Happy Heart, Happy Life

me kissing greg at ODD Days 20 & 21: Saturday, June 28, 2014 AND Sunday, June 29, 2014:

I am just going to be as cliché and cheesy as possible here:

I am engaged to the man of my dreams!

Yes, that’s right! I am now betrothed to live the rest of my life to one of the best people I know, my Greg.

Greg and I at Jay's BarWords cannot even begin to capture how elated the two of us are to embark upon this adventure together. We are eager to plan (yes, we have already started) and share our special day with friends, family, and the rest of the world.

At the risk of unloading all things saccharine, all of those silly sayings about “The One” are absolutely true. I mean every single darn one of them are dead on.

Greg’s arrival into my life not only marked me finding my beshert which is Yiddish (some say Hebrew—the etymology of the word was a bit unclear, but at least I tried) for destiny or soul mate, but it also marked a major ass-kicking get-my-life-together-for-real. Sigh. You have no idea how taking care of things that I have been avoiding and/or denying has lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. I feel like a new person-hell, I am. I have a diamond on my finger, oh yeah!

me and greg at ODDOn a serious note, things seem to really fall into place when you have the right partner, the right job, and the right friends. While hiking today with a friend, we talked about friendship and its evolution with time and age. Age does a wonderful thing to friendship. Getting older teaches you how to pick better people to surround yourself with but also teaches you how to realize when you’ve outgrown people. As my yoga practice continues to evolve, so does my ability to become deeply introspective (among other things). With this introspection I have examined my relationships with people and have found that well, I have just out-grown some of the people I care about and there is nothing wrong with that, there isn’t. But like many things in life, friendships sometimes just run their course.

At the proposal on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at One Down Dog I was flooded with hugs, tears, and congratulatory sentiments from the owner of our studio to students, non-yoga friends like my best friend Rachel, but then there were my yoga friends aka instructors.

My yoga friends, my colleagues.

ODD gang after proposal

A few of my friends: Joseph my former student 8 years ago ( was his English teacher), Jessica the owner of One Down Dog, Greg and I, Rachel my BFF, and my dear friend Cara

People who 2 years ago didn’t exist in my life whom are now fixtures, inspiration, confidants, and so much more. At my birthday celebration two weeks ago, I stepped back and looked around. The people who came out to celebrate with me were not the usual people whom I would have pegged for coming (and most likely didn’t even show up). But mostly the people who came to my birthday class and get-together were students from my classes. I paused and took it all in and gave thanks to the universe for sending me such incredible people and community. So, when Greg proposed at my yoga studio and my yoga family; friends, students, and teachers were in attendance. It was just perfect. Heart-meltingly perfect.

Earlier I referred to the stars basically aligning (insert eye roll if you want) when you have the right partner, the right job, and the right friends. This trifecta of sorts is what has catapulted my life into a positive flurry of happiness and boundless successes.

There is no better accessory or form of adornment like Happy. Happy looks good on everybody.

In looking back at my adult life and what has led to me to its current point, it has been a series of bad decisions with a few really good ones. More importantly, it was while I made those bad decisions that I kept an open heart that allowed the love of a great man and friends to find me.

Open your heart and open your mind then let the universe do its work. Trust the process and enjoy the journey.

In the video below (which is Greg proposing to me), I am sharing the ending of many journeys and the beginning of the most important journey of all. I am proud to embark upon the rest of my life with someone worthy of infinite love, respect, and admiration. I love you Greg. Thank you for picking me.

Kindness, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Day 19: Friday, June 27, 2014:

By now, you may have already heard about the deliberate and selfless act of kindness by actress Amy Adams (If not, you can read a short article here). In summary, upon seeing a man dressed in his military uniform on her flight, she quietly asked to switch seats with the man. Adams was ticketed for first class, and the man she switched seats with was in coach. For so many reasons this story brought such a joy to my heart.

First, I was moved by Adams’ incredible humility in it all. She didn’t ask for thanks or make a spectacle. Adams displayed true grace and character while reaching out to selflessly to show thanks and admiration for another human soul.

Character is defined by what you do when no one is looking

It’s not about doing things to be heralded by the masses and adored by throngs of people. No matter what people say, it’s not. I think for some, they need public affirmations from an endless pool to make them feel worthy. And to a degree I understand why people feel that way. I know and understand that the desire to be loved so publicly stems from insecurities and feeling inadequate. However, the desire or need to be thanked for our acts of kindness diminishes them. You see, life isn’t about doing what’s right or easy when everyone is looking. For those of you whom have taken my fitness classes or been in my class, I speak often about our character.

From what I have observed, people are seeking some sort of validation, or desire to be patted on their backs for ‘doing the right thing’. WHY? Who started this terrible trend of if-you-do-this-then-you-get-something?! This thought process is a pervasive pollutant in our society. Random and in Adams’ case, deliberate, acts of kindness are so few and far between that when they are bestowed upon us, people are hesitant to accept them. We must stop asking, “What do I get out of this?” but rather act in the faith of true service to assist someone else because you want to and because it’s the right thing to do.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Day 18: Thursday, June 26, 2014:

It’s easy to lose sight of our progress while in the thick of life. Life is like climbing a mountain: It’s challenging. Duh? Give me a second, I’m going somewhere with this.

Obviously, while climbing a mountain there are times when it’s steep. Rocks give way and you need to adjust your journey. There are sudden changes in the weather. You get lost. And inevitably, you’re just plain tired. But while climbing this mountain aside from what seems to be an insurmountable task of getting to the top there are many successes: Easier, flatter, more approachable parts of the mountain. You find a good place to rest and catch your breath. The incredible views. And perhaps, the most invaluable victory–working hard for something and it eventually paying off. There is never, ever any substitution for ol’ fashioned grit, determination, and hard work.

BUT there is one thing I didn’t mention in this mountain comparison. While climbing this mountain often people lift their heads, see the challenges ahead and lament, “Ugh, I have so far yet to go.” And while that very well may be true, it all depends on how you look at things. Perspective can be a funny thing. Rather than looking ahead to the future with worry for the long journey ahead; what about taking a peak over your shoulder and gazing behind you…? Yes, look back and applaud yourself for how far you have already ventured. Now, turn your ahead around with renewed strength and keep climbing!

You can. You will. And You are. After all, it’s not about how much further you have to go but about how far you have already come.

Craft Your Community

Day 17: Wednesday, June 25, 2014:

At the end of the day, we all just want to feel like we belong. Whether we want to be accepted by our lover, colleagues, friends, family, or even strangers we pass on the street—we all just want to feel like we are part of a collective whole.

At our very core, most essential self, human beings are seekers. We are looking for something to fuel our souls, to connect us, empower us, to make us just feel a little less alone.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful young lady with great hair [this I HAD to tell her], an even better energy, and awesome attitude who has started taking my yoga classes. From our initial meeting, I liked her instantly. Isn’t it funny how certain people walk into your life and there is this connection that speaks to your heart? Well, I am not sure what it was but whatever it was, I felt drawn to her.

We chat.

I learn she’s new to Los Angeles.

She comes to my birthday yoga class (which did not go unnoticed!) then again to class a week later.

This time we get to speak for a more extended period of time and I learn that she Crossfits. Ahhhhh, there’s the connectionwe are one of the same. With that, I was getting ready to take the next class and we part ways. I didn’t really think much of her attendance in my classes or our chat until the following message I received later that evening:

Great to get to chat after class today…I just moved to the area about 2 weeks ago and I am sort of in transition feeling out LA. I just thought you should know that the first class I took In LA was your class…having you be my first yoga instructor on my second day in LA, filled me with a lot of positive energy that I REALLY needed that day! Being a colleague in the field of helping others reach their full potential, I understand how nice it is to sometimes be reminded of the impact you are making in other peoples lives by simply showing up and being you…so thank you for that. So you seem like a really awesome person, which are always nice to come across when moving to a new city…

I have said this before, and I will say this again: You never know whose life you are touching just by being you. This made me smile and filled me so fully. Being able to make someone feel welcome and a little less alone is what I think community is really all about. As a race, we crave and long for connection. We thirst for community. For me, being able to facilitate that means the world to me. I take my work as a teacher, blogger, friend, athlete—whatever label you want to assign me, very seriously. I do everything with 100% of my heart and I hold nothing back. I am real, vulnerable, and here for you and everyone else who comes into my life.

We MUST reach out to people with whom we come in contact. We must continue to foster community, build one another up, and support each other. After all, when it’s all said and done we are left with the relationships we build with people in our lives.

Reach out to someone, anyone. Let someone know how much their presence in their life means to you. Give credit. Share in someone’s success. Go to a friend’s birthday party. Meet that friend you keep putting off for coffee.

Don’t wait. Build your community today. After all, this is your world and you are living in it—make it the place you want it to be. Reach out. 

Gratitude Attitude

Day 16: Tuesday, June 24, 2014:

I decided I would share what I call a Personal Inventory, or more commonly known as a Gratitude List. In recent years and definitely more customary with the appearance of such happiness in my life, I have taken the time to remember how I got to the here and now. I like to take my Personal Inventory as a way to hold myself accountable to my own happiness—as a reminder that even while it’s darkest before dawn, there is always light. But more importantly, I find it’s useful in thwarting some of the negative self-talk with respects to my body or other issues. Notice I said some. Hey, it’s a start.

Now, as many of you know I surely have had my fair share of walking in darkness. We all have [or maybe you are in the thick of it at this very moment]. But once we emerge from this darkness, inevitably we will have to face this formidable foe again. It’s just the way it is. So for me, in an effort to remain a proactive participant in my life, I take a Personal Inventory of my life [and until now] I posted it on my Facebook—shouting out how great my BF Greg is, or how awesome my students were, or the killer class I took. My tendency is to use my social media as a trumpet heralding people, places, experiences, break-throughs—whatever, as a place to celebrate happiness and express gratitude publicly. To me, that is what it means to have a Gratitude Attitude: share thanks and love for those around you for the world to see.

Rather than continue to clog your newsfeed with more of the internal dialogue I have with myself, the world, and my place it in it, I am going to share with you my most recent Personal Inventory list from today:

1. FAMILY: Today, it’s especially focused on my little sister Kassondra.

2. BOYFRIEND: Greg

3. MY PERSONAL JOURNEY IN FITNESS: Hiking and Yoga

4. MY BODY: Yes, you read that correctly. My body. It houses power, grace, and my heart. It contains my physical, emotional, and mental-self. I am blessed to be able to have a body that allowed me to hike with my BFF Rachel and her dog, take a yoga class (after teaching one), THEN carry a large bag of groceries about ¼ mile back to my house—thank you Crossfit.

5. MY NEW YOGA MAT: I got to practice tonight on lululemon’s The Mat which was gifted to me and 59 others on Saturday while at an event at One Down Dog. The gorgeous pink mat with its new-mat smell tickled my heart and senses in delight. I was ecstatic to be able to use it and was exploding with excitement while even carrying it to the studio!

Look, it’s not the big things that define our lives or us. Yes, events like trauma, birth, death, weddings, natural disasters and so on can alter the course of our lives. But it’s the little daily smiles and small victories that accrue over a lifetime that ultimately contribute to our overall happiness. So trite as it may seem that on my Personal Inventory list was my free new yoga mat,  but it made me smile and brought me happiness. And despite what anyone thinks, I shouldn’t have to downplay that happiness, period. I practiced on my mat today and I was grateful for lululemon’s generosity and my community. I was happy. My new mat made my practice seem extra special today and I liked that feeling. And that feeling continued to make me happy and full of gratitude. Again, YES. It absolutely is the little things.

Life is comprised of lots and lots of little things that add up to big things.

Now, it’s your turn.

Take YOUR Personal Inventory for today…AND if you’re feeling brave, post it below in the comments section :-)

Love, Laughter, and Wine. Lots of Wine.

Day 15: Monday, June 23, 2014: 

For my 32nd birthday, my incredible boyfriend surprised me with a weekend getaway to Solvang, California. Greg booked a room at the gorgeous boutique Hotel Corque in the heart of Solvang, the old Danish town/settlement. He made dinner reservations, arranged tastings, tours and made me feel showered in love and adoration. It was such a beautiful weekend of bliss that we were both sad when it ended. Though we both found the sleepiness of Los Olivios and Solvang quaint we reveled and constantly asked one another:

“What do people do up here for fun?”

“Do they have spin classes?” to which Greg retorted, “Well, they definitely don’t have Schwinn bikes, that’s for sure!”

“Where do these people workout?”

Yeah, only fitness instructors—can’t take us anywhere.

The weekend was filled with gorgeous sun flitting around Los Olivios. I felt so free with nowhere to be, no playlists to be made, no classes to teach, and the best thing of all—not setting an alarm! It was just pure unadulterated time with my love. It was so liberating wandering around town in and out of shops, then sipping wine while nuzzling into Greg in gratitude for this man that picked me. Actually, I still cannot believe it. Each and every morning (I kid you not) I wake up and look at this incredible soul next to me and thank the universe for sending him to me. I know that over the years, I have written about and discussed how yoga saved my life. But when it comes to Greg he didn’t just save my life—he IS my life. He checks me, elevates me, and grounds me all at the same time.

Here is our romantic birthday getaway in photos for your enjoyment. And friends, if it already hasn’t happened for you, my hope is that one day you will find someone who will give a renewed purpose to your life like Greg has given mine. But don’t go looking for it—let love find you, as it will sneak into your life from the most unlikely of sources when you least expect it when you are finally ready for love, a real, true, pure and honest love. I share my love story with you because I am a cheerleader of love. May your love be great and filled with adventure!

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Eye of the Tiger

Day 14: Sunday, June 22, 2014:

Often times people ask me how do get through the tough times or rather, how have I gotten through the tough times. My answer is usually something along the lines of “The same way anyone gets through them—through.” It’s that simple. I don’t believe in surrendering when life hits me hard. I never have and I never will.

My best friend Rachel put it best during a time in my life when it seemed like all hope was lost and I hit an all-time low. She said to me:

“You are a survivor.”

And she was right; I am a survivor.

No matter what life tossed at me I never gave up. I’m not going to claim that I didn’t give up because I’m not the quitting kind. No. I didn’t give up because I didn’t have a choice. However as life would have it and I evolved, I stopped defaulting to survivor mode. I surrounded myself with like-minded, passionate people. By bringing such positive forces into my life, it made space for the right people to surface with the right opportunities. Gone were the days of damage control and fight or flight. Now I was in control of my life.

I wasn’t a victim of my life any longer. Actually, no one is a victim of his/her life. I believe that victimization is a choice. Sure, terrible things happen to good people everyday and trust me, I am not stranger to such things but I made a choice. I chose not to be defined by my circumstances and I rose above it. Rather than being a victim of my life, I became a victor.

Today I stand before you a confident and powerful woman with a past that has made me strong. By taking the steps to remove the pollution in my life, it allowed for a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Stop surviving.

Stop being a victim and a bystander to your own life.

CHOOSE TO BE VICTORIOUS.

You will be glad you did.

Our Bodies Should be Temples of Love

Day 13: Saturday, June 21, 2014: 

Why can’t we just be happy?

Seriously, why is it that we have to have a reason to smile?

This may not come across as ground-breaking or innovative by any means but I find that the more personal happiness I achieve in my relationship with Greg, professional happiness from teaching children, and satisfaction from my work in fitness I find I am just happy. I am happy all of the damn time. I smile. I have that extra pep in my step. I radiate joy. And yet despite this wonderful happiness in my life, as a woman—a happy and successful woman at that, I sometimes wonder why are women apologizing for their success and happiness?

The luminous Kristina and I post BodyLove workshop on the Summer Solstice

The luminous Kristina and I post BodyLove workshop on the Summer Solstice

While attending a transformative women only workshop entitled BodyLove at my yoga studio One Down Dog led by Kristina Serna this concept [amongst so many others] was at the forefront of our discussion.

As a woman, giving ourselves permission to cater to ourselves is almost stripped away from us. We are viewed as bitches, selfish, or even bad mothers if we take time to ourselves. Why is that? Why is considered acceptable for men to retreat to their “Man Caves” to drink with the boys and watch sports but if a woman gets a massage or her hair done it’s superficial and wrong?! Ugh, our misogynistic society just makes me so angry sometimes.

My point here is regardless of one’s sex: We MUST take time for ourselves to be our best selves for others. So why the guilt and shame when a woman takes a break for herself?

For me, the biggest thing in living my life is I don’t offer any explanations or make any excuses to others for how I need to dress, eat, whom I choose to love, my careers, or how I spend my life.

I wear my lululemon pants to work. No, not just to teach yoga—I wear them to school where I teach English to the youth of America. I wear them because I like them and they make me feel good in them. As a teacher, I preach owning yourself and life—doing you and being you. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t live the very same life I was selling to those kids?!

Listen; at the end of the day when I lay my head down on my pillow, I need to be comfortable with the life I am living because well, it’s my life. Period. I don’t care what someone needs to do to feel good about themselves, their life, and to achieve their personal happiness so long as they’re a decent person.

Now, I would be completely dishonest if I sat here and didn’t share that there are times when I don’t like myself. Actually, there are a lot of times I don’t like myself, my physical self that is. BodyLove is all about a celebration of the female form: wear what you want, eat what you want, be whom you want. Well, if I am so dang happy with my life, madly in love with an incredible man, and bursting at the seams with the best jobs I could ever imagine—why do I find myself reverting to self-loathing? Why can’t I look in the mirror and like what what I see?Moreover, how is it I can help others shape and sculpt their bodies, yet fail so miserably at controlling my own? I feel like I can cultivate and accept BodyLove in others, but somehow I cannot embrace it for myself. As a matter of fact, the only two things I like about myself are my hair and my eyelashes and those aren’t even real! I poke and I prod, I inspect and I examine, I compare and contrast: Why can’t I love my body?

But you know what? I think it’s starting to get better. I do. I think of everyday as a small victory when I show up for Crossfit, yoga, or cycling. Each and every time I show up for a workout that’s solely for myself [when I am not teaching a fitness class], I am committing to myself saying, “I am worth it”. In an effort to try to embrace my own BodyLove, this past weekend I wore a tank that showed a sliver of my belly. As I tugged at the tank in vain to get it to cover my navel and meet the top of my shorts, I turned to my bf Greg and while gesturing towards my belly and stated, “You know what? It’s not where I want it to be but fu*k it. I like this shirt.”

It’s process, not a perfect. And I am sure as hell glad I am not perfect because the growth is what makes me stronger everyday.

Why Be Good When You Can Be Great

Day 12: Friday, June 20, 2014:

I firmly believe that Good will always prevail because Good never, ever gives up. Sometimes it’s hard; working, working, working with little gains but then when you least expect it, something breaks and some how it all seems work out.

Strife and conflict, whether with self or external forces help us emerge from something stronger than we were when we started our journey. The whole process that stretches and pulls us certainly hurts along the way. But the best part of it all is that pain is temporary and pride is forever. As with most things in life, things always get harder before they get easier. It is always darkest before dawn. And know there is always light.

I live in a world where I live by spreading light. I lead my life with a full heart that is pure with honest intentions and one that sometimes makes the wrong decisions. Those decisions, as rash or shocking as they may appear are still my decisions. As I mentioned in Part II of my birthday post on June 182014, “I don’t regret anything I have done, the people I loved (or thought I loved), the different jobs, or leaving teaching in the first place. Each and every experience led me to this very moment with the very best people someone could ever ask for. My past merely dictated my present but I created my future.” Every single choice, job, and person I have met is part of the fabric of my being making me who I am.

Experience has made me wise, taught me self-worth, and not to sell myself short.

My work as a fitness instructor, has given me confidence, and my yoga training taught me what it meant to finally learn how to treat my body with respect. Because I work actively to send beauty and goodness into the world it comes back to me time and time again. Good always manifests itself in many delightful disguises, but when Good comes, she is bountiful.

So, I ask you: What good are you spreading each day? How are you lighting up your world and creating a wondrous place for those whom you encounter to thrive?

Start by making a gratitude list. Really, do it! Write down ALL of the delicious goodness in your life and reflect how it came to you.

Now, I bet you didn’t realize how much good already resided in your life, huh? Go be the light. And don’t just be good—be great.

Limits Only Exist When We Set Them For Ourselves

I met the most magnificent young woman today while teaching my yoga class at Equinox Woodland Hills. Prior to class, she was loitering in the entrance with two other women looking at the schedule of classes and when they started discussing my class. Naturally, in typical Arielle fashion I interjected and coerced the young girl into taking my class. Ok, ok, she was planning on it anyway so she was a willing participant. Her name is Nicole. She is new to Equinox and we walk to the yoga room together. I show her the fancy eucalyptus towels as she told me how much she loves smushing her face into them every time she comes (who doesn’t?).

While chatting with her and some other members I learn Nicole is 21 years old and a student at USC. Class begins and I delve into my usual spiel: “This is an athletic based yoga class…take it to your level…modify…honor your body…it’s flow based…breath to movement…challenge yourself…

Me: “So, before we get started, does anyone have any injuries they’d like me to know about…?
Nicole: “I had brain surgery.”
Me: “Oh. Wow.”
A very pregnant pause. I am mentally freaking out: BRAIN SURGERY?!?!
“When?”
Nicole calmly and cheerily replies with a smile: “November.”
Hiding my shock, me: “Are you cleared for physical activity?”
Nicole: “Oh yeah!”

Class was hard [and if you have ever taken my classes, you know that is an understatement]. Everyone worked to their limits and seemed to have a great time. It was a really inspiring group and the energy was great. After class, I check in with Nicole. She chats with another member and myself casually about her brain surgery.

I learn that in September 2013 doctors found a brain tumor after ‘things just weren’t right’. Nicole is whisked into emergency surgery to remove the tumor without time to really process the gravity of the situation. She says the real work and reflection set in after surgery while being so limited physically and re-adjusting to life in the downtime of her recovery. Nicole recounts her tale to us with an articulate grace and humility that I interrupt her and ask her who raised her because they did one hell of an amazing job. She is smart, witty, kind, and able to connect with others. Nicole discusses life before the tumor: Active in sports & fitness, an artist, and fiercely competitive.

In November all of that changed.

After surgery, Nicole is restricted to bed rest for a month and since the tumor was in the right side of her brain, her artistic abilities are not the same. She went back to school a mere 2 months after her surgery. Never during her story was there room for self-pity or even an inclination of why me? Nicole spoke about putting herself back out there and working on posters for her sorority and how someone told her she was a good artist. Despite her insecurities and reservations about recommitting herself to her art, the validation gave her the confidence to continue chipping away at the painstaking process it took for her to make the posters. She also talked about one of the side effects of the surgery in having to retrain her brain to hear certain sounds in order to discern various volumes. And then she spoke of my yoga class.

Nicole said that the class was exactly what she needed in learning to let go of always being in competition with herself. Nicole mentioned how hard it was and that she just wanted to be back where she used to be but together we talked through what the journey really meant:

To revel in the process.

To test our character through adversity.

To celebrate our victories, for no victory is ever too small.

I listened in awe and utter admiration for this young girl, clinging to every word she said trying to soak up some of her greatness by just being in her proximity! The three of us had tears in our eyes and we all hugged one another. I thanked Nicole for being so brave, sharing her story, and for serving as a lesson in life to never give up. Of course Nicole doesn’t see herself as brave or courageous but she is living proof what never giving up and conviction can do.

What’s more is Nicole only reminded me of the infinite power of yoga and community. When I embraced Nicole and said, “You never know whose life you’re touching just by being you” she replied, “No, you don’t. Thank you for being YOU. You were exactly what I needed.”