Which mountains have you climbed?
What chains have you broken?
What barriers have you overcome?
Be proud. Own it. A journey is not made in a single step, and each step has a resounding effect.
The footprints that you leave on this Earth share your story.
What path will you trek next?
What trails will you blaze?
Thanks to a lovely student, I had a special request to write about how and why I fell in love with yoga. When I saw this request, I was ecstatic! I am happy to share my journey in hopes that as I empower myself through this beautiful practice, you will find your own empowerment to continue on with yours.
Expressive Outlets and the Evolution of Passion into Purpose
As a child, I was rambunctious with a head of steel but a heart of gold. My early experiences paved a path for me of being loud and rowdy, but deeply introverted and sometimes insecure. I was argumentative, and needed an expressive outlet. I expressed myself through art in all of its forms, thanks to my creative family. I'll never forget my high school art teacher handing me a Sports Illustrated magazine. The page she had marked was of a Haitian child, post disaster, playing with a soccer ball made out of plastic bags. She said, " Chelsea, you would love political art." I did. And I found my passion for making ripples of positive change. In these early years, I created a soccer equipment donation drive for GOALS in Haiti, so that children could get a proper ball to play with. This wasn't enough to subside me, but a life of expression through art and early human rights work was a catalyst for the endeavors to come. Expression was crucial for me, whether in art, photography, design, soccer, or any of them combined, and I would see this cycle many times in my life as I endeavored to fuse passion with purpose.
This human bundle of colors and emotions needed a positive outlet, otherwise she'd go crazy.
Need for Physical Rehabilitation for Injury, Mindfulness, and a Positive Coping Mechanism
My interest in yoga began 6 years ago in a college dorm, attempting headstand. Long story short, there was a crash, a mini fridge may have been the target, and I woke up in the Himalayas meditating with the yogis.
The first part is true. I was surrounded with fun and eccentric family growing up, and by the age of 6, I could do a headstand thanks to my uncle. Flash forward to the college days, and I thought I could jump right back into it on our dorm floor. This is where I met the ego AND the mini fridge.
I had been an avid futbol player for the past 15 years and coupled with an obsession for action sports, I had put a lot of torque onto my knees. I was on the verge of a fully torn ACL when doctors recommended precursory surgery, or PT. I took the PT route, but lived with chronic pain, had difficulty walking freely, and had to say goodbye to running. When college rolled around, and I moved to Florida on my own, I became complacent, annoyed with pain, and feelings of anxiety and depression of a heavy school and work load had me at a breaking point. It was in college, that I had teetered back and forth between my interests in International Affairs and Politics, and Studio Art. I decided to keep art as an outlet for myself, but slowly saw it letting go, as I read 1,000 plus pages a week on human rights dialogue. That positive outlet for coping that I once had, had slipped through my fingers, and I needed a resource once again to help me express emotions and develop emotional intelligence.
In school, I was told that I could only have one career path, that I had to be one role, and that was it. I truly struggled with the idea of conforming to one check box. Why can't I be a leader, a politician, an artist, a humanitarian, and so much more? Says WHO?!
Everyone, that's who.
And you know what I later realized, after finding yoga? You don't have to listen to them!
As an over achiever, I would beat myself up over 98% scores, in attaining the perfect GPA, for the perfect position, because that was what I was told to do. Yes, that angst-y girl, was succumbing to the societal "shoulds." Stress and its side affects soon took over and I developed chronic migraines with aura that debilitated me cognitively. I forgot a lot of what I had learned (Spanish being the most impacting), and had to work twice as hard as some students in order to maintain my high academic standing.
This [dis]ability made me realize that throughout my life, I worked so hard to prove to myself and to others that I could make it, but I hadn't for once considered my own health as a priority in the pursuit.
As I worked through this pain, discomfort, and feelings of inadequacy, I knew that I needed an outlet to live the life I wanted, uninhibited and empowered. So many people around me were in pain. As an empath, I soaked up the world around me like a sponge. I felt it all. The pain of the world, friends committing suicide, the early traumas of my own path, the stories that I fed myself, and those that I ate from the hands of others led me to my vulnerabilities that were coupled with chronic pain, chronic migraines with aura, depression, and anxiety. That's when the continuity of yoga walked back into my life.
In my early days, I had practiced yoga in many, many forms that allowed it to be accessible to me!
◘ YouTube Videos: 20 minute sessions, with my neck cranked to see the laptop were a norm.
◘ Instagram Yoga Challenges: What challenges did for me was to set the goal of learning as much as I possibly could in order to practice and imagine an asana that was posted.
◘ Community Donation-Based Classes: Saturday Morning Yoga in Ybor City with the Yoga Loft and Yoga in Curtis Hixon Park with Yoga Downtown were my firsts!
◘ Groupon/Living Socials for Studios: It was through this, that I had met my hOMe studio, the Yoga Loft in Ybor City. Shortly after joining the studio, I enrolled in their Yoga Teacher Training Program, and you can now find me teaching there!
I decided to commit to yoga to rehabilitate my knee, and to find my edge. At first the ego was there, and I would take all of the hardest classes, trying to drown the excess of thoughts, and physical pain away with sweat and excitement of "progress." However, I would become so upset if I had missed a class because of traffic, or life (this is why I am such a huge supporter of my students attending class a few minutes late). But to be honest, it took a few years for me to be OKAY with missing my physical practice, to learn the art of the yoga past the asana, or physical pose. Despite my devotional intensity to get outside of my head, it wasn't long before I started healing myself both physically and mindfully through yoga. I began realizing the 'mindful health' benefits that yoga had to offer me. I felt in control of my breath, I felt alive. My anxiety and depression were manageable. My migraines were less frequent from their daily dose. I felt happy, whole, and excited to be present. My path was becoming clearer.
Finding my Path
In 2015, I underwent a series of intense changes. I graduated from my yoga teacher training program and from college at magna cum laude standing, and took repeated trauma informed care and yoga training. I traveled to Argentina,Uruguay, and Costa Rica furthering my passions in culture and Latin America. I experienced heart break and contentment through love. 2015 was the year that I shed my layers, and grew into the skin that I was given. It was the year that I manifested being the vehicle of change in which I wanted to see in the world. I learned to love myself, both on the mat and off the mat. My rose colored glasses were once again fractured, showing me all facets of life, and I relished in the changing of emotional intelligence that was developing for the better thanks to the foundation of yoga that was built.. After working in trauma informed care settings with a focus on identity, torture, and survivors of trauma, I decided to fuse my passions of yoga and human rights so that I could share the empowerment that was cultivating within me on my mat, with others on or off the mat. Thus birthed Human Empowered Yoga!
Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of partnering with amazing organizations to provide yoga, meditation, and mindfulness techniques for Survivors in all shapes and forms: domestic violence survivors, refugees, asylees, human trafficked survivors, suicide survivors, and all of the Tampa Bay. It is my goal to share the healing benefits of yoga for the mind and body for every body and every mind. Together we are always stronger.
We are all a body of emotions, perspectives, heart, soul, and ever evolving experiences that comprise the mind-body-soul trifecta of our seemingly individualistic connection to one another. My story is ever evolving, as is yours, but we gain strength from our experiences, and strength in sharing the stories of our lives. I hope that I could shed a sliver of my experience with you. Ultimately, I hope that yoga, or any outlet of your choosing, will illuminate the path for you because it is there, even in times of darkness. Sometimes we pave it, sometimes it's paved for us.
The zest for life, passion, & purpose in me honors the zest for life, passion, & purpose in you! You are a radiant soul made of pure light! Don't you ever forget!!! May our paths intertwine and weave to make up the fabric of communal love.
Love & Light,