916-761-1853  •  valerie@okunamiworkplaceyoga.com

REALLY GOOD STUFF From SF Chronicle today 2/20/13 - Positive Aspects of Anxiety Disorders by Dr. Tracy Foose

What could possibly be good about anxiety? Anyone living in our land of yoga and silent meditation retreats knows anxiety is KILLING US.

It's straining our hearts, damaging our brains and shortening our telomeres - those little bookends on our chromosomes that protect our DNA when cells replicate. We've cast anxiety as our modern plague. But this is so unfair. For all its torment, fear is a marvelous beast. The brain structures that join forces to produce it are highly preserved across species, indicating that fear is a pretty handy response to threat whether you're a mouse or a venture capitalist. In a state of heightened mental and bodily awareness ,time slows down, breathing accelerates, muscles fill with oxygenated blood, and our brains absorb and integrate information in an appallingly efficient form of learning called fear conditioning. Good Qualities - We might even embrace our misunderstood Achilles' hell if we judge anxiety on its own merits. Trait anxiety associates with some wonderfully adaptive stuff. Highly conscientious, honest, detail oriented, performance driven, socially responsible, self-controlled: These are qualities I bear witness to in my patients. Specializing in the treatment of anxiety, I'm struck by the positive traits that coomingle with the debilitating symptoms of everything from panic to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies demonstrating that top performers in high-responsibility professions tend to be worriers hint at a bigger picture. For although the traits that sort with anxiety may drive an individual toward high achievement, they also benefit the rest of us in a societal "win-win". Being honest, responsible and self controlled re pro social traits, or down to earth. Its symomymous with behavior likely to benefit society as a whole. It behooves us to think better of our anxiety, our individual and collective anxiety and relinquish our fear of fear. After all, you know who displays the least amount of trait anxiety? SOCIOPATHS!!! Let' silently meditate on that-----Namaste' Valerie




So you want to be a yoga teacher? Being a yoga teacher takes your yoga practice another level. It will bring your yoga practice full circle. I was given so much from many teachers that it was also a way for me to give back. Its good karma and it is an amazing journey. If you’ve thought about it but have made a gazillion excuses for yourself  from my partner wants me to wait, not a good time because of the kids, work is too busy, or whatever it is…..you are probably subconsciously not ready for the incredible level of self-discovery that happens. It is my humble opinion that it takes courage to become a yoga teacher. It is humbling…a good place to be.  I reflected back on my yoga practice over the years and want to share these tidbits with you. Maybe you are ready.


Here are list of reasons you may be ready to become a yoga teacher:



  1. 1.       You have a strong, consistent, yoga practice.  When you took your first yoga class it felt a breath of fresh air. Where have you been all my life???  I wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner. I felt a liberation that I had been yearning for….it was a connection to the real me.  Yoga began feeding my soul which turned out to be quite starved. I practiced as often as I could. Other students could always rely on my presence and energy. Doors magically opened and I began the life journey of self-transformation.


  1. 2.       You enjoy going to yoga events and attending yoga workshops. Lots of them. Can’t get enough workshops from master teachers? Yoga Festivals? Books, movies? Organic Restaurants? The yoga student who wants to learn all they can about yoga and is passionate about their practice is someone has the potential to be great teacher. It begins with intention.


  1. 3.       You take care of yourself and are always trying to improve. The yogis I meet always want to be the best they can be. They take care of themselves through food, exercise and following spiritual principles. Over the years I found myself interested in areas like raw vegan cooking, juicing, herbs, all forms of healing. I have become the person I always joked about.


  1. 4.       You want to know everything about yoga. What is happening in the yoga world? You are curious about everything yoga….and you follow through. Yoga is in constant transformation. Look at the new styles of yoga that have appeared recently? Acro Yoga? Yoga on Sheets? Paddleboard yoga? Horseback Yoga? The combinations are as endless as the art of yoga. There’s a 20% increase in practitioners each year. Yoga is mainstream.


  1. 5.       You are a truth seeker. You are compassionate, intuitive, open-minded, focused, curious, Independent.Yoga people by nature are artists. You seek knowledge.


  1. 6.       You have become the yoga expert in your circle of family & friends. Friends and family start looking to you as the expert for all their yoga questions or immediately think of you when they see anything yoga.


  1. 7.       Yoga is at the top of your priority list. You will jump through hoops to get to your next practice. You will practice yoga wherever you go. You will physically practice alone on vacation. Your yoga practice becomes part of your regular schedule. Nothing will keep you from your practice. No excuses. I am not talking about just the physical practice but you start to practice yoga in everything you do.


  1. 8.       Your yoga peers and teachers ask you when you will become a teacher. Like I tell my students now, other people see changes in you before you see changes in you. For a long time, I thought, no way…I can’t do this. Then randomly I declared that I would teach yoga when I turned 50, without much thought to the intention I just set forth. Intention is everything. You want to be a yoga teacher? You will be a yoga teacher. Its as simple as that.


Valerie Okunami has a corporate yoga business and recently created her first training program that incorporates different healing modalities and yoga styles. She has asked several experienced yogis from different disciplines to lecture and give classes on yoga, anatomy, energy, food and more. Students can take classes by subject or the entire series and become a certified yoga teacher. Bizi Yogi is looking for teachers. Begin the journey today. The future is now. Call her at 916-761-1853 or check out www.valerieokunami.com


Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate
America's Bottom Line
Posted: 03/18/2013 7:25 pm- Huffington Post

On Tuesday I'll be guest-hosting CNBC's Squawk Box, a program that bills itself as the show that brings Wall Street to Main Street. As well as discussing Cyprus and a possible euro-crisis, we are going to discuss the growing trend in corporate America of taking steps---meditation, yoga, mindfulness trainings to reduce stress and improve health & creativity.

One of my guests will
be Mark Bertolini, CEO of the third-largest
health insurer in the country
with 30,000 employees insuring 17
million people. In 2010, Aetna partnered with Duke University's School
of Medicine and found that regular yoga
substantially decreased stress
levels and health care costs. Following this,
Bertolini made yoga
available to all Aetna employees nationwide and has a
much bigger
mission: to make sure there is research available to
private as well as state and federal coverage of yoga and

Even a quick look at what's happening in the
American workplace shows
that it's a seriously split-screen world. On the one
hand, there's the
stressful world of quarterly earnings reports, beating
expectations, hard-charging CEOs, and focusing on the bottom line
the world that is the usual focus of CNBC and Squawk Box. On the
hand, there's the world populated by the growing awareness of
costs of stress, not just in the health and well-being of
leaders and employees, but on the bottom line as well.

is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that these
two worlds
are, in fact, very much aligned -- or at least that they
can, and should, be.
And that when we treat them as separate, there is
a heavy price to pay --
both for individuals and companies. The former
in terms of health and
happiness, and the latter in terms of dollars
and cents. So yes, I do want to
talk about maximizing profits and
beating expectations -- by emphasizing the
notion that what's good for
us as individuals is also good for corporate
America's bottom line. To
do that, I'll be featuring guests who have had
great success at
bringing these two worlds together and putting what at first
seem like abstract or esoteric concepts to very productive use in

When we separate these two worlds, the costs come in
two forms. First,
there are the direct costs due to stress and its associated
conditions, and, second, there's the cost of lost creativity
diminished performance and productivity.

According to the World
Health Organization, the cost of stress to
American businesses is as high as
$300 billion. And unless we change
course, this will only get worse. Over the
last 30 years,
self-reported levels of stress have increased 18 percent for
women and
25 percent for men.

This has huge consequences, of course,
because of the role stress
plays in a wide array of illnesses. Like high
blood pressure, which
afflicts nearly 70 million, and which costs $130
billion a year to
treat. Or diabetes, which 25 million Americans

The CDC estimates that 75 percent of all health care spending is
chronic illnesses like these that can be prevented. According to
American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of visits to
doctor's office are for stress-related conditions. As a panelist
health care at the World Economic Forum put it this year, what we
right now isn't health care but "sickcare." And sickcare is a lot
expensive than real health care. Especially for businesses.

business professors Michael Porter, Elizabeth Teisberg, and Scott
wrote in the HBS Working Knowledge, studies show that U.S.
employers spend
200 to 300 percent more for the indirect costs of
health care -- in the form
of absenteeism, sick days, and lower
productivity -- than they do on actual
health care payments. Their
recommendation: that companies "mount an
aggressive approach to
wellness, prevention, screening and active management
of chronic

Though awareness is growing, there are still
too many companies that
don't yet realize the benefits of a focus on
wellness. "The lack of
attention to employee needs helps explain why the
United States spends
more on health care than other countries but gets worse
wrote Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford's Graduate School
Business. "We have no mandatory vacation or sick day requirements,
we do have chronic layoffs, overwork, and stress. Working in
organizations is simply hazardous to your health." And thus to
health of your company as well. "I hope businesses will wake up to
fact that if they don't do well by their employees, chances
they're not doing well, period," Pfeffer said.

One company that
did wake up was Safeway, whose experience is
described in the recent
documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue
American Healthcare. CEO Steve
Burd recounts that in 2005 Safeway's
health care bill hit $1 billion and was
going up by $100 million a
year. "What we discovered was that 70 percent of
health care costs are
driven by people's behaviors," he says. "Now as a
business guy, I
thought if we could influence behavior of our
workforce, we could have a material effect on health care

And so they did -- in the form of incentives for employees to
weight, control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It was
huge success. "You allow and encourage your employees to
healthier, they become more productive, your company becomes
competitive," Burd says. "I can't think of a single negative in
this." He concludes: "Making money and doing good in the world are
mutually exclusive."

One of the best -- and cheapest -- ways to
become healthier and
happier is through mindfulness exercises like
meditation. Mark
Williams is a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford, an
expert in
mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and the co-author of
A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. According
Williams, after nine weeks of training, participants in a
program had "an increased sense of purpose and had fewer feelings
isolation and alienation, along with decreased symptoms of illness
diverse as headaches, chest pain, congestion and weakness."

fact, the health effects of meditation can be even more dramatic --
a matter
of life and death. Williams points to a National Institutes
of Health study
that showed a 23 percent decrease in mortality, a 30
percent decrease in
death due to cardiovascular problems and a big
decrease in cancer mortality
as well. "This effect is equivalent to
discovering an entirely new class of
drugs (but without the inevitable
side effects)," they write.

The effects of stress reduction techniques are equally dramatic on our
productivity, creativity, energy and performance. And that's
these tools change the way we think so dramatically that they can
measured biologically. Dr. Richard Davidson is a professor
psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and has used MRI machines
study the brain activity of Tibetan monks. As Fortune's Oliver
reports, "The brain functioning of serious meditators is
different' from that of non-meditators -- in ways that suggest
elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions.
calls meditation a 'kind of mental training.'"

This can
make an equally profound difference in our work lives. As
Tony Schwartz,
author and CEO of the Energy Project writes, it's not
about the quantity of
time we put into a task, but the quality:

It's not just the number of
hours we sit at a desk in that determines
the value we generate. It's the
energy we bring to the hours we work.
Human beings are designed to pulse
rhythmically between spending and
renewing energy. That's how we operate at
our best. Maintaining a
steady reservoir of energy -- physically, mentally,
emotionally and
even spiritually -- requires refueling it
In short, happiness and productivity are not only related,
practically indistinguishable. According to the iOpener Institute,
a company with 1,000 employees, increasing happiness in the

Reduces the cost of employee turnover by 46
Reduces the cost of sick leave by 19 percent.
performance and productivity by 12 percent.
And the happiest employees,
compared with their less happy colleagues,
spend 40 percent more time focused
on tasks and feel energized 65
percent more of the time.

employees also take six fewer sick days a year, and remain in
their jobs
twice as long.

That last one is another way of saying that mindfulness is
an antidote
to burnout, which often leads to companies losing their most
employees. Marie Asberg, professor at the Karolinska Institute
Stockholm describes burnout as an "exhaustion funnel," which we
down as we give up things not conventionally deemed "important."
Mark Williams and Danny Penman note in Mindfulness: An Eight-Week
for Finding Peace in a Frantic World:

Notice that very often, the
very first things we give up are those
that nourish us the most but seem
'optional.' The result is that we
are increasingly left with only work or
other stressors that often
deplete our resources, and nothing to replenish or
nourish us -- and
exhaustion is the result.
One occupation known for
burnout is physicians. Studies show that
anywhere from a third to half of
them suffer from it. But a 2009 study
in the Journal of the American Medical
Association showed that doctors
taking part in mindfulness exercises were
less burned out. Even more
dramatic was the fact that many of the
improvements continued even
after the year-long study concluded.

is why more and more companies are realizing that their
employees' health is
one of the most important predictors of the
company's health. Along with
sales reports, market share and revenue
levels, in those all-important Wall
Street conference calls business
analysts should be quizzing CEOs about their
employees' stress levels:
"Yeah, I see your net profit numbers, but how burnt
out are your

One company that "gets it," and has since its
inception, is Google.
One of the most popular classes it offers employees is
known as
S.I.Y., short for "Search Inside Yourself." It was started
Chade-Meng Tan, engineer, Google employee number 107, and the author
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success,
(and World Peace). The course has three parts: attention
self-knowledge, and building useful mental habits. "I'm
definitely much more
resilient as a leader," Richard Fernandez, a
director of executive
development who took Tan's course, told the New
York Times. "It's almost an
emotional and mental bank account. I've
now got much more of a buffer

But the trend goes way beyond Silicon Valley and companies
Google. Janice Marturano founded the Institute for Mindful
after she left General Mills, where she set up a popular
program -- and a meditation room in every building of their
"It's about training our minds to be more focused, to see
clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel
she told the Financial Times' David Gelles. According to the
research, it worked: 80 percent of participants said they felt it
improved their ability to make better decisions.

Joining General
Mills are one-quarter of all U.S. companies --
including Target, Apple, Nike,
Procter & Gamble. And, I'm happy to
say, The Huffington Post and AOL.

YogaTeacher Training Lectures & Workshop Series

For anyone who is interested in learning more about the yoga they've grown to love,these classes are for you. Each day ends with a Yogi Dinner at 7. Workshop size is limited to 10 each day.July 11-14 and July 25-28. 900 am to 730 pm each day.  Students will leave with a deeper understanding of the lifestyle we call yoga and the path to true liberation and transformation through self-discovery. Students have the choice of attending the full 8 days as part of our 200 hr. teacher training or just by the day. Locatiion: Holistic Lighthouse, 401B Vernon Street, Old Town, Roseville, California. Curriculum coming in a few days.

Call Valerie for more information at 916-761-1853 or valerie@okunamiworkplaceyoga.com

Soul Health - The CPU for the Body & Mind

It takes courage to be who you know you are and to share

your gifts with the world. There are two obstacles to

happiness: Faith & Commitment.