Chapter 3: Yoga, in the name of Social Change.

One is not, essentially, born a woman, you become one…

As I transition into yet another year in my life, I am humbled by the simple thought of all the amount of support that I’ve gained in the last 3 years. It seems like just yesterday, I was lying in my hospital bed over down in Cook County, counting down the days until I was finally well.

But I’m grateful of the fact that, every breathing day that I get to live, I am far from the days when chemotherapy was the virtue of my existence. Nevertheless, it truly is taken for granted the simplicity of being healthy. My mother, who for many reasons is my inspiration, has inspired me to believe that the key to success is found in your own personal health. And ideally you’d think, in a society where physical appearance is so highly praised, we’d dedicate more of our time to our health.

But let’s face it, like everything else we do in our lives, we half ass our way into a “healthy” lifestyle. And like everything else on my journey, I am slowly finding my way into bettering myself as a woman, or at least my transformation into one…

To most people this gloomy Friday, is just another day to notoriously quote Mean Girls,

(And with Virginia’s blessing I started talking to Aaron more and more. On October 3rd he asked me what day it was. )

Cady: It’s October 3rd.

But for me, this blissful morning is the beginning to the celebration of my 19th birthday.

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I grew up in a very tight-knit family. In Latin cultures, the eldest in your family is honored and praised as the source of wisdom. And in my family, my grandmother was the core of our family tree.  Despite our differences, we always came together for the glorious Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Whenever there was a special event, that both my cousins and I participated in, you’ best believe we had the whole SQUAD come through.

As I got older, I began to realize the importance in the idea of unity and community. It wasn’t just about the feeling of belonging, but it was also about growing together, failing together, and sharing the prosperity with others.

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At my visit to Ed and Flow studio, located on 1834 W North Ave, I met Eboni “Eb” Howard & Peggy Howard Moore. Peggy and Edoni are a mother/daughter due, who collaborate together in the teachings of Baptiste Power Yoga, or better known as Hot Yoga. But their studio’s fundamental purpose is to transform lives and help to empower others to discover their own possibilities for a healthier,physical, and mental state of being. To them the concept of Possibilities holds a deeper meaning; a meaning of community and limitlessness.

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Like Peggy and Edoni, Matthew Remski tells us in his memoir, Modern Yoga will Not Form a Real Culture, that although he had meticulously practiced yoga for a decade, he didn’t find the sense of community that he yearned for.

… My chosen path is not contained or supported by a coherent culture. It has no family infrastructure. It offers no life transition rituals. It does not marry, or bury us. It does not host AA meetings. It runs no soups kitchens. I don’t need yoga to be a religion. I need it to provide community.

He then further explains how even through his spiritual devotion to the catholic church, he still saw a senseless purpose to his life. He declares that yoga, in a sense, should be utilized as a tool to restore social and ecological relationships.

In correlation, we have Be Scofield, who believes that political activist can benefit from incorporating some form of spiritual practice into their lives.

For many contemporary yoga practitioners, there’s a clear connection between cultivating inner states of peace on the mat and creating a more harmonious and just world.

Nonviolent Communication founder, Marshal Rosenberg, warns that privatized, mind/body centered methods such as yoga or meditation may lead people to “being so calm and accepting and loving that they tolerate the dangerous in  structures.” Yet, yoga and meditation can be also used as a form of defeating our corrupt society, as Tibetan Buddhist and professor Reginald Ray argues that meditation will make someone challenge the status quo.

We must understand that meditation, the centerpiece of the Buddhist path, is itself the most radical kind of political action. Why? In meditation, we step out of the value system of the conventional world and start to look at things from a fresh viewpoint.

But what does this all mean to us? With the collaboration of spiritual guidance and community activism, not only can we find purpose, we can diminish the gaps we see in society. We can illuminate, as a union, the limitations that society imposes and allow all possibility to flourish.

Yoga isn’t just about the physical (asana) movement. That’s not the main practice; meditation, community service, controlling our breathing and living an honest lifestyle, those are very important to yoga too.

Ed and Flow is a great representation of what the collaboration of spiritual guidance and community activism can do for our society. Aside for promoting a healthy spiritual life style, at Ed and Flow, you’ll find their practitioners gather together all over the city for social services such as teaching teen mothers free yoga services, collaborating with Chicago Public Schools to better the physical engagement of students and they’ve even donate to the Africa Yoga Project to educate, empower and employ disadvantaged and poor youth and adults in Kenya using the transformation practice of yoga.

Here at Ed and Flow we believe in the power that is held inside a strong community. We understand that when a community thrives, people are open to an abundant amount of opportunity, and that’s where the idea of “Anything is Possible” really holds truth. We’d like to remind our students that they’re not the same person who they were yesterday, because yesterday is gone. But that today they can be whoever they want to be, because the mind tells the body what’s possible. We try to motivate our students to come into our studio with the open mind; to have the courage to say “I can do anything I set my mind to,” and spread that same idea into the world.

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Namaste.