Sunday, September 24, 2017

Is loneliness killing you?

by Vibhu Krishna, Zuna Yoga Bali yoga teacher training graduate

Loneliness is a public health issue. In fact, it may even kill you prematurely. Now more than ever, we are glued to screens and media, unwittingly isolating ourselves and acting in opposition to our inherently social nature. Even with an unprecedented number of ways to be connected online, loneliness in real life is a gloomy reality for many. According to a large-scale study presented at the American Psychological Association, social connection is associated with a 50% reduced risk of premature death, while social isolation has a comparable risk of premature death to obesity. While this meta-analysis may not be all-encompassing, it certainly pinpoints the major health risk that loneliness poses.

In another meta-analysis, 70 studiesrepresenting 3.4 million peoplewere analyzed. Social isolation, loneliness, or living alone all were identified as risk factors for premature death. These findings are consistent with a previous study associating loneliness with a 30% increased risk for heart disease and stroke. The AARP’s Loneliness Study found around 35% of survey respondents to be lonely, revealing the pervasiveness of this sentiment in modern society.

So, how can we take steps to actively combat loneliness?

1. Give negative, self-deprecating thoughts the boot
When was the last time you woke up and thought something positive about yourself? Recognizing negative thought patterns and overcoming them can give you the confidence and mood boost to reduce feelings of loneliness. Loneliness can often be a self-inflicted feeling, stemming from stories we tell ourselves about being unworthy or unlovable. We must remember that these tales are not entirely based upon fact.

2. Build your network
Whether through a community center, local café, or meetup, there are many ways to find people whose interests align with yours. Join like-minded people for a yoga retreat or teacher training. Volunteer for a cause you are passionate. It's a great way to feel more connected while doing good in the community. Take initiative and put yourself out there.

3. Yoga and meditation
By engaging in practices that tap into our need to feel connected while improving our overall wellness, we begin to understand our connectedness to the human and cosmic tapestry. As an added bonus, these practices help build mindfulness, which can be applied to future meaningful interactions with others and with oneself.

4. Face time, not facetime
Make time for interpersonal communication outside of the screen with the people you already do know. Have you had dinner with your next door neighbors? Ask a colleague you’d like to get to know better to grab coffee. Go to an event with a childhood friend. Organic, real-time interactions can provide a much more secure sense of connection than contrived web ones.

5. Ask for help.
Loneliness and isolation can have serious consequences on physical and mental health. Seek out therapy, counseling, or a wellness-oriented program that will help break the cycle of loneliness.

"Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human needcrucial to both well-being and survival,” says Dr. Julianna Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University. Be sure to make the time and effort to feed this integral part of your humanity. Not doing so could be lethal.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

5 Ways Yoga Can Help You Thrive At Work

by Stephanie Given, Zuna Yoga 200 hour yoga teacher training graduate

At the restaurant where I work, I constantly receive the same comments from coworkers, managers, kitchen staff, and customers. “How do you stay so happy?” “What do you drink in the morning?” How are you always smiling?” My answer is always the same. “Why not?” 

In my job, like many work environments, it may seem difficult to continue with positivity. But through the practice of patience through yoga, you can learn to observe, accept, and train the way your mind perceives reality. I work in the busiest restaurant in a bustling tourist town in New England. We’re blessed that even during the slower months, business is still steady due to locals. But during the steamiest and stickiest season of the year, tourists are packed like sardines everywhere downtown. Forget about driving—it’s difficult enough to find room walking down a sidewalk. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Heck, I’ve been here for 10 years. I love talking to people, I love meeting them, I love hearing their stories, and I love that I’m able to add an extra flare to a special occasion or vacation. I find that working in a restaurant allows you to see and constantly be reminded that there are more kind people in the world than negative ones. It’s amazing to see a table of strangers secretly pick up another table’s drinks or entire bill, sometimes because the unknowing recipients are in the military, sometimes because they’re celebrating, other times simply because the other table is paying an act of kindness forward. 

The team I work with also supports each other through any ordeal, always having each other’s back during work and outside of it. We see each other as family—and I think we’re seen by rival restaurants as a cult. 

But when it’s a swampy 95 degrees outside, there’s a two-hour wait for a table, children are screaming, and everyone is hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, many customers turn into different creatures. During this time, the wait staff, kitchen staff, and bartenders are buried in the weeds, and when the computer system goes down, you quickly learn a new side of your coworkers. 

Working in a restaurant—and working in many challenging environments—will take an extreme mental and physical stress on your well-being unless you learn how to take care of yourself. It’s at these times that it takes the same, if not more, dedication, discipline and strength to have a consistent yoga practice on your mat as it does to take that practice off the mat and into stressful situations. 

Throughout the years, I’ve become more mindful of how I can enhance each day at my job by integrating certain yogic principles. It came first without conscious thought, but now I consistently rely on reminding myself the following…especially when the you-know-what hits the fan.

You are what you practice to be
Before I start my shift, I set an affirmation or intention for my day, just like I set an intention for my asana practice or meditation.  “I am compassionate” may be the most helpful when you work as wait staff. There are many instances where this comes into play, but the true test is when mistakes are made during the busy night rush the kitchen staff or any of the wait staff, including myself. If the kitchen forgot to make one dinner out of the order for your table of ten, and you already have the foundation of empathy, it will completely change how you react. The trickle effect doesn’t only continue onto how the rest of the night continues, but the next time you forget to ring in an order, they will most likely show you the same compassion back.   

Attitude is everything
Where your mind goes, energy follows. Just like in my yoga practice, when I tell myself I’m not going to have a good practice, I don’t. If I have one bad customer who was rude and didn’t tip well, I don’t brew over it. If I do, the rest of my night is absolutely going to continue in the same fashion. Changing my outlook on the situation, and knowing that this customer was having a bad night—and that it’s not me who’s having a bad night—will change the type of interactions that I have with customers for the rest of the night.  

To know yourself is to know your environment
To know your environment, is to understand the people around you. Sometimes I come up to a table with a big smile about to ask, “How is everyone doing…?” but am quickly cut short, without eye contact, and orders of “Chowder.” Instead of instantly resorting to thinking “How rude!”, I remind myself that these people have been waiting for 45 minutes with crying children, they’re hungry, and they’re not at their best. If I can get some sort of food—and, usually, some sort of adult beverage—in front of them as soon as possible, they may end up being my favorite customers of the day.

The Value of the Pause
During meditation and asana practice, knowing how to watch when thoughts and judgements arise rather than become attached to them or let them define you will bring your practice to a higher level and closer to your true self. This applies to any moment in your life, especially in a difficult situation like a coworker mouthing off to you. Learning how to continue the practice of pausing before reacting and not becoming attached to the anger will entirely enhance your life. 

We have the memories of the past, but we can clear the emotions of the past
This may be my favorite quote throughout my yoga teacher training with Zuna Yoga. Not every day is a good one and that’s okay. Some days, after 13 hours on my feet, not being tipped well, poked often and, often, being emotionally abused, I always remind myself before going to bed about the good things that happened throughout my day. If even that is difficult (it happens sometimes), I always remind myself that I am thankful for my job and the beautiful people I work with. It truly helps me get out of bed the next morning, and begin the day again. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Off the Mat with Carina

Get to know Carina, Zuna Yoga assistant trainer and ERYT200

Describe yourself in one word. 

What is your astrological sign?

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
I once drank so much turmeric water that my skin turned yellow

What are your three top travel tips? 
Favorite places to go:
  • The Beachhouse in Fiji, a small resort at the coral coast with great surf and beautiful nature.
  • Bhagsu, a little village in Dharamsala, India. It's calm and peaceful but also has some funky Goa vibes and great people.
  • Austria, for everything. Vienna is a cool city that truly blossomed after total WW2 destruction. The amazing mountains, both in summer and winter, and our Great Lakes Region.
What book are you reading right now? 
I'm always reading more than one book on any given day. Currently, at different times of the day:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley (some Zuna Yoga required reading)
The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga by Sir John Woodroffe

Three songs on your playlist right now? 
"Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money
"Ong namo" by Snatam Kaur 
"I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen 

One thing you're really good at: 
Changing someone's mood from stressed to relaxed

One thing you're epically bad at: 

What do you do for fun? 
All kind of water sports; painting in bright colors on everything that I can find; hiking and walking; dancing in nature; playing card games; reading

What's your biggest pet peeve? 
Sand in the bed

How did you make your first dollar (or Schilling)? 
In my mom's shop in Vienna selling old Christmas ornaments

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today? 
Cheerfulness, self-discipline and a sense of humor

What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Don't worry, it will all work out for the best. Eventually, you'll come to realize that every "bad" moment was a great turning point in your life.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
"Attitude is everything" by Everett Newell.

What's the biggest risk you've ever taken?
Leaving Vienna and my old habits behind and going to India for my first yoga teacher training

If you had a superhero power, what would it be?
I'm actually pretty happy with the powers I already have

What's your favorite thing about being a yoga teacher?  
Oh, there are so many. If I have to pick, constantly meeting amazing people, sharing something that has so positively changed my life and not having to wear shoes.

What's your favorite yoga pose, and why?
Twisted lotus. It feels amazing. Every single muscle in my body get stretched and released, and I can really be still and connect with my breath.  

What's your favorite quote?
"Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside of you" from Rumi 

What's on your bucket list?
I want to rent a glass house in Greenland and watch the northern lights. One week of just watching the sky, practicing yoga and drinking hot chocolate. 

Carina is based in Fiji and Vienna and is assisting Zuna Yoga's 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher trainings. Learn more about our staff here!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

5 Awesome Benefits of Meditation

By Vibhu Krishna, 200 hour yoga teacher training student

We all know that meditation is beneficial to us. But how exactly does it affect our everyday lives? Here are our five favorite benefits of meditation, although we suspect it touches us in more ways than science can currently prove.
1. Improve your relationships Meditation changes our brains and behavior in many ways that positively impacts our relationship skills. It can improve our ability to respond appropriately to difficult situations, such as during a disagreement with our partner. The practice also improves empathy - the ability to understand another person's state of mind, without getting lost in their "stuff" or losing awareness of our own emotions. It also makes us better communicators, able to see a situation clearly and not get lost in our own "stuff."

2. Boost your brain Scientists have known for some time that meditation increases the volume of grey matter in regions of the brain associated with memory and emotion, resulting in improved learning and empathy. Meditation has also been correlated with improved focus and attention. And now research indicates that long-term meditators appear to have even more gyrification, or folding, in the cerebral cortex, making your ability to process information even speedier—which effectively means you’ll be able to memorize and recall the Sanskrit name of one-legged pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) with ease! 3. Jumpstart your mood Got the blues? Meditation may be useful for alleviating depressive symptoms according to research at Johns Hopkins University. The decrease of symptoms observed in meditators with mild depression matched improvements commonly associated with antidepressant medication. Meditation is also a proven stress-buster and can even induce positive thoughts. And you don’t have to meditate two hours a day for the rest of your life to reap these benefits. Research shows significant stress reduction with just 25 minutes of meditation a day over three days.
4. Fight Disease In a five-year study, Harvard psychiatrists found that meditation can switch on genes associated with improved immune function. It can also switch off pro-inflammatory genes which causes quicker recovery from the physical trauma of stress. Your heart also benefits from meditation via decreased blood pressure and the potential prevention of cardiac disease. Finally, meditation can bring relief from symptoms to those suffering from many illnesses, including fibromyalgia, HIV, asthma, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
5. Live longer Each time your cells divide, the protective ends of their chromosomes—known as telomeres—shorten. The shortening of telomeres is a natural occurrence that accompanies aging. Over time, however, it eventually leads to an inability of the cell to divide, which has been associated with disease onset. Telomerase, sometimes referred to as the immortality enzyme, helps maintain the ends of chromosomes after cell division, thus keeping the cell alive longer. In a pilot study at the University of California at Los Angeles, meditation caused a 43% increase in telomerase activity, proving that a calm state of mind can counter the effects of cellular aging.