By Zoe Malia Ozoa Loos
I think it’s safe to say we are all busy individuals, no matter who you are, stress is part of life. However, it’s what we do with our stress that matters. Personally, stress for me manifests in multiple forms. Before I graduated from my Master’s Program, stress usually came in the form of school. My particular Master’s Program was challenging because while it was a writing program, most of the content folks were writing about centered around trauma. Their traumas were often hard to read, such as molestation, physical violence, police brutality, or mental health issues. Learning about my friend’s traumas created a lot of stress for me. I have now graduated from that program. However, my stress now manifests itself differently. I still experience stress. At times, I worry about my career or trusting that I am enough. No matter where life takes you or what stage of your life journey you are on, there will be challenges that could result in stress. It is a gift to yourself and others to transform this stress. To keep yourself well so that, in turn, how you interact with others can be filled with joy and love. Humanity and the world are deeply connected. If you allow yourself to radiate love, others will feel it. To do this, however, stress must be released. Focusing on your mental health is one of the most significant forms of self-love.
Breathing and remembering that I am connected to not only my own being, others, and the world helps me and countless others release their stress and tension. Yoga, especially yoga outdoors, has helped me, and many others access this type of connectivity, breathing, and tension reliever. Yoga, while deeply sacred and rooted in Hinduism and the rich culture of India, as a practice, is available to all. With a sense of respect, yoga can beautifully intertwine with any culture and any religion. Countries such as Japan have caught on by actually prescribing citizens “forest bathing”. Japanese doctors will tell their patients to go into forests for a couple of hours to practice meditation and focusing on their natural surroundings. Going out in nature and practicing deep meditative breathing has been proven to reduce amygdala size (area of the brain responsible for flight or fight response), reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and improve immune function. Doing forest bathing even has lasting effects that help patients’ months after. And they get to bask in the beauty of nature, what can be better?
Meditation and conscious breathing are a huge part of yoga along with improved flexibility, balance, strengthen, and a more profound sense of one’s own body. I have only done yoga outside once, but I want to do it again and far prefer it to yoga indoors. Feeling the heat of the sun. Hear the murmur of the sea. Grass tickling my arms. ‘Iwa and Manu-o-Kū soaring above me in the azure sky. Hear others around me breathe slowly in and out. I can feel my body release. I can feel the pulling and of my muscles stretching and releasing. My body strengthening, my mind focusing on the present, and I move from pose to pose, giving myself love. I am connected. I breathe out and say thank you.
About the Author: Zoë Malia Ozoa Loos is a recent graduate from Saint Mary’s College of California receiving both her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Ethnic Studies in 2017, and her Master’s Degree in Creative NonFiction Writing in 2019. Zoë has strong ties to Hawaiʻi moving there in 2002 to be closer to her maternal family. Writing for Zoë is her way of helping to join people together and people and their natural environment together. Language is a tool that can bridge gaps and improve understanding. Zoë hopes to use writing as her way of giving back to the community and working towards a better more connective future.