I am Rebecca Trevors, a 24-year old Yoga Girl. Like many people my age, I am still finding my way in this world.
I started practicing yoga on my twentieth birthday as a promise to myself that I would venture outside of my comfort zone. At first, yoga did nothing for me. But as time went by, I started to feel something change inside me.
“You seem like a different person,” a friend told me a few months later. When asked to expound on what she meant, she said that there was an air of confidence in me that I never showed before. I realized that she was right and started to think about my childhood.
I grew up in a biracial family. My mother, who is of African descent, met my Caucasian father on an island. Taken by the charm of a beautiful islander, my father proposed and they married after a few months, before moving to America. My story is the story of many young biracial girls confused by their identity.
One study shows that young African-Americans exhibited higher self-esteem compared to Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. But growing up among a sea of white people, this was not my personal experience. I was very insecure about my race and my weight. My dad is a little on the heavy side and it was something that I inherited from him. I wasn’t picked on by any of my classmates but I still felt like an outcast.
My low self-esteem was something that affected me through my early twenties. Yoga came during a particularly difficult time in my life when my parents were separating. I needed to be strong, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally as my family life changed before my eyes. My mother told me that I had the strength within me, though at the time the words didn’t ring true.
Then, something fortuitous happened. I went into my old family home and recovered some of my journals from my childhood. One of my notebooks was covered with pictures of women I found inspirational, particularly Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams. I had always looked up to their strength and ability to triumph in the face of adversity, especially in a world where other people told them they weren’t good enough.
Wanting to be more like these two women, I researched their lives and any advice they had on becoming more confident. I found out that Oprah practices meditation. She says that mindfulness practice helps resist the voices in her head telling her she's not good enough, which was something I desperately needed. As for Serena Williams, she practices Bikram yoga 2-3 times a week to varied her training. She has always been someone I looked up to. Williams is the highest paid female tennis player in the world, even earning more than many of the top male tennis players. Let’s not forget that I was sorely out of shape at the time and it was enough motivation to get myself on the mat. Those impressive achievements and Oprah’s growing empire inspired me to begin practicing yoga regularly, as a way to find inner and outer strength.
My yoga story thus far may not be as long as the rest of the community, but it has been nothing short of life-changing. I first drew my strength from the community and from advocates like Jessamyn Stanley who highlighted that it’s about how yoga makes you feel, not how it makes you look. I still follow that philosophy but I have learned how to look inward and find strength from within. Yoga has and continues to help me be at peace with who I am, just like how Yoga Girl covered in her piece about inner strength. Focusing on my breathing helps me combat anxiety while practicing asanas helps me feel comfortable in my own skin. I have no control over what other people think of me or what will happen in the future. But as soon as I hit my mat, I am reminded what matters is how I value myself and the present moment.