Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Diaz.
So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up dancing in Montreal, Canada, and pursued a professional dance career, dancing all over the world for many years until life took me to Las Vegas to perform with Cirque du Soleil. My entire life, I had been a really good dancer but my real dream since I can remember being alive, was always acting. After the most amazing three years dancing for Cirque, my dream took me to Los Angeles. I made California my home in 2012 and since then, I discovered that alongside my acting career, I had a deep philanthropic need to make a difference in the world.
Being an actress in LA is a roller coaster of emotions, a lot of ups and downs and I have leaned on yoga and meditation to keep me inspired, mentally positive and connected to my purpose.
Youth Yoga is a non-profit that came to me as an idea during meditation. I had been working on a project for
a leadership class I was taking, and I was feeling so grateful and present that I kept thinking “I wish I had found yoga and meditation when I was a teenager” and like a light bulb, it became very clear that I was going to bring yoga and meditation to kids that don’t have access to it.
Today, I have a budding acting career and Youth Yoga has introduced Yoga and meditation to over 5000 kids, teenagers, parents, and educators in under-served neighborhoods all over Los Angeles County.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Choosing a career in the arts is a courageous thing to do, as it can often take you on a difficult path, emotionally, physically, financially… on top of the artist’s struggle, a lot of artists don’t always have the support system they need to really succeed. For me, my family was always celebrating and proud when I was working as a performer, but having parents that immigrated from South America so that their children can have a better life, it was hard for my parents to encourage me when I hadn’t booked an acting job in months and they would see me working unfulfilling part-time jobs just to pay the bills. I had to surround myself with like-minded people, I built a community of friends that are encouraging and judgment-free. I also had to ask my parents to stop telling me to get a “real” job in a big corporation with benefits and a steady salary. I asked them to be kind with their words and trust their daughter.
I learned through my early years in LA, that I have to be my biggest cheerleader. I have to believe in myself and trust myself more that anyone around me. And I owe a lot of that courage and confidence to my yoga and meditation practice. Taking a moment to close your eyes and connect to who you truly are, will give you all the answers. I have made big dreams happen because I was trusting that I was worthy and capable of doing anything I set my mind to, with determination, resilience, and hard work. I never give up.
One of those dreams is founding and running a non-profit. I had no experience with business and no idea what to do. But I believed in being of service to others, it was so fulfilling that I mastered an attitude of “I’ll figure it out”. Everything is learnable. I spent a lot of time researching and talking to people and trying things and also brought on my journey a group of strong amazing women who shared the same vision. Multiple heads are better than one! Teamwork is dream work! And together we have accomplished things that I am so profoundly proud of.
Please tell us about Youth Yoga – what should we know?
I am the founder and president of Youth Yoga Inc., a non-profit organization that teaches yoga and meditation to kids all over Los Angeles.
We have worked in collaboration with LAUSD, mostly high schools, for five years, and we have taught several programs within the under-served neighborhoods of Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, South LA, and South Central. We have an annual event that is called Youth Yoga Week, and each year we introduce yoga and meditation to thousands of students and faculty members. What sets us apart is that our programs usually run during school hours, most often during PE. The physical practice allows them to exercise their bodies and the meditation practice promotes their mental health and quiets their minds leading to better grades.
What I am most proud of is the difference we have been making with at-risk students that have been ejected from the school system, either because of behavioral problems, dropping out, getting pregnant, or because they have special needs. We have been able to witness the transformation of students and been praised by educators for our work. It’s the most rewarding feeling in the world.
I think this practice is one that is very important and preventative of so many issues that today’s youth is facing. My wish is to expose all kids and teenagers everywhere to yoga and meditation and build a strong generation to lead the future.
Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
Ask questions! Always keep learning. Identify someone who is doing what you want to do and don’t be stopped by fear. Get in touch with them. If you are genuinely inspired by your work, others will be inspired too. That goes for any field of work you are in, as long as you are respectful and professional.
- Website: YouthYoga.com
- Phone: 424-292-0354
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @youthyogala
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/youthyogala/
- Twitter: @youthyogala
Robert Sturman Photography, Joshua M Shelton