CLEVELAND — At a young age, Sara Syed was going down a dangerous path.
“When I was a teenager, like many people, there is a lot of anxiety, suffering, struggles, a lot of hopelessness," Syed said.
During that time, she turned to drugs and alcohol to help numb her pain.
“We repress emotions when (we) are unhappy, so we deal with that by drinking or smoking to make ourselves feel happy," she said. "Then the drugs wear off and we are unhappy again."
Then, Syed found yoga when she was 17. She learned to deal with her problems in a healthy way.
"I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I didn’t realize I was signing myself up for a lifelong commitment at the time," Syed said. "I found that I felt better after the class. I felt more relaxed. It helped my anxiety, it helped my depression and it was starting to help me with my drug addiction and my need to smoke and numb myself.”
Since then, Syed has been sober and she has traveled the world to learn more about the practice.
“I host yoga teacher trainings. I've attended trainings in India for months at a time. I own a yoga studio and I perform circus arts known as aerial silks,” she said.
She also makes sure everyone has access to yoga and hosts a free, donation-based yoga class on the beach all summer.
She calls the class 'Yoga for Every BODY.'
“There is no barriers," Syed said. "Whether you can’t afford yoga classes, because they can be an expense that people can’t afford, whether you don’t feel you are very flexible or very strong or coordinated, the idea of the class is that it is accessible to everybody.”
Every Sunday, dozens of people show up to practice yoga with Syed.
“I consider it a life-saving tool. I consider it life-saving intervention," she said. "It has saved and changed my life and I have seen it do the same with a lot of other people.”
The class is held at 10 a.m. on Sundays at Edgewater Beach in Cleveland.