Unconditional Smiles

Read a excerpt below from Yogi Cameron Alborzian's newest book The One Plan, A Week-by-Week Guide to Restoring Your Natural Health and Happiness.

Unconditional Smiles

Out of the two dozen or so girls I was teaching, one of them wasn’t smiling.

When I smiled at all of the other girls—who were certainly shy in their own right—they at least smiled back. But not this one girl in a green shirt. This one seemed to think that she shouldn’t.

The girls at the Somaly Mam Foundation center proved to be attentive students. I took them through a sequence of yoga postures, breathing exercises, and even a meditation session, and they followed along wanting to know more and more. Rather than get competitive about the postures, they simply giggled and had a good time. And, when I welcomed questions at the end, one of them asked about what yoga was good for and another wondered why I did it myself. They seemed content to be there.

I said good-bye to them as they filtered out at the end of the Q&A, and joined the translator who had helped the girls and I to converse in putting the sewing machines back where they were supposed to be. Usually, the girls would be in that room making dresses and bags that could then be sold at market. We had had to push them off to the side so that we could have the class.

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“There was one girl,” I said to the translator, “who seemed a bit more shy than the others.”

“Which one?” she asked.

“She was wearing a green shirt,” I said.

“Yes, she had a particularly hard life. She was sold into prostitution when she was 11 and was often raped and beaten. It usually happens that way for the pretty ones.”

When I thought about it, the girl in the green shirt certainly would have attracted a lot of male attention because of how she looked. Of course she wouldn’t smile—smiling must have invited more problems than anything else.

I was in Phnom Penh to work with the Somaly Mam Foundation for about a month. This is an organization committed to rescuing girls and women from prostitution rings and other forms of sexual slavery. Its founder, Somaly Mam, was once sold into sexual slavery herself and after fleeing Cambodia she returned to begin this effort. The organization empowers its beneficiaries to become financially independent by teaching them skills such as hair styling and sewing. As of this writing, the Somaly Mam Foundation has rescued thousands of young girls and women.

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