Zaina, 26, is a yoga practitioner, skydiver, and all-around lover of wellness, health, and life. She likes to think of herself as a “pretty average person” when it comes to what she does in everyday life, such as work and at home. But she loves to make the best of her free time. She loves cooking, eating lots of veggies, and taking care of her mind and body; that doesn’t mean she doesn’t treat herself to dessert often though!
We can’t get enough of your adventures! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get involved in yoga, and how did it make a positive impact on your life?
I like to think some of my biggest hobbies stem from taking care of my mind, body, and soul. I started yoga about 5 years ago when my cousin received her Bikram Yoga certification. I got heavily involved in practicing this style of hot hatha yoga. This military style of yoga, grounded me every day. It kept me so focused I couldn’t drift my mind even for a few seconds. I had to stare at myself for an hour and a half every class focused only on myself and nothing else. They called this style of class “open eyed meditation,” which it was. Everyone in class was moving as one, like soldiers, and sharing the same energy. Staring at myself this long every time, really taught me self love. I used to be self conscious about my belly fat and sweat, but after doing this over and over, I realized no one was judging, and I felt most beautiful sweating during my sweaty practice. Of course, there are the benefits of strength, flexibility, mental health, and the “euphoria” one feels after making it through this class. After changing careers, I changed to vinyasa style hot yoga, which was fine, but I felt I needed more. This past year, I discovered “High Energy Fusion Yoga” in Lodi, NJ. It was like a breath of fresh air! Though not hot yoga, it combined all the things I loved most. Strength, balance, flexibility, and sweat! I was challenged, encouraged, and always keeping a smile on my face. This place brought me a new sense of community with some of the nicest yogis I’ve ever met. For now, this place has me addicted!
What inspired you to become a skydiver?
I never really thought about becoming a licensed skydiver really. It came into my life one afternoon when I received a text from my cousin reading “Skydiving on Sunday?”and I replied “Um..yes” and that was that! Me and my cousin, Dalia, were never close but somehow she knew I would be the right person to reach out to for this new adventure. That day rolled around, and we went to Skydive Sussex for our first tandem skydive, fell in love, and did another the same day! I was hooked and was high for days. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have ever become licensed. She asked all the right questions and we received all the needed guidance. The next Sunday we did our third tandem and the following Tuesday, we dropped a couple grand on our credit cards and started our 6 hour ground course! I didn’t want it to end, so I proceeded to travel over the winter and got my “A” license at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Florida.
How has skydiving changed your life in a positive way? How has it made you more confident?
Skydiving is one of the reasons I am where I am today. Jumping out of a plane made me quite literally conquer my fears and leave my comfort zone. It inspired me to do the same in life. I grew up with strict parents who raised hell when I started this hobby. I really hated disobeying them and never wanted them to be disappointed in me. I always grew up worrying what my people thought of me, suffered through bits of depression because of it. After I started skydiving, all of that changed. I decided I needed to live my life for me and if I’m not hurting myself or anyone else, everyone else will have to deal with it. After some decisions, I took some of my first few skydive road tripes around the country. I’ve met a new community of skydivers who were badass and lovers of life. I really believe that skydiving and yoga has cured my loneliness, restlessness, and depression that I suffered through some parts of my life; I felt complete. Fast forward a few years later, I’ve travelled around the country, out of the country, moved out of my parents house, met my current boyfriend (who is also a skydiver), and have a career to fund this sport. Skydiving blossomed something inside me I never knew I had. I gained new confidence and now I often step outside of my comfort zone whenever I can.
How has yoga helped you as a skydiver, mentally and physically?
Yoga has helped me all around in every part of my life but especially as a skydiver. To start, skydiving can make one stiff , sore, and tense. Yoga helps my muscles relax which protect my muscles for injury. In addition, yoga has taught me to focus, quiet my mind, and only focus on my breath. I try to use this technique in the plane on my way to altitude. Yoga has also taught me body awareness that I may not have thought of before. Skydivers have to hold specific body positions for certain types of flying and body awareness has helped immensely.
How has skydiving helped your yoga practice?
Unfortunately, skydiving has not helped my yoga practice when it comes to flexibility, but packing and toggle turns have helped my arm strength! I have become more stiff and sore than before, but I try my best to incorporate stretching during my weekends skydiving.
What stretches would you recommend to skydivers?
I think skydivers can greatly benefit from yoga and watch their flying transform. It helps with soreness, stiffness, and cramps. The stretches I think about using the most are shoulder stretches, back stretches, heart openers, and hip and hamstring stretches. Pretty much everything! Because a skydiver is most likely carrying about 20-25 pounds of gear with the harnesses around the legs chest, and shoulders, they can get tense and stiff throughout the day.
Some mild stretches and I recommend for hips and hamstrings are: pigeon pose, stranding forward fold, warrior 1/2, and triangle pose for hips and hamstrings. For shoulders: child pose, puppy pose, eagle arms, dolphin pose and dolphin push ups. For back stretches I recommend cobra pose, upward dog, and cat/cow pose.
Both skydiving and yoga emphasize living in the moment. What would your advice be to people looking to stay present?
Staying present nowadays can be very difficult with all the distractions with social media and technology. We can all be guilty with being addicted but I try to keep my phone away as much as I can when I’m with people I love or doing things I love (but it’s hard!). With skydiving or yoga, I really I don’t have to think about it, so I would recommend doing activities that challenge your mind and your body. I try to keep my body busy so it’s hard for my mind to wander. Once in a while I’ll do some rock climbing, trapeze, swimming, circus classes, hiking, or anything similar as well.
At This Adventure Life we celebrate the lives and stories of the people who live life fearlessly. #livefearlessly