The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of us; it has caused an increased amount of stress in so many areas and aspects of our lives.
Stress can affect both our physical and mental health, so finding ways to manage it should be a priority. We all need a way to find balance.
There are techniques we can use to help manage stress as well as boost healing, decrease pain and regulate our nervous system for a decreased stress response which will help lead to a more meaningful life.
Life and the world together with our wellbeing as humans are incredibly interconnected connections which can get all tangled up and affect who we are and how we feel.
RDBIDventures gave me the chance to go to Yoga Mala here in Regina Downtown.
What a special studio it is – very open and welcoming! There is a sense of comfort. Shoes off, bare or socked feet – gives respect to the space. The floors are wooden and polished – perfect to practice yoga. The slate steps that connect the three floors of the immense yoga studio are soft and cool to the sole in the summer, and I was reassured, soft and warm in the winter.
I had the chance to speak with Emma Korkola, founder and principal instructor at Yoga Mala.
Here is an edited excerpt of that conversation.
Emma, what is yoga?
Fundamentally, yoga is physical posture and breathing, and it is through the practice of physical shapes and breath work that we are able to move towards the steadiness or stillness of the body and mind. We are connecting the body and mind through the breath – that’s the magic!
What is great about yoga?
The physical aspect of yoga is good for everyone; it is good for your body!
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga creates. With yoga we can create a space and freedom in the body.
What are the different aspects of yoga?
Yoga can be so many things; a tool to a more centered mind. It is your intentions and what you bring to it. Yoga is physical, spiritual, and philosophical. It is contemplation and meditation. It is the still point – the calm and centre within.
Yoga can be both passive and active and with consistent practice, it can give you increased mobility and joints that are less prone to injury. Yoga assists in rest and recovery for tissues and parasympathetic nerves.
Overall, yoga is fitness and can benefit the individual with so many different forms of exercise.
How did COVID affect you and your yoga studio?
March 17th, 2020 was a very hard day. COVID hit hard, and we closed the studio doors. It is different now though. The re-opening has been great with a strong teaching team of employees and contractors.
Where are you located?
We are on the fourth floor of 2020 11th Ave, right next to the Cornwall Centre.
How long have you been in this studio practicing and offering yoga?
We renovated in 2004 and opened in 2005. It has very good architecture, and we had smudging done to respect the ancestral grounds that we are on.
Why did you choose this location for your studio?
I never lived in a place for more than six years prior to moving here, but Regina is my centre now and has been for the last seventeen years. All around the world there is an authentic heart of community. The lifeblood comes from a greater closeness to the heart of a city – its downtown and together with its vibration, a connection that feels authentic. The oldest part of a city is something that you just can’t replicate. We need to nurture and care for the centre of our city. The centre cannot go away! We always have to come back to common ground – the middle. (She said with her hands – implying the centre of our personal selves as well).
What does Yoga Mala offer?
I offer teacher training as well as classes in-person or online with a Yoga Mala studio in Vancouver as well. We have adopted a hybrid system: in studio and online, and this model has made Yoga Mala sustainable. It has been a gift, and I have been able to move closer to my community of both teachers and students. It has been great to be able to join in all together in space physically but also having the ability to meet virtually too.
We have also expanded across Canada, and we have participants in the USA with our virtual classes. From Calgary to Palm Springs!
We have a Thai therapist from Victoria coming to rent the space here in our Regina studio. I am open to renting out my open spaces as well as open to new classes, ideas and options.
I used to bring in buskers and let them play their music during our yoga classes. Who knows? Maybe I can start “entertaining” that idea again!
How has this adaptation affected you and your studio?
I have adapted and coped. Resilience is key to all of us.
What else would you like to tell the public?
I am very involved with the community. One example is that I work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Life is about showing up for one another. Everyone has been hurt over the last couple of years, but a lot of positives have come out of the whole process where we have been able to pivot, move and flow. Out of joy and out of my offering and my service to the world, I am so grateful. The spark of joy and delight is service, and it is very fulfilling. There is a reciprocity. I am there for the people, and they are here for me.
What does “Namaste!” mean to you Emma?
It means so many things. It can mean “Welcome!”; it can mean “Goodbye”. But it is a word that indicates sincere gratitude to begin and end our time together. The special part of me honours the special part of you as we share space together. Namaste.
After my conversation with Emma, I thought about these five topics and wondered “How are they connected?”
- Vagus nerve
- Yoga Mala
Let me try to articulate.
Different continents, cultures, languages and practices – one concept: balance of body, mind and soul.
1.The Vagus Nerve (vagare in Latin = to wander, stray, stroll, to ramble).
Think of a vagabond – someone who wanders with only a vague idea of where they are going. The vagus nerve is exactly that – a wanderer in our bodies, and it plays an essential role in determining how the body should respond in any given moment, in terms of “fight, flight or freeze” and “rest or digest”.
The vagus nerve will activate either the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze), or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest) depending on what is happening in the gut, and then it regulates accordingly. The intimate relationship between the gut and the vagus nerve that moves directly to the brain impacts how the brain deals with emotional regulation, physical health, mental health and spiritual health.
See the end of the blog to find out some ways you can strengthen your vagus nerve!
ASICS, the well known sports brand, is an acronym from Classical Latin – the dominant language which the Italian language is based – “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano”, and it translates to “a sound mind in a sound body” or more simply put “a healthy mind in a healthy body” and is a phrase which is widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well being.
Smudging is an Indigenous cultural or tribal practice which connects the people to The Creator and provides communities a way to gain spiritual protection, blessings as well as to improve spiritual health. The smoke created by burning sacred herbs is thought to purify the body and soul as well as bring clarity to the mind.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word which translates to uniting mind and body. The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” meaning “to join”, “to yoke” or “to unite”. As per Yogic scriptures, the practice of yoga leads to harmony between the mind and body.
5. Yoga and Yoga Mala
From our conversation, we can see how these four aspects have all connected to be a part of yoga and the Yoga Mala experience.
For more information on Yoga Mala, please visit their website:
or phone: (306) 352 9642
Thank you Emma!
Here are just a few of the ways (besides yoga) to strengthen your vagus nerve:
- Hold a purring kitten/cat! The sound and vibration cats make can stimulate the vagus nerve in us
- Spend time with and visit the people who lift your spirit
- Connect with nature
- Expose your skin to sunlight
- Apply cold compresses to your face and the back of your neck
- Exercise or regularly move your body
- Sing or hum (such as a rhythmic Om)
- Get a massage
RDBIDventures would love to hear what you have uncovered and discovered about exercise and the benefits in connecting your mind and body!