Yoga coping with academic and work stress
On April 12, 2017 Global Asian Studies held a special event at the Ray Meyer Fitness &
Recreation Center. After the event, our guest, Ms. Kuniko Nakamura, shared her
experience with yoga.
• What motivated you to start practicing yoga, and teaching the meditation for veterans techniques?
I started yoga to try to tame a chronic inflammatory skin condition for which stress is a trigger, but I was a longtime dabbling beginner until I came to Chicago. Here, I enrolled in a 200 hour teacher training course accredited by the Yoga Alliance to deepen my practice by learning about the physiology and philosophy of yoga. Initially, I had no plans to teach, but my teacher/studio owner was kind to set up a class for me in exchange with my taking classes with them. I dubbed that class “Zen Vinyasa” and taught every Sunday for some time.
With my Iyengar/Hatha influence combined with the mindfulness and Yin Yoga teacher training, I added the Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Yoga Teacher Training by the Veterans Yoga Project to my repertoire. My husband is a purple heart veteran, and I was looking for ways to unwind him and other veterans and help them adjust back into civilian life. The Veterans Yoga Project specifically taught us how to create an inviting space void of trauma triggers. I applied that knowledge at the yoga session hosted by the Global Asian Studies, and I hope it worked for the attendees. I would welcome opportunities to lead a session again, including one for the student veterans at DePaul. I want to thank Prof. Ibata-Arens for inviting me to lead a session and to Qiqi Gao for making it happen.
• How do you think yoga has influenced your life?
Yoga has influenced me in profound ways, by giving me different paths to better myself and to be very intentional about my actions. Some might achieve that through faith, but I am quite secular, aside from the inherent Shinto-Buddhist values of being Japanese. On a practical level, Yoga and the mindfulness practice make me a little less reactive during stressful moments.
As a diplomat and public servant, my day-to-day job is to advance our national interest, but I also try to consciously improve the situation around me in ways I can. I will give you a Zen concept that touched me - 趙州洗鉢 - which I interpret as “to be in the moment, to do what you have to do (without aiming too high) - Wash your bowl if you have eaten your breakfast.”
• Do you have any tips for beginners?
As a longtime beginner myself, I would recommend searching for classes that resonate with you - convenience and vicinity help. It is okay if you don’t attend regularly, even though a regular practice certainly makes a difference. But every class you attend, start with an intention, be it to ease your back pain, to calm your anxiety, or to be able to concentrate when writing a paper. Then, immerse yourself in the class, setting aside all judgement and inviting the pose into your body with your breath. I hope you embrace the joy of being a beginner and keep dabbling.
Photo: Gregory Dixon, DePaul University