Valentine’s Day marked 8 years in the United States for Lina Mastrangelo, who comes from a very small town in Italy, southeast of Naples. In 2005 she bravely moved to the UK to start a PhD program in cancer biology. Despite the challenges of studying complex biological subjects in a second language, Lina prevailed. The reward came in 2008 when she was given the opportunity to present her work at the annual conference of The American Association for Cancer Research, here in San Diego. Immediately, she “totally fell in love with the palm trees and the ocean” and knew she wanted to live here. Once back in England, she applied for jobs in San Diego. By February 2009, she was on a plane headed for a Post-Doctorate role in stem cell research at USCD.
Life in California brought more challenges and changes, and among them was yoga. She shared an office with a Senior Scientist from India who enjoyed sharing stories with her about his culture. He suggested yoga for managing stress, so in 2010 she took her first class. At first, she recalls, “I struggled and I did not enjoy holding poses while my body was shaking.” What brought her back to each class though, “were the knowledge and kindness of the teacher.” Xenia was the teacher and as Lina says fondly, “I got addicted to her classes.”
Despite the drive from La Jolla, Lina became so enthusiastic about her yoga practice, she decided to enroll in the 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training at Pura Vida last year. In regards to the commitment and benefits of deeper practice, she says: “The space at Pura Vida and the people are dear to my heart. They are my home and my family in San Diego. …It has been challenging, but also a reminder that to achieve something there is no other way than study and practice. I did not expect to receive so much energy from people while teaching a yoga class. This is a huge unexpected benefit.”
For Lina, yoga and science both complement and benefit each other. As a neurobiologist, she works with stem cells to generate neurons that she can use to investigate the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. “Working in science is a bit different from other jobs as it requires creativity, original ideas, a good plan, but results are unknown until the very end of the process.” Science first taught her the ‘Practice and all is coming’ rule, but yoga has taught her to “trust the process and to stay still during difficult times, without attachment to results.”
Last year, she was awarded a 2-year grant by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, enabling her to work with cells that come directly from patients with specific mutations causing Parkinson’s Disease. Lina plans to bring the science of the mind into the lives of the yogis at Pura Vida in a meditation workshop. Look for it in our schedule soon. “There is scientific evidence proving that yoga and meditation prevent mental decline and lower the risk of developing dementia.
Read about medical benefits of meditation as reported by The M.J. Fox Foundation.