Introduce yourself! Who are you?
My name is Maris Degener, and I'm a yoga teacher, mental health advocate, and writer of the blog YogaMaris.net. Although my yoga journey began in the East Bay of California, it's carried me a little further south along the coast, where I am currently studying Psychology and social justice at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Yoga didn't just change my life- it saved it by offering me the tools and resources I needed to heal from an eating disorder that plagued the majority of my adolescence and culimnated in my hospitalization at the age of 14. Since then, I've sought to help others overcome their own obstacles and project a message of hope and healing out into the world through my writings and teaching. My story was highlighted by CNN Health my junior year of high school, which in many ways led to the creation of the documentary about my life "I Am Maris," set to release sometime next year. It's my hope that by sharing my story on these public platforms, I'll help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and prove that recovery truly is possible.

Who would you say is your #1 inspiration?
My number one inspiration has to be the group of strong women that surrounds me. My mother, my yoga teachers, and so many other incredible women prove to me everyday that truly anything is possible. They inspire me so much that I share their stories in an interview series on my blog titled "Everyday Goddesses," which emphasizes the power and strength in being a woman today.

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I think something a lot of people don't know about me is that I'm really into hip hop and rap music. I listen to pretty much everything (except country, I as cliche as that is), but I always come back around to a few artists like J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar. This genre of music, to me, is a highly undervalued method of reaching different populations of people (particularly the youth) with strong messages about racism, police violence, and social justice. But sometimes, it just makes for a fun beat to dance around to, and I think there's value in that, too.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever received was to "write about the shit I don't want to talk about." This advice helped me overcome my need to project an image of perfection and embrace fearless authenticity, which I think helps my writings connect with far more people and affect their lives in a more powerful way.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
Well I'm only 19, so 16-year-old me wasn't too long ago. Big picture advice for her would be to stop worrying about college so much, drop the emotional walls around you to allow more people into your life, and to work towards overcoming my fear of commitment. But more tangibly, I'd tell her to work on her parking skills so she doesn't scrape up the side of her car so much.

What’s your dream job?
One that makes me smile every single day. I know that sounds like a Hallmark card, but at the end of the day I just need to feel purposeful and happy.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
The world wants you to think you are powerless, imperfect, and weak. Be a rebel. Step outside your comfort zone. Believe in yourself and embrace the wildness inside of you. Read Marianne Williamson's poem "Our Greatest Fear." Treat yourself with respect or no one else will. More than anything else, do not be invisible and never allow anyone to speak down or over you. What you have to say is important and necessary to changing this world.

What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I live nestled in a redwood forest just a few minutes from the beach. So...everything.

What do you love most about yourself?
My dedication to helping others.

Do you have a favorite photo of yourself?
Here's a photo of me at the top of Yosemite Falls! It's one of the hardest hikes I've ever done and gave me a newfound appreciation for my body and the beauty of the natural world.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Overcoming my eating disorder, and every single time someone tells me I've helped them make a change in their life.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
Practice speaking to myself as I would a friend, with compassion and understanding. 

What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
That I don't have it all figured out and I'm still oftentimes just as lost as they sometimes feel.
 
What is something on your bucket list?
To teach at a major yoga festival or gathering. To travel as much as I can.
 
What are your biggest passions?
Writing, art, reading, and connecting with others.

More About Maris

Maris Degener is a 19 year old Yoga Teacher, Mental Health Advocate, and Writer of the Blog, YogaMaris. She is passionate about helping others.
Maris is currently studying Psychology and Social Justice at University of California, Santa Cruz.