Courtesy Photo

Are you willing to imagine a world that is more focused on inner beauty and self-care than it is on physical appearance and self-judgment? Melanie Elkin, founder of Yoga’licious, certainly is.

On Saturday, June 6, 56 women of all ages came together for the second annual Occupy Beauty event at Pacifica Graduate Institute to embark on a day filled with community, playful exploration, yoga, and self-love.

“Occupy Beauty is a model for the way women can come together and be in such sweet and delicious support of each other,” explained Elkin in her introduction.

The event was designed with the intention of inspiring women to discover their own unique beauty and giving them the tools to practice self-love in a world that often encourages the opposite.

Elkin struggled with anorexia from age 12-18, when she was finally hospitalized for her condition. “I thought if I looked the part, I would be beautiful,” said Elkin. “I got a lot of attention for my beauty in a physical way, but I wasn’t happy. I hid who I was; I was afraid to be seen.”

In the past 13 years, Elkin realized that being her true self is what makes her beautiful, and it has become her passion to see that more women have this same realization.

“In this day and age, there’s an idea that you have to be a good daughter, sister, mother, partner, friend — and we often put ourselves last,” said Elkin before writing the words “Beauty is Lovability” in pink sharpie on the presentation board behind her. She gave the women in the room permission to put themselves first and asked them if they were willing to love all parts of themselves: the messy, the dirty, and the ugly. To no surprise, this sparked many realizations as it resonated.

One woman found that she was scared of really being seen by the other women in the room, and that her nature was to judge and compare herself to others. In response, Elkin asked her, “Are you willing to see that part of you that is judgmental and scared of being seen as lovable?”

To Elkin, beauty is judgments, the fear of being seen — it’s all of it. Beauty is wholeness.

Alongside the message of the day was a playful yoga class where Elkin used phrases like “sexy asana” and had the whole room breakout in a spontaneous dance party. Every woman was encouraged to set all of her expectations and seriousness aside and get in tune with her body by giving it exactly what it wanted in that moment.

This year’s 12 guest speakers almost doubled last year’s amount. After an hour lunch break, Elkin introduced the panel women, who were about to engage in an uplifting conversation about what it means to be and feel beautiful.

Some touching words from the panel:

“It’s important for me to stay in tune with my feelings — it keeps me authentic.” —Amy Chalker, registered dietician and owner of Isabella Gourmet Foods

“Some days you’ll feel beautiful, and some days you won’t, and you have to be ready to move forward anyways.” —Allison Antoinette, women’s coach and owner of The Juice Club

“Making significant change with you and your beauty is creating the tools that you need to bring yourself away from judgment.” —Natalie Diane, holistic personal chef, nutrition consultant, and eating psychology coach

“You have a good body — you were born with arms, legs, eyes, fingers, toes, and heart.” —Kita Macomber, colorist

“The only time shadow doesn’t exist is when you’re in full darkness.” —Aparna Khanolkar, private chef and “food as medicine” advocate

“The place of wholeness is letting myself be as outrageous as I am. … Anything that I need to keep secret will imprison me.” —Audrey Hazekamp, integrative master coach

For those who weren’t able to make it to Occupy Beauty but feel compelled to learn more, Elkin is hosting a three-day yoga retreat in Ojai. Email and schedule a complimentary, no-strings-attached phone call to see if the retreat is a good fit for you.


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