HYFN Well-being: Alyzeh Ashraff
I remember when I was younger and my mom would wear her shalwar kameez to the local grocery store, I would be mortified and get so embarrassed. Now when I see an aunty wearing a sari down the street my thoughts are, "Yeah aunty, you go aunty! Rock that sari!"
It's funny how we grow and evolve over time...
Being South Asian was something I would always push aside. In fact, after 9/11 the last thing I wanted to be known for was my brown identity- as a 10-year-old, I did not know any better. But as years have passed and as I have developed into my own being, I am constantly reminded of how proud I am to be a South Asian-Muslim.
Within my South Asian community, I am known as “The Yogi.” I practice yoga, I teach yoga, I take photos of yoga instructors. I live and breath yoga 7 days a week. How ironic is it though that within my yoga community I only know a handful of yoga teachers that are Brown? Why is it that this practice that originated centuries ago in India is now dominated by White culture? Not only that, but fitness and yoga don't take any precedence in our brown culture. In fact, they have become so sexualized over the years that now it's only harder for members of my Muslim community to want to get involved without questioning whether or not what they are doing is appropriate. I often encounter girls on Instagram asking for advice on how to talk to their parents about wearing shorts while running or wearing yoga pants out in public- why should clothing or cultural standards limit us from being healthy?
The topics at hand are difficult and sensitive but also unavoidable. From shared stories amongst friends, there was a common theme of fear that we could not stray too far from our traditional path. You only know what you are exposed to, and as the children of immigrants, some of us were not exposed to a lot.
So when you get to a certain point and you realize, "I do not want to be a doctor or a lawyer anymore" or "I want to work out and have my body and mind look and feel a certain way " or “I should not feel ashamed to show my legs during my soccer match- I choose what I want to wear and how I will feel in it," opinions start to surface, and to me, it's a really exciting time.
Being a Pakistani-American Muslim-female is probably one of the scariest labels, but also one of the most exciting. Especially now in 2017, I look at that label and all I read is opportunity and change. How do we stay connected to our roots but also push the envelope- and how creative can we get while we are doing it?
I find the times that I am most honest with myself and my identity are when I am in a yoga studio or running outdoors- moving with my breath. It's my way of connecting with myself and understanding what I want and who I want to be. My goal is to pave a path for future generations and show them that the road they take is their choice and they shouldn't fear what their community will think. I believe that exploring your physicality can help you get to know yourself, your true being. If you do things with confidence, and the good and passion of your own heart, then why would you ever have any shame?