Friday, June 10, 2016

Off the Mat with Katherine

Get to know Katherine, Zuna Yoga cofounder and instructor

Describe yourself in one word. 

What is your spirit animal?
The hummingbird. It embodies lightness of being, joy of life, speed and resilience. It can also travel great distances and even fly backwards.

What is your astrological sign?

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
I like to play sad songs on the ukulele.

What do you love about Bali? 
The sensory experience: warm, humid air; the scents of incense, frangipani and rain; the vibrant colors; the cacophony of nature and people. I also love how nosy the locals are. You can't go anywhere without someone asking you where you're going, if you ate breakfast, and where you live. I've learned to answer honestly—nothing bad will come of it. 

What's your favorite place to eat in Ubud? 
Kafe for a late lazy breakfast and Taco Casa for my Tex-Mex fix (their veggie burritos are super fresh and, unlike many other local restaurants, they never run out of avocados!)

What are your top three travel tips? 
- Book a window seat so you can lean against the plane with your travel pillow and get some sleep. Don't worry about waking the people in the middle and aisle seat if you need to get up—as a flexible yogi with great proprioception, you can silently step by as they snooze without bumping them. I've got this move down.

- Bring a mini-wellness kit: herbal tea sachets, saline nasal spray, eye drops, Annee de Mamiel Altitude Oil, sanitizing wipes for your armrests and tray table, Yes to Cucumbers facial wipes, an SK-II moisturizing sheet mask, Emergen-C, Jurlique's rosewater facial mist and a blarf (a combo blanket and scarf). Create your own little bubble of hydration and good-smelling well-being. And keep sipping that tea, it's hydrating and comforting.

- When you're not napping, stand up frequently. Keep your lymphatic system active by doing calf raises and do some spinal twists and other stretches to prevent stiffness.

What book are you reading right now? 
Samkhya Darshan, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. I alternate "study" books with "fun" non-yoga books to keep it balanced. My last book was A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, a beautifully written and very Dickensian book that takes place in 1975 in India.

Three songs on your iPod right now? 
Adele, Hello, Sad Money x James Carter remix
Sia, Fire Meet Gasoline
Phillip Glass, In the Upper Room

One thing you're really good at: 
Remembering names and faces. Not as good as the Balinese in this arena, but pretty darn good.

One thing you're epically bad at: 
Trilling my R (which leaves the Spanish and Italian languages out of reach—as an avid linguist, this is frustrating).

What do you do for fun? 
For indoor fun: scrabble
For outdoor fun: tennis, snowboarding, biking, hiking–there's no sport I'll turn my nose up at.

What's your biggest pet peeve? 
Bad manners, especially at the dinner table

How did you make your first dollar? 
Babysitting. I was 10 years old and taking care of 5-year-olds while their parents (usually friends of my parents) were out for dinner. Hard to imagine today!

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today? 
Brains, brawn and charm.

What's your favorite thing about being a yoga teacher?  
Supporting students' discovery of their own strength and capabilities.

What's your biggest challenge as a yoga teacher?
Imparting to students the importance of regular practice when they return home after leaving the yoga bubble with us. While we will all have occasional "aha" moments during yoga that feel like instant gratification (and there are many of those moments at our Bali trainings), those breakthroughs are the result of consistent, dedicated practice. There's no such thing as a free lunch. We have to keep working—chop wood carry water—even though it can get boring. 

What are you working on in your own practice? 
Kindness. The older I get, the more important this becomes.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Buy Apple stock

Katherine is based in Bali and is cofacilitating Zuna Yoga's 200 hour and 300 hour yoga teacher trainings. Learn more about our staff here!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spotlight on Samina, Zuna Yogi & Human Rights lawyer

Zuna Yoga catches up with Samina Ullah, 200 hour yoga teacher training graduate (May 2015, Gili Meno), powerhouse lawyer and global citizen from Saskatchewan, Canada.

Job title 
Junior Legal Consultant with the Office of the Lead Co-Lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

Current Yoga Teaching Gig
I teach yoga twice a week on average at Nataraj Yoga Studio in Phnom Penh and at the ECCC. Right after my YTT on Gili Meno, I moved to Cambodia for an internship. During my first few days there, I randomly stopped in at a yoga studio as I was getting oriented to the city and asked if they needed teachers. They said yes, and I was teaching a community class on Sunday evenings almost immediately after my arrival. I started Yoga at the Court about a month later with another lawyer and yoga teacher from Australia, since many people were asking for a yoga class after work. Profits from our classes are donated to the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia, an NGO whose aim is to heal the psychological wounds of the Cambodian people caused by the civil war and the genocidal regime between 1975 and 1979, and care for those who suffer from psychosocial and mental health problems. My students at the studio are predominantly part of the expat community living and working in Phnom Penh. At the court I teach mostly legal interns and consultants. 

Describe yourself in one word

What is your spirit animal?
There is a tarot card reader in one of the markets in Phnom Penh who told me my spirit animal is a bat. Having no previous connection to a bat, I did not put much weight in it, but here is the most succinct version if you ever find yourself drawn to bats. "You are highly sensitive to and extremely aware of your surroundings and have a powerful ability to see through illusions. You tend to dive straight to the heart of matters, are extremely social and have strong family ties. You are nurturing, have good communications skills and use your sense of touch as part of communicating. You are very perceptive on a psychic level and are prone to having prophetic dreams. You are also highly adaptable to any situation you find yourself in." 

What do you love about Cambodia?
I love the freedom to drive on the wrong side of the road, ride my bike, work with amazing people from everywhere and always be warm. I've been cold a handful of times here and then I remember how much I do not like it. 

What's your favorite place to eat in Phnom Penh?
Java Cafe. Their vegetarian burger is my comfort food. 

What are your three top travel tips?
Learn about the places you visit. Learn the history, a few phrases and about current affairs, social and political. It will not only enrich your experience but is also a sign of respect to the residents of the country where you are visiting.

Approach travel with a child's mind: be ready to explore, play and have things not go according to plan. Color outside the lines (safely). Have an adventure, put the map away and practice being open to whatever comes your way. 

Be mindful of yourself. It is easy to be swept up in the myriad of new views, smells, tastes, good times and lose track of processing your experiences. Traveling is an excellent teacher when you can take the time to learn from it. 

What book are you reading right now?
Autobiography of a Yogi
Emma's War

One thing you're really good at:
Finding a way when I set my mind to something

One thing you're epically bad at:

What do you do for fun?
Surfing or anything that is in the water

One important thing you learned at your Zuna Yoga Teacher Training:
Space. The breath can create space and that space is infinite. It is easy to let that space become cluttered with a list of things to do, places to go etc. I am learning how to let that space be my sanctuary and space to grow. I also learned that you are what you practice. I grew much more aware of what I repeat on a daily basis in my thoughts and actions.

Highlight of your Gili Meno yoga teacher training:
Turtles, beaches, beautiful people and taking the time to heal

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today?

What's your favorite thing about teaching yoga?
Guiding others to experience spaciousness in breath. When someone else "gets it" in your class, there is nothing like it.

What's your biggest challenge as a new yoga teacher?
Managing my energy levels and knowing what is left and right - it's much harder than you think.

How does yoga make you a better lawyer?

I have patience and compassion for my colleagues and for myself. As a lawyer (and human) it is a certainty that you will make a mistake. My practice of yoga helps me to be patient and kind and allow the experience to unfold without judgment.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sunrise, silence and savasana

Sunrise over the volcano

by Ashley Ball, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training student

‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man, healthy wealthy and wise’.
I’m not a morning person. I’ve always wished I was. My inner night owl selectively phased out that morning yoga practice would start at 6am! At least I had a little bit of jet lag on my side.

Setting the alarm for 5:30am was already a pretty big deal for me. But after a few mornings of watching the starry sky slowly transform into lighter and lighter shades of blue, seeing the reflection of the trees in the pool as I sip on a cup of tea, the crispness of the air and hearing the roosters call to the new day, I felt truly at ease in the morning stillness.
I feel like I’ve uncovered this secret motivation, closely held by the members of the ‘morning people’ collective. I never understood how people had so much vigor so early in the morning - and now I realize that they simply create it themselves.

I’m now waking up before my 5:30am alarm with a new respect for my inner circadian rhythm. And I wonder at the new found productivity I can insert into my days.
The trick? Having a quiet mind, and getting enough, good quality sleep. Early to bed!

The pool at Azadi Retreat at sunset

Although 5.30am starts were pretty new to me …SILENCE was something completely foreign. If I told my old co-workers that the first 4 hours of my day was in complete silence – they would be in hysterics. I truly can’t wait to tell them. Little did I know this would be one of the most rewarding learnings of the training. The sweet taste of stillness. It's something I truly treasure and I will be much more protective about my (and others') thinking space from now on.

My first savasana with Zuna Yoga was a real ‘a-ha’ moment for me. I had never really put that much thought into savasana before – it was just a chance to lay down and relax. Savasana now shines in a whole new light in my understanding.

I never really thought of savasana like a recipe, something that could be designed, crafted or adjusted. I never realized each pose provides a unique ingredient of energy that adds to the sweetness, challenge, thought provocation, depth and color of your savasana. And that ‘grandma's special recipe’ is shared each time a yoga teacher invites us to a ‘comfortable position for savasana.’ We are sharing an ancient secret recipe.

I also reflect on how many classes I have been to when people leave before savasana …such a shame. That’s like leaving perfectly made cookie dough on the bench instead of putting it in the oven.

From day one I’ve had the most colorful and weightless savasanas I’ve ever experienced. It is such a magical asana. This has really peaked my curiosity as to how I can learn to craft this magic and optimize my yoga experience, and also to share it with others. I think your first experience of a weightless savasana truly signifies the beginning of your relationship with yoga. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Making meditation a daily habit

by Davina Turnbull, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training graduate

With a law career which regularly demands working over 50 hours a week, I have often struggled to see how I can incorporate a form of meditation into my day-to-day life.  Sitting with my eyes closed in my bijou flat in Hong Kong has never really appealed to me. If my alarm goes off at 6:30am, I'd much rather go on a sweaty run outside or take a hot yoga or vinyasa flow session, to feel like I've actually "achieved" something from my early morning wake up. 

However, what I've slowly come to realize is that while my body may be getting trained, I need to start nourishing my mind in a much more conscious way, in order to be truly kind to my body as a whole. As a wise yogi (my teacher Everett Newell) once said, what I may want in my life may not be what I need. 

The grey matter at the frontal cortex of our brain (the region which helps with memory, learning and emotional regulation) actually shrinks as we get older. Stress therefore affects us more and stressful situations can actually make us respond with irrational fear. Having been dealt a difficult hand over the last few years, I can say with certainty that this is true. The mind can be a scary place to be lost.  

Learning more about the practice of meditation during my yoga teacher training has been invaluable. The ability to focus my concentration for an unbroken period of time so that I become absorbed in my own consciousness has taken me on an amazing inward journey. This has excited and energized me, left me tingling with heat and energy, and at times utterly intoxicated.

But can I really meditate alone, and will I really be able to incorporate the practice into my busy working week? Quite simply, yes, because now I truly want to.  If I'm going to get up at 6:30am to exercise, then I just need to make sure that around 20 minutes is dedicated to some mindful meditation. My yoga teacher training has equipped me with some useful techniques so I now know how to meditate on my own.  All previous fear or caution has been dispelled. I just need to focus my mind and put my learnings into practice.  

Point your mind to the possibilities, not to the obstacles ahead of you. Connect with your consciousness and anything is possible.