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How the owner of Juici Yoga used her struggle with poverty, domestic abuse to inspire change

Students are taught to consider how they move in the world and whom they affect, to live by the words of Maya Angelou, 'I come as One, but I stand as 10,000.'
Selam Debs
Supplied photo

Selam Debs, owner of Juici Yoga, has become a voice for the voiceless in our community. Her motivation stems from personal hardships most of us could hardly fathom.

By hosting events like the Femcare Health Initiative, Inclusivity Diversity, Social Justice courses and Woke Women's events, she heals.

Born in Amman, Jordan to Ethiopian parents - who left their birthplace due to conflict – she arrived in Canada at two-years of age. Her parents would soon divorce, leading her to be raised by her mother who took on multiple low-paying jobs to stay afloat. Debs would face being molested when she was just 9-years-old, and raped by two men, in the same night, at the age of 16.

“I experienced poverty, systemic racism, abuse and fear-based living.”

Debs relocated to Waterloo Region as a teenager. As an escape from reality, she would daydream about becoming a famous singer/songwriter. She would eventually find herself working with producers in the U.S., but her path would again lead her elsewhere when she found out she was pregnant. “The biological father walked away when I was six months pregnant and I became a single mother,” at the age of 21.

Life experience, for Debs, would create a tireless empathy towards those who struggle. “I believe my purpose is to elevate the hearts and souls of those who are most marginalized, those who feel forgotten - to create spaces that feel safe and to share my story, unapologetically.”

She returned to K-W to raise her son and took a corporate job – soon realizing this wasn’t a path that would serve her, “it felt as if I was selling my soul.”

She describes findng her awakening during an abusive marriage, saying she became “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” During their separation, and later divorce, she studied to become a yoga teacher, became a Holistic Life Coach, and purchased Juici Yoga.

Juici became her safe space to begin to “interrupt and end the generational cycle of abuse, poverty and fear. Through my own healing and self-reflection, I am able to impact a generation of little girls, and boys, and raise a new generation of hearts and minds to overcome their own personal history.”

Together, with her clients, they discover fullest potential.

She says she took over the studio when the opportunity literally fell into her lap. “I was going through a toxic divorce and the most overwhelming time of my life. At first, I taught almost all the classes as I couldn't afford to hire more teachers. Clients left as they were not happy with the change - a common result of new business ownership.”

She rebranded and regained the trust of her clients and the community.

Her practice, like her purpose-driven life, focuses on the importance of diversity, inclusivity and social justice. Students are of all backgrounds, ethnicities, body types, religions and creeds. “We support, and celebrate, initiatives such as Pride & LGBTQ+, FemCare Health Initiative for Menstrual Health and Equity, Black Lives Matter movements, Sexual Assault Centre of Waterloo, and African Camp.”

Students are taught to consider how they move in the world and whom they affect, to live by the words of Maya Angelou, "I come as One, but I stand as 10,000."

Embracing the power of storytelling, Debs has been  instrumental in co-building the Woke Women's Event, showcasing an army of diverse women in our community through TED talk style delivery of music, dance, and poetry. This sold-out event was the first of its kind in Waterloo Region, featuring keynote speaker Marva Wisdom, Director of the Black Experience Project and co-founder of Canadian Black History Projects.

Find the healing power of community here


Natasha McKenty

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