All posts by Arielle

About Arielle

I am a full time English teacher who moonlights as a fitness instructor. Fitness is the core of my being. Any and all things regarding breaking a sweat make my heart dance! I teach yoga and cycling and hope through my classes to be able to bring the joys of health, wellness, and nutrition to others, so that they may reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I live for all things that are outside, active, and invigorating. Yoga is my Zen place, where I feel strong and beautiful. Indoor cycling and running is me: raw and honest. Strength training is my place to always push myself a little further, where I am strong. Strength, persistence, determination, and discipline. I am always growing and learning, and hope you will join me on this journey. So, here I am! Namaste.

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5 Truths Behind Those Yoga Photos on Instagram

Arielle:

Our relationship with our physical-selves is an ever-changing dance. Based on how bloated we feel, how many beautiful people surround us, our social media feed, the waitress at that Hollywood hot spot, we then determine our self-worth. Wow, how warped is that? Forget about the fact that I have a Master’s Degree and one glamazon can sometimes make me feel like I am invisible here in LaLa Land. We really must come together to work on how women perceive themselves.

As a yogi, the world of social media is a slippery slope of half-naked and sometimes even naked gorgeous people doing poses I could only dream of. Sponsored ambassadors, speakers, presenters, and teachers, these people flood my newsfeed and are the fodder for talk in my fitness circles. I must say, while I know gawking at such images only harms my own self-image, I cannot help but stare, want, lust, and thirst for their bodies, bendy lumbar spines, long, lean limbs, washboard abs, and oh their clothes—Oh, the things I would do for some sort of active ambassadorship…Coming back to my point, while I cannot pry my watchful eyes from these high-profile yogis I also creep their pictures and know the gross and sometimes sad reality of those images in our IG feed.

As an instructor myself, what you see IS me, my body, my practice but what you don’t see in those images as is pointed out in Pack Your Mat’s post are the falls, the struggles, the poor alignment OR the pose on the other side. Ahhhh, the dreaded ‘other side’. Yogi’s, you know THAT side—the one you ignore or don’t cultivate because it’s your tighter side or the pose just doesn’t work.
How many times have you seen yogis post pictures of their struggles? Their falls? Or better, of them learning the poses? Pack Your Mat does a great job of pointing out the obvious: Yogi’s pose for the camera. They have their make up done, hair styled, and someone dressed them in something fantastic to showcase their rock hard bodies. Many photoshoots last hours and yogi’s spend long hours moving and manipulating their bodies juussssst right so that when you finally see the pose, it has been done and redone countless times until the angle, lighting, and alignment are all perfect. Well, the way I see it—how is that yoga, or even a representation of reality for that matter? Yoga is supposed to bring balance to our lives; water to our fire, calm to our storm, stillness to our clouded hearts and minds…Yoga should never feel or look like someone else. Yoga lives within us and is an outward expression of inward emotions. Let go and stop looking to the people in front of you, next to you, or on a 4-inch screen in your hands, because the real asana are how the poses make YOU feel moving into and out of them, and most of all—the journey to learning the poses. Lest we not forget that—the learning part!

Originally posted on Pack Your Mat:

Many won’t believe this, but I absolutely despised being in front of a camera as an adolescent and wellinto my mid20s. These yearswere filled with the struggles of being overweight. It started off as being chubby, but I endedmy first semester at university with a maxweight of 240 pounds. Now, I’ve always been considered to be big “boned” so I just told myself thatmost of that weight resided in my bones and my gigantic thighs and calves. The reality was I wasexperiencing heart murmursand had high blood pressure and cholesterol. In short, weight has always been an issue I’ve dealt with. At the time coming out as a gay man, an “obese” one especially, was going to be social suicide, I thought. At 19, for both superficial and health reasons, I decided that I needed to do something about my weight. That is about the same time I discovered different…

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Up Close & Personal

I just came back from a workout after driving home and crying to my mother on the phone. I walked into my apartment, ate the remaining half of Greg’s gluten free marble brownie (sorry, Greg!), and started to feel bad for myself. As a matter of fact, over the course of the last 2 hours, I have mentally and verbally beaten myself up so badly, I am ashamed. I received a work-related email in which my boss would like to speak to me. I should have known better than to read the email 30 seconds before my workout, but I did nonetheless. Thinking my emotions associated with the contents of the email would motivate me, they did the contrary. I completely shut down.

I walked onto my treadmill feeling deflated, worthless, fat, ugly, and hated every fiber of my being. I gazed into the mirror in front of me and the negative self-talk didn’t stop. It was a barrage of fire and I was assaulting myself. As class started and hit its flow, the emotional and mental onslaught didn’t let up. The entire workout, I was distracted, angry, and lacked focus. I was so stuck inside my head that every step while running, every pull while rowing, every weight I lifted was sheer agony. I just wanted to scream in frustration for myself and my emotions that seized control of my mind and now robbed me of my workout [Damn it, there goes my money. Wasted money and a wasted workout].

While working out at Orange Theory Fitness I always run my ass off on the treadmill. I have always logged mileage and speeds in the ‘Runner’s Category’ and I have been happy with my progress. Never walking during a workout, I always push myself by amping up my speed just another .1, then another, then another, and I empower myself. Typically, I am fueled intrinsically but today in the last set of my treadmill work on a 9 incline, I lost all my steam. For the first time ever in one of my OTF workouts, I gave up in the second to last set and walked. As if I hadn’t endured enough of a battle thus far, now I was reduced to walking. Oozing with self-hatred and fuming from my self-perceived defeats of my workout, I came back for the final 30 second all-out push at an incline of 11. While I didn’t succumb to my initial defeat, I spent an entire hour of my workout loathing every minute of it and every part of my physical and emotional-self.

If you’re wondering how this happened, it’s really very simple. I am very sensitive. Yes, me—very sensitive. While I present rough and tough, I am a ball of mush, hormones, tears, and all that gooey shit. I was ‘that’ kid that cried if a teacher yelled at me or if someone hurt my feelings as a kid. So the email that I read before class completely got me off kilter because it played into my insecurities and inadequacies as to what I am offering people as a fitness instructor. At three years into this industry, I have learned lots and lots of things: what I like to teach, where I like to teach, for whom, when, etc. I have also met some amazing people and have great friends as a result of my classes. But there is also a very ugly side to this industry. While I try not to get caught up in the fact that I am short and muscular and will never be a ‘fitness model’ or personality, I have always stayed true the fact that I am a bad ass, period. I work hard, teach hard classes, care deeply about my work and participants in my class and that’s that. BUT when others perceive those efforts differently, or class attendance is low, it hurts and I take it personally because this work IS personal. There is no other way to say it. Each and every song on my playlists are designed to evoke emotion and to enhance class. Every ride is mapped to offer an intense experience and a workout to blow your mind. Every yoga class is taught with my heart to challenge your body and soul. So when someone doesn’t like my work or stops coming to class—it hurts.

You would think that over time, some of the realities of the feedback and people outgrowing me as an instructor would get easier, but it doesn’t. My husband and others have told me for years to stop making everything so personal, but how can I not take it personally? I am responsible for helping people reach goals, get healthier, become fit/more fit, work on challenging asana (yoga poses), empower themselves, cultivate strength and confidence, redefine commitment, help them find the light, and I am not supposed to take this work personally?!?! As a fitness instructor I am entrusted with people most often at their most vulnerable. Subsequently, my work IS personal and I take what I do as instructor very seriously because I care. Every single bit of my work is personal because people trust me to guide them, support them, and keep them safe during a workout. As far as I am concerned, that is a pretty tremendous amount of responsibility I do not take lightly.

IMG_8062So while my skin is certainly not any thicker by working in this industry, I am going to continue to bring love and light to my work. I am going to continue to fight my demons and re-commit to my work and hope that while I am on this path, others will join me. I am going to continue to work on inner-cising to build myself up, the same way I help bring up those around me and own every single bit of my greatness. After all, I do have an obligation to the people who take my classes to be there for them—so this is for you. And though this industry doesn’t love me back because it tells me I’m too short, too fat, too muscular, too purple, too rogue, not yoga enough, too ‘Schwinn’, or don’t focus enough on alignment, and the list goes on, what I am is ME.

I am vibrant. I am real. I am true. I am me.

And whether you want to admit it or not, I am you.

Lifted Up in Love

Greg and I married with fist
We did it folks, we are married! Whoohooooo!

Five short days ago, I got married. It’s so strange, because I feel the same, but so different at the same time. I suppose the best way I could really put it is that everything and nothing has changed simultaneously.

On June 20, 2015, I wed my soul’s beloved and simply put, it was The Best Day of My Life.

wedding over looking patioBefore walking down the aisle to meet Gregory under the chuppah, I was trembling. My butt was shaking like I just had the hardest glute day of my life. I have no clue why all of a sudden every muscle in my body started to seize, but all at once the nerves I was supposed to feel leading up to this moment surged through my body. However, as quickly as the nervous energy coursed through my body, once I stepped out to meet my true love, I was surrounded by hundreds of bright eyes, endearing smiles, and overflowing love from our friends and families.

Enveloped in the warmth of our guests, I couldn’t help be completely mesmerized that all of these people showed up for us. People were sitting, standing, lining up the stairwell, and genuinely happy to share in our celebration of love. As I walked out and stood atop the staircase to gaze upon our guests, I was met with love and joy. The tight quarters on the patio where we wed made it intimate and the energy palpable. All eyes on me, I felt so elated I thought I was going to burst out of my skin.Me and Greg on railing

People traveled from New York and Florida, took off from work, secured childcare, attended while pregnant, some very pregnant, all because they decided to make Greg and I a priority in their lives. After it was all said and done, the things that people say leading up to a wedding don’t really make much sense—it’s after the wedding that it all seems to reveal itself.

Me kassi and Craig
My oldest childhood camp friend Craig flew in from New York to share in my special day
Me on patio before ceremony
Taking in the patio before the guests arrive…simply incredible, I was blown away!

As many of you know, prior to our wedding I wrote about how hurt I was by many people. Both Gregory and myself had long-time friends and family not attend our wedding, avoid responding, claim to have sent the RSVP and gifts (neither of which ever arrived), and just flat out ignored the invite all together claiming “they forgot to respond”. This pre-wedding drama seemed to consume and devastate us. People said focus on those attending, making the trip, and who love you, etc. And while we both desperately tried to remain positive, the hurt of friends and family ran deep. Even the day-of our wedding we received texts and Facebook messages (yes, Facebook messages) from guests who in the last minute were letting us know that they would not be attending…

And you know what? None of that bullshit mattered at 6pm when I walked down that aisle to meet the man who is everything I wanted and didn’t know that I needed at the same time.

Not once did I think about those not in attendance. Not once did I lament in their absence or warrant their poor behavior with even so much as a thought about people not at my wedding. And I imagine that given the disgustingly poor etiquette of some, they didn’t think about us either and I am so OK with that. Now, I know this sounds callous and that’s not the way I want this to come across. My point in saying that I didn’t think about the hurt is because I was so swallowed in love and being present on my wedding day, that all the shit leading up to June 20th simply didn’t matter. None of it mattered. All that mattered was making sure my guests had a great time, kissing my husband, and laughing the night away.

A tender moment with my dad, AKA Abba
A tender moment with my dad, AKA Abba

Our wedding was surely a night to remember: from the chicken and waffles to Frach’s Fried Ice Cream. Both the best and fastest party I have ever attended in my life, I know that we both never stopped smiling and chatting with our guests. Greg keeps asking when we get a ‘do-over’ because it was so fun and went by so fast. The night was a blur. I’m not sure how much of that blur is a result of the libations, but as quickly as it all started, it seemed I looked around the venue and it was empty—the night was over. The decorations of the banister, mason jars, chairs, and space which seemed to be my life over the last month just dissolved into the night as I walked hand-in-hand down Hollywood Blvd. with my husband Gregory back to our hotel. Flashes of hugs and kisses with my family dance across my mind, congratulations from friends, and above all, gratitude floods my heart.

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My amazing parents that have been married forever!  I am blessed to have such great role models in love!

On June 20, 2015, I wed my soul’s beloved and simply put, it was The Best Day of My Life.

Thank you for being part of our lives, our celebration, and above all our love. Love lives out loud and it is our hope that through our love we can help spread love to the darkest corners of people’s hearts. And while everyone always seems to think that their love story is ‘The Love Story’ of all love stories, we like to believe that our love story is a reflection of those in our lives who help us be better lovers for one another. Thank you for lifting us up in our love and reflecting love back to us—we love you all.

When Love Just Happens, Part II

As promised, here are my vows to my beloved Gregory. Before posting this, like yesterday, Greg and I re-read our vows to one another. Both times we were emotional and found ourselves in tears. By sharing our love with the world we hope to celebrate all love and spread love. As Greg is my light, I truly hope that we could be the light for others…

Arielle to Greg 6/20/15:

Who would have thought that I would have had to come all the way to Los Angeles to meet and marry a Long Island Jewish boy?!

Greg, just one week into our fledgling romance I knew that you were the man I would spend the rest of my life with.

The instant I left that fateful cycling class, I was smitten—from the way you bob your head when you ride, to your [mostly] impeccable taste in music, your ridiculously infectious personality made you irresistible. Your ability to inspire each and every person with whom you come into contact continually leaves me awestruck.

What is more, I never thought I would find someone who shared the same love of remixes, mash-ups, and indoor cycling the way I did.

Greg, your gift to wake up everyday with a giant smile on your face warms my heart. It still doesn’t make getting up in the morning any easier, but it sure sweetens the whole experience.

You make me a better person.

You make me want to be the best at everything I tackle to honor you…to honor us. Our partnership and union is a reflection of our love. How we conduct ourselves together and while teaching our classes or working, to me is still an extension of our devotion. I promise to always honor us and the passionate, fiery, dedication that you bring to our marriage in all that I do.

I promise to start hanging my clothes up instead of piling them next to my side of the bed. I promise to fold our laundry and put it away in under a week’s time. And lastly, I cannot promise I will do the dishes, but what I can promise is that with each passing day, I do and will continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with you.

Greg, you are my heart and the essence of my spirit. You build me up and ground me while I try to fumble through this world. You are my light. A beacon shining bright, worthy of admiration and respect. I promise to honor you and in the process, I will try to be less cranky when I am waking up in the mornings or when I am hangry.

Now we no longer fumble through this world alone, but we blaze a path, standing side-by-side, leaving an indelible mark upon this world, igniting embers of hope, passion, and inspiration for others.

Thank you for picking me, Greg. For when I am with you, I am part of you and I am privileged to be the woman who stands beside you and gets to wash your sweaty fitness clothes. I love you eternally and will forever cherish you and above all, us.

When Love Just Happens, Part I

Well, you guys here it is: My first blog post as a MARRIED WOMAN!

As I settle into being a wife, later this week I promise that I will share pics and detailed thoughts on our nuptials [which were AMAZING by the way!]. However, to keep you all tantalized, I wanted to start with the first installment of two pieces: Our wedding vows.

Here are Greg’s wedding vows to me. I am sharing them with you and the world so that the non-believers, the cynics, the hurt, the tormented, and the lonely can look within and find that special place knowing that true and beautiful, real love does exist and when you least expect it, it finds you. Enjoy!

Greg to Arielle 6/20/15:

How Do I Know I Love You

Arielle, when sitting down to write my vows I was torn on which way to go. And then it hit me…while I always have told you I love you and what you mean to me you always asked me HOW DO YOU KNOW that YOU LOVE ME. And I always told you I don’t know how to put it into words, I just can’t explain it. My love for you is that feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach that gives you butterflies. It is looking at the clock when I am at working counting down the minutes for when I can come home and see your face and give you a 20 second hug. It is accepting the fact that all my sheets on the bed will be purple because your hair bleeds on them. It is knowing that I would sacrifice my own happiness and well-being to ensure your happiness and make you feel like you rule the world.   The moment I saw you hobble into my life, since you were on crutches, on November 19th 2013, I knew I was going to be with you. Within a week, I knew deep down inside that you were my other half. And finally, a few weeks later when we went to Howell At The Moon for your friends’ birthday I had fallen in love with you.

Recently when we met with Rabbi Bassin and we read Genesis 2:18 The Partnership of Marriage, it all became clear. Now I can put into words how I know that I love you.   We learned about the concept of Ezer Kenegdo and how G-D intended for partners to be opposite one another in an effort to balance the other. I love you because you are my EZER, my strength, when I am weak and when I need support you are there to lift me up and push me to be the best man I can be. You are my NEGDO, my equal or metaphorical Otherness who stands across from me to watch over me and to love me when I am unable to love myself. And as G-D intended I am those things for you as well.   You are the other half of OUR Awesomeness and that’s why we are a team.

I love you because you are beautiful, your smile is bright and fills my heart with joy. Your laugh warms my spirit and makes me feel whole. I love you because you are YOU. There is no other Arielle Miller and soon to be Arielle Cohen and there is not one ounce of Arielle that I would ever change or make different. I know I love you because I would walk through HELL to find you if you were ever lost. I love you because you ARE my family, you ARE MY reflection and you ARE my other half.

Teacher Feature; Let the Sharing Continue

With so many exciting and awesome things happening this month and this week with my birthday AND wedding; I want to make absolutely certain nothing gets overlooked!

This month at yoga studio where I teach, I am the featured instructor in what we call the #ODDlight. In conjunction with the awesome team at One Down Dog we crafted something where you can learn little known facts about me, what attracted me to yoga, and even check out a baby pic [get your awwwww’s ready]!

Here is a little teaser from the One Down Dog blog:

Why do you teach? What brought you to become an instructor?
I teach yoga to heal and empower others. I teach yoga to share its gifts, joys, and empower others to look inward without fear. I teach yoga because I believe this sacred kind of magic needs to be treated with care and deserves to be upheld in the most noble of ways. I teach because without yoga, I do not know where I would be today.

Yoga found me and saved me from myself. I was depressed, very, very, very depressed and I was angry. I blamed the world for slighting me and being out to get me. I was urged to take yoga classes by my doctor and I fought it. I refused to go under the misguided perception that I’d be sitting on a dirty floor, chanting shit that meant nothing to me, and that just didn’t resonate with me. I am very Type A, always moving and I thought yoga was going to be hell on earth so NO THANK YOU.

And then one day, I just went to yoga. As simple as that, I went to yoga.

I woke up and said, “Today, I am going to try yoga.” From the minute I walked into the studio, I relished the ritual of taking off my shoes, carefully unrolling my mat, and how the yoga made me feel. There was this instantaneous deep connection with my feminism and beauty. This outward expression of moving my body made me feel strong, celebrated, and above all beautiful. Yoga made me feel like I was the only person in the room and that I was of boundless strength. As my practice started to evolve, the initial attraction of yoga’s athleticism progressed into something so much larger than myself filled with trainings, Sanskrit, and even chanting. My body yearned [and still does] for this ancient traditional practice and I was hooked. In darkness, yoga showed me the light but more importantly yoga built me up to find the light—Yoga showed me that I was the light.

To continue reading the post, click here.

Writing a Legacy Worth Leaving Behind

“Those who know, do.

Those that understand, teach.” 
― Aristotle

Joseph and I after the graduation ceremony. Yes, I am in yoga pants, as I hustled my butt over to Westwood after teaching a double. When you care about someone or something, one doesn't make excuses--one makes IT happen!
Joseph and I after the graduation ceremony. Yes, I am in yoga pants, as I hustled my butt over to Westwood after teaching a double. When you care about someone or something, one doesn’t make excuses–one makes IT happen!

Yesterday, I had the distinct privilege and honor to watch my former student Jospeh (whom I taught in 2005-2006 when he was in 8th grade!) graduate from UCLA with a degree in English.

While I’m not a parent, I can only imagine what an overwhelming sensation experiencing such a momentous life event maybe, as I cried like a baby in route to the ceremony and during it. I wept with joy and hope for this young man’s bright future, as it is now HIS time.

Over the last few years, my relationship with my career as an English teacher has been tumultuous. I spent the early years of my career fiercely over-committed to the job by starting my day an hour early and leaving well into the evenings.

I drove students home from school, made home visits, fundraised via a non-profit I created to purchase materials for my classroom, and even owned and operated a website for my students to blog. I made myself fully and completely accessible to my students and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was no break from my students or my work. I was so dedicated that even on breaks from school, I taught/worked with my students at school in my classroom for FREE to ensure their success!

It was a time in my life that happened in a sort of blur of children, testing, more children, and some great memories. But I also know that during this time while dedicated to my students and school, I had zero life beyond my career, packed on the pounds, and was depressed.

As I dove deeper and deeper into my career, my passion started to fizzle and before I knew it, I hit full out burn out. I cried driving to work in the mornings; I cried when I came home from work. I just couldn’t be at work without wanting to leave the instant I opened my car door. I was lost, angry, and so confused—why was I feeling this way? What happened to me? Wasn’t this my life’s work?!

After months of enduring this horrible vicious cycle, my curiosity got the best of me and I actually mustered the courage to wander into a yoga room. What seems like almost instantly, my life was forever altered for the better. Yoga taught me how to control my breath and how to build the capacity within myself to find balance. And slowly, as I started to regain my footing in life and at work, I started to advocate for myself by ensuring my emotional well-being was always first.

I stopped staying late at school. I immediately left after the last bell to hit a yoga or cycling class, or to play soccer. I did however still arrive early to tackle school work and I also kept my room open to students during recess and lunch times. I knew that in order to continue to serve others in this world, I had to nurture and serve myself first. I learned through my subsequent burn out and revitalization through yoga, that I must do me before I am to be able to truly help others reach their potential.

Yoga and physical movement provided me with the capacity to learn what it meant to value myself and strike some sort of work-life balance. So I am sure you are wondering if my teaching suffered during this journey to reclaiming myself…As a matter of fact, the more I delved into myself, underwent yoga teacher training, and teaching fitness; it made me a better human and an even better teacher. Teaching group fitness helped reawaken my sense of compassion and ability to embrace everyone and meet individuals exactly as they were. So coming back to my sweet Joseph now walking across the stage at UCLA with a degree in English, he hopes to become a teacher. I cannot think of a more powerful way to leave a mark on the world than to inspire someone to go to college, graduate, and essentially follow in my footsteps. I texted my family saying, “My life’s work is complete. I have made my mark, I can die now…

Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, pre-ceremony
Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, pre-ceremony

My years of struggle and heartache seemed to disappear when I saw Joseph’s sweet face emblazoned on the screen. They simply all faded away because today was the day I got to watch in real-time the powerful effect that teachers have upon our youth.

People say that today’s youth are well, you know—technology obsessed and nothing like ‘us’. I mean we played outside and used a card catalog when researching school projects in a place called a library—there was no such thing as Google. But if you look a little deeper, and look a little closer, today’s youth are still children waiting to have the right person come into their lives to ignite that spark. It is up to us as teacher, leaders, instructors, clergy, parents, etc. to harness the youth’s interests and help them reach their full potential.

I will never forget the day I watched Joseph graduate from UCLA. I will also never forget how special it felt to sit amongst his family, beaming with pride. It is the Joseph’s of my life that continue to remind me why I became a teacher and for that gift Joseph, I am eternally grateful.

Sweating, my religion; My body, my Temple

My wedding is in one week.

There has been so much anticipation, drama, excitement, and PLANNING that has led to this upcoming week. Though my schedule has been crazy with yet another school year coming to a close, teaching my fitness classes, and running around town to finish buying everything that must be purchased; one thing has remained constant: My laser-like commitment and focus on my fitness and journey with my physical-self.

Aside from my soon-to-be husband Greg, fitness is my other love. Well, it’s a love and passion we share together but sweating is my religion. I feel prettiest when I sweat. More specifically, I feel strong, sexy, and liberated when in my Lulu’s, sports bra, and sneaks.

Here I am outside the house I grew up in on Long Island. I was in 7th grade here, going to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I was so overweight that juniors clothing didn't fit and my mother had to buy me Ladies attire.
Here I am outside the house I grew up in on Long Island. I was in 7th grade here, going to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I was so overweight that Juniors clothing didn’t fit and my mother had to buy me Ladies attire.

Despite always being considered athletic and having played Lacrosse in college, my battle with the bulge has been never-ending. Recently, while looking through childhood pictures to make the slide show for my wedding, the pain of my childhood resurfaced. Uninvited, emotions about my childhood darkness as ‘a fat kid’, condemned to heinous clothing, and social suicide came flooding back. The bouts of excessive exercise, anorexia, bulimia, laxatives, diet pills, and endless journaling about how much I hated myself remained a deep secret that most (including my parents) had no clue was a battle I was fighting. And while I was waging a war within myself, in spite of my seemingly extroverted and ‘I could give zero fucks what you think of me attitude’; I was terribly insecure in my youth and that self-hatred poured over into adulthood.

I would have to say that until very recently, while I helped bring others up around me in all of my classes, I looked in the mirror in horror at my physical-self. Nothing seemed to work and I mean nothing. I tried it all: Isagenix, My Fit Foods, going gluten free (which I still am but that’s another conversation), The Master Cleanse, cayenne pepper pills, psyllium husk, you name it. Finally, at the urging of my chiropractor and friend Lisa, I caved and tried the Paleo lifestyle [I caved, get it?]. Really, what did I have to lose? [And yet another pun] While my initial results being Paleo weren’t earth shattering, the science had me sold and I felt better in my body so I decided to stick with it. Although I am not strict Paleo, I like to say I am mostly Paleo and fully committed to it and it has been 8 months. So now that I got a handle on my nutrition and found something manageable that worked, it was time to line up my fitness for me. This meant giving up some fitness classes I taught in order to ensure there was time for me. Resistant to Greg’s suggestion to do this at first, I finally decided that I needed to make myself a priority so I scaled back on my classes and got my ass working out for ME.

I’m now about 5 months into my rediscovery of health and wellness for no one other than me and I am down a substantial amount of weight. People have noticed the changes in my body, its performance, and my demeanor. For whatever reason, I just feel better in my skin. But for me the biggest transformation isn’t in my physical-self. Albeit a nice perk, the greatest victory are the thoughts I have when I look in the mirror.

Eka Pada II like what I am seeing. Not only do I like myself, I am truly starting to fall in love myself and not just for the badass woman I am on the inside, but for all of my badassery I rock physically too.

I love my thighs. They are meaty and they are strong. Legs house the largest muscle groups in our bodies and well, that’s apparent in my legs. I can squat like an animal and I have my glutes to thank for that.

Forearm standMy booty. Now considered in style via society’s pop culture my booty has always been one of my best ASSests. It looks great in short, tight dresses, and while my legs and booty make buying jeans a challenge, I wouldn’t trade their strength for anything.

My arms. They lift, they pull, they push, they hold, and they reflect my power. My triceps have elevated my yoga practice by helping me soar in arm balances. My biceps add definition to my arms and hopefully someday will help me in my quest for ‘man arms’.

And finally, I love it all, for without it I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the BEST MILE TIME of my life while in class tonight. One week away from 33 years old, I ran a 7:31 mile. I was aiming for 7:30 and while I am annoyed by the one second that I missed my goal, I know that I am stronger and faster than I imagined. But what is so awesome about goals is once you achieve them, there’s more to work to do be done! I now know that not only can I hit 7:30, but that 7:15, even 7:00 are within my reach because there isn’t anything I cannot do.

Edited Sage's poseSo why has it taken me so long to reach what I call greatness? I think it’s because I lacked the discipline to be great. While I have always ‘worked out’ and I am a fitness instructor, yadda yadda, I think I lacked a sort of maturity and mentality to really put me in a place to capture success. Now, 6 days from my 33rd birthday and one week from my wedding, I am in the best mental and physical place I have ever been in my entire life.

What are you waiting for? Get out there, Own Your Awesome, capture your greatness, and unleash that shit on the world and let’s take it over together in The Body Movement—a self-love revolution where we harness our emotional, mental, and physical-selves and love the shit out them. Are you in, or are you in? Yes or yes?!

I Matter

While I said I wasn’t going to give anymore power to people whom are careless with my feelings and hurt me—sometimes it’s so hard not to well, feel all sorts of feels. The last 10 months of my life have been so amazing, filled with incredible adventures with my fiancé from trips to upstate New York, Long Island, NYC, and even Buenos Aires, Argentina! We have discovered and [mostly] committed to the Paleo lifestyle, rediscovered ourselves in our personal fitness pursuits, and grown a lot through our respected lines of work beyond fitness. All this awesomeness while our lives continued to blend and take shape as one, we also spent the last 10 months planning our wedding. The planning was fun and exciting—tasting food, picking out our ketuba, meeting with our Rabbi, and even reigniting our interests in our Jewish faith after getting our hands on some rad Judaica stuff! But all that joy seemed to quickly be usurped once we sent out those invitations.

As I have mentioned before, you really learn about the people in your lives when you get married. That said, as June 20th becomes more and more of a reality, it seems like the universe is constantly testing the two of us. While I have tried to remain graceful in the face of having my heart shattered by long-time friends simply not seeing me or my wedding as a priority, I finally lost it on one of my oldest friends. And while I would like to say that I feel bad about it, I don’t. I would like to say that I am surprised by her poor behavior, but I am not. Finally, I would like to say that I don’t have to waste anymore time thinking about her or the others that have cast a tainted cloud on my nuptials—but I can’t. I just can’t let it go. Shit, where is Elsa when you need her?!

While brooding in my frustration, I thought [again] to myself that my reaction to the issues I am having with people in my life is simply unacceptable. It sure as hell is not changing the situation, so how am I doing myself any good by stewing in my rage? I am however self-aware enough to know that part of being a strong and successful person means being able to cope with my emotions. Unfortunately for me, right now, my anxiety and restlessness were eating away at me. I knew that it was futile to fester and that the key to success in anything is the ability to find the light amidst the darkest of nights. And then I remembered something. I remembered a picture I took of a journal that one of my 9th graders wrote this week.

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I reread the 1-page journal entry to myself. The grammar and spelling errors melted away into the land of ‘that’s ok, I know what you mean’ and I thought to myself,

“I do matter”.

I friggen DO matter.

I MATTER.

My existence on this planet is one that will leave a legacy behind because I build people up, I show up for people, and I make being the best God damn person I can be a priority.

Though I am still wrestling with how to accept what I feel to be incredibly personal affronts to Greg and I, after reading the journal entry, Maya Angelou’s famous words rang true:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Subsequently, June 20th is almost here. Some people who swore they were coming, couldn’t wait to share in our merriment, and said they’d bare witness to my wedding will not be in attendance. But I am done mourning these people and I mean it this time (Scout’s honor!). For it was through the eyes of a young girl, my student, I was able to reclaim myself and remember that, I matter. A well, since we have a bunch of people not coming to the wedding, maybe we’ll even invite her…

Life Beyond the Comfort Zone

If you’ve ever taken any type of group fitness class, you will hear instructors spouting dogmatic clichés like: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” and “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Now, there certainly was a time that though I may have heard someone say this, I did not have the courage to listen to them say it. What’s more is, I have also taken too many classes where these phrases are disingenuously talked at participants. For me as an athlete, trainer, yogi, English teacher, and fitness instructor these phrases are personal, deeply personal. I take them seriously, not just in the capacity of offering a kick-ass fitness class to break people down only to build them back up. For me, the concept of challenging myself to catapult towards success in any arena is what fuels me. Motivates me. Shouts to my soul. So when I tell students or participants in any of my classes to get uncomfortable, I mean it because I live it.

I guess to really understand what I mean, it’s important to look at my relationship with my physical-self. My relationship with my physical-self has been [and shall remain] a tumultuous one. Stemming from my early youth I always struggled with my weight. I yo-yo dieted, flitted from one diet pill to another, never really gained any sort of footing with anything other than my interests in softball, lacrosse, and later soccer. Even during my collegiate years while playing lacrosse, I was still unfocused and overweight. I ate poorly and drank, a lot. That said, I lacked the mental capacity to push myself in team runs and workouts, and ultimately I didn’t get much playing time. However my lack of playing time didn’t seem to bother me so much as I felt entitled to playing without really earning it. I felt that I deserved to play. Now looking back, I recognize  my need to place blame and my sense of entitlement were a projection of my inadequacies. While I played a college sport, my life really hinged upon my close circle of friends, my job as a hostess at a steak house, and partying. I partied with reckless abandon. I experimented with bleaching my hair blonde [and a bad shade of blonde at that], cutting up my clothes, and wearing every conceivable color of eye shadow one could buy at Sephora (probably all at once, eeekk!). Nightly, the pre-gaming began, music vibrated throughout Grove Street and I looked in the mirror. Not only did I like what I saw gazing back at me—I LOVED IT. That’s right. At a hefty size 12 and only 5’0, tipping the scales at upwards of 160-165 pounds at times, I thought I was the hottest gal in town. Simply put, I owned my awesome for all of its tubby glory.

But as years wore on, this self-confidence would be squelched by my desire to whittle my waist to fit in and be accepted in the fitness community in Los Angeles. My self-worth became [and sadly in some respects is still] associated with how fit I can become, how much weight I can lose, how much faster I can run, and so on…And then something hit me. I suppose you can say it literally hit me [there’s a pseudo long digression here, but I’m going somewhere…]

11164639_10100727137527601_7925525871855849797_nIn an effort to take on something new in my life, to push myself beyond anything I already know, I have started boxing with my personal trainer. First things first: I know nothing about boxing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Tantalized by the heavy bag hanging in my trainer’s home-gym, I asked her to teach me.

Thus far it has only been a few short weeks. Boxing is sweaty and deliciously frustratingly fun because it’s SO DIFFERENT than anything I’ve ever done. Nothing like yoga, nothing like lifting weights, nothing like indoor cycling–my body feels awkward. My feet are heavy, I forget to protect my face, I’m not turning out enough, I’m still not staying on my toes, and at times I feel like I have no body awareness. My trainer says the same things to me over, and over, and over again. And while the process is slow, I am learning and loving every bit of shaking up what I thought I knew about my body and myself. Breathing new physical strength into my body is what I think it means to really live.

Sweat dripping down my face. I lick my lips and taste the delightfully salty reward for my efforts hitting the bag. I step back, heart racing and reflect:

While I don’t love myself as much as I would like physically, I sure as hell do LOVE the woman I am today. I am fearless. I try new things without hesitation. ‘NO’ has absolutely zero place in my vocabulary. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything I can’t do. So unlike when I was in college and I peer into the mirror and my reflection doesn’t quite love me back yet, I see that this body and mind are pillars of endless strength. And despite my life’s trials, and dark periods filled with negativity, like the Phoenix, I rise again because in my life there is only room for I CAN, I WILL, and I AM.

So the next time you are in my class, or anyone else’s fitness class for that matter: Listen to the person nudging you to push a little harder. Look a litter closer and listen to your authentic-self. Are you really pushing yourself in all arenas of your life? Ask the hard questions and know that you won’t get the answers right away. Relish the process of self-discovery, for something new is waiting up ahead to teach you something about yourself.

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