My body.

The body of my mother.

The body of her mother.

 

Always ready to be the altar available to receive the communal sins and pain of all.

 

If there is one thing that connects me to the matriarchs in my bloodline, it is this narrative of laying our lives down, our happiness down, our needs down for the common good. For the satisfaction of the other. For the good of the world.

 

There is a trend of always choosing the path of being broken so others can live.

 

It wasn’t taught as much as it was learned, internalized, and lived.

 

I once was blind but now I see.

 

But I did not see until at age 20 with an ESQ behind my name, U.S professional law degree in hand, several years of working with survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking on my belt, ready to begin my climb to the United Nations to advocate for international human rights – the body I had laid down on the altar resurrected with a fierce anger and stopped me in my tracks. My body got angry for me, and my mother, and her mother, and decided that generationally no future bodies would be laid on an altar. My thyroid, the home of balanced energies and creative expression, stopped functioning optimally leading to chronic adrenal fatigue, and a broken metabolism. My skin reacted in flare ups. My weight fluctuated in unhealthy ranges. My menstrual cycle stopped regulating itself. My body was angry and it was showing me so many different signs that something needed to be different.

 

 

Enter pain, anger, and transformation.

 

What do you do when your path erupts? The path which has so far been full of high level, big-time, linear achievements, with big ass goals to make your mark, change the world and become the first female president of Nigeria?

What do you do when you know you have the intellectual ability to be the top 1% of the legal profession, to run the United Nations, to actually put your name in history that will outlive you?

What do you do when your life has just begun and your body feels like it’s at its end?

 

What do you do as a 20-year-old with body aches everywhere? With undiagnosed illnesses that you feel are eating you up from the inside out? What do you do when you actually need 10 hours of sleep every night and a nap to be functional?

 

What do you do when your dreams crumble and your path is completely covered with darkness and you need to rebuild your path all over again – when your life has only just begun?

 

 

I will not tell you how much time I spent visiting doctors, feeling horrible with no understanding of what was going on, feeling weak and useless – but there was pain. I will not tell you of the depression. I will not tell you of the anger. I will not tell you of the loneliness. But I’ll tell you there was beauty in the reconstruction.

 

At some point, while I was still in law school, I had decided to take a yoga instructor training course, not for me of course, but for the survivors of trauma, I would be working with. To make myself more marketable, much like they tell you learning a new language would do. I already spoke 3+ languages, so enter yoga instructor training, my new language. I just did not know it at the time.

 

When I started to really see, I realized yoga was actually what my body needed. It was the language that would have to be infused with my Nigerian high achieving status to reboot and make me whole again.

 

 

I slowly started integrating yoga into my life again when I got a job at a law firm in my city, and it changed me. Not the 3 classes of yoga I was teaching every week in addition to working at a law firm, with my 21-year-old mind trapped in an angry body in an attempt to stay relevant and prove to myself that even though I was not living my metropolitan United Nations Lawyer life, I was still the world changer.

 

What changed me was the Yoga I practiced alone, nude, on the blue and green flowery mat that lay directly across my bed. The yoga that only comprised of 3 poses because it was all I had the energy left to do. The yoga that was so sweet and perfect and I felt no need to Instagram a picture of it for the validation of likes because the practice was validation enough. It was sacred space. Holy ground. An act of worship.

 

My sacred, slow, and non-sacrificial yoga space began to change me.

 

 

In paying attention to my body and living mindfully – one yoga pose at a time, I understood how to listen to my body. I realized the burdens I was bearing that were never meant for me to bear. I realized that in work I was less of a ‘do-gooder’ than I thought and more of an economy builder and personal cheerleader. I listened. I pushed back on boundaries that were really just others’ narratives of what my life should look like. I truly nurtured and nourished in the ways that felt most aligned to my soul and spirit. I deconstructed. I re-constructed. I surrendered control, likeability, and perfection – these things that had been my lifelong companions. I traded in the timeline, the big goals, the desire to ‘do life big’ for new incentives like pleasure, satisfaction, collaboration.

 

 

I realized that this process was not just for me but for my mother, and her mother, and her mother – the powerful, brave women in my family that never considered themselves and their needs as important as the people they loved. And with every breath I took, and with every nap I took, and with every meditation, I practiced. And with every luxury massage, I indulged in. And with every pleasurable treat, I allowed myself to enjoy without guilt. I dedicated it to me, and them, and you. And every other woman on the planet who continues to lay herself down on the altar for others to thrive.

 

 

Salem Afangideh is first of all a human. She spends her days working as the U.S founding partner of Afangideh Global, the co-founder of THRIVE African Girl,  a yoga instructor, a coach/speaker/author. She believes in working hard to create a life you are proud to talk about and live in. You can find more of her on salemAfangideh.com and daily glimpses into her life on Instagram @yogaLawyerSalem.

Image by: Roxene Anderson