Luvena Rangel comes across as this rebellious mum who is making her stance evident wherever she goes. Yet talking to her or even knowing her story through her words, prove there are many more layers than what one can see. Sharing her story with Mums and Stories, Luvena, founder of Curvy Yogi goes back on her childhood memories. “ I had a lovely childhood – I was born & raised in Kuwait and was surrounded by a strong and close-knit family & community.
My grandmothers were there along with uncles, aunts, cousins and extended family and friends. My best memories were the regular dinners and celebratory parties that my parents had at my place. My parents loved to feed people and have a good time. They were very helpful people in the community who were always looked up to and relied upon for help. We also grew up in an environment where a lot of effort and significance was put into supporting each other as a family unit but with a strong sense of purpose.
Going further, we moved to India. My mother still lives & works in the Middle East and making the decision to relocate to a new country was hard – especially on my oldest son who was just 12 at the time. He was scared, nervous and completely hesitant to move. My younger two were better – especially the youngest, who was only 3 then, and only felt that he was in Dubai one minute and the next he was in India.
(Luvena with her sons and brother. All photographs are subject to copyright).
I think my oldest has taken the toughest brunt of the move, but they’re great kids and very resilient who took the decision that was made for them in their stride. I do notice that they still struggle with identity and the cultural aspect.
But Bangalore has been particularly kind to us and I am constantly surprised at how beautifully we have put down roots here. Of course, it makes it easier that we are from Mangalore and my childhood community set in well defined customs and flavor and coming home to Karnataka doesn’t feel as lost as I had feared it to be.
I am a single parent and the status is highly complicated. I’ll say that the choice was obvious but also forced due to circumstances. No one willfully chooses to take on parenthood single-handedly, especially not if they come from a value system of prioritizing family.
(Luvena with her family. All photographs are subject to copyright).
Which makes it very unfortunate because more than me being a single parent and liberating myself, I am constantly faced with the trauma that my children experience because of it. Parenting is hard work as it is, but to single-handedly manage everything for the child – their education, emotions, nurturing, nourishment, fears, health… everything… and then take care of me too. Being a single mother has not really changed the way I see parenting, but has definitely changed the way I see myself as a mother and as a strong woman and more importantly about how the values of family can be strengthened through adversity. It pains me that my children have been forced to grow up sooner than needed and have had to see the pain of an absent parent and family who turn their back on children. So in all of this, I’ve seen how parenting mindfully and consciously accepting all our flaws and circumstances can be an opportunity to raise a family that can make it through with integrity and resilience.”
Talking about her entrepreneurship stint on Curvy Yogi, Luvena shares, “ The Curvy Yogi was not a choice to get anyone to do anything. It was a thought and set of values when I noticed that this space was being exclusive and promoting a narrative that you had to look a certain way to practice yoga – and even more so if you had to teach yoga. I believe in inclusive spaces and that representation matters. So it was important for me to be in alignment with that philosophy not just in my relationships, but also in my thought and work.
Over time, and by way of being faculty at various yoga teacher trainings, I am a part of the gradual process to normalize acceptance of people beyond clichés and stereotypes.
I teach people with a variety of physical limitations and body shapes and sizes – I think them seeing me as I am and still rooted in my practice and philosophy helps to draw them into the practice and understand a holistic system of wellness.
Yoga is not just an exercise – not for the body or the mind – it is a lifestyle and a philosophy that opens up the way we think and the way we relate to everything and everyone around us. It doesn’t make us saints or super flexible, but it does make us more open to being able to respond and be responsible for everything around us – from parenting to politics to business proposals. It is a way of life.
Coming back to parenting three kids, this mum with an interest to rebel in her own way through various hair colours shares, “ Being a parent is hard work at every age group and every child challenges a parent differently. As a parent, I am quite liberal – no conversation is off limits with my children. We speak about sex and abusive in the same breath as we would speak about religion and spirituality. At the same time, I can be pretty demanding as a mother and crazy humor is just as importantly addressed as respect and integrity.
When my children were younger, I worried if I would have lost the opportunity to keep the channels of communication open. I worried if my children would not come to me with their problems or issues about drugs and sex or would turn secretive in their teens. I worried about everything.
In the end, I learnt that I didn’t have needed to worry. I lived every single day of my life with them authentically and with integrity. I was open with my anger and honest about my fears – I spoke my mind and tried really hard to make promises that I could keep. I worked to walk the talk and taught them to stand up for themselves. They fought their own little childhood battles but knew when they came back home, I had their back. I wouldn’t helicopter their lives, but I knew everything that was going on – they told me. They told me about first crushes and dates and when they knew about sex, sexuality and drugs and I learnt that eventually, with what the hand I was dealt, I did a good job raising them.
I remind my children often that at the end of the day they should be able to go to sleep peacefully knowing that they have not harmed anyone – in thought or deed – and that they have given back to society, the country & the world.
I constantly push them to work hard (even if it is for school) but try real hard not to give them a tough time for poor performance – I said, “I try”.
I remind them that they are loved and that I am super proud of them whenever I can. The best thing we can give our children is exposure to the world and to their extended family. Having my mother, sister, brother, niece & nephew who are a strong influence in keeping the children balanced is imperative. Parenting is not just about raising them with food, shelter and clothing – it is that fine tuned dance where we teach them to support and be supported as a whole.
My children have always seen me to do what I wanted but never at their expense. They have seen sacrifices and they understand them – although they don’t always appreciate or accept them. My oldest once told me that I was the strongest person he knew. My daughter is also always annoyed that I get to go crazy with my hair and she can’t (yet), but I think my ability to carry my identity in line with my personality with authenticity and integrity is what allows us all to be who we are.
When I first came home with pink and purple streaks in my hair, my daughter was about 3 and for a week she wanted to play with my hair! When I dyed my hair blue, it was at my son’s graduation ceremony and he didn’t bat a single eyelid!
I think I am a rebel, of sorts – but more than a rebel, I think I am one who knows that I define myself and that is the message I would like my children to learn too.
My philosophy and values are straight out there – up front – and I live them to the best of my ability. I also love to laugh and have fun, so being the cool parent to the kids’ friends is always a wonderful opportunity and my kids’ friends parents have always reached out to me to confide and to entrust their children to open up with me.
I believe that it takes a village to raise a child and if it takes blue hair and a hilarious sense of humor with the ability to connect to our youth, then I’m willing to use those skills to make that happen.”