Free your Self. Fight for your Life.

I found a picture of myself, from my past life. I say "past life" because it is never too late to begin again. I've evolved and grown many times since this picture was taken.

Backstory: In undergrad, I loved helping my artsy friends on their projects, grabbing props for shoots, modeling, whatever it was, I was always down to support their flow of creativity. During my last semester, my friend-sister-kindred spirit, the talented force of nature Eva Woolridge was working on her senior project “Embrace Your Essence - a series on women who were asked to identify what they see as extraordinary, unique and eye-catching in their physical appearance. The objects incorporated are used to show what defines their souls as warm, illuminating, and courageous. It's time for women to embrace themselves for what they are: beautiful. #EmbraceYourEssence. Spring 2015”

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As a result of this project, I went a bit viral. You may have seen this picture of me, adorning a vibrant red head wrap, showing off my curves- fingertips to my hips. Originally for this project, I intended showing off my collar bone, but couldn't because someone did something similar.

So I had to take a moment to think of what else about my body do I love and embrace?

I have A LOT OF fun in front of a camera,( especially with a great photographer) I just got comfortable, really comfortable I took my top completely off and wrapped it around my head, something I'm known to do. We were shooting around, then she says she has the shot.

My love and appreciation of my curves, my roles, my marks, my waist beads, and my flare for headwraps are what came to me and what she captured.

After the project was done, I'm like great cool beans this was fun glad to help, hope you get a good grade/feedback, thank you for the opportunity to embrace myself! Never thought it would get as much attention as it did, especially being featured in major platforms like Cosmopolitan and more.

However,this post isn't about that photo. It's about a photo that wasn't used or even truly appreciated by me until now. I call it a "negative" because when I first saw it, I had all these critiques and negative things to say about it.

When I rediscovered this photo, my mind flashed an overview of my past life through me. Firstly, appreciated that I embrace my beauty and the body I have. Despite how society tends to shame, guilt, neglect people who are overweight. Secondly, shocked and emotional because looking at and into myself now, I've let go of a lot of things, that past me was holding onto. I was holding onto so much in this photo, that my weight wasn't my concern.

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In the photo, I was navigating a seemly endless ebb of my senior year making sure I graduate, realizing and having to discern between who was temporary, permanent, or circumstantial in my life. Then came the "Postgrad Haze" that's what I call the time after graduation when you are trying to figure ish out. I graduated with a plan, but my bluff was called. I felt like I didn't have any friends, and started a job that taught me what I didn't want to do or have in my life. A low of sorts.

I began to seek something that would pull me up and out of myself.

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Something to make me healthier mentally, emotionally, and physically. I took to the internet for a solution. I found yoga. I began researching what books are best for starting a yoga practice - "to perform or do habitually or usually", then looking up the different types of yoga - Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative, Ashtanga, etc. then specified my search to "which yoga makes you lose weight the fastest" because who doesn't want some instant gratification in their workouts? Well, there is none, especially in yoga. However, there was a yoga practice that made sense that you'd lose weight faster because it's practiced in a hot ass room.

That's when I discovered Bikram Yoga: 105 degrees, 40% humidity, 26 postures, and 2 breathing exercises a beginner friendly practice! I did what any person does when they want to try something new, go to Groupon for a deal of course ( cue Tiffany Haddish). January 12, 2016, I took my first Bikram Yoga class and that class took me for a loop while being exactly what I needed. The instructor said something that resonated with me, during savasana that made me come back. Since then, It's changed my life; by deepening the relationship I have with myself (Self), inspired me to become a 200hr yoga teacher, and the rest is present day to me attending Bikram Yoga Teacher Training to deepen my practice and be a teacher that I've always wanted and more.

From then to now I've come so far. I really am my wildest dream. I cannot even begin to tell you how much so, well maybe in a different post.

I started practicing yoga to lose weight and heal. I never thought it would propel me into a life that I'd fight for. We may come to yoga for one thing, but we always receive multiple benefits as long as you show up and do the work.

My practice brings me out of myself. Out of my cozy comfort zones, moving through the feelings, instead of avoiding them. It inspires me to be great, beyond my wildest dreams. I am so much more mentally, emotionally, and physically stronger than I was in the photo or ever been in my life. From then to now, I've lost 82 lbs literally and figuratively and gained confidence, trust, and love for my Self.

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I stand do staunchly in my truth that nothing or no one can distract me from my path. It feels euphoric to even think about it, my heart swells in gratitude for my journey I'm on and the experiences in my past the built me up to where I am today.

A lot of times yoga may seem like a joke, it’s a punchline in a lot of shows and conversations, but at the end of the day, it can guide you into something bigger within yourself- your Self. In 2015, when I first saw this photo I felt so negative about it, and myself. After seeing it now, I truly am grateful for choosing my Self, rather than letting my mind and other people take over. My practice brought me out my "Postgrad haze" out of my old ways of thinking, into clarity. I see the world within and around me much clearer. I aim to give people the tools, to see themselves, to open their eyes to a life they'd want to fight for.

What do you fight for in your life?

In what ways do you see and choose your Self?