Thirty-year-old Rehana Rashid started in a place of darkness before she found light. She’s a decade-long domestic abuse survivor who’s found wholistic wellness through balancing her physical health and a sound mind.

Rehana once lived in fear and silence, suffering frequent abuse and injuries around her neck and throat. Through repeated physical torment, she had learned that her voice lacked value. “Life was nerve-racking and full of anxiety. I wasn’t living for myself and became numb to my body and my surroundings,” she says.

In 2015, while removing herself from 10 years of harm and mistreatment, Rehana found the Memphis Kroc Center, where she has learned to reclaim her strength and voice. Now she prioritizes her mental health and cares for her body with compassion.

“I wanted to start speaking a true narrative about wellness. Depression, addiction, and abuse are real for so many people. What’s going on inside the body is really what’s affecting the outside,” she says.

The Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center has fitness classes, an aquatics center, and worship programs. It also provides childcare for its members in an extensive facility that will expand even further after renovations this summer. Rehana joined with a simple fitness goal: lose weight and find strength. She had gained nearly 50 pounds from her mental and physical trauma. The Kroc Center had the resources to help her accomplish her goal and a large network of caring community members.

“On my first day, I was still very critical of myself and felt I didn’t belong. However, everyone was encouraging and welcoming. I made friends with the instructors and began hanging out with them outside of classes,” Rehana says. She attended Redbirds games, dinners, and church services with her new support system.

“That community helped me rebuild a belief in myself and fostered a positive inner voice when I needed it the most,” she says. After one year of membership, Rehana was radiating joy. Her background in dance and passion for creative movement fueled a fire to help other community members find power and strength in their own bodies.

Rehana developed and began teaching the Kroc Center’s first barre fitness program in 2016. She continued her training to become an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT), Children’s Yoga Teacher (CYT), and Prenatal Yoga Teacher (PYT) through Yoga Alliance.

“Rebuilding strength in your physical body and being able to analyze when it’s in a state of stress is a tool for learning how to process any kind of traumatic event without judging those past emotions or experiences.”

During a “Final Reflection” segment at the end of her classes, participants recite a mantra that affirms each person’s worth and validity, free of judgment. They either speak these mantras to themselves in the mirror or Rehana speaks them for the group as they are in meditation or rest. She hopes that every participant can see him or herself with unconditional love.

As during any recovery, Rehana still has setbacks. She used to struggle to keep her own negative voice at bay. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and tell students to believe in themselves when I didn’t believe in me,” she says. “Our Fitness Director told me, ‘Rehana, you can do this, and you’re going to speak truth and love to other people until you believe in it yourself.’”

Rehana’s true passion is the well-being of her students. “I am humbled to witness the healing and transformation in other men and women who have a negative inner voice or trauma of their own.”

In 2017, she was promoted to the Marketing and Communications Manager at the Kroc Center, though she continues to teach classes. Her work allows her to combine her passions for creativity and empowering community members in an environment she considers spiritual and authentic. “I get to come in each morning and plan how we’re going to market our brand and programs, and in the evening I get to live that out and see the impact we make in our community.”  

By Lydia Podowitz

Photo by Tindall Stephens