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Growing up in Panama, I spent a great deal of time in the Sun. It was a way of life that brought me joy and high energy.
Coming to the US and facing the change of seasons was a culture shock to a very long list of things to get used to. I remember my first winter and seeing the Sun out and being excited that I could feel some heat on my skin. I quickly realized that the Sun could be out and it can be absolutely freezing.
After long winters, I would return home and feel the change in my movement. I had more energy to get through the day. Overtime, I realized that lack of sun exposure was affecting me.
I recently learned that I am low in vitamin D. I immediately called my Doctor to get more information. I shared the news with my Trainer Sarah who said to me very calmly, it is probably due to lack of Sun exposure. I then heard back from my Doctor and Sarah was right.
In our last Circle meeting, one of our members also shared that she was given the same information. I then realized that it is very common but undetected in communities of color.
The member of the Circle sent me some information from the Medical news. The title of the article, Vitamin D Levels among people in the US, particularly those with Darker Skin, focuses of communities of color. The following information comes from the article.
“Vitamin D deficiency might be on the rise due to more people avoiding the Sun to prevent Skin Cancer. According to Ginde, the abundance of the skin pigment melanin, which is prevalent in those with darker skin, can block ultraviolet light, which induces Vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent among blacks and Hispanics. Ginde said that those with lighter skin can boost Vitamin D levels by getting 10-15 minutes of sun daily, while those with darker skin need about five times that amount.”
With all this information, I now know that the Sun is even more important to our well being.
Today I shared with a member whose “Fabulousness” moves me that I will be out next week on a research trip to Latin America. She wished me luck and went on to workout. She immediately came back and said, “Do you ever think of going back permanently?” I said, yes. Her response was then, “Great, It is where your Spirit lives.”
Yes, My spirit lifts to his highest level for many reasons back home in Panama but as I learn more about what helps my journey for balance in my life, I learn that my Spirit reaches for the Sun to give me movement and energy.
Learn more about Vitamin D deficiency by visiting www.medicalnewstoday.com
Note: After Yvette wrote this post we came across the following article about Vitamin D deficincy in children.
How do you ensure that you get enough Vitamin D? Do you have a favorite Vitamin D rich recipe? Leave your Comments!
In life we all search for a space that allows us to be our Full Self. They are moments when our age is an entrance to a space or maybe our joy of reading, places us in a Book Club space. Our journey to create balance in our life allows us to focus on such spaces as Healthworks.
Some members come in early in the day as a way to jump start their heart and mind. Others like mid afternoon because it gives them the boost to get through the rest of their work day. Then they are those who come in the evening to release the struggles of the day, to refresh their body and soul for the next day.
Whatever your entrance is to this space, Healthworks at some point, who you are, how you identify yourself allows you to develop new spaces.
Here are a few examples. My language is very important to me. When I speak Spanish, I feel light, my cup runeth over. We have many Spanish speaking members and at first some assumed that based on the color of my skin, that I only spoke English. When I shared that I was born and raised in Latin America we had a common space. Our interactions changed. It is like we jump at the chance to be our Full Self,” en Español.”
The same goes for women from the Caribbean. Because of my Caribbean background, I find joy in sharing stories of food and Carnival.
I find a connection with women from the Middle East from my work at the United Nations. I have shared powerful moments with women from this region in their journey to speak their truth. South Asian women are dear to me because of my special and dear friendship with Veena since the sixth grade.
I also find strength in the Black women that present a great amount of resiliency and understand the times when race defines the space.
It is important to share these moments because it is these moments that made me think of doing the blog and the Women of Color Circle.
The Circle is a way to bring us together through our cultural lenses to share our language, our native country our depth.
Exercise is seen differently in many of our cultures and our needs to feel comfortable in the Healthworks space might be lead by our cultural lenses. This is true to many as I have written in prior blogs.
We hope for inclusion not exclusion of our Full Self at the Circle. Inclusion of the diversity we walk with that allows us to use the term Women of Color Circle.
A Circle allows us to connect from our sides and our center. I do hope that this will be a beginning of new spaces within Healthworks. I look forward to meeting new women and sharing our stories.
“Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” Arundhati Roy
While I was thinking about writing this blog, one of my goals was to share the voices of the women who inspire me and hope that they will do the same for you.
The purpose is to speak in our voice; that is unique. Yes, our message does have a universal appeal but we are expressing it from our perspective. The search is to find out what stands out for us as we navigate our space in society.
I interviewed Margarita Alvarez and Lula Christopher. Margarita and Lula shared their message to the Sister, hermanas. There was clarity in their voice and love in their movement.
After speaking with them, I felt uplifted and validated and as Lula shared, “It is about connecting to a higher being.” I hope you find a connection in their words.
So here it is my Sisters, Mis Hermanas.
Una conversación con Margarita-A Conversation with Margarita
Margarita Alvarez is a Colombian psychoanalyst and Healthworks member. Un Mensaje a las Mujeres Latinas.
Question: Margarita, what stands out as we talk about the initial blog?
Margarita: El concepto de “boundaries” es tan Americano que no existe una palabra especifica para traducirlo en Español. No es un concepto en nuestra cultura Latina,lo cual puede ser problemático.
Por ejemplo, la idea de uno hacer espacio y sacar tiempo para cuidarse y protegerse, se podria ver como algo supervisial, egoista e indulgente.
Our relationship with our body is not something ever stressed to care for, or that it is sacred. Many of us have a bad relationship with our bodies, not necessarily by abusing it, but by neglecting it. We spend a lot of time in our heads or somewhere else. But rarely do we inhabit in a body that we befriend and take care of.
For example, we may work long hours and not be able to read the signals of tiredness, hunger, thirst and need for rest. Many of us do not know how to read the warning signs to stop. I sometimes wonder if this is culturally embedded in us. By avoiding our bodies, we may also be avoiding troubling feelings stored there. Surely, this is different for everyone.
QUESTION: What has helped you in your workouts?
Margarita: The interpersonal connection with my Trainer Sarah Anderson. It gives me structure, it challenges and encourages me to go beyond boundaries I never knew I could surpass. I get support and motivation from our session that makes the work feel great not only physically but emotionally.
As we move forward, I feel stronger, I have more energy, I can focus better, can be more present and grounded, and sleep much better than I used to. It is an overall sense of well being in feeling more connected to myself. I also love the welcoming and support of the overall staff at Healthworks. It makes the space very friendly, inviting and safe.
The pleasure of exercising derives from various sources. At one level this place invites me, the smells of the sauna and Jacuzzi are my rewards after a workout. The other source of pleasurable motivation is seeing my progress and having crossed a line of success I never imagined I could. As I said before, being able to integrate my body and my mind is another source of pleasure, as well as seeing my body get stronger and more defined. It instills in me a sense of youth I had lost somewhere a long time ago. Paradoxically, when I stop coming, I lose a sense of rhythm and ways of channeling my everyday work stress, which makes me tired and eager to come back.
While working out, Margarita may get involved in looking at a movie or watches CNN to catch up with the news of the day. While feeling distracted it also connects her with the national and some of the world affairs.
A Conversation with Lula Christopher
Lula is an African American women founder and Director of BBWHI Boston Black Women Health Institute and a Healthworks member
Question- How do you see us addressing our physical health?
Lula: At BBWHI it is a part of a journey. Oftentimes, we get a message about the chronic disease and we respond. We place everyone’s needs before our own. We rarely take time to focus on what we need. We are at the bottom of our own list until we get that wake up call.
It is not an easy process. We generally need something to jump start our life. The Black community has accepted, “Oh girls, you’re big boned” or “We are Sisters with large rhythm.” We lower ourselves in this acceptance of body image.
Our concern is that we don’t see the physical activity as a total package.
We wear a Badge of honor as the strong black, Latina woman. What generally happens is we take on the weight of the world. In the anthology of Black Women, Patricia Scott wrote, how stress is pressed into our hair and stitched in our garment. We also press it into our spirituality in the way of, “God will deliver.”
We do not take time to breathe and find out who we are as physical beings. It is all circular. You cannot work on one area and not the other.
Many women are aware that they need to take care of themselves but stuck on where to do this in the community that we live. Access to workout, to walk, may not be in our immediate communities.
Safety, not just physical safety but the disparities in the environment that we live, does not promote physical activity.
In the Program, Slim Down Sisters, we talk about the need for women to heal by building unity with other women of color. One of the reasons they enjoy it, is that they cannot do it alone. Hearing other stories is motivating. It moves in the African tradition of call and response, it says, “Your story promotes healing in my life.”
Bringing women together to exercise gives a deep sense of belonging. I get this at Codman Square. When we see each other, we recognize each other and we gather strength.
BBWHI hosts two classes at the Healthworks in Codman Square. We find modified versions for women; they can reach further in to do more.
Question: What keeps you moving and motivated?
Lula: I am diabetic so I motivated by my health and by the women in my community. As I stand doing this work, I stand and hold the place for other Black women. I stand in a place of holding and sharing that space as they begin to take their own steps through their journey. I am that BLACK WOMAN!!
I am doing it for myself. It gives me a better sense of who I am physically and I see my strength. I swim in my own reservoir!!!
My gym time is sacred. I do it early in the morning. No one wants to meet at 6am. It allows me to communicate with myself to be in my own head. It affords me clarity.
As a DIVA growing older, (she is turning 60), I am entering the season of sage. I need to be strong. I am a grandmother and I want to send a message of taking care of myself and being active. I want to model that for my granddaughter.
I prefer silence (I do not always get it) when I workout but I do appreciate the old school music in the gym. African drums and Afro Cuban beats. Anything with a drum takes me to another place.
MARGARITA- Make the connection with you body. Enjoy your transformation.
LULA WORDS OF WISDOM-I like it when you spoke about baby steps. Take really small steps when you begin. The machines can be intimidating. Build and improve your personal best. Believe in yourself!!!
I envision the pounds melting away as I walk. Visualize yourself healthy from the inside out!!! Love yourself regardless of the package you come in. Honor the divinity in you. Say to yourself,
“I honor the Divinity within me.”
Call out and recognize what a divine and magnificent person you are. The more you move, the more strength you will gain.
I hope the words of these two women guide you in your journey of making peace with your body by doing it your way, a su manera.
Until our next conversation, I leave you with the words of Oprah Winfrey from the book, What I Know for Sure, “Your life is a journey of learning to love yourself first and then extending that love to others in every encounter.”