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


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

22. May 2017 at 7:55

Nice Article ..

Behind the Schmile
22. May 2017 at 16:08

This is so powerful and so beautiful!
I’m in awe!
Thank you so much for sharing- I absolutely love this!
And I agree- using yoga to learn to listen and connect with your body is a wonderful tool!💙

22. May 2017 at 18:23

This was powerful. I’ve wanted to try yoga again for a long time after a not so welcoming start. After reading this I’m inclined to give it another go. Kudos on finding just what you needed to get you through.
Leslie / @hautemommie / http://www.thehautemommie.com

Chasity Williams
22. May 2017 at 18:42

I absolutely love this! You did such an amazing job describing your experience. So beautiful! Self care is definitely important and is something that I need to improve upon! Thanks for sharing!

23. May 2017 at 2:10

What an amazing post! I love how you described your first experience with yoga and the importance you stressed on taking care of yourself and your body. Sometimes we get so caught up in helping others that we forget to take care of ourselves. You’ve got me wanting to try yoga even more now!

26. May 2017 at 15:31

I’m feeling heartbroken reading this but at the same time it give a so strong and powerful msg that inspires me. I know that feeling actually..yoga would help me as well, Id need u as teacher though 🙂 hugs my girl

26. May 2017 at 16:07

This is so powerful. I was just talking with my mom about this topic the other day. Thankfully I was raised to be independent but also to pursue my dreams, and not be held back by other’s expectations or needs. However, I agree, that it is still in my nature to tend to do that. I find myself sacrificing my needs in my career, health and some relationships. It’s still something to work on, but it starts with recognizing it and then overcoming.

26. May 2017 at 16:31

What a powerful post! So much reflection for me and what I’ve laid my body down for. Yoga has calmed me, and I love doing it to stretch myself to new lengths.

26. May 2017 at 20:08

This post is so uplifting, it speaks in high volumes! I too have a tendency of sacrificing myself for others but whenever I do, I find that it is as beneficial to me as it is to the ones I am laying myself down for so I have no regrets about that. Very encouraging post, thanks for sharing!

27. May 2017 at 5:37

I almost thought I was reading a novel. Thank you for sharing your journey. I’ve started honor myself, my time and I am working on honoring my body.

27. May 2017 at 18:49

Wow! What an awesome story and testimony! I just want to give you a hug! I’m so glad the universe worked in your favor for you to find that very thing that your body, mind, and spirit needed to get better. Awesome!

27. May 2017 at 20:14

What do you do when your life has just begun and your body feels like it’s at its end? This is so powerful. Self love is so important. Thank you for being transparent.

28. May 2017 at 17:35

Very powerful! I have a friend who practices and teaches yoga and she believes yoga is truly healing. I admire people who do yoga because I see such peace in their lives. I love that you found healing and peace in yoga.

TC Mason
28. May 2017 at 20:36

Very motivational and encouraging post with deeper meaning. Yes, we can sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others and also we should find time to relax. Thanks for sharing!

28. May 2017 at 20:39

Powerful article. I’ve experienced some of the issues listed. I keep telling myself, “you need to develop a relationship with yoga.” I hear what I’m saying to myself. This article put things in perspective. Thanks for sharing Salem’s story.

Jay Colby
29. May 2017 at 0:56

So much reflecting in this. Great article so uplifting.

Kirstin Fuller
29. May 2017 at 4:25

I love your candor and honesty. She has me wanting to take a yoga class now. 🙂

29. May 2017 at 15:29

Your pictures really capture the powerful feelings in this piece! I really need to try yoga asap. For my mind and my body’s sake.

Elle (CleverlyChanging)
29. May 2017 at 16:08

Chronic pain is so prevalent in the black community that it is almost never discussed. I like how you are making your health a priority and I hope other women around your sphere of influence will also follow suit.

Distinguished Diva

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