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I started my Instagram page and YouTube channel—Open Hearts Can Unite—about seven years ago with the intention of having a space to express myself from the heart in a world where that can feel tough to do.
I have been blown away by the following that it has attracted, and I’m immensely grateful for the incredible engagement and daily interaction that I now have. Having gone through some tough times, I never expected to be teaching people online to get fit from the inside out.
To be honest, after having a child, I struggled in all sorts of ways and I never thought I’d wear a bikini again even in the privacy of my own backyard—never mind being happy enough to share so much of myself online. But I have come to realize that this was just one of many limiting beliefs that I had taken on from society around me. Now, more than ever, I realize that I can do anything I want to do and be anything I want to be. And so can you!
One of the things I had to do to start my authentic yoga practice was to create a naked truth statement and write authentically about my life and who I was so I could work better with my breath. I had to own the traumas of losing a child, attempting to take my own life, post and prenatal depression, rape, and also the healing of the body from the misappropriations received from people who do not understand me.
My naked truth statement reminds me I am so many different things and can breathe into them all. Essentially, I am a million different things rolled into one, but I am also just a woman trying to heal, do her best, and share her journey. I need to learn to breathe through it all and yoga has helped me to do this better.
People often ask me why I practise yoga. I don’t practise the poses alone; I practise the breath. Yoga means “union” and the mind acts as a bridge between body and soul. The breath becomes a tool for calming the thoughts and bringing the body and mind back into balance.
In 2015, I was living in Saudi Arabia and struggling like hell with depression. It was hard being thousands of miles away from home while I tried to figure out this thing called motherhood. I felt lost and overwhelmed. Then, I discovered yoga—which literally saved my life and soul.
Now, I am here a few years later doing more than I thought possible. At 31, in Saudi Arabia after my suicide attempt, I realized the immense power in my breath. My daughter, Laine, was two at the time. I felt like such a failure as a mother and a human. I felt like nobody loved me and I would be better off gone. I am grateful I failed at this attempt on my life and to end this magical breath.
This failure was the last micro shift to create a catalyst—a deeper connection to my yoga practice and to my breath. What a privilege it is to be in life.
From that moment on, my regular yoga practice became about feeling my breath and creating poses through my senses. The first pose that became the pose to help me stand up on my dark days was handstand. I would fall down seven times and stand up eight. I knew if I could practice this every day even after I’d fall, I would keep standing up through my darkness, reaching the light.
Handstands gave me this magic child-like play back. They helped me to recentre out of my emotions and thoughts into my breath as I had to be fully focused to create this pose. As my practice continued, my breath awareness grew, the panic attacks stopped, and the anxiety and depression decreased. Through slowing down and connecting to my breath, I realised that everything was okay. It was not perfect but I did not need to feel bad or ashamed anymore. It was better to fall down seven times and stand up eight and be there for my daughter than not.
If you follow me online, you’ll know I want everyone to discover how enjoying movement and being comfortable in their minds and bodies isn’t an unattainable or unrealistic goal. Everyone deserves to feel at home in their body, their mind, and their soul, whatever their level of fitness.
Fitness from the inside out: body, mind, heart, and soul
Fitness isn’t really about practising things like yoga or physical health. Fitness begins with our minds. It starts inside. Creating fitness from the inside out means choosing the actions that serve us. It means letting go of conditioning and showing up for our dreams. We can’t change our world and the world around us without first winning the war inside.
Dedicate yourself to you
My answer to anyone looking to change their lives or get fit is self-discipline. While self-discipline can seem like a difficult word, it’s about self-love, happiness, peace, and making our dreams come true.
Self-discipline is central to bringing about any meaningful change in life. It means making the compassionate choice to dedicate yourself to you.
Create your own practice
When we commit to ourselves, we commit to change. I began to learn yoga when I hit rock bottom emotionally and realized nobody could save me except me. I taught myself at home on my mat between the chaos and trials of daily life and motherhood. It took five years of discipline and hard work, and, yes, it was worth it. My yoga practice still makes me excited every day.
We all say we want to achieve or have certain things, yet many of us do not discipline our actions and thoughts to create that reality. So, now it’s time to shift your focus and do whatever it is that makes your heart come alive. Make this your practice. Then, keep with it. It belongs to you.
Find your breath and one pose for your practice that starts you in a place of joy or acceptance and expand from there. I think simplicity is the key. Connect the dots one step at a time.