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A Conversation with Human Shift

I met Stina Daag and Polina Aronova-Cahn the same way they met each other—working in the fashion world. Stina is a longtime Swedish graphic designer, creative director and humanist; Polina is a NYC-based stylist and fashion editor who is compelled to create connections between culture, wellness and spirituality and to “demystify the woo-woo.”

We’ve each been lucky enough to find a way to marry our passions for healing, exploration and bettering the Earth with our love of design and aesthetics. Most recently, these two inspiring women have partnered up on their mind-blowing publication, Human Shift, each issue of which focuses on the characteristics of a certain chakra.

Ultimately, Human Shift is about evolution through change—on both a personal and collective level. Maybe Stina expressed it best when she said, “It’s what life is about, these transformations and shifts that change us.”

On Thursday, March 12th, we’re cohosting a meditative immersion with Manjit and Thomas Droge at our Process Studio dedicated to balancing the third chakra (the seat of your identity, personal power, purpose, determination, will and action), in honor of their “Issue no 3” theme.

In advance, I sat down with these two impressive women for a chat about what it means to create something both beautiful and mind-expansive:

ROBYN BERKLEY: In a synchronistic twist, I met each of you separately before Human Shift was ever created. Can you tell us a bit about what you were each doing beforehand?

POLINA ARONOVA-CAHN: Hey Robyn. To keep it brief, I was a stylist, fashion editor and consultant. Fashion was the life for me and it was fun—very fun. Then, I became a mom and that fashion life was neither sustainable nor felt like my purpose anymore. I began to pay more attention to my practices, things that made me feel good. I liked it, so I got certified at Kula in NYC as a yoga teacher and fully immersed myself in learning about the different lineages and various healing modalities. But the creating and design vibe started itching at me; I knew I wanted back in, but differently, so I got an MBA and started contemplating how to bring all of my worlds together into one.

STINA DAAG: I’ve been working as a graphic designer and art director in fashion for the last 20-plus years for magazines and brands, running my own agency for a decade. I started out in my hometown, Stockholm, lived in Sydney for four years in my early twenties and then spent 11 years in Paris.

Parallel to my career, I’ve been practicing mindfulness since I was a child. I discovered yoga in the 90s, went on to practice pranayama and ashtanga and became an authorized ashtanga teacher in 2010. I guess I somehow yearned to combine the two worlds.

RB: For those who don’t know, what is Human Shift? How did it come together?

SD: Human Shift started out as a printed magazine in 2018. I come from editorial and, even though people say print is dead, I consume so many books and magazines. But the books I found interesting to read were aesthetically off-putting, and the magazines that I found pretty generally were not interesting to read. So, I wanted to create a magazine for someone like me who wanted both: something aesthetically inspiring with mind-altering reads.

Polina saw the first issue, called me up and asked how she could be involved—and we have never looked back. Each issue is themed around a chakra, its characteristics and challenges. We just released issue 3! We are distributed all over the world and are transforming into something much bigger than just a magazine. But you need to stay tuned to find out how!

PAC: Human Shift is a publication, a creative hub and a growing community. Stina created and launched Human Shift issue 1 all on her own. I saw her post about it and things just clicked. Here I was, building decks and plans about lofty concepts to heal and change the world by myself; and, all the while, I was pooh-pooh-ing the work I know how to do best—connecting and bringing different voices together to create meaningful content—as not serious enough. Weird, right? So, I reached out to Stina (we’d known each other well in our previous Parisian fashion lives), pitched her a broader vision of the possibilities of Human Shift and here we are: manifesting this thing into being on the daily.

RB: Since you started, has there been a moment where you felt like it was really coming together the way you hoped?

SD: So many of them that it’s hard to name one.

We make this wishlist for each issue of who we want on board and, so far, it’s been magic how it all has come together. The collaborators we’ve begun to amass are not only very talented in their fields, but are also very genuine, warm and interesting people. And then, of course, that moment when the truck shows up with the load of magazines is like, “Wow, we did it!” 

PAC: For me, the experience of putting out our last edition, “Issue no 3: The Third Chakra,” made me really stand back and realize that we are resonating with people. The collaborators who joined us, and the truth with which they spoke about their very human experiences, truly awed me. It still does when I pick up the magazine and flip to any page; I’m just like, “Wow, pure wow!” Get a copy. It makes us very very very proud.

RB: In your minds, what does it mean to have a “human shift”? And can you offer an example of a human shift that you’ve personally experienced?

PAC: From the beginning, Stina said, “We will work through our chakra blocks and imbalances as we work on the issues.” I thought, sure, cool, that’s a nice idea. But, sure enough, everything from the ways in which I engage with those closest to me (always a work in progress) to the ways I participate in society have changed. And, most importantly, there’s been a change in how I engage with myself. I speak to myself more softly; I’ve lessened this concept of “expectation” and attachments to specific results. I’m able to stand back and realize when I’m incorrect sooner and make amends graciously and with honesty.

Shifts come about from a greater awareness of the small idiosyncrasies of daily life. We keep thinking shifts are these massive life overhauls, but actually, they’re just about focused attention, awareness and rectifications in ones daily actions. And I’m forever working on them— like nonstop. 

SD: I’ve been drumming Newton’s first law of motion almost like a mantra for many years: “…an object in motion stays in motion.” And I’m convinced that, in order to experience transformation, you need to move your body and mind. It’s what life is about, these transformations and shifts that change us, hopefully for the better. But, often, it’s quite a personal experience, a journey you take on your own for your own betterment. What we want to aim for with Human Shift is to not only shift ourselves and our experiences, but to connect and inspire a bigger collective human shift.

Personally, I’ve gone through many shifts. My friends often speak of me as someone with seven lives! It’s hard to name just one shift, but going into the partnership with Polina is my most recent, out of my own mind into this collective thinking and working—super scary and very exciting and liberating.

RB: This month, on Live The Process, we’re featuring innovative and entrepreneurial women who inspire us as they build successful businesses, support their sisters and make the world a better place for us all. What has it been like to start and grow a woman-led business in this landscape?

SD: I’ve had my own design and advertising agency for a decade, so running a business is not new to me. Sweden is not so gender conformed, so I’ve really never thought of myself specifically as a “female” entrepreneur so much as just an entrepreneur.

While building my career, I did not always feel very supported by other women. But I’m convinced that this is what society does to us: From early on, we are played against each other and taught to compete, while the boys bring in their crew, watch each others’ backs and rise to the top together.

I used to find it frustrating how men in power would often opt to put their friends up for jobs, until I realized I could learn from them. So, rather than trying to go it alone, I could team up with someone I like to hang out with. Polina, on the other hand, seems to always have been surrounded of this crew of amazing girlfriends who are super supportive and loving. I looked at that and was like, “Yeah, I want that; I’m joining that team!” And, sure, you can probably do it on your own, but it’s a lot more fun when you have a great woman by your side.

PAC: Gosh, to be honest, I haven’t even thought of how we’re building in those terms. What’s most important for us and Human Shift is that all that we do is firmly rooted in truth and authenticity. I think that’s what’s attractive and desirable about HS and, hell yeah, we support the communities that nurture and inspire us—however diverse and vast they may be.

RB: What’s your go-to Live The Process piece right now, if you have one, and where do you wear it? (I love to find out how things are really being worn!)

PAC: Girl, it occurred to me that I wear LTP nearly every day. And, when I receive those headbands, it will be even more. I love my cropped fleece jacket from a few season ago—where do I not wear it? I adore my white Oversized Hoodie, feel like Wonder Woman when I practice in my red/beige Geometric Leggings and bra and shoutout to the Japanese cotton tees in various shades of blue and green as awesome layering pieces.

SD: Sad to say, Live The Process does not sell in Sweden yet, but, judging by what I’ve seen, I think I would live in one or all of the bodysuits. I love a head-to-toe solution. 

I’m also crazy about flares and live in yoga pants, so the LTP ones seems to be the ultimate combo.

RB: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?

SD: One way or another, we Live The Process of life; we just need to accept it, stop fighting it and, as much as it sounds like a catchphrase, “go with the flow.”

PAC: Life is process. We set goals, hopefully we achieve them, sometimes we don’t and oftentimes they morph and we change course. Knowing this is the process—appreciating the transitions, the moments in between the accomplishments or the forks in the road. And we’ve gotta embrace and appreciate that, not the so-called trophies of “success” because those things are illusions. I still fall for them myself, but then I remember, it’s all about living in the process.

All images courtesy of Human Shift


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