When the World Stopped My toes gripped the mat as my palms spread and pressed downward…downward dog. I breathed deeply and tried to slow my racing mind. I reminded myself that this was my time-my moment in a day of the never-ending carousel of days punctuated by masks, social distancing and an increasingly violent news cycle. I had nowhere to go and nowhere to be regardless of the yoga. Covid and its threat was enveloping our country, and my familiar yoga studio was shuttered. So, I remained on my yoga mat surrounded by disinterested teens and a curious dog as my virtual yoga class continued on the screen. My twice daily at home practice bookended a monotonous workday of never-ending phone calls and ceaseless rejection- 'No, we are trying to keep our business afloat not spend 100K on software." Even I understood how absurd my job was at that moment. But I persisted until the day ended when I could escape to my mat and exhale all the negativity from my "dream job" and find my center-my breath. People think yoga is about the achievement of the pose, but the true focus of yoga is the breath. No pose is possible without mastering your breath. You breathe to calm the mind, you breath to set an intention, and you breathe to deepen your stretch into a pose. Ujjayi Pranayama or Victorious Breath is created by restricting your breath in the back of the throat inviting a deeper connection to those practicing around you- even those on the other side of a computer screen. More important, it invites you to a deeper connection with your inner self. Without Ujjayi Pranayama, yoga is just stretching and without a deep connection to your inner self, you're just existing. For me, the understanding of breath was the start. In fact, the more I practiced the sound of the ocean in my throat, the more I found myself moving in an inhale/exhale motion through once mindless tasks chasing the sense of calm and focus that I could only find on my mat or at a keyboard creating. Who Did I Think I Was? As quarantine persisted with more uncertainty, yoga was where I found my solace and calm. It was during this time that I allowed myself to imagine a life where I was would be free to refocus on the creative callings that stirred within me. It seems yoga was awakening not just long ignored muscles, but my desire to claim the life I craved. With this in mind, I explored the idea of a yoga certification. What would that look like particularly in the post-Covid world? How would I achieve it? And most important, who did I think I was anyway? All these answers would come in the most likely place-my yoga mat.However, did teaching yoga align into my higher purpose like finishing my second novel? I was working in software sales because I liked it. No-that's a lie. I was working in sales because I wanted to make a lot of money. I looked to some magical income number that would allow me to escape the corporate world to inspire others with my writing and teach yoga. I had resigned myself to sales for safety. After all, who was I to decide that I would embrace my talents. So, I chose misery-at my job (it was never about the job), my co-workers (it was never about them), and my lack of process on elusive goals (guess what-the goals weren't the problem either). I was my own worst problem. I was the person in my own way. My mind finally realized that there was only one way, and I already had the answers. The second that I merely dipped my toe in the direction of my dreams, a door opened immediately. I would waffle for a few more weeks before taking a step and walking through the door completely and shutting it on my former career behind me. Brave New World Yoga…it saved me and continues to save me every day. My body releases and relaxes as I flow through the movements and center my mind and breath. I still strive to shut out the day-the deadlines, the to-dos, and the nagging feeling in my cavegirl mind as I lay in shavansa that I am cheating on my productive self. But once I let go and give in, an organic peace of mind centers and focuses me for whatever might lie ahead. Yoga created the understanding in me that life is not the work we do but the space we inhabit every day. Understanding this allowed me to reconcile that my desires in life from writing my next novel to sharing the transformative path of yoga with others would continue to crowd my space unless I took a leap and let go. Just as in yoga, I had to let go of the ideas and thoughts threatening to crowd my head. I had to finally acknowledge that I knew exactly who I was and that my corporate journey needed to end. As I deepen my yoga practice, the rest of my life aligns to answer the call. I am able to take this time of great uncertainty and breathe unapologetic certainty into my mind, my heart and my soul. Yoga reveals to me that I must let my mind unravel to possibility instead of wrapping my mind around opportunities not meant for me.
It was March 17, 2020 when I had last seen so many natives and strangers under the same blazing sun and kept a feet outside of our basement. I was very delighted to hear that my university will be closed for an indefinite time period. It was so calm and peaceful for the first two weeks, I was sleeping to the fullest and giving a break to my brain after so long. Particularly I wasn't really frightened of COVID-19 because the first patient detected was a foreigner and soon he was recovered and the number and of cases were a few. But after that the number started being larger and I started longing for an excuse to go outside or find a companion. I started spending longer hours in social media and always trying to believe that COVID-19 can't reach my mother and sister. The more I thought the more I got frustrated watching the curve turning to go up which literally developed insomnia and some other mental disturbances. Moreover, my university decided to take online classes that added extra pressure on my already retarded psychology. After a month, life become intolerable with fear, mental disturbances and additional pressure on my brain. One night it was almost 4 am, and I still couldn't sleep and all the thoughts started assembling on my head leaving me with acute headache. All at once, I decided that I have to face it, not to escape from it. Besides, I realized that this was the longest vacation that I could ever have, so why not try living a life that's worth living? Immediately I got my “little white book of wellness” and started making my new routine. The first thing I included in my routine was that I had to develop the habit of getting up early. I started going to bed at 9 pm and get up at 4 am having a long 8 hours sound sleep. As most people were leaving the city and everything was so quiet I got a really good environment for sleeping. This virus have grown a feeling in me that my lungs were really important and I should make them stronger than this virus. I started researching on methods to make our lungs stronger. At the same time of reading newspapers, I got to know that people were dying with heart attack more than ever. Also it was not only me who was psychologically imbalanced, a lot of people were suffering from the same problems. Considering everything that I needed to fight this virus I felt like nothing is better than working out and eating healthy. I started doing Kundalini Yoga (a special form of breathing exercise) and HIIT cardio without any equipment. Firstly the breathing exercises worked wonders allowing me to take up more oxygen and HIIT cardio helped to carry my oxygenated blood equally to all parts of my body. It was also giving a natural glow to my skin and a good mood. I started taking more water, fruit juice and greens with my diet and as we were not being allowed to go out to meet junk-food cravings allowed a better digestion. I was losing weight, my body was toned and healthier and my mind was better than ever before. I was concentrating more on my studies which left me with some nice grades. I also developed a habit of reading books for 2 hours before going to bed. I smelt new books often and it increased my knowledge to a huge extent. I loved my mother and sister a lot. We spent a lot of time together watching movies and flying kites and watching more sunsets together than Netflix. I also limited my social media activity. I was happy than ever although with a broken heart with underprivileged people suffering out there. I felt an urge to do something for them. And I listened to my heart. I started working with a non-profit organization who were providing groceries and aids to underprivileged children. I wasn't earning yet but I took part in collecting data and money. I also used to write social media contents for their official page. And luckily the organization has been helping 87 underprivileged families for two months. I don't know if anyone would trust me or not, even if the whole world was going through utter sufferings I was better than ever. This crisis gave us the chance to be better. Actually the biggest thing we were taught during this crisis is we are still vulnerable to the nature, irrespective of race, gender or nationality we are all one single species. Death can knock at your door any moment. And everything I did during this quarantine let me live the moment paying no heed to the underlying uncertainty. And the nicest thing is that all of my family members are still safe and my immune system has been working better than ever. I have allowed myself to do everything good during these four months and still doing so. Now, if anyone says COVID-19 has no cure I would say then prevent it. I have followed by the hygiene rules and made my family members do the same. And we are still okay. I have grown a strong willpower to fight against this virus and I believe this is the biggest antidote to any deadly virus that exists or will emerge in future.
By: Ymir clark One of the major problem's youth face in the twenty first century is the youth thinking they aren't good enough when they have not had the chance to fully blossom into the amazing person they will become. I saw this video where a little black girl looked into the mirror and said that she was ugly, and eventually broke down and started crying. The little girl's mom started telling her that she is beautiful and that she should not think like that and the mom started crying too because her child was having these thoughts that she should not even be thinking about. This is a major problem because no kid should even have the thoughts that they are ugly and that they don't deserve to be here. I don't want any kid to feel the way that girl felt, but sadly many kids do, and they eventually grow up with those insecurities, causing them to have anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and so on. This one problem can easily turn into so many other problems. Kids should be playing outside, enjoying life, messing up their hair that was just done this morning, instead of feeling these insecurities. A way I would stop kids from thinking they aren't good enough would be to just get out in the community and help. I would open little free libraries and fill them with books that empower children and tell them how beautiful and unique they are. Books that tell kids and the youth that it is okay to not look like everyone else, that it is okay to be different In the little free libraries people can switch out books and put new books in as they go. The little free libraries would be set up in parks or other places where kids are a lot to ensure that the kids have easy access. This is just one of my plans, I would also start a club that that would be free to helps kids get active, where I would help lead the kids in different fun actives. I could also help kids who aren't feeling like their selves by bringing awareness to this problem by starting a campaign about how kids should love themselves, and bring awareness to the fact that sometimes people can't help the way they feel about their selves, and that depression and anxiety is real. If someone is telling you that they aren't feeling well, then they shouldn't be ignored and they shouldn't feel ashamed or be shamed for having the confidence to realize that they need help. So many that are part of the youth don't speak out about the problems they have. They feel as if the cant talk to people or their parents, because that's what they are taught to do, not speak out when they have a problem, or they try to ask for help and people try to make it seem as if they aren't having real problems and then they push their feeling down and start to disconnect from the world In conclusion kids, teens, or the youth thinking they aren't good enough and that they should hide their feelings is a major problem in the twenty first century. Kids should never feel the way that little black girl felt. Kids should be out hanging with friends or on the playground, not worried about the way they look.
I was 7 years old when I remember my mom first leaving me. I suppose you could've considered me naive. I always thought she intended on coming back. One night, we were hanging out in the living room, watching her favorite; Keeping up with the Kardashians. (Not my taste). The oven was heating up some bagel bites and it rang, indicating they were done. My mom told me to stay put and she'd be back down. So I waited. After a couple minutes I went upstairs and she was sitting at the table, phone in hand, looking distraught. When she saw me she immediately hung up. She asked me if i wanted a coke, I said yes, and she told me she'd be right back. She left into the garage to fetch it. I waited and waited for what felt like forever but finally my patience wore thin. I walked into the kitchen and opened the door to the garage where we kept a fridge full of soda and found the main garage door open into the dark night and my mom no where to be seen. That is my first recollection of my mom leaving me. Throughout my life she would come in and out, always in spurts and never for long. Drugs controlled her life. It got to the point where when she'd stay the night I'd hold her hand so that I would wake up if she went to leave while I slept. Fast forward to when I was about 12. I found out my mom was dying of a liver disease; a rare one. It had been a couple years since I heard from her. She got into contact with my dad, and from then we scheduled calls. I kept up with her as much as my 7th grade mind could. I didn't really comprehend exactly what was happening. 8th grade. By this time my mom was in hospice. Her disease was beyond repair. With her not staying sober, she couldn't be placed on the donor wait list for a liver. On the night of April 31st 2014 my mom died. I was... devastated. I had gotten home from church and my dad called me into the room. He told me and my brother she wasn't going to make it through the night. I remember picking up the phone, and she could barely speak. I said; "Mom... I love you. I miss you. And I forgive you." And just above a whisper. So soft you could barely hear, "I love you." She said. We hung up the phone and my heart died. My life, as I knew it, would never be the same. I would never see my mom at Christmas again. She wouldn't see me dress up for prom. She wouldn't see me graduate. She wouldn't see me walk down the aisle. Now I am 17 years old. It's been almost 4 years and I still hear her last words to me as clear as when she spoke them. I love her. I forgive her. And we both are free.
We, human beings, tend to build intimate and emotional connections towards various things we encounter and places we visit. If our relationships with these things or places come to an end; we may well mourn their absence or go through an experience of remembrance. This emotional and existential remembrance could include our past experiences, actions, places we have been to and people we met. This is what we could define as Nostalgia; the emotional yearning for the past, for places and things that we sentimentally associate with. We could find ourselves often trapped in the past, be it pleasant or unpleasant. In such a situation, our remembrance and nostalgic feelings could be evoked by different external stimuli. Even the slightest stimulation can incite nostalgia. In this sense; a scent, a scene, a person, a voice, an action or a place have the ability to stimulate a tape of similar experiences inside our heads. As an international student abroad, I would argue that people would vouch that it is quite natural to be nostalgic, experience homesickness and potential loneliness. A foreign country, a foreign culture and a foreign language, it is indeed obvious that I'm highly likely to miss home. However, the feelings of nostalgia could be relatively different from person to person. In my case, I do not miss the physical place or people per si as much as I miss my past experiences with them. As a Muslim female student, I would say my presence is constantly received as an accumulation of ideas held and interpreted differently by different people. Yet, my true self is always concealed and never received. In my culture, that is highly conservative and sometimes unfortunately sexist, I'm required to live according to the norms of the society, fulfill certain rules allocated to me as a female and prohibited from certain activities that are the monopoly of men. According to their beliefs, I'm not required to have a strong and independent opinion because, by and large, I'm expected to be a ladylike, decent wife and mother regardless of my values, and thoughts. Living under this canopy of rules always tortured me and silenced my entity in fear of being rejected by the society. On the other side of the fence, the situation is not significantly different as a veiled Muslim student abroad. Namely, a lot of people do receive me as a representation of a barbaric, oppressing culture and a terrorist religion. I, frequently, see frightened and hate looks on the faces of people. I try to fit in but the cultural barriers are always a major hurdle. I'm, thus, never received based on who I am or on my thoughts, but rather on my appearance and gender. All these unfortunate experiences made me constantly pressured and nostalgic to the past, to my childhood and teenage years, where I used to be independent, dreamy, strong-willed. I never imagined that my life would take this critical turn and become caged in the so-called world of stereotypes held by others. An influential experience which incited a sudden nostalgia took place in my first Yoga experience. When I arrived at the location, I immediately got a soothing homey feeling due to the warmth of the room and the gentle waft of the incense. We sat down around a beautifully-lit candle in the middle, held each other's hands and listened to a soothing meditation music. I and the instructor held hands, At that particular moment, I had strange feelings of warmth and compassion. Feelings I only used to know when I was younger; when I used to come back from school or sports training, play with my cat, watch my favourite animation on tv, swim in my imagination to be like one of the imaginary animated heroes in the show, and wait for my mother to come back from work to tell her about my day, adventures, my dreams and how I look forward to making them true. I had a sudden flashback; a recreation of the past in front of my eyes, my tears uncontrollably fell down afterward. As soon as the session finished, I realized that it was time to get back to the real world; the world where I'm no longer that strong dreamy child. The instructor looked me in the eyes and said “you will be alright”, I felt she was looking at my heart and that she sensed my sentiments and the overflow of emotions through my skin. I still experience the after effects of my first yoga session because it was utterly nostalgic and a sudden reminiscence of the past. It was like a psychedelic experience of feelings and memories. It is, indeed, enchanting how a single experience stimulated countless feelings and memories through a vivid flashback. All in all, it is terrible that people in both cultures treat me as an embodiment of social and cultural representation instead of a person with an independent entity. Nevertheless, one thing I learned from this existential experience is that we should effortlessly fight for who we are, our dreams and voices.