We’ve heard it time and time again, the age-old saying— “happiness is a choice.”
But like, WTF does it even mean?!
Yeah it’s the ultimate caption for an epic sunset pic on Instagram, but I’m pretty sure happiness is the last choice you want to make while suffering from the pain of death, drowning in a shit ton of credit card debt, stuck in traffic on the 405, or facing whatever curve ball life throws your way.
I believe the whole “happiness is a choice” thing, is a lot easier said than done.
Although (I must say) my girl Hillary fully embodies this life mantra and has opened my eyes to what it truly means to choose happiness.
As if dealing with the heartache from a break up isn’t hard enough, around the same time she was going through a season of change, Hillary was a victim of sexual assault. Not knowing what to do or who to tell, Hillary turned to the one thing that provided stability in her life, yoga.
Fast forward to today and this sexual assault
victim warrior not only teaches her very own yoga classes, but is turning a unpleasent situation into her life’s purpose by helping other women deal with the post traumatic stress that comes from being violated.
I can’t even tell you how proud I am to call this incredible beam of light my friend.
Allow me to introduce you to April’s Mermaid of the Month, Miss Hillary Agra.
+ Tell us about yourself.
Hi! My name is Hillary and I’m a full-time yoga teacher and student in San Diego, CA. I moved here last August from O’ahu, HI and am super excited to be Gennah’s Mermaid of the Month!
+ How did your passion for yoga begin?
It all started when my aunt dragged me to my first yoga class back in the day (I was probably in middle school). I only thought of yoga as a workout and I finally returned to my mat when I really needed to find clarity. More on that in a bit…
+ What made you take the leap into becoming a teacher?
Well, I needed the push. I took my first CorePower class and teacher training started a few days later. I literally put down my deposit after class and said I had to do this for me. I took the leap because I knew I needed to share my voice, my story and my passion of yoga (not just the asana or posture part, but the mental and meditation side of yoga).
+ What is your favorite life lesson to practice both on and off the mat?
I’m trying to incorporate more patience in my life. Patience is such a key component in relationships, life and yoga. Have patience with yourself when you fall out of a balancing posture like Eagle and also have patience with the slow Asian driver in front of you on I-5 (I can say that because I’m Asian! Haha).
+ Who is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration isn’t one singular person but a conglomerate of all the women past, present and future who bounce back from traumatic life experiences, no matter how little or big, and inspire others every single day.
+ As a warrior of sexual assault, how did you overcome your situation with a stronger spirit than before?
” Nothing is worse than the PTSD of a man coming near you and you wanting to karate chop him in the face, even though he was just trying to open the door for you. It’s not easy. It’s hard to flip your perspective from a “victim” to a “victor”. In the midst of my yoga teacher training my boyfriend at the time broke up with me (which in the end was such a relief!) I had to pick myself up off the floor and try to keep my life together. I was an emotional wreck. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to see anyone. The only thing that kept me moving was yoga. My yoga mat was my sanctuary. My yoga friends were my lifeline. I was going to make it because yoga told me I could.
+ What advice do you have for women going through the same experience?
Share your story. Let your voice be heard. Each day it gets a little easier to say, “Yes, I’ve been sexually assaulted.” If people ask me about it I don’t go into details because it triggers me, but I am able to say that “I’m here and “I know it happens to 1 out of every 6 women.” There’s strength in camaraderie. Find a group of women who have experienced similar traumatic incidents. It’s important to feel empowered even if bad things have happened to you. See if there’s a trauma-informed yoga teacher training near you. I learned so much from my teacher Zabie Yamasaki, who developed a trauma-informed teacher training program at the University of California schools to provide students who have been sexually assaulted a safe space to explore feelings, be empowered and learn to be a yoga teacher.
+ What is your Mermaid Mantra?
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”
+ Why do you feel people should practice yoga every damn day?
Practicing yoga every damn day doesn’t just mean practicing poses and taking pictures of them! It means be kind to others, be compassionate, be nice to yourself and practice being alone with your thoughts, emotions and feelings.
+ Where do you see your yoga journey leading?
I can see my yoga journey taking me all over the world. So far it’s taken me from Cleveland, Ohio to O’ahu, Hawai’i and now to San Diego, CA. Who knows where I’ll be in 10 years?!
Amen to that sister.
None of us know where our journeys will lead, or what adversities life will challenge us with, but Hillary is living proof that by choosing to focus your time and energy on what you love, happiness is a guarenteed outcome.
She has turned her passion into a purpose by making the choice to accept her situation, rather than playing the victim. As a result, this kind of mental freedom has gifted her the ability to help other women dealing with the same situation, while staying true to the happiness in her heart.
I told you she is a beam of light and if you want to feel more of her warmth, be sure to follow her on instagram @hillaryagrayoga for daily inspiration in both yoga and life.
xx Fins & Kisses,