Posted in wellness

Breathe for Change and SEL*F Reflection

A week ago I finished the Breathe for Change Summer Intensive in Austin, Texas. B4C’s mission is to change the world one teacher at a time: a bold goal! From their marketing, I thought the claims were too good to be true. Change the world? Nah. Transformative? Nah. This is just another SEL training that conveniently has a 200-hr yoga teacher certification attached, I thought. Little did I know that when I walked into the gym of Lanier High School on Day 1, that it’d be the last day of being my old self.

My wellness brand, Glow & Grow Wellness for so long operated under the mission that teachers need to help students be more mindful. I provided workshops on SEL, equity, culturally responsive teaching (and still do!), but wasn’t doing anything to heal those delivering instruction. At Breathe for Change, my largest take-away is that really, we must take better care of our teachers. If teachers haven’t found their well-being, who are we to try and give it to students? We must not only be models of well-being, but include that energy in our classrooms and relationships with students. Here is where changing the world begins. B4C calls this SEL*F, or Social-Emotional Learning and Facilitation. The facilitation aspect of SEL means we must be well ourselves to facilitate well-being for others.

At Breathe for Change I transformed myself and am starting to see my world transformed as well.

The past two years have been a whirlwind: illness and loss plagued our family, I fell in love but he fell out of love, and both a dear college friend and important former students of mine passed away. I fell ill more than usual, missed more work than usual, and wrote far too many referrals. I kept wondering why this was happening to me, and kept showing up at work trying to show students how to make dreams come true when I wasn’t living in a dream of my own.

I had a disease: the victim mindset. Things kept happening to me and I kept letting them beat me up.

How many teachers do you know living this way? Often in the hallways I hear complaints about the state of teaching, relationships with administrators, low-quality PD, and irritating students. I am absolutely guilty as charged. For years, I deemed myself cursed with it!

I write this now from a bamboo house in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Minca, Magdalena, Colombia. I saw two types of toucan this morning as I ate breakfast. Yesterday I practiced yoga in a waterfall pool I had to myself for more than an hour. I launched the small literary press of my dreams, signed up for a half-triathlon, and had the courage to ask for a new position at work, with positive response (no position change, work friends! I’m just pleased with the response ☺️). Being in true harmony with my world made this happen. I thought I was doing all the right things before by going to yoga once a week, seeing a therapist, and reading a bunch of self-help books. Those things helped, but Breathe for Change had me visualize who I wanted to be when I was on the mat, and transform into her off the mat.

Attending Breathe for Change set me on a new course. From Day 1 we dove head-first into a multi-day curricular segment called Transformation of Self. Many in the room, myself include, showed up ready to talk about SEL or social justice: topics we are passionate about. The B4C curriculum made us pause, however, and first start healing our own lives. We spent a week here.

Without that week of (sometimes painful) self-reflection, I would not have been as receptive or prepared to implement other information in the training. On Day 4, I felt my old self passing, shedding light on a refreshed, clear-headed, and non-violent heart I didn’t know I had. For years, I and others near me labeled me as having “big emotions,” and I sought out the pathology of an anxiety disorder to justify it. I thought I was in a fixed, miserable state. At B4C, I realized I largely created that mess for myself, and was manifesting a negative life with negative thoughts and emotions. I learned that change is possible, and began my journey living free.

My well-being intention from the training is to live my own truth. Others have intentions like “love radically,” “practice self-care,” or “know I’m loveable.” How incredible it is to have 60 more teachers in the world committed to well-being in these ways!

Now healing, I feel so much more capable of teaching others how to live happily themselves. Now understanding the importance of healed teachers, I am completely stoked to say my own business, Glow & Grow Wellness, now offers yoga and self-care classes for teachers in addition to professional development.

I can’t wait to see the effects the training has on our students and the world around us. Sixty educators graduated from our Austin program, and about 3,000 from B4C as a whole. Each of us works with dozens of colleagues, students, and families every year, and will send as much positive energy into those worlds as we can. Breathe for Change is right: we can change the world, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that revolution.

Namaste, y’all. Always sending love and light.

Lauren 🌸

Posted in Books

Body Reclamation in YA Books

Bodies. Wowza. What a gift and a burden, am I right? Most people I know struggle forming a compassionate connection with their bodies. We see ourselves as too much or too little; have suffered unspeakable traumas and relentless microaggressions; and vary in physical ability. Everyone has their own story to tell regarding their body.

As we grow older, we learn to better appreciate our body for its gifts. Unfortunately, body trauma and misinformation barrages adolescents, causing a lack of connection and few positive models to look toward. Reclaiming one’s body is radical act: taking it back from patriarchal structures, people who claim it as theirs, or even taking it back from painful parts of ourselves is not only difficult, but against the grain of nearly everything Western society teaches us.

Young adult authors rock at tackling this topic: if you or someone you love (even an adult) needs some help reclaiming their body, here are some places you might start. Of course, all of these warrant a trigger warning. But, if you’re ready to approach these topics, dive right in. You won’t be disappointed.


Image result for itza rios de la luz

This debut novella from El Paso author Rios de la Luz flips white supremacy on its back, defeating rapists, racists, and border wall supporters. Using magical realism, de la Luz chronicles the stories of generations of water witches traversing rites of passage, trauma, and conflicting definitions of home.

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No list of YA books about consent or body reclamation would be complete without Speak.  Laurie Halse Anderson’s landmark novel about a teenager who called the police to break up a party because she was assaulted created waves in schools across America when it was published in 1999. Because the girl called the police, other students isolated and bullied her, though they never understood her motive for doing so. This book illustrates relatable moments of strength and vulnerability, as well as the complex pressures of sharing (or not sharing) one’s trauma.

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I’m a Texan and a zine-lover, so naturally I adore this book about Vivian, an enraged young feminist who’s tired of being harassed by the jocks at her school. By publishing and distributing her own zine in secret, she fights toxic masculinity, finds power in her own body, and defeats sexist policy (like the dress code) and biases on campus.

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Yes. Y-E-S, YES! That’s most of what I have to say about Dreadnought, April Daniel’s debut where ability diversity and  gender realization are portrayed as super powers. Daniel’s transgender protagonist (Danny) inherits the ability to inhabit her ideal body. Though Danny faces bigotry, she overcomes the hate. In the way The Hate U Give approaches racism and social justice through vivid depictions of realistic micro and macroaggressions, Dreadnought does this regarding the transgender experience. Nuanced characterization and a compelling superhero plot make Dreadnought a must-read.

Non Fiction

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Intuitive eating changed my life. As an athlete and young woman who’s struggled with weight most of my life, I was trapped in the diet cycle. I believed to be attractive and pursue athletics, I had to eat a certain way. I counted calories, carbs, sugar, electrolytes, points, meals, and anything else I possibly could. The original Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole examines how tuning in to our body and emotions should dictate how we eat, not a diet plan. Years later, Resch released this workbook that puts those concepts and practices into a digestible (pun intended) and specific format for teens.

Image result for we should all be feminists book

If you are here, you’re probably a feminist. When I first read this book, I was underwhelmed because, like her other books, I expected a tough and detailed narrative to take slowly and ponder. We Should All Be Feminists, and the TED Talk of the same name, instead shares clear, illustrative stories from Adichie’s own life that act as a primer or affirmation for budding feminists. Her stories clearly portray women’s issues from around the world: depictions young people need to observe.

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Kate Bornstein rocks and rocks and rocks and keeps rocking. Heads up: if you couldn’t tell from the title, profanity and candid discussion of difficult topics doesn’t just pepper the pages, but dominates them. Bornstein bluntly (and hilariously) shares stories of her transition from a young Jewish boy into the woman and activist she is today, and the depression, anxiety, and body issues that came with it. As a cis woman, this book was of great benefit to me. Although much of Bornstein’s experience is a result of being a “gender outlaw,” she offers advice and stories relevant to everyone.


If you’ve read a book that’s helped you reclaim your body, please share!