As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”,
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tina Hnatiuk Life Coach, Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher of www.quickblissyoga.com. For over 13 years, Tina has helped busy women and moms rapidly reduce stress and anxiety in only minutes a day through simple evidence-based practices that anyone can do even if you have no time.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I’ve always been an avid runner. I’m not good or fast and I don’t like races, but I love running for the pure joy of it. When I was 24 I started working for a (then) small company called Lululemon. One of the perks of working there (as well as regular Jugo Juices), was free yoga.
I worked with a few yoga teachers at Lulu, and it seemed interesting, so I decided to check it out. What I didn’t know was that it would kick my butt and also change my life. I still remember the warm glow of dimmed sconces in that sweltering humid carpeted studio with students sweating like cheddar cheese on toast over sweat soaked towels.
As I looked around at all the faces of different ages, backgrounds, genders, and demographics I felt viscerally that I belonged. Everyone in that hellishly hot room was doing the best that they good to their strength and abilities. We breathed and moved in synchronicity as one, and on some level…I felt we were one.
This ignited my love of yoga and personal development and was the catalyst for me to become a certified Life Coach and Yoga Teacher.
Now I often joke in my classes that, “yoga will only change your life.” And it’s true if you let it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most interesting things that has happened to me since starting my career more of a realization.
Over the many years teaching yoga to thousands of students I have been privileged to hear some of their deepest joys, dreams, struggles, pain, and loss. They’ve shared the devastation of miscarriages, the joy of a rainbow baby after giving up on invitro, the tragic loss of their children, the fear and excitement of going back to school after decades at the same job to finally do what they wanted to do, divorce, the delight and shy smiles of new relationships, cancer diagnoses of themselves or close family, the ravages of addiction, and feeling helpless parenting their kids just to name a few.
We all seem to think that what is happening to us is ONLY happening to us. But it’s not true, we are all going through something. Although the details might be unique, our experiences aren’t.
We are not alone.
Take comfort in your struggles and know that you can rely on the strength of all the thousands, if not millions, of people who are going through or have gone through what you are now.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I’ll never forget the very first yoga class I taught. It was shortly after my teacher training at the studio I had been practicing at for years. It was a 9:30am Ashtanga class, the very class I took every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with the same students I practiced beside. Now though, I was standing in front of them instead of beside them.
I was terrified.
Who was I to be a teacher? Who did I think I was standing in front of them instead of beside them?
Then I remembered one of my yoga teacher-trainers words, “you will always know more than the people you are teaching in the room.” It’s a simple reminder that we all bring a unique perspective to the teaching which makes it new, fresh, and original just because it’s ours.
So, I bowed my head and placed my hands at my heart in prayer asking the students to do the same. Then I quietly said “Breathe,” both as an instruction to them and a reminder for me.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
To be an expert at anything it takes time and a hunger to know more about your field. Not just years, but the time we put into learning our field and sharing it with others. I have taught over 13000 hours of yoga and meditation. I have worked with thousands of women and moms who all express the same challenges of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.
I understand my clients struggles because I have the same challenges they do. I am a mom to an energetic sweet boy and juggle too many things with too many expectations. I have overcome PTSD, panic attacks, depression in my younger years and PPD after the birth of my son. I know what my clients are struggling with because I’ve been there too.
There is a lot of noise when it comes to managing stress and anxiety and it can be hard to make sense of it all. My contribution is unique because I combine simple, evidence-based practices, based on neuroscience, Mindfulness, and Positive Psychology to help busy women and moms rapidly lower stress and anxiety in under 20 minutes a day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have had SO much help and been very lucky to have wonderful friends and support over the years. But there is one person who stands out and that’s my friend Trevor Yelich. We met when a roommate was leaving to move in with her boyfriend. She mentioned a yoga teacher at her gym was looking for a roommate.
I met Trevor at his house with his other roommate Noah. We all hit it off, so I moved in.
He had been an engineer and left that to teach yoga. He has reinvented himself so many times by taking multiple certifications and trainings all deepening his love of nurturing and healing the Self.
Trevor and I are both Aries and exactly 5 years and 2 days apart. He is a kind, challenging, and quick to laugh yoga teacher who quickly became one of my favorite teachers.
A few months later when Trevor was offering a yoga teacher training, he encouraged me to take it. It was a Level 1, and I’d have to take 2 more levels to complete my 200-hour certification. I was unsure. I didn’t really want to be a yoga teacher, but I signed up anyways.
It turned out that I LOVED it. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. Then I put it aside as life did its thing and got busy.
Three years later I took my Life Coaching Certification in Vancouver and when I returned, I was flat broke. I didn’t want to go back to serving tables, but I didn’t know what else I could do to make money while I was building my Life Coaching business.
Trevor had a Level 2 teacher training coming up and urged me to take it. I objected. I had no money and I never really saw myself as a yoga teacher anyways. He said they’d give me a year to pay for the tuition and I had nothing to lose. Besides, he thought I’d make an excellent yoga teacher.
The training was tough. I had the flu for almost the full week of training and had to sit out of a lot of activities because I was too sick to participate. But by the end, I was knee trembling scared but ready to teach my first yoga classes. I could have never guessed then that teaching yoga would be one of my callings and biggest passion in life.
Trevor has been a steadfast, challenging, compassionate, and inspiring mentor and friend to me for almost two decades. I am grateful for his support and unwavering belief in me over the years and watching him fearlessly go after his dreams has given me the courage to go after my own.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
You’re exactly right. Most of my clients are busy overwhelmed women who know they need to make changes to be healthier, and struggle to implement those changes. The 3 main blockages that prevent us for integrating this knowledge into our lives is this:
Imagine if you start your day in a panic with all the things you must remember and do for the day ahead. Then you spend your day rushing around trying to fit all those things in, put out the fires that come up (because they DO come up), and try to be all things to everybody. When you are in this state every day adding one more thing to your list, even if it’s something you know will make you feel better, feels like too much.
Most of my clients are in this state day after day. They wake up with their mind already racing, rush through their day, go to bed too late trying to fit in the last of the things, then wake up with their mind racing, repeating the cycle again. It’s a difficult cycle to break without support.
Over 40% of Americans don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep. Finding the effort to start new healthy habits is momentous when we are chronically stressed and tired. Even the smallest changes can feel like just too much.
The research points out that making healthy changes gives us more energy. However, it also requires energy to change habits. That initial energy requirement can be enough to deter us from making the changes we need, and even want, because we are too exhausted to start.
3. Habit Formation
The only way to make long term changes in our health and lifestyle is by creating new habits. It’s the small things we do each day that shape our lives and have the power to transform them.
Habit forming is especially beneficial because once they become automatic it’s easy. Just like brushing your teeth, it’s just what you do everyday and you no longer need to think about it.
As we all know from experience is that habits are difficult to start and even harder to break. If it was easy, we’d all be fit and eat healthy, right? Initially, it takes planning, consistency and energy to form new behaviors before they become automatic, and that’s the stage where most people give up.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
As a Life Coach for over 13 years I know that the biggest transformations happen from the smallest shifts. Adding a few small tweaks here and there, can initiate momentum towards long-term lifestyle changes. Here’s my top 5 that will help you feel better immediately, and when done regularly will help you lower stress, sleep better, and increase your happiness, all in under 5 minutes.
- Only Do 5 Minutes of Yoga
One of the biggest barriers to health for most people is lack of time. We are too busy. For many of us, just the thought of trying to find an extra 2 hours to fit in a yoga class can feel overwhelming.
Research shows that consistency is more important than long yoga practices, and we can start seeing benefits in less than 5 minutes a day. Practicing yoga regularly is key to achieving long-term benefits like lowering stress, sleeping better, and increasing happiness.
Yoga also has the immediate effect of feeling more energized, present, and ease in only 5 minutes. Try adding a few minutes of mindful stretching and breathing every day and see how you feel. It’s better than a cup of coffee!
Gratitude and its positive side effects have over 30 years of research behind it. It is a powerful tool in training our minds to become happier, more positive, and more resilient and it takes almost no time at all. In fact, it is so powerful that when we scan the last 24 hours for positive moments it can push the negative moments out as though they never happened.
The trick to getting the most out of your gratitude practice is to scan your day for 3 positive moments in your day, and then relive them as though they are happening now.
Scanning your day for positive moments trains your mind to begin looking for them throughout your day so that you start seeing more of them. Reliving those moments gives a double dose of the feel-good emotions from a single moment in your day.
Not only do you feel immediately happier, you will start to notice more positive moments in your day which increases your happiness baseline.
3. Use an Anchor
One of my clients lives only a few minutes’ drive from the busy local coffee shop she owns. When we started working together of her main concerns was that she never felt like she could fully leave work at work. She easily worked more than 60 hours a week and not only worked at the coffee shop but also often from her home office. She was completely immersed in her business. When she was home, she desperately wanted to be present with her husband and grown children but she had a difficult time letting the pressures of work go.
One of the tools I taught her was to use an anchor, a symbol that would remind her to switch gears from work mode to home mode. Some of my clients have used the light switch at the office as a reminder to switch gears, others have used the door handle to their house as a reminder. The most important thing is that when you touch the anchor you have a mental shift of focus from work to home.
This mindset shift creates a gap between work and home allowing you close one door to become present for the one ahead. It’s a simple shift that will help you release the stress of the workday while allowing you to be fully present and engaged with the ones you love.
Have you ever wished there was a magic tool you could use to calm your nerves right before a presentation, asking for a raise, or having a difficult conversation with your friend? There is, and it’s very simple.
Breathe Out of Your Left Nostril
Our nervous systems are directly related to our breath. We also intuitively know this. After all, what’s the first thing we say to someone who’s panicking? That’s right, “breathe.”
The ancient yogi’s have taught us that the breath is hardwired into our nervous system, so we can use it to change our state. Some types of breathing can energize, and some can calm us down.
The left nostril is related to down regulating our nervous system. By closing your right nostril and breathing a few long and slow deep breaths out of the left, you can calm down almost instantly…even before that big interview.
Do Not Disturb
I was a late adopter to the cell phone. I didn’t like that it allowed anyone to get ahold of me anytime anywhere. Why should any of us be available all the time? It seemed stressful. Now, having a phone with all the different ways to connect through it is absolutely stressful.
I read recently that we get a newsstands worth of information every single day through our smart phones. Not only do we have 5 (or more) different ways for people to contact us, we also have information overload…and don’t get me started on scrolling social media.
Devices are known to increase stress and influence how poorly we sleep. A simple way to create good boundaries to protect you from its effects is to use your Do Not Disturb function on your phone.
I have mine set from 9pm to 9am, and I don’t look at my phone until the Do Not Disturb turns off at 9am. In the evening it allows me some time to unwind before bed without notifications or demands on my attention. The biggest benefit though, happens in the morning.
When we start our day on our smart phones it sets us up for stress and panic. It creates anxiety before we’ve even gotten out of bed about the day ahead. With notifications turned off, you are free to start the day relaxed before anything else demands your attention.
Adding small tweaks into your lifestyle is one of the simplest ways to make big shifts. Afterall, it’s what we do everyday that has the most influence in how we feel and how we live.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
To be honest, I have not exercised for weight loss since the birth of my son almost 4 years ago and I exercise every day. The benefits of exercise are so much more than physical, and here’s the 3 that are most meaningful to me:
- Alleviates Stress
There’s the old adage “move a muscle, change a feeling” and it’s true. Not only do you get pumped up on feel good endorphins it helps your body and mind work through the stress of your day.
The mind, body and emotions are a part of an ecosystem that work together. That’s how a thought can trigger a physiological stress response in the body. It also works in reverse. When our minds are spinning our and our emotions feel out of control, exercise can clear our heads while bringing ease and calm to our hearts.
There’s a misconception that confidence is something you’re born with or that affirmations can increase confidence. The evidence shows that confidence is a skill and a muscle that can be strengthened by mastering something new and taking small risks.
When we learn something new it requires us to face our perceived limitations and obstacles like resistance and fear. Pushing through those obstacles is where we build our confidence muscle.
Each time we challenge internal obstacles we build our capacity to do difficult things and our resilience which helps us get back up faster after setbacks.
The mornings I start my day with exercise are always my most productive days. The mental benefits that come from a good sweat allow me to prioritize effectively, get more done in less time, and stay more focused and engaged while I’m doing it.
The mood related benefits are also helpful because Positive Psychology shows that happy people are successful people.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise because it moves the body in all planes of motion, has cardio benefits (if you do more actives styles of yoga), and of course the mental benefits of meditation. Just like any exercise routine, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, in my experience these 3 exercises are among the best for most people, especially if you suffer from back pain related to sitting.
A simple thing we can do to prevent and alleviate back pain is strengthen our core. Planks are one of the best because it engages all 3 layers of the abdominals, including the deep core muscles the transverse abdominals which can help prevent lower back pain and injury.
How to do it:
Come into a plank position either on your knees or on your toes with your shoulders stacked over your wrists.
Scoop your pubic bone up towards your navel while drawing your low ribs into the back of your body like you’re trying to round your lower back up toward the ceiling.
Squeeze in through your core like a girdle wrapping around your middle.
Breath for a count of 10 then drop into child’s pose with your hips pulled back to your heels and your head on the ground for a breath or 2.
Repeat 5 times.
2. Little Bridges
Many of have upper back pain from sitting too much which rounds the upper back and tightens the chest and shoulders. Little Bridges are excellent at countering the office slouch while relieving low back pain. It beautifully opens the chest, upper back, and shoulders…and you get to lie down while you do it!
How to do it:
Lay on your back and walk your feet in towards your buttocks hip width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead. Bend your elbows at your sides with your fingers pointing to the ceiling and your palms are facing each other (imagine robot arms).
Press into your feet and the backs of your arms to lift your hips using your legs more than your glutes. Imagine that your inner thighs are dropping towards the floor while you lengthen your tailbone between your knees. Then lift your heart to your chin.
Stay for a count of 5 then lower. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Our spines (and bodies) are meant to move and most of us don’t move dynamically enough during the day. Twisting relieves tension in the muscles along the spine, increases mobility in the rib cage, and stimulates the vagus nerve which gives us a feeling of release and relaxation.
How to do it:
Lay on your back with your arms out to the sides in a T.
Draw your knees into your chest and then slowly take them over the right while keeping your left shoulder firmly pressing into the floor.
Allow the weight of your knees to create the twist. They don’t ever have to touch the floor, just go as far as feels good.
If it feels good, take your gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. Stay for a count of 5 to 10 breaths.
Repeat on the other side.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
Muscle soreness is a normal response to the body building muscle. One of the most important things you can do to shorten recovery time and prevent injury is to make sure you warm up your muscles before and stretch adequately afterwards. Yoga is a great way to help prevent injury and is a great exercise to do in between workouts to keep muscle stiffness and soreness at bay.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I believe eating whole foods with lots of veggies is key to optimal health. In our home, we have almost no processed food (other than whole grain bread) and I make all our meals and snacks from scratch. I have a gluten allergy and have been a vegetarian most of my life (which is a big reason I cook and bake so much) and my husband and son eat meat on occasion.
When my clients ask me about how to eat healthier, I recommend starting small by looking for ways to add more veggies to their diet and meal planning every week. It’s easier to eat healthy when you have a plan in place and you already have all the ingredients you need to make them.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
number of years ago I was an ambassador for Lululemon and invited to go on a leadership retreat with other selected ambassadors.
We were asked to bring a few things and one of them was a book that was significant to us. We then exchanged our book for another in the library that was created. The book I took out of the library was “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.
The first half of the book is a memoir about psychologist Viktor Frankl’s experience in the Nazi death camps during the holocaust. The second half of the book is based on his theory that we cannot avoid suffering but we can learn how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
All humans suffer. Viktor Frankel experienced and saw some of the worst of the human suffering and he still believes that our freedom is in how we choose our attitude in those circumstances. If he could go through all that and come to this conclusion, then there is no reason I can’t cope my own challenges in life.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people it would be to give women permission to take care of themselves first without being seen as selfish.
Women have been taught that their needs are secondary, and it teaches them that THEY are secondary.
When we give women permission and the right to take care of their own needs first instead of constantly taking the pulse of everyone around them, they become more powerful in every area of their lives. They are more inspired, creative, and can contribute more to their work, family, and the world around them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor Frankl
I have been blessed with many obstacles in my life, including growing up in an alcoholic home, PPD, panic attacks, and PTSD. This quote who was written by an amazing psychologist who survived the holocaust. If he can see the worst of the human conditions and choose his own way, by god so can I.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I have so many! So many people inspire me and it’s hard to pick just one, but if I had to it would be Oprah. She has done so much in her career to change how we see ourselves, each other, and the world.
She has used her influence to raise the consciousness of the world through empathy, compassion, and allowing us to see ourselves through each other.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!