in a more graceful way.” The acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and rock climber lives in New Paltz, New York and works in Manhattan. Here, she talks about Asian comedy, the joy of a signature scent, and how to not to panic on a cliff face…
You’re an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. How did you land there?
Growing up, I felt like I had dual lives: one was at home as the child of immigrants, and the other was outside of the home. I was raised in the U.S., in a household that spoke another language, ate culturally specific foods, and was different from what I saw on TV or at friends’ houses. My grandmother lived with us and incorporated herbal medicine into our meals; and we had an alternative medicine cabinet to draw from.
But outside of the home, I was doing the same working-class suburban kid stuff as all of my peers, like perming my hair and spending my allowance on 7-Eleven slushies.
Then, in college, I spent a semester in China, where I was exposed to acupuncture and Chinese massage. I realized that I wanted to practice. For me, embarking on my career path felt like bringing my two lives together.
Now you have your own children.
Yes, an 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. I’m excited by how much more representation Asian Americans have in the media and culture. It’s a source of power and confidence for my kids.
What are TV favorites in your household?
My daughter and I like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It’s great that the main character’s ‘Asianness’ is just normal. The Half of It is another touching teen romance, but it addresses racism more directly. My kids and I enjoyed Everything Everywhere All At Once. My daughter really liked that the main character was an older, immigrant Asian woman — who was a superhero.
I’m also super into all the Asian standup comedians: Ali Wong, Jimmy O. Yang, Atsuko Okatsuka, Sheng Wang, Hasan Minhaj. So talented, funny, and relatable. They touch on the ‘child of Asian immigrant experience’ where they can laugh at how the more traditional culture of their parents intersects with them growing up in the States.
I’ve done acupuncture in the past and loved it. Why do you think this modality is so helpful?
There is power in looking at one’s health holistically, taking everything into account. In nature, things generally work in harmony. It’s only when something goes wrong that we start to have symptoms. With Chinese medicine, we try to find out where the system got broken. Acupuncture and herbs are simply the tools that we use to try to put the whole system back into a balanced state.
What does your skincare routine look like?
For skincare, I adore Marie Veronique — her products smell amazing. My nighttime routine is very simple: Gentle Gel Cleanser, followed by Pre + Probiotic Daily Mist. Then I add Protective Day Oil, which I also apply in the morning.
What do you look for in beauty products?
It’s like buying freshly baked bread where I look for a very short ingredient list: flour, water, salt, yeast. I look for skincare products with the fewest and purest ingredients. It can be confusing, and in cases where I’m not buying one-ingredient products like argan oil or coconut oil, I rely on my supplier to do the vetting for me. I’ll opt for products carried in health food stores or the Park Slope Food Coop, instead of a drugstore.
Do you meditate every day?
Yes, it’s a huge part of my life and such a source of joy and peace. At this point, I will meditate between 30 to 60 minutes every day.
That’s a long time.
I always tell people to start small. When we want to make changes in our lives, we often have big aspirations, but there are practical realities to take into account. Two minutes isn’t too big of an ask, it’s like brushing your teeth.
Will two minutes make a difference?
If you carve out two minutes to meditate every day, you’ll start to notice an overall shift in a week or two. People who meditate will say, ‘I can concentrate more easily,’ or ‘I’m less reactive.’ For beginners, I really like InsightTimer. I’m a big believer that we do what we want to do. If you get a taste of meditation, and it feels pleasant, that’s going to be its own motivation to continue.
Do you wear makeup?
I always wear Ilia’s Skin Tint SPF 40 and lip balm. My husband has family in Europe, and we stock up on Labello’s lip balms whenever we visit. My favorite shade is Blackberry Shine, and now the brand is easy to find in the U.S.
Do you have any favorite budget beauty products?
I will say, one of the best decisions I made, from an effectiveness standpoint, was to switch from lotions to oils. When my skin would get dry in the winter, lotion was only effective for a short while. So, I switched to Spectrum coconut oil as a body moisturizer. Coconut oil can feel greasy when you first put it on, but it absorbs quickly and keeps skin hydrated for a long time.
I feel constantly bombarded by the latest, greatest products to optimize my wellbeing. How do you advise the average person to wade through all the information?
Great question. Chinese medicine is about getting down to the basics: Are you sleeping well? Are you generally eating a well-rounded diet? Are you getting enough exercise? My advice is to start with a strong foundation, and then if you still need to, seek more professional advice to deal with any specific issues.
Do you wear fragrance?
Yes! Maison Louis Marie No. 4 Bois De Balincourt — I love its earthiness. What’s amazing is that I’ve had the same bottle for four years and it’s only halfway done. It’s become a part of me.
Tell us about rock climbing!
In high school, I was in the outdoors club, and I immediately took to climbing. My husband and kids are now into it, too. Our vacation spots are usually determined by cool climbing areas, and that brings us to the most spectacular places — like Sardinia (you can hang at the beach and then climb along the water’s edge); Pizzo Cengalo in the Alps (one of the most thrilling climbs we’ve ever done); and the Sierras in California, where we’ve gone time and time again. I have a bunch of girlfriends that I climb with, too. For me, climbing is both play and relaxation.
I love that you mentioned play. Sometimes we think of play as something only children need.
With rock climbing, you’re figuring out a puzzle with your body. It’s so much fun.
Do you ever get scared? I’m looking at these photos of you and I’m getting nervous here on the ground.
Part of the fun, especially with sport lead climbing, is feeling the fear and pushing past it. I will definitely take deep breaths and feel nerves before I lead a climb that is rated at my limit or above. My hands are sweating right now just thinking about it! If I’m having a hard time finding the next hold, or a storm is coming through, or my hands are freezing and I can’t get them to perform, then I’ll feel scared. But since climbing requires such presence in the moment, I don’t have time to let fear take over; I need to make the quick decision to either go for it, climb down to the bolt below, or accept falling.
What about your children?
The kids have been climbing since they could walk, but they still show a healthy sense of fear. Recently we took a trip to Red River Gorge in Kentucky, and it was a family milestone because my son started climbing harder than both my husband and me. He was leading a climb that was hard for shorter people, and he got to a section where he had a tough time reaching the next bolt. I was relieved that he felt fear, knew his limit, and made the decision to be lowered down.
Are there climbing-related products you swear by?
If I’m climbing in the gym, where it can get musty, I love Joshua Tree Chalk. When I first discovered it, I was like, Wait! Why does it smell so good around here? Outdoors, really good sunscreen is essential, even if the weather is cloudy. And when you’re climbing, you want your hands to be super dry, but at the end of the day, applying Weleda Skin Food feels GREAT.
Is there anything you’ve found helpful while raising a teenager?
Watching my daughter, I realize she has a lot of gears turning. Teenagers have so much on their minds — their place in the world, their social groups, pressures from school, and so on. It’s been humbling and helpful for me to realize, through meditation, Hey! You’re not the center of the universe! Other people have a lot going on, too.
What do you hope your kids learn from you about beauty?
I want my kids to feel strong in their bodies. That’s a beautiful feeling. Now that she’s a teen, my daughter is starting to think more about how she looks. But I hope both of my kids keep seeing the wonder in the capacity of what their bodies can do.
Thanks so much for sharing, Sharon!
(Photos courtesy of Sharon. The second photograph was taken by Don Stahl.)
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