The Right I Have to Healing
BY: MARITZA DURAN
I started doing yoga as something I was going to try randomly to spend more time with myself. During my undergraduate career at the University of California, Irvine, I was very involved. I walked through campus, and I couldn’t get to the other side without someone saying hello or stopping me to ask about one of my involvements. Through these experiences, I noticed that I spent so much of my time giving to others without giving to myself.
During my time at UC Irvine, life happened really hard. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during my third year and a friend that’s like a sister was diagnosed with leukemia at age 16 during my second year. These diagnoses occurred within a year of each other. I found myself stepping up into a care taking role for both of them. I spent a lot of time spoon feeding, showering, and doing other basic survival life things for people that were my everything. This was extremely difficult because my mother is a single mother, and this was the first time in my life that I saw her unable to do some basic things for herself. Growing up, I helped play the role of second parent to my brother. I was a little adult when my brother was born.
Coupled with being a first generation student from a single parent home at the university was wild. I really thought the world was going to eat me alive. Those four years, I developed unhealthy coping habits and then undid them and then developed some more unhealthy coping habits.
Then, at some point, life reminded me that I needed to find healing because that was the most beautiful thing I could do for myself, my family, and my friends.
Culturally, I was taught to give my family everything and more. They came first and foremost. Therefore, self-care was non-existent. I had no idea what people were talking about in college, because to me, doing things for others was everything, and how could I be so selfish to spend an hour for myself and by myself? Through, being in different service positions on and off of UC Irvine’s campus, and due to life, I found that I needed to do something for myself.
So, I decided to try something new; that’s how yoga came into my life. Many of my friends’ reactions were like, “Yoga is for white people,” and “That’s not where you should go for self-care.” And that’s still a sentiment that is shared when I tell people that I do yoga and teach at a yoga studio. I felt guilt over engaging in something that did not welcome people who came from communities like mine. Yet, over time, the healing effects of my practice and the shifts in my thoughts changed my perspective. For the first time in my life, I thought about my desire to be well in every aspect. And the right I have to healing.
As a Latinx person in the United States, most especially living in the south, I am never sure how people are going to receive me and react to my thoughts, feelings, and work, especially at yoga studios. Through my practice I have found the immense need for my healing.
As I struggled with my privilege in society, I also found myself having to defend deserving healing as a Latinx person. Yoga is my way of resisting and finding healing for myself in order to continue my studies and work in the Latinx community.
I think its incredibly important for people who have and are experiencing racial trauma, and trauma in general, to know that they are deserving of healing and love. At the beginning of my practice, that seemed like a paradox, because every studio I have ever walked into has been majority white (no matter where I was). Yet, I have found myself focusing on my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions through my practice. These experiences have reminded me of all the ways that we are all deserving of love and connection. I started doing yoga and wanting to teach because I wanted people from my community to see someone that looks like them engaging in the work of healing. People of color in this country are so deserving of healing. Whatever that journey may look like does not necessarily matter as long as people are in the work. And yoga has been that for me. I hope this blog post reminds people that they are deserving of all the healing and love.
healing is one of the most beautiful and radical things someone can do towards resisting oppression, and systematic issues that are ever present in our current society.
Suggested reading: All About Love by Bell Hooks. Me coming to terms with deserving healing and love as a woman of color emerged from reading this book. And it reminded me that I am worthy of love, compassion and over all healing.
“All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm's way.”
― Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions