Listen: Mindfulness in Practice with Nalaverse

Nalaverse is a Black-owned, women-led mental wellness platform. offering Yoga, meditation, and breathwork classes. Join A’Tiya Sinae, Yoga instructor, sound healing practitioner, and Reiki healer, and Theresa Shropshire, CEO and Co-Founder of Nalaverse for a conversation about the benefits of mindfulness, particularly in urban environments.

TRANSCRIPT:

Rebecca Cordes Chan: [00:00:00] 10 years ago, a small group of community members looked at the rusty rails that run through their neighborhoods and saw potential, potential for a usable, beautiful public space. When completed the Rail Park will connect more than 10 neighborhoods with three miles of continuous green space, a space for everyone, young and old, athlete and artist, neighbors and visitors alike. Friends of the Rail Park presents Sounds of the Park.

Hey everyone. I’m Rebecca Cordes Chan, Executive Director of Friends of the Rail Park.

It’s no secret that in a big city like Philadelphia, it can be difficult to find a place for exercise or mindfulness away from the busy streets. Phase One of the Rail Park sits between Chinatown North and Callowhill, offering a green space for everyone in an area with very limited access to parks, providing a place for us to [00:01:00] move around, connect with nature and breathe in the open air.

In this episode of Sounds of the Rail Park we’re joined by Nalaverse, a Black centered, women led, virtual mental wellness platform, to discuss mindfulness and the value of access to nature and outdoor space for health and wellbeing. 

The Nalaverse community provides pay-what-you-can classes focused on breath, work, meditation, and yoga. Today I’m so happy to be handing it over to Theresa Shropshire, co-founder and CEO of Nalaverse and A’Tiya Sinae, yoga instructor, sound healing practitioner and Reiki healer. Theresa and A’Tiya, take it away.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:01:35] Thank you so much for the introduction, Rebecca. We’re super excited to be here. I’m Theresa, I’ll be interviewing A’Tiya today. Thanks for joining me. 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:01:44] No problem.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:01:46] Awesome. First, you know, a lot of people have been struggling to really wind down in the city and, um, find peace, so I’d love to know how you really stay grounded on a day-to-day basis in the city. 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:01:59] Well, I [00:02:00] grew up in a city, so this is like my normal habitat so I’m good at finding spaces that help me feel a little bit more grounded. So I like to walk in parks a lot. I live in the Fishtown neighborhood, so I have the opportunity to go to a few parks in my area. I have a small dog, so that helps she’s my motivation to get out early and I do like to play my bowls at home when it’s quiet and my partner is at home so that helps me find my own comfort in my practice and I feel like it’s a commitment to me that I am able to do it and share it with everyone else. 

Theresa Shropshire: [00:02:34] I love that. I love all those techniques. You know, my favorite is sound healing so I’m really excited for some more of your classes. How do you really make sure that you stay committed on a day to day basis? Like what really motivates you to stay on top of it? What are the benefits that you are seeing when you stay committed to these practices? 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:02:52] Well, I like to say that I’m a self-proclaimed procrastinator at times. So giving myself a [00:03:00] challenge to stay committed to something really helps, even if I say I’m going to do something for 30 days, I challenge myself, which gives me that push. That and on top of that, I definitely tap into the other people that are in my spiritual community. They kind of give me the boost. I feel like it’s important that in this community we uplift each other so if that’s even something that I see on Instagram, that’s like, they should do this today. I’m like, you know what? That’s so, right. I need to do that. 

So I just happened to, the things that are around me, the people that are around me, and most importantly, just knowing when I need to really like, get on it, like get on my mat, you know, pick up the sound bowls or even just practice Reiki on myself. It’s, it’s just the matter of you having that thought and then you do it. Can’t wait 20 minutes, an hour because then it will definitely not happen.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:03:50] Totally. When did you really start to integrate it into your daily practice? So, especially as sound healing, you mentioned that there are times where you just know that’s [00:04:00] time for you to get back to your practice. When did you first realize that this was something that you wanted to get into?

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:04:05] Well, I worked at a meditation studio in New York city as a social media intern for a few months and that was the big push. I was taking a free class at the studio, and I fell in love with sound healing then. Fast forward, moving here, quarantine started and in April 2020, I purchased my own set of bowls and it kind of started from there.

I really just enjoyed practicing and then my partner pushed me to like, do you want to do this and add this to your classes? And I was like, you know, that’s a good idea. I started just practicing and playing for him and myself and it kind of picked up from there.

Honestly, it was very, just fluid. It just happened. I always had an interest in sound healing and [00:05:00] frequency music, and then to study it myself and to really use my family members and my friends as practice, it helps me to build the confidence to be able to do it for others. So I’m not certified in it, but I have done the self study and have connected with other sound healers for the advice.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:05:20] Yeah and it sounds like sound healing in particular could be more of an intuitive process or maybe something like that.

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:05:25] Absolutely. For me, I go based off how I feel, because each note resonates with a different part of your body. It’s always about, okay, how’s my heart feeling today. Do I need to play with this bowl today, or do I need to focus on my crown chakra? Am I feeling a little cloudy? So it does it, there’s a little method to it. You just got to have fun and then mixing them, having fun, trying the Tibetian sound bowls, which are like the metal ones and then also doing the crystal. So you get to play with different instruments, which I love about sound healing and they all do something different.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:05:59] So you [00:06:00] mentioned that you also like to go outdoors and that’s something that you really do to make sure that you’re practicing self-care and staying grounded. So I’m curious, how did you really get connected with the outdoors, especially in New York city? 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:06:15] Well, growing up originally in Yonkers, I lived right off the Hudson River so I would always go down to the train station. It’s so funny. The train station had this little area where you can sit down and I would do homework out there and just be across from the river so it started simple as that. I also always lived near some type of woodsy area, not in Manhattan, but in growing up in Yonkers, I did and I just love to walk. 

It’s like one of my favorite downtimes, like past times. Even in the city, if I can just go for a walk instead of hopping on the train or getting in the car, I would much rather do that. That’s really the most simple way to put it is. It’s like I’m an earth sign. I’m a Virgo and, um, very earthy so [00:07:00] I need to find peace in nature when I’m feeling a little chaotic. So wherever that is, I always find a little patch of grass. I put my feet in it and just take a moment, take a couple breaths and continue my day. 

Theresa Shropshire: [00:07:14] Yeah. And it seems like we’ve been noticing, especially at Nalaverse, so there’s this like intersection or there’s some overlap between like getting outside and mindfulness so I’m curious, just to hear your perspective on how you integrate mindfulness into your routine outside, or just why these two things are related from your perspective? 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:07:35] Personally, I think, where you have to start with mindfulness is that mindfulness is not just something that you continue to tap in and tap off. It’s something that you create a lifestyle around. So even if you do come off the track a little bit, it’s always very simple to come back into it. You just have to hold yourself accountable and I feel like the outdoors part, how it allows you to [00:08:00] tap into the mindfulness is that you take in all the sounds that are around you.

You’re able to, you know, close your eyes, take a couple deep breaths. Of course we’re in Philadelphia. So you want to make sure you’re safe, but definitely like, just really tap in. It’s all about going inside yourself and not really caring about what’s going on in the surrounding and that very moment so that you can show up to be present for you and I think that that’s very easy to do whether you’re outside or inside.

I mean, my favorite thing to do is take a bath and, you know, set the mood, get the music right, I’ll play um, instrumental so that I’m not like trying to sing the entire song because I tend to do that sometimes. Essential oils, you know, your incense, make sure that your mood lights, and just really take the time out for yourself and don’t rush it. Um, I know we all have a tendency to like, I have to get back to something, but it’s a good time to just drop everything and let yourself just flow [00:09:00] into the rest of your day. Um, that’s how it works for me at least.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:09:04] Yeah, totally. You know, my baths are my favorite thing as well, so. Okay. If you were going to go to a park yourself and you were going to figure out what should I do to practice mindfulness there, what would you do? I know, obviously we can talk about Rail Park as well, but there’s an, any grass patch or nature outdoor area, what would you start with? Would you sit, would you stand, would you walk? Like how do you get started? 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:09:28] Typically, I always, by a bench, you know, I always see where the sitting area is wherever I am in nature, just so that I can have full range so whether I want to do a couple of Sun Salutations quickly on the grass and then go have a seat, or I might even do a walking meditation, just walk around the perimeter of the area that I’m in and then, you know, close my eyes or kind of just tap out of what was going on in my mind before I started to, you know, come into the mindfulness space.

But most of the time I’ll sit down at a [00:10:00] bench and really just ground my feet on the ground and put my hands in my lap or on my sides, allow my shoulders to relax and take a few breaths. Kind of get lost, you feel all the breeze on your face, you hear the kids playing and that becomes a part of the experience so I think for me, it’s just knowing that wherever you are when you’re using these mindful techniques, it’s really more so about not judging yourself and not judging the surroundings.

Theresa Shropshire: [00:10:39] Sometimes when I go to the park, I don’t know how long to sit there. How long should I sit there? Like how long does it take to start to like, relax? 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:10:45] It really is intuitive. You have to like really learn how to commit to listening to your body, which is also a practice. It’s really more so about feeling and knowing when, okay I think, I think I’m [00:11:00] good. I had enough here, you know, I’m, I’m ready to ease back into my day or I’m ready to, you know, if you have something planned, I’m ready to start this thing now and by doing that, you give yourself space to ground, to clear your mind and to get like a fresh start while you’re doing that so you come into whatever is next, fully powered up. 

You say that you’re going to do it for 10, 15 minutes, but you’re enjoying it. Then you’re ending what you are enjoying a little too soon and then you’re kind of in this place of, well, should I stay, your brain starts to talk to you again and that’s really what it is.

Your mind starts to go through the mind chatter or, you know, it goes from, am I staying here too long, to I’m hungry and I want to make this, or I got to get this, like the thoughts keep rolling in. So if you are able to find that calm and that peace and that stillness, stay there as long as you [00:12:00] can and then you transition to the next thing. Sometimes we don’t always have enough time to do that but if you do cap it, at least you give yourself the space to have those moments. 

Theresa Shropshire: [00:12:11] Last question. I would love to just hear more about the meditation that you created at the Rail Park. How do you want people to experience it? How will they feel after they do it? What should they expect?

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:12:28] Well, I will say that my experience at the Rail Park was interesting. I had a hard time finding it at first. I definitely tapped into the fact that you may have a little anxiety getting to the park. So I would love if people enjoy this setting and, you know, really listen to the cues and the meditation, so that things that normally would be considered a distraction for them become a part of the full experience of the Rail Park.

Just even like the [00:13:00] walk into the park, finding a place to sit, feeling the gravel underneath your sneakers or your feet. I mean, the scenery there is very beautiful so you have the greenery, you have the, the sky, you hear the cars, you hear the buses and you don’t forget that you’re in a city. So it also reminds you that I’m here. I’m a being. I’m breathing, I’m living. I’m a part of all of this, everything that’s happening right now. I’m supposed to be here like this is for me. 

So I hope that the meditation allows people to feel a lot more grounded and walk away feeling more aware of themselves and their surroundings, ultimately, because when you are tapped into yourself, you’re able to see how you’re showing up for everyone else. Often we forget that, that even when we’re having a not so good day or maybe are having a very exciting moment, maybe you’re not noticing the energy of the other people [00:14:00] in the space, then they might not be feeling the same way you are. So it’s just always nice to have that awareness even just walking down the street. Maybe you brush five people, you had no idea, but that’s because you didn’t slow down. So I’m just hoping that this meditation definitely just gives that awareness to our Philadelphians and our visitors. 

Theresa Shropshire: [00:14:21] I love this. I’m so excited. I feel like you’re speaking directly to me. So I’m going to go right to the Rail Park and do the meditation. Thank you so much again, for all of your work. I’m super excited to get into it and experience it myself. 

A’Tiya Sinae: [00:14:36] I’m so excited and thank you for having me, Theresa. I appreciate it.

Rebecca Cordes Chan: [00:14:50] Theresa and A’Tiya, it’s been really great to learn more about Nalaverse, your relationship to movement, breathwork, mindfulness, and how we might incorporate these elements into our [00:15:00] experiences of parks and public spaces and certainly the Rail Park.For our listeners, you can join the Nalaverse community on Instagram @thenalaverse or explore their website and join one of their classes at thenalaverse.com and stick around. On the next episode of Sounds of the Rail Park, Nalaverse will guide us through a meditation set at Phase One of the Rail Park. So if you haven’t already, plug in your headphones and get ready to get grounded and tap into your inner awareness.