I know what it means to give my power away. In high school, I struggled with an eating disorder that led me to disconnect from my body, which then led me to drug addiction and an exhausting inner void. Just a few years later, in my senior year of college, I was sexually assaulted and faced with a range of emotions to process, including shame and fear. I became paralyzed and rarely took action for myself or for others.
After graduating from college I moved 2000 miles away to Taiwan, and ended up finding my soul in the process. I was introduced to the meditative arts of yoga, which ultimately led me back to NY, to the sacred space of my own, and to the art of self-empowerment.
When I was invited to become a board member of the non-profit organization Exhale to Inhale (ETI) nearly 3 years ago, I couldn’t ignore the synchronicity. Their mission, to empower female survivors of domestic violence through yoga, spoke to my heart in a profound way. Statistics show that one in four women will experience domestic violence and one in four women will experience sexual assault.
As a yogini and a mother, I am in service to all female survivors of trauma, to myself, and my lineage, in choosing this path of becoming a yoga teacher. Yoga does not happen in a vacuum; the effects of practice have a global impact, even if just one individual is experiencing it. As Paramahansa Yogananda said, “When you elevate your own consciousness, you automatically elevate the consciousness of others.” It is because of the practice that I am able to offer what I have learned freely.
Through ETI, women from shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, Long Island, and upstate New York are given the gifts of boundaries. They learn about choice, and how to trust in the innate intelligence of their bodies through yoga. Postures are offered as “forms” using suggestive language and there is always the option to enter and exit the class as needed. Some women even come with their children. Year to date, Exhale to Inhale has brought yoga to 180 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The volunteer teachers who offer their work to these women each week know that these “gifts” are actually our birthrights.
Seva is often referred to as “selfless service” but the inherent flaw in that definition is that it discredits the oneness of all beings. The universal law of abundance reminds us that to give freely is to receive freely. My involvement with ETI has given me more than just a community of strong, empowered women with whom I can connect on a regular basis; it has allowed me to express gratitude to the part of myself that was disempowered, ashamed, and self-destructive… were it not for that shadow side, I would’ve never found the profound healing power of yoga.