Everyone has a story to tell, and Zaiba Hasan wants to hear it. Zaiba, a regular and friendly face in the SyteraYoga community, is an open person by nature and can be found volunteering, parenting, and listening to the many people she calls her friends..

Zaiba is the kind of person you call when you need to find enough furniture to set up an apartment for a refugee family of six who are relocating to the area. She is also the mom who is always ready to help her kids’ friends. On the weekend her house is a place where visitors can drop by at any time; she’d never turned anyone away.
It’s important for Zaiba to be completely honest about why she does this—she’s all about building community. She likes to be around people who enjoy helping other people and she likes to be around people in general.
Zaiba is a mother of four children, ages 14, 12, 7 and 5. She heads an event marketing firm and volunteers for local nonprofits including Kindworks, an organization that supports refugees.

Zaiba is Muslim and of Irish and Pakistani descent. As a result, she can relate to people of all backgrounds and takes pride in being able to surround herself with a diverse circle of friends. “How lucky am I?!”
But, it wasn’t always like that. When she moved from Chicago to the D.C. area in 2003 with her husband and an infant, she was trying to mother all by herself and it wasn’t going well.
Since her old community was no longer nearby, she decided to build a new one.

Influenced by her father-in-law, a medical anthropologist, Zaiba says she knew that she had to have a community to be a better mother. America is unique place where women feel the need to do all the mothering without help, she said. “Plop down in any other country in the world and women have extended family and hired help.”
An increasing amount of evidence indicates a link between community and health. Studies show that being in a supportive group generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. Conversely, not having a community can have serious negative health consequences.

Zaiba faced health challenges after the birth of her son in 2013. The baby suffered from a complicated birth and ended up in the intensive care unit for two weeks. He developed gallbladder disease, and breastfeeding didn’t go well. She was exhausted and frustrated that she wasn’t losing any of the baby weight. Then she found out that she had benign tumors growing on her thyroid that were wreaking havoc on her metabolism.

She was suffering from anxiety at this point and realized she needed to reach out.

“I think that most people suffer from anxiety and they don’t really talk about it,” she said. Some of the people around her suggested that she try yoga but she didn’t really want to since she didn’t see it as way to get adequate exercise. She had practiced kickboxing previously.

But, she decided to try a class at a nearby studio taught by Sytera, and was immediately impressed. Yoga, in theory, is an introspective practice, so the fact that there was an outward community at the class speaks volumes to what Sytera is trying to do, she said. She found that people talked to each other after class and seemed to really care about her. In particular, meeting people at SyteraYoga has helped her deal with what teenagers like her kids are going through, which is essential, she said.

It’s incredible what type of people come into SyteraYoga, she said. And when she allows herself to be open and humble, she is amazed at what she learns from other people. And that is the beauty of a community.

Meghan Mullan is a freelance writer and a SyteraYoga student.

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