Freshman finds confidence in Yoga despite shortened arm

Freshman finds confidence in Yoga despite shortened arm

Freshman Sierra Juarez looks up to English/Yoga teacher Alison Colleoni because she gave her confidence to do Yoga despite missing half of her arm. (Chrystal Rhone photo)

The lights were dim. No sound came out of her mouth as she kept her breathing even. Not many could believe that she was actually doing the difficult pose, but she was. Freshman Andrea Juarez was standing in a revolved triangle pose while struggling to keep her balance. A big smile covered her face as she glanced at Freshman English teacher Ms. Alison Colleoni who is conducting a Yoga class for about 30 students knowing that she can do anything she sets her mind to in spite of a birth defect that left her missing half of her right arm.

“I never thought I could do yoga in my life,” Andrea said. “But Ms. Colleoni believed I could and convinced me to try it.”

Andrea was born with half of her right arm missing. Her mother, Maria Juarez said doctors couldn’t give them a reason for her daughters birth defect. She also said since she was born in Mexico they had no idea until she was born that she had a defect.

“Where we were wasn’t a place that had the resources to let us know there was a problem before I delivered Andrea,” Mrs. Juarez said. “So I had no idea we would deal with this defect when she was born.”

Mrs. Juarez said she is not sure why her daughter was born with half her arm and Andrea said this has never been an issue as her parents have looked beyond the issues all her life.

“I’m not sure why she was born this way,” Mrs. Juarez said. “It doesn’t matter why, we just encourage her to ignore comments from others and move forward with her life.”

Andrea said her parents’ take on the birth defect has been an inspiration to her all her life.

“When I look back at my parents’ words in hard times, It helps me stay positive,” Andrea said. “They tell me that I can do anything that any one else can do.”

Mrs. Juarez said that once when Andrea was younger she wanted a prosthetic arm because people stared at her and laughed. But she said the family couldn’t afford to get her the arm.

“If I could do it, I would give her my own arms,” Mrs.Juarez said. “But that just isn’t possible either.”

Although Andrea said her classmates and others around her made her feel insecure about the way she looked, her parents always supported her just the way she is.

“She is a normal girl in every way,” Mrs. Juarez said. “She doesn’t need to look just like everyone else to be normal.”

Ms. Colleoni said that Andrea was her inspiration to her, because of her determination to do the things everyone else can do.

“The fact that she is a freshman that looks different and doesn’t care about what other people think,” Colleoni said. “She is my hero.”

Ms. Colleoni said Andrea came for tutoring one day, while she was doing yoga for the basketball players. Andrea watched the lesson and was intrigued by the exercises.

“I told her she was welcome to join the students who were already attending yoga classes,” Colleoni said. “She accepted my offer with a shy smile.”

During Andrea’s first lesson her and Colleoni sat on the floor of her classroom with the desks spread put away from them. At first Andrea said she was scared about doing Yoga, but the teacher told her if she could do yoga then she could do anything.

“I like how Ms.Colleoni thinks I can do anything,” Andrea said. “I take her encouragement to heart and it make me feel stronger.”

Colleoni said from that day on Andrea became better at Yoga one small step at a time, standing in the back of the room and doing difficult stretches like everyone else.

“The poses she does are very difficult ones that involve much arm strength,” Colleoni said. “She doesn’t look at it like it is something that she cannot do. She just does it like everyone else..”

Andrea said she likes how yoga relieves the stress she has about her arm.

“I really do like yoga,” Andrea said. “It really makes my life a little lighter.”

Colleoni said she admires Andrea for her ambition to do all the yoga poses.

“The switch that told her that she can’t do it is off,” Colleoni said. “The things she does make her amazing.”

Andrea’s best friend, freshmen Erika Seirra said she supports Andrea’s love for yoga and will help her in any way.

“Andrea can do anything,” Seirra said. “No one can tell her she can’t do something because she can and no one can stop her.”

Through the years, Andrea’s biggest fans have been her parents who accept her for who she is.

“I am really proud of her daughter,” Mrs. Juarez said. “No matter what people say Andrea is always going to be my daughter.

With support from many family and friends Andrea keeps attending Yoga classes where she becomes more comfortable with who she is.

“I can do anything anyone else can do if I just put my mind to it, ” Andrea said. ” I want to just be myself because there is no one else I wold rather be.”

More photo of Andrea in Yoga Class: Photos by Chrystal Rhone and Caitlin Lewis

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