// I . L E A R N E D . T O . L O V E . M Y S E L F //
March 29, 2018

 

Through Oula I’ve yelled lyrics until I believed them. I’ve moved in ways that released years of ugly stuck in my body. I’ve reframed my thoughts. I’ve laughed, cried, been angry, felt sexy, felt confident; and I’ve been allowed by the wonderful people I dance with to have all of those feelings and know that I am safe to express it all. I’VE LEARNED TO LOVE MYSELF.

 

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An amazing thing happened to me today. I put on a bikini top and high waisted swim bottoms and I viewed myself with love. I didn’t critique or devalue myself. I thought ” holy shit, look what I’ve done”. And I knew I could confidently wear it.

I want to share parts of my journey. I would usually only share this in the safety of my Oula community, but I think there are people I can reach outside of that safe place and I hope I can inspire, motivate, or just let you know you aren’t alone.
I started (for the 100th time) my weight loss journey in Aug/Sept 2014. I was 298 lbs at that time. I saw a picture of myself from a vacation I had recently taken- and started bawling. What I didn’t exactly realize then was that my weight had become a manifestation of a lifetime of physical and emotional traumas.

I joined yet another “gym” to “throw money away at”. Little did I know it would be the catalyst for real change.

I knew I wanted to do group fitness classes because I had spent years on the machines with no luck and something had to change. My first class was RIPPED. 😂😂 If you’ve ever taken it you know that was a rough introduction to fitness for someone who could barely walk without being winded. I about died, but I rarely give up😉.

I eventually willed up the courage to try Latin Hip Hop and I fell in love with dance. My whole life I’d been told I couldn’t dance and here I was dancing and feeling like a bad ass. Plus Tina Schilling showed me fitness could be fun and she was encouraging and motivational. Then I tried a personal trainer. Stephanie VanHeel pushed me and made me feel strong and capable.

Around Jan/Feb 2015 I found Oula. Tina brought it to the Y in Andover after attending a training and I would’ve tried any dance class she asked me to because I trusted her. It was challenging and I moved in new ways. One day Tina danced Cosmic Love and people were CRYING. I was totally uncomfortable and at that time wasn’t ready. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I know it was needed
I don’t know exactly when I changed. I’m not sure there was one pivotal moment. This whole process has been a journey. Oula allowed me to have a place to BE. I don’t know in my entire life if I’ve actually felt like I belong, been worthy of love or attention, or been comfortable just being me.
Through Oula I’ve yelled lyrics until I believed them. I’ve moved in ways that released years of ugly stuck in my body. I’ve reframed my thoughts. I’ve laughed, cried, been angry, felt sexy, felt confident; and I’ve been allowed by the wonderful people I dance with to have all of those feelings and know that I am safe to express it all. I’VE LEARNED TO LOVE MYSELF.

Constant learning over these past few years. Learning who I am and what I want. Learning that I am worthy. That it is OK to want things and to ask for them. Learning to trust and learning to love. Learning about friendship. Learning to let people in.

Oh and there have been hard lessons. I’ve lost friendships. Friendships have changed and are evolving. My marriage didn’t make it. I faced things I didn’t like about myself head on.
But through it all I have (as we all deal with hard things and people usually do) gotten stronger and am happier because of it.

How does a fitness class do this? I don’t even know how to explain it. It just does. It heals.
All of the people I’ve met through Oula have influenced my journey and I’m thankful for all of you. Just know if we have crossed paths-you have been a part of my journey and my healing and growth.
I’m posting these photos. I’ve only shared my “before” pictures with maybe 2 close friends. I still have work to do, however at 182 lbs I’m strong and healthy and happy. It really isn’t about how it looks on the outside but look how the outside changes when you begin healing from the inside.

In the last picture. Look at my smile. It finally reaches my eyes.From the inside out.

Kali Lindner your work is so important. You may not hear every story of every life you have changed. But you trickled into my life and not only has this thing you created rerouted and blessed my life; it positively impacts others- my participants, my friends, my kids. It is amazing.

If you’re reading this, I’ve been there. I’m here.

And thank all of you for being there for me.

– Christina Leaks is an OULA and OULA-Power Instructor from Andover, MN.