Chapter 2: Juana, meet Yoga Circle. Yoga Circle, meet Juana. “Pleasure to meet you…”

Tamales, Posole, Sopes, y Tacos. These are the essential cuisines to my everyday diet. (Not all at once of course; except on the holidays.) And maintaining this diet doesn’t necessarily mean I will lose 10 pounds after 2 weeks, as most 21st century weight loss programs like to guarantee. This diet is not sponsored by Jenny Craig and my life is not glamorized into a reality TV show. I am simply just an average first generation college student, who happens to be a kick ass Latina, aspiring for CHANGE.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love myself as much as I love my culture, especially the food. I will never lose touch of my Mexican American roots. But like anyone in the world, I always seek to find the greatest of opportunities to my advantage; beginning with finding better eating habits, that don’t guarantee I’ll end up having high cholesterol before I am 30.

But with all jokes aside, there is no such thing as selfless good deed. Any intention we make, leads to every reaction we create. And by believing in the power of the better YOU, you’re able to generate an inspiration to bring out the better YOU in all of us. Because let’s face it, no one or nothing should matter more to you than yourself. When you aren’t at your best, you’re nothing but a pile of self-loath, or as I like to say, “No sirves para NADA.”

But this is simply my journey. And it holds no truth for anyone but myself. But if I resonate any truth in you, I hope the truth influences you for change. Big or small. For whatever the size. Any change, is good.

And what better way to begin my journey of exploration than to completely renovating the way I think, breath, and perhaps even eat. My journey begins here, at DePaul University’s very first Explore Chicago: Chicago’s Yoga Community….


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“I feel like the more and more that I travel on the brown line, the more hidden portals to a whole new world is open to my reach,” I subconsciously tell myself as I step foot into what seems to be a normal office space building.

As I walk in to the Yoga Circle, located on 401. W Ontario Street, I’m amazed at how from one moment to the next this office space building transforms into a hidden Yoga studio. I immediately notice the chairs, the work-out bands which hanged from the ceiling and were hooked to the brick walls and I noticed the performance mirrors which reflected the back of the room. As I tried to find a small corner where I can timidly await my yoga instructor, a tree like man named Gabriel Halpern steps foot into the studio. His legs were so tall that they practically reached his neck, he wore leopard print yoga short, a novelty pirate t-shirt that said “Where’s my Booty”, and a pierced right ear. This man was old and odd, but you could sense this weird Star Wars Jedi vibe, oozing out his pours. He was majestic. And I was SO not prepared…

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This man began his class by enlightening his students, or as her referred to as, his “yogis”. (A yogi is a practitioner of yoga.) He made many interesting points about the way we perceive ourselves as humans and how we choose to live our lives. Although, as I modestly took in every piece of advice he gave to us, I thought to myself, “Well this all sounds like a bunch of common sense.”

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But then, in the mist of his talk he agrees. “Now I know you all my be sitting here and thinking to yourselves, well this is all a bunch of common sense bullshit, but you’d be surprised at how often we undermine what we believe is just common sense. Because in all honesty, if it were all so common, would you really be here in the first place?” Soon this man opened up my mind and with much more delicacy, I began to listen.

Previously, before coming to class, I had read an essay named Starved for Connection: Healing Anorexia Through Yoga by Chelsea Roff in the book, 21st century Yoga: Culture, politics and practice, and I began to relate to the apprehensiveness that Chelsea first experienced when starting yoga. In this book, she tells the memoir of her battle against anorexia and how yoga helped her through her healing process.

As I sat there in class, questioning myself about the decision making I’ve made throughout my life and the thought process that generated their conclusions, I remembered Chelsea’s obstinate ideas of why she joined yoga. In the book she states, “I wish I could say I went to yoga because I had some inkling that it would offer me something deeper, because there was an inexplicable spiritual rug, because I was looking to reconnect with my body and begin the real process of healing. Quite the contrast. My motivations for trying yoga were almost entirely pathological. I was looking for a quick fix, a sneaky way to burn calories without arousing the suspicion of my treatment team.” She then further on explains how only a few months after leaving the hospital, after being hospitalized for about a year and a half, she had gone back to her old habits. She didn’t find satisfaction in just losing weight through exercise and needed something more to fuel her addictive lifestyle. Seemly it was, she lived her life plotting her way to satisfying her bad habits, only to bring bad karma into her life. And as Mr. Halpern continued his speech of enlightenment, he mentions,

“Take into consideration of what karma is in YOUR OWN LIFE. Think to yourself: who is in charge of my life? You are. Who’s going to change the gap between, who you think is in control of your life and the reality to that false assumption? You are.”

Soon both sources ignited a very personal enlightenment inside me as I sat on my mat. In the book, Chelsea describes, “Yoga, in the bigger sense of the word, was subtly shifting the way I related to my body and myself… the shifts I experienced didn’t happen in some pivotal, light-up-the-sky-ah-ah-moment. In fact I think for the most part I was relatively unaware that yoga was transforming me…” yet, she goes on to say that yoga was a crucial essential of her healing process. On the flip-side, I had Mr. Halpern, sitting on a pillow while legs crossed like a pretzel, stating the statement that brought all the ideas together,

“Yoga is your tool box for the most radiant self of yours to be able to prevail. Thus, do yoga a little, change a little. Do yoga a lot, change a lot.”

And suddenly, as simple as his word were, it all made sense. Chelsea wouldn’t have ever discovered how by the connection to her body, peace and relaxation, intimacy and pleasure, and embodied trauma work through the unceasing practice of yoga, she would had remained the same; believing that she was in control of her life and nothing while in reality her disease wasted both her mind and body away. Mr. Halpern simple quote, “do yoga a little, change a little. Do yoga a lot, change a lot,” resonated in my mind because it was true. The amount of reward you receive really does rely on the amount of effort you put in. And like Chelsea, I reflected on myself as I laid on my back on my mat, eyes closed, listening to the pacifying voice of Mr. Halpern. I imagined all the addictive habits that I feed each day. And how I wanted to live a life where I took control. I wanted to connect with my body, learn to have gain peace and relaxation, love myself and embody all the traumatic works in my life. I wanted to
“peel away the bad layers of my life, to uncover the unconscious good inside me,” as Mr. Halpern soothingly spoke to us, while I meditated my way into good karma habits, and the beginning of my journey…..

Namaste.