The Zen Life
If 2020 has taught us anything it’s the importance of connectedness and good mental health. Ingrid Nelson caught up with Zenko Yoga founder, Lauren Verona, to discover how practicing yoga and mindfulness can help us find our inner peace.
When was the last time you took time out of your day to just sit and relax? To really slow down and connect with your breath? It sounds so simple and it is, we just forget to stop and take a break from the business of everyday life, which can have a debilitating effect on our mental health and wellbeing.
Someone who knows all about mindfulness and its benefits is Yogi and owner of Zenko Yoga, Lauren Verona. Not only does Lauren practice what she preaches, she lives and (literally) breathes it every day and says it is something everyone can incorporate into their daily lives.
“Mindfulness and yoga is accessible to everyone,” says Lauren. “All of our minds are operating units, we can train ourselves to sit, to listen, to observe, to trust and steer our thoughts. Some people think once they are on the hamster wheel they can’t get off. They can.”
Having moved from a stressful corporate job in Melbourne to chase a more relaxed lifestyle on the Sunshine Coast for her young family, Lauren opened her first yoga studio in Buddina to connect with the community and has never looked back.
“I was stressed, running a business in Melbourne and I thought I would give yoga a try,” Lauren said. “Straight away I noticed I wasn’t as stressed and I was sleeping better. We have so many limitations as humans, I did too, but I kept going because it felt good. I didn’t know where it would take me.
“I opened Zenko Yoga because I didn’t have any family here so I wanted to create my own and that is exactly what we are. People want to feel connected and they get that at Zenko. It’s a friendly, safe environment, it’s chatty and you get to meet people. That has been a really big thing for us, we create a hub for people to connect.”
Having recently opened the doors to her newest studio and mindfulness hub in Maroochydore, Lauren says she is constantly in awe of what a difference she notices in her fellow yogis, sometimes after just one session.
From sleeping better, to being able to handle stressful situations and gaining clarity to make big life decisions, Lauren says it’s this feedback from her clients she finds most rewarding.
“We have members every day saying their lives have changed. You wouldn’t recognise some people; they have come so far. It’s not easy, but anything great isn’t achieved through comfort zones,” says Lauren. “I am still flabbergasted by how many people change within an hour, myself included. There is something magic through being in the practice, there is a real shift, you become aligned physically and mentally.”
And according to Lauren, it’s not only in the studio we start to see changes in our behaviour, it’s translated into everyday situations that would otherwise have us feeling stressed and anxious.
“We can switch off the mind, we are capable of anything. It’s making it accessible, and it infiltrates into our life, so next time we are stuck in traffic and running late, we can stop, breathe and trust …. it’s life changing.”
How often do we find ourselves saying we don’t have time or we feel guilty about taking some time out for ourselves? Yet we still find time to scroll through our social media or work longer hours. Sound familiar? But according to Lauren, taking time to breathe is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
“People do have guilt around taking time out of their busy lives. But what about the relationships in your life, your children? Coming home with recharged batteries, in a good headspace, you can’t put a price on that.”
Lauren’s right hand and fellow yogi convert, Kelly Alexander, couldn’t agree more. Having also relocated from Melbourne for a more peaceful lifestyle, Kelly says her first yoga class felt like “coming home”.
“You feel the benefit when you walk out of a restorative or a yin class, it’s like you are floating on air – you realise the ability to do this is within me, I can do this any time, I just need to make the time to do it,” says Kelly.
“No matter where I have been in life or around the world, I always have my mat and if I have my mat, I have that island of serenity that I can jump on to at any time. I have practiced in random places like airport lounges. It’s kind of like having something that is always there to support you.”
It’s not just women who benefit from Yoga, in fact, Zenko Yoga have a large number of male members. Lauren and her team are passionate about promoting and supporting men’s mental health.
“We love welcoming men to all of our classes and we know how beneficial it is for body and mind,” says Lauren.
“For the last seven years, we have been supporting Movember. With the rates of mental health and suicide at such alarmingly high rates for men, more than ever we need to support our men and our community- and what better way to do that than with yoga.”
Awareness is another key word Lauren uses frequently when it comes to the benefits of Yoga.
“The biggest clencher of yoga is you wake up! And you do that through self-observation,” says Lauren.
“We can’t change anything in our life until we become aware of it. How do we become aware? We observe.”
Perhaps the message that resonated most with me during my chat with these inspiring ladies was the ability to look within ourselves for the answers, something I think we can all relate to.
“We are always looking outside for the answers, and actually all the answers are inside of us when we stop and listen,” adds Kelly.