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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Akaka

You Are What You Do

I went to a yoga class at 6:30am this morning. Anyone who knows me at all should be shocked. I don’t like to wake up that early for anything, but for the last three weeks I have been going to yoga every Monday at 6:30am. After I dragged myself out of a deep slumber, threw on some yoga clothes and moved out the door in a sloth-like manner, I found myself greeted by a beautiful sunny morning. I felt weirdly…nostalgic.

I realized that the last time I voluntarily woke up this early to go do something for myself was in college when my friend and I would get up and surf before our morning classes. Those are some of my favorite surfing memories. They remind me about the time in my life when I was a “surfer.” I’ve tried to hold on to this sense of self for a while now – I have studied surfing and the spread of the indigenous Polynesian practice for over 10 years now. I buy surfing brands, wear surfing clothes, watch surfing movies and try to subject my children to do the same. I have forced them to use a particular brand of backpack all the way through elementary school so I can maintain some sense of surfing in my life. Until yesterday.


Yesterday I bought my 8-yr old a new backpack because she didn’t like the one I picked for her in kindergarten. I didn’t have the energy to fight that fight and I wanted her to start off her year happy – being the youngest of 3 girls can be pretty rough when it comes to not being able to do the things you want to do – like get acrylics on her nails. I also realized, forcing her to wear a brand to help preserve my past was a little ridiculous – she wasn’t even born in Hawaii. How could I possibly expect her to have any affinity towards that brand or care about mine?

As much as she loves Hawaii, she won’t make that connection between the bag and what it means to me, or others who surf. She can’t. The connection I have with that brand and with that lifestyle doesn’t come from a magazine or movie, it comes from growing up in that subculture; it comes from surfing. The saying “you are what you eat” suggests that what you put in your body becomes part of who you are (which takes on a whole new meaning after you watch “Poisoned”), but I have come to discover that what you do might actually matter more.


Moving to Colorado created a crossroad for me – outside of being a mother of young children and a newly minted professor, where did I belong? I had left a subculture that raised me in my adolescent years and tried desperately through buying brands and bags to hang on. I realized today that I belong in that 6:30am yoga class, not because I need a workout, although I do, but because being there and doing yoga feeds my soul and helps me be something, someone that I want to be. Maybe not in a profound, life-altering, career-shifting way, but in a way that will help me get through my day, a little lighter and a little freer.


Unfortunately, my kids start school tomorrow. I will have to sacrifice my 6:30am Monday classes to deliver on my mom/uber duties. There are other classes I can take, but there was something about this class, this teacher, and this experience that gave me something more. I will work on finding another class that fills the void so I want to practice yoga regularly. If I don’t, I fear that it won’t just be a sacrifice of my time, it will ultimately be a sacrifice of my self.

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