My name is Chelsea. I am a speech pathologist with a background in vocal and piano performance. I am currently a stay-at-home mom of 3 children ages 7, 5, and 3.5. My husband and I started a church 4 years ago, so I am also a pastor’s wife. In February 2015, when I was 7 and a half months pregnant with our son, I had a grand mal seizure in the middle of the night. We found out that there was a lime-sized cancerous tumor in the frontal lobe of my brain. I had a c-section a few weeks later, and a craniotomy 2 days after the birth of Josiah to remove the tumor. I recorded myself singing lullabies for my kids before that surgery, since it was very possible I would lose my ability to speak. What a miracle it was that when I woke up, I had no deficits! 14 months later, an infection developed at the surgery site, which led to 4 more surgeries and 2 rounds of IV antibiotics over 5 months. Praise the Lord that over the past 2 years, my health has been stable!
Last October, I decided it was time to begin the journey of reclaiming my physical and emotional health. I joined the YMCA, and knew I wanted to attend classes that would keep me motivated to come back. The first class I stumbled upon was Oula, and it did just that! I was looking for a fun workout, and had no idea that it would have the incredible bonus of opening back up my emotions as well. In order to cope with the trauma of 5 brain surgeries, never knowing how life would look when I woke up, I essentially shut down my negative emotions for over 2 years. The consequence of that was losing my joy in life. Dancing and singing in Oula, (along with a few needed counseling sessions), helped me access and process a huge range of emotions, release fear and pain, and rediscover joy again. Though it is still a daily battle, I am learning to embrace my scars, visible and invisible, because they tell a story of the strength and perseverance God has given me. “This is brave, this is bruised, this is who I’m meant to be, this is me!”. “I am here- I’ve already seen the bottom so there’s nothing to fear!” What a gift it is to move our bodies, and sing and cry and scream and laugh!
The Oula instructor at my local Y, Debi, asked me at the beginning of the summer if I had ever considered becoming an instructor. She thought I would have a lot to contribute, and that it could even be a great ministry at my church, which was what I had started hoping for. I wanted to share the freedom, confidence, and authentic community experience I had found in Oula with the women at my church and the surrounding neighborhood.
I attended the August 2018 training in the Twin Cities (MN). Everyone I had talked to that had previously gone through training told me how amazing it was, and it exceeded my expectations. What a transformational weekend! I wish more women could have a community where they felt such love, encouragement, non-judgement, unity, and transparency. There is so much power in those characteristics that I have found to be foundational in the spirit of Oula. If someone forgot choreography, was overcome with emotion, or shared painful pieces of their story, everyone in the room rallied behind them, desiring for them to succeed and feel accepted. My favorite moment was leading a song for the instructors and mentors. The energy couldn’t be contained! Over the weekend, I learned that I am strong. If I push out all of the lies about self-worth, body image, and what others might think of me that I have believed in the past, I am capable of great things. I have rediscovered my voice! I was reminded that we need supportive community around us to help us fight those lies, and embrace the truth that we are lovely and powerful women.
In the next few months, I am so excited to share my love of Oula with the women at my church, and see how it can lead to vulnerability and strength, as well as unify our community. Even though some may be hesitant, saying that they don’t do well with learning choreography, or that fitness classes aren’t really their thing, I look forward to seeing them eventually let loose and feel free! Oula has been such a gift in my life, and I can’t wait to share it!
The empowerment weekend was so wonderful, I think everyone who wants to gain a deeper connection into Oula should go if they can! Even if you aren’t sure whether you want to go on to be an instructor yet, it will fuel your passion for this amazing mind-body fitness experience. For future trainees, my advice is twofold: first, be bold and brave. Put yourself out there, asking for help and sharing your story, both in training and afterwards. Don’t let fear inhibit your ability to make a difference in someone else’s life. Secondly, give yourself grace. We are not expected to be perfect, but simply authentic.
Chelsea attended our most recent training in the Twin Cities. We are so grateful for her taking the time to share her story before the training, how she found OULA, and what she’s looking forward to following training. We especially love her feeling of strength and power in herself during the weekend teaching with her fellow trainees!
Chelsea’s scholarship, and all of our training scholarships, are funded through patrons at the OULA Studio in Missoula, MT. Every Sunday, the Studio hosts a Donate to Dance OULA class where proceeds all benefit future trainees. Thanks, Missoula OULA-kins!