How An Inspired Yoga Program Helped Me to Love My Mixed Identity

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I am a mixed human, a beautiful blended soul.

I’ve never written those words for public consumption nor been quite as kind to myself in my language until now. People on both sides of my family — people of different races and ethnicities — hid part of my history from me for years. It’s a complicated story based on a decision made out of fear but that they all believed was made out of love. People can only ever make decisions from what they know and where they are in life, right? I’m not angry with them anymore; I see their innocence and love them very much.

Finding the final, missing pieces of my identity allowed me to look in the mirror — something I rarely did — with compassion instead of confusion and find love instead of hate for my existence. When you live in a world that wants you to be one thing and then shuns you when you try because you are “not enough” of anything, you can feel completely lost, ashamed and utterly alone. I’ve been spit on, harmed by physical violence and silenced and at the same time, celebrated, loved and cared for by people in this world. Neither ever felt truly safe so I continued for years to question, doubt and, almost successfully destroy myself.

Though I’d gone to therapy which helped in assembling the puzzle of my life — a puzzle with pieces I was still uncovering as I moved through my late 30’s and early 40’s — it was my yoga program, Yoga Farm Ithaca, that helped me to truly accept my life. In working with my teachers and connecting with my sangha, or community, I began to learn to love, care for and mother myself.

When I started the program, I expected to learn yoga and be done but what I found was so unexpected, it even led to the writing of this piece and more that I could never have imagined. My teacher, Jeannie, helped me to find spaces for release and growth not only on my mat but through my breath and mindful exercises. Daniela, another educator on my journey, truly helped me to discover what it meant to stay in my own lane; that one idea opened up so much space in my life. Jaya, a trusted coach, encouraged me to speak the words I’d hidden away and stand in my truth. There are more unbelievably powerful teachers like Christopher, Zahra and Kim, in this program who inspired me to make major shifts. You see, it was about more than asanas or poses; it was about facing myself on the mat and working through challenges, so that I’m able to not only stand up and be proud of who I am off the mat but I’m also be able to hold space for the explorations and healing of my students.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

There are a few things I know for certain now. For example, I never knew what to say to people — complete strangers — who would ask based on skin color, if I was the nanny for my children. The fact that I look different in the summer then I do in the winter or that I may look different from them at various times of the year is simply something that happens and it doesn’t give people the right to judge or in some cases, shame me. Through my yoga work, I’ve discovered words to share in those situations.

I know that I’ve spent my life tuned into the non-verbal communication of people as that was often the truth hidden under their words. In doing so, my nervous system has been in a constant state of high alert and yoga has helped me to regulate that.

I know that the shame I’ve carried all these years — much of it is not even mine — cannot have a home in my heart anymore.

I know that the joy within me — something I thought made me seem quite childish — cannot be given a backseat. In fact, I think cultivating joy would be the ultimate act of rebellion.

I know that I do not need to explain nor define who I am for another. People will either love me or hate me anyway so the most important thing I can do is love myself.

Recently, I started looking for Mixed groups; I had no idea how many groups there were for things like mixed parenting, living, mental health. etc. Much like Yoga Farm Ithaca, these are safe spaces for healing. The most beautiful spaces I’ve discovered so far include: Mixed in America, Mixed Mental Health with Brittany George and Mixed Girl Problems. What astounded me most was how many people feel the way I’ve felt; it made me sob and it brought me the most exquisite comfort in equal measure. I no longer feel alone.

My wish is to bring yoga to people like me who have felt alone, on the outside and voiceless in this arena. I wish to bring peace to those who didn’t know how to use their voice for fear of being shutdown, not enough, loved conditionally instead of unconditionally, or judged as being an imposter, a fake. I wish to connect with people who have felt tremendous anxiety and wondered if their existence was cosmic joke. For a time, I believed that maybe God or the Universe just got it wrong, you know? Like I was just the “Oops! Really screwed that one up!” When I practice, I remember my humanity and my divinity — not always but more often. I remember that I get to be a mix that doesn’t fit neatly into a box but whose voice still counts. My wish is to spend my life helping others to believe in themselves so they might use their voices too.

Though I’ve shared part of my story publicly before, this is the first time I’m using my voice in this way. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t scared, I’m absolutely terrified but I’m taking this step anyway. If it inspires even one person to know they are not alone, share their story, or treat themselves or another with kindness, then it will have been worth it.

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Natasha R.

Creativity/Yoga Coach and Writer designing programs that combine healthy living practices with the the arts to ease anxiety and spark joy.