The Blueprint

“I’m ready now. I feel like everything before this was all preparation, I have the blueprint. At a young age I got tired of doing the same shit and with something so powerful like art within my reach I’d be a fool to postpone it any longer,” Adrian says gazing into the window, he sees himself past beyond the concrete familiar streets of his childhood.

Continue reading The Blueprint

How Nike saved my life: battling with mental health one shoe lace at a time.

While everyone around me share their enthusiasm of nearly ending the school year, a part of me, or at least what was left of me, was becoming more and more disconnected with the rest of the world and my intuition.

Continue reading How Nike saved my life: battling with mental health one shoe lace at a time.

Dear Juana, 

Dear Juana,

As you transition into yet another year in life, I am humbled by the simple thought of all the amount of accomplishments you’ve reached, having known where you first began. It seems like just yesterday, you were laying in a hospital bed, counting down the days until you were finally well.

But I’m grateful of the fact that every breathing day that you get to live, you are far from the days when chemotherapy was the virtue of your existence or when you were anchored by the anxiety that closed your thoughts during your darkest hours.

Nevertheless, it truly is taken for granted the simplicity of being healthy. But I know that with all the endeavors you’ve faced, you’ve taken them as learning experiencing and a challenge for growth.

I write to you with high hopes that you remain high spirited and optimistic about every task and goal you try to reach. That you maintain the same compassion towards the ones you love and open armed to those who have ill minded you.

And I hope that as you read this, you remember how important your words are. How the stories you continue to tell bring a small change to this world and that your love for the art remains strong like the many women who have been the inspiration to the narratives you deliver.

Siempre fuiste fuerte Juana, y siempre lo serás.

What the Obama administration has taught us about Dehumanization: The Immigration Raids Crisis.

 

With the welcoming of the new year, many people have began the year in panic and preparing for the worst. At least that it is the case for the Magdaleno family as they’ve began to take matters into their hands when recent news arised that a member of the family could face deportation soon, leaving a family behind.

Continue reading What the Obama administration has taught us about Dehumanization: The Immigration Raids Crisis.

Chapter 4: Futurity.

Namaste Everyone.

It’s been quite sometime since I’ve written anything just for the indulging pleasure. I was beginning to reminisce upon the days when words seemed like nothing more than just subconscious thoughts. When the words I would speak came from a deep and sincere place in my heart.

But I guess it’s okay that we give ourselves time to reminisce. It’s a form of reflection. A way to look back and question the decisions we’ve made, because sometimes we just need to give ourselves the time to reflect upon the discourse of our lives.

Reflections allows us to actualize the futurity we set up to achieve; our aspirations and dreams.

It’s a form to see if the goals we set ourselves were accomplished; if all our pretensions desires were satisfied, and if any wasted wish made at 11:11 P.M ever came true. What fascinates me the most about reflection, is how it allows us to see why sometime the wishes wasted, the goals we set, or the desire we had, DON’T come true. Because in all reality, the future is a place that exist only in our minds. And regardless of how much you plan for it to go a certain way, look a certain way, or feel a certain way, there is no guarantee that it will go as planned.

And sometimes, this unalienable truth about the future, can really fuck us over.

I think the first time I got a taste of the “future”, was probably 4 years ago when my great-grandmother passed away. As I’ve mentioned before, in all cultures, specifically Latin cultures, the eldest members of your family are the core of the family tree. They’re the ones who somehow can manage to get your Tio and Tia, that probably divorced years back, to sit down and reconcile their differences. They’re the ones who, no matter how much you already ate, they can convince you of still being hungry. They’re the ones who even at 78, will baby sit bratty little kids on a Friday night without charge. But most importantly, they’re the ONLY ones, who can get the whole family under one roof during the holidays or just a simple summer barbecue.

For my family and I, my Nana was that person. The last year before she passed away, she managed to pull all the family to come and visit her here in city. I mean, we had people from all coasts come out to the hood and spend time with her. We all partied together, had cookouts together, went sight seeing together. We did it all together, as a family. And for a second, I began to picture this future where she still managed to push through another 6 or 7 years, and my whole family would finally begin to spend more time together. But that’s the thing about the future. It’s abstract. It’s only real to the eye of the beholder and it’s never set in stone.

She died unexpectedly one night when she slipped in the shower. She didn’t die because some disease deteriorated her body or peacefully upon her sleep. It was just one misstep she took, that slip her life right under her feet. And just like that, this make-belief land that I had imagine was slip right under my feet too. But that’s life.

Today, as I sit here and reflect upon the futures I once I created for myself, I laugh a little and I also cry a little at the resulting truths that unfolded this past year. But there’s another fascinating aspect about the future, that sometimes isn’t asked for but it’s given. And that’s maturity.

As cliché as this shit may seem, you do somehow learn valuable lessons from what the resulting futures held in store for you. You grow as person, regardless of how side tracked you are from your “expected” destination in life. And we as humans never acknowledge that as a positive. Somehow, we are programmed to believe that just because at a certain age we haven’t met what is expected from us, that we’ve managed to fail ourselves.

If you’re fresh-out-of-high school and you don’t go to college, you’re recognized as being some sloth or irresponsible person. If by 25 you aren’t married, or making the least 5 figures, you’re ridiculed for being wasteful or insufficient. And the cycle of “expected-life-benchmarks” continues, with no one questioning why the fuck and who the fuck made these rules. But most importantly, we spend our life living up to these expected futures, mindlessly forgetting what would happen if what we asked for, isn’t really what we wanted?

Not so long ago, I woke up from a regular mid-day nap, weeping repulsively. It was a nightmare of the realities of my present life; products of the futures I had once expected. The dream began pleasantly. I had woken up in a beautiful sunlight room, with a stunning lake-view. As I walked into the bathroom, I saw a reflection of myself, but only my face looked like it had aged 30 years and there was a very somber look in my eyes. I touched my face in disbelief, and I notice a wedding ring on my finger. Then I heard the voice of  current lover of mine call my name from the distance. But there was a strong vexatious tone to his voice. He walks into the bedroom, and I approached him reaching for his arms for refuge. But very coldly, he denies me and walks away saying he’s in a rush to work and has no time to attend to my needy self.  I remember my heart sank, but suddenly, I was in my grandmother’s old apartment building. She was sitting on her bed putting her shoes on. But she looked healthy, just like I had remembered her before she turned ill. I was so happy to see her so well, and rushed into her arms. She hugged me tightly, and began to cry. I remember her telling me she didn’t want to go back and I was confused. “What do you mean go back,” I asked. “To the nursing home,” she said. “No one every visits me there. No one ever cares.” And that’s when I realized, even if she was alive and well like I’d always wanted, even in my dream she was neglected and alone. Once again, the scenery changed, and now I was standing inside of a nursing home watching my grandmother look out the window, desperately waiting for someone. But no one came.

My dream startled me. Everything I had dreamed reflected an aspect of some kind of future I imagined, but it didn’t end with a happy ending. And I realized, regardless of how I much I stress over how I want my future to be, I can’t guarantee it will happen. No one can.  I for one, have victimized myself for following these benchmarks that society has systematically created for all of us. It’s some fucked up shit really.

Stepping out of the box, looking at yourself from the outside and witnessing how you live your life up to these expected futures, is like watching someone run a never-ending marathon. There isn’t a grand prize at the end, because we continuously work ourselves all our lives to out do ourselves or those around us. But most importantly, we continue to recreate futures for us to “look forward” to. I just hope that in the end, we give ourselves some time to reflect. Because in the end, reflections allows us to actualize the futurity we created for ourselves. And reminds us, that the future is an abstract place; the present is where we should live in.

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.

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.

Chapter 1: Power Yoga Kicked my ass, while playing Fleetwood Mac.

My perception on beauty has changed throughout the years. Like every women I know, we go through periodic changes mentally and physically. I use to tell myself that if I was a certain size or if I dressed a certain way, I would feel good about myself. Or at least that was the case when you grow up with Kardashians, werewolves and vampires, and Myspace. (oh yeah, do ya’ll remember when Myspace was this shizz-nizz.)

When I hit puberty and my body began to mold into its own shape, I would cry to my mother over the size of my hips and thighs and scold her for not giving me her thin-figured genes. As I entered my adolescence, I was introduced into two polar worlds: Feminism and High School. The reason why I saw these two distinctively was because I noticed, or at least from my experience, there was no common ground for a fifteen year old feminist in highly predominate Hispanic high school. It was difficult to want to believe that men and women were the same, when you could see the machismo in the young men who walked the hallways of my school. And it was hard to feel pretty and confident, when you didn’t dress a certain way that appealed to the attention of a certain audience. But somewhere between, I didn’t feel healthy physically and my academic success, I figured the hell with beauty and its complicated definitions.

I related to Melanie Klein’s memior, “How yoga makes you pretty: The Beauty Myth, Yoga and Me”, as I read through her own struggles with finding beauty in herself.

” I spent most of my life waging a war on it. I have vivid girlhood memories of my worth being measured by my waist size and numbers on a scale. Time and Time again, I was taught that I must “suffer to be beautiful,” a mantra often offered to me as I winced in pain as my pigtails were pulled too tight.”

Her words brought me back to a time, when I foolishly use to document my weight gains and losses inside my diary. I laughed as she described her long ancestry of women who belonged to this “lineage” of body hatred and how this legacy was the common tale for all women who were held back by eating disorders, continuous exercise, and abusive fat talks. Then she shined a light on the dark reality of the idea of being “pretty” and it’s unrealistic and unhealthy correlation to success and happiness. It was harsh to read, but it was all so true. For I too am one of those women, who although has come a long way from believing that looking like a Holister model is the way to life, I still shame myself after not going to the gym or indulging into some ice cream when hanging out with my girlfriends.

When I arrived into the Corepower, on 1539 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615, I was captivated by the luxurious atmosphere of the studio. Everything was so clean and polished and the men and women that gracefully walked around the studio looked fit and posh. The cynical part of me thought to myself, “Funny how all these people are soaking up their fresh showers and expensive memberships, while Englewood, just one neighborhood way, drowns in its own sh..” But I snapped out of my own bitter gaze, as one of my classmates nudged at my shoulder directing me into our studio room.

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The room was beaming with sunlight, as one side of the room was an outside view of the metropolitan street of Hyde Park, as the other side reflected the studio and sunlight shined through it’s mirrors. The room was breathe taking, and very warm. Today we were introduced to Power yoga. Power yoga is a form of Vinyasa yoga, in which movement is synchronized to the breath. But it specifically emphasizes  on strength and flexibility of the student. In most cases, this type of yoga is considered more as a work out. In Melanie’s story, she tells us of when she was introduced to power yoga in the late nineties. ” Power yoga left me feeling physically and mentally challenged, exhausted and fabulous. It was 1997, and I had landed in the company of an eclectic group of yogis led by the sometime delightfully inappropriate and absolutely authentic Bryan Kest.” Bryan Kest is one of the two often credited with the near invention of power yoga. She explains how Kest became her teacher, who guided her into her new perception in body imaging. She explains how he would command her into being “with the reality of the moment and detaching from the artificial images in our minds.”

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A few minutes past and our instructor arrived. She was a fit and toned young lady, one that you see on the cover of a yoga magazine. In a very modest tone of voice, she welcomed our class and immediately told use to let go of any dismissive feelings. “Today you will invoke into your own journeys and let your body’s natural flow flourish.” She walked towards the iPod connection that stood on the wall, and melodiously the sounds of Stevie Nick’s voice transcended through the speakers. This immediately relaxed me. Anything that had to do with Fleetwood Mac, sent me into a translucent state of mind. We began in a Chaturanga Dandasana= four limbs, staff (refers to the spine, the central “staff” or support of the body) pose. We went from laying in our stomach with our heads facing forward, to a plank, to downward faced dog, to a half way up our bodies pose. This then transitioned to an extended side angle pose, which stretches the entire side of the body; strengthens the back and legs; and relieves stiffness in the hips and backs of the thighs.

Then we’d repeat the Chaturanga Dandasana pose, and next followed the Crescent Lunge, which draws your right hip forward and left hip back to bring your hips into alignment. Then you would stack your left knee over your left ankle. Once you’re balanced, you would lift your arms up alongside the ears, reaching your upper torso up and back slightly while keeping your hips low. Then we would repeat this on the left side.

And although my favorite “relaxation” band played in the background, I was getting my butt kicked in a sequence of body shifting positions. And to add on to the work out, the room temperature increased. You could feel the intertwine sensations of body heat and mental focus as the instructor encouraged us to push our bodies a little more as we stretched from one way to another. It was tough, but I loved every minute of it. As I looked in the mirror and noticed sweat dripping down my face, I fell in love with the flow of my body, as it shifted poses alongside my fellow yogis. Something about the feeling of letting go of my inner inhibitions and my unstained focus, made me feel empowered, and even as I could see my barefaced, dripping with sweat, I felt good.  I fell in love with myself in way I never had before. I was amazed by how my body was moving, and I found a new kind of beauty inside me.

In the book Melanie shares a similar experience too as she states,

Gazing up at my legs, glistening with seat in shoulder-stand, i realize that for the first time since early childhood i wasn’t searching for signs of imperfection. I wasn’t scrutinizing every inch of my body in search of flaws… within a year, my yoga practice was able to unravel years of social conditioning and begin to replace it with a message of acceptance and love.

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And as the class ended, and I sat in with my legs crossed, the instructor recited a poem, which seemly was the perfect way to end the class. Liberated, I walked out of class with the biggest sense of self confidence and radiance I had felt in years, and I as waited for my bus; no make up, sweaty yoga mat and clothes, I was feeling the pretties I have ever felt. Today I had let go of my fear to be one with myself; bare and self aware. And I wasn’t afraid of anyone seeing me like this. Perhaps its was the sunny weather that afternoon, but I felt radiant, and nothing was going to rain on my parade of self confidence.

Namaste.