Category Archives: Accountability

Stripped

wildthingFor the month of July I have been participating in an Instagram backbend yoga challenge. In the 3 years that I have been teaching yoga, never once have I participated in one of these yoga challenges. Actually, I think there was a time maybe wayyyyyyy back that I attempted one and after 2 days I lost the steam. Maybe it wasn’t the right challenge for me. But really I chalk it up to a few things as to why up until very recently I rarely posted pictures of me in yoga poses or committed to an online yoga challenge. Yoga and fitness is a very ‘look at me’ kind of industry. I try not to play into the yoga instructor stereotypes of being scantily clad in inaccessible yoga poses for the masses to gawk at. Frankly, I think it sends a bad message to the masses. I think what the yoga and fitness industry has done to sell its self is disgusting. These industries prostitute themselves in an effort to sell a product whether it be protein powder, a studio, a clothing line—whatever, by using sex to lure in buyers by making yoga now a sexy thing. Basically, they are SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE.

11755233_10100762894859621_5240393937280972723_nYoga is about love and equity. Yoga is about hitting your mat and delving closer and closer to your essential-self. Yoga is about non-attachment and never competing with anyone, and that also includes yourself. And finally, yoga loves and welcomes everyone regardless of size, sex, race, sexual orientation, or class. Yoga is blind; it embraces us and loves us, even when we can’t love ourselves. So why are these yoga challenges and half-naked yogis so dangerous?

They don’t tell us or even guide us to look inward. They are 1-dimensional, showing us how yoga should look: white, skinny, and if you don’t have a handstand, well then you aren’t a yogi. At least, that’s what I take away from all of this. As a yoga instructor, I know a few things about the human body and one of them is that there are some people genetically blessed with hyper-mobility. Yogi’s in splits, backbending, arms back behind their heads, clasping their foot. Yeah, that will NEVER be me. Aside from a host of injuries, my body doesn’t move that way. Hell, I am a yoga instructor and my body doesn’t move a lot of ways. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that because this body can move in a lot of other ways as it runs, jumps, squats, punches, and is SO strong that I wouldn’t trade it in for a backbend. In that same accord, the science and statistics note that hyper-mobile yogis ARE wired differently muscularly AND they are prone to injury more than their less-mobile counterparts. YES, the super bendy get hurt more often as a result of pushing too hard and too far, and often may skip warming up because their bodies make challenging asana (poses) easier, or more accessible.

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That said, I don’t hate these people per say. The genetically blessed, the actors and models turned fitness instructors, the dancers, and me: The short, muscular, ethnically ambiguous unyoga yogi with purple hair and a fiery spirit. Together we all comprise this industry and there is room for everyone to shine in their own right. So I caved and I decided that it was time to participate in a yoga challenge but do so on my own terms. I was going to use this challenge as a way to unveil how yoga looks when real people do it and what happens when real people can’t do crazy shit on their hands or twist into a pretzel. I wanted to start carving out a niche for all the people with real bodies to be welcomed, embraced, and thrive. I wanted to show the world that yoga IS blind. I combated my demons and I choose to shoot my yoga challenge without a shirt on, in my sports bra. If the tall and lean can do it—why can’t I? Why shouldn’t I? Should I care that my belly is a little soft? Should I worry what others will think if I can’t do a pose because I’m a yoga instructor? I decided to say screw it all and strip myself down to tear down borders and barriers to pave the way for others:

Be yourself, love yourself, and stop giving a shit what others think about you.

11659456_10100755511974981_6370464093040561674_nTaking off my shirt has taught me so much more than I anticipated. First, it certainly has helped me hate myself less because I have started to embrace my body. Who would have thought that taking off my clothes for thousands of people to see would do that?!—but it did. Taking off my shirt is liberating and a way for me to make a statement that real bodies are not going to fade into the backdrop of celebrity fitness personalities because someone else says so. Yoga is about reclaiming your emotions and life while serving others. This yoga challenge, with my belly exposed is my first stab at The Body Movement: real bodies, real fitness, real people, real stories.

I refuse to hide my body from the world. I have worked too damn hard, had too many injuries, too many knee surgeries, and sweat through countless classes and trainings to let someone else tell me how to define my yoga practice and dictate whether my body is undesirable. This yoga challenging is where I take back the power. This yoga challenge is where I show the world that strong IS sexy and yoga is for everybody. Join me. Start baring it all—take your shirt off and join me #TheBodyMovement #DaretoBareitAll #TakeoffYOURshirt. Are you in, or are you in?

Find me on Instragram at arielle_miller, it’s time to start #TheBodyMovement self-love revolution and celebrate all bodies!

hand to foot

Go and Be Impressive

Settling back into real life and a routine since the wedding has been challenging. My eating and nutrition have been unrestrained and getting in regular workouts with errands and such just hasn’t happened. I’ve been feeling sluggish and out of shape. It’s amazing at how fast that happens, right? While working out today I felt tired but kept pushing. Despite the fact that today’s effort wasn’t my best display of athleticism, it certainly was the best I had in me in those very moments and that’s what really matters—being the best version of ourselves in the present moment.

My runs felt heavy but I kept pushing. I kept thinking to myself that I did this to myself and I can undo this to myself because I am strong and have the power to do it. Running, rowing, running, rowing. My arms no longer felt attached to my body. I battled to pump my arms while on the treadmill and sometimes I even had to straighten them out and whip them around myself because they were so fatigued from the rower. But I kept going. I was tired; no, I was exhausted but I kept going. And then I looked to my right. The guy next to me was losing steam. Normally, when I am working out for me, I turn off the Fitness Instructor so I can be present for me. But I don’t know, today it felt right and something in his face made me to turn to him and offer him simple words, “C’mon, you’ve got this.” I know all too well that a little encouragement can go a long way when you are down and out, so I figured; why not?

The man didn’t seem to hear me because he didn’t respond. I contemplated saying it again or something else but I didn’t. I redirected my energies to my legs that were seemingly still attached to my body and propelling themselves forward on the treadmill. Finally, the workout ended. The same man I ran next to came up to me after class and said “Thank you, I really needed that.” We chatted briefly and he told me he thought I was ‘so impressive’ and that he couldn’t keep up with my speed. He shared that he was inspired by my hard work and that my kind words in class helped him finish the workout.

Impressive, eh? Someone thought I was impressive?! And here it turns out that in order to be considered impressive all I had to do was be me and show a little compassion.

Go be you today. Go be friggen impressive and look over to a stranger tonight in class [yes, even in yoga] or anywhere, and tell them something nice and encouraging.

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.

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.

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?!

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.

relationship-quotes_carrie-bradshaw

 

 

Do we ever get a Do-Over?

As I was leaving the hair salon tonight, I noticed that in the 3 minutes my meter had expired I was getting a ticket. I stupidly ran into the street with my arms flailing screaming, “THAT’S ME! I’M COMING! THAT’S ME!!!!!”

Too late.

Ticket was already being written. The Meter Maid politely informed me that the first item that is entered is the license plate and that she had already done then and must write the ticket. I avoid eye contact as I feel tears welling behind my eyes (I am such a baby and cry over everything) and tell her I understand.

Then the Meter Maid pauses what she is doing. She looks at me, then tells me how much she likes my hair.

Me: “Thanks.”

The Meter Maid handed me the ticket and attempts to make small talk about how much purple is her power color and I notice that there is a softness and warmth to her voice. I am trying my hardest not to get sucked into hair talk because it’ll sure as hell ruin my newly sour mood so I am very short with her. Finally, she hands gives me the ticket and apologetically says, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Sorry for the inconvenience?! My meter expired. I got a ticket. I cop an attitude, and SHE’S sorry?! Though I didn’t know it at the time, I felt so exposed and almost shameful that I didn’t reciprocate this woman’s desire to connect with another human. So, let me just say I am not angry about the parking ticket. I fully own and accept that this whole thing was my fault in the first place. But what upsets me is that despite being 100% in the wrong, I was so consumed with rage that I didn’t get the opportunity to show this woman kindness in return.

But what I really I think is what makes me feel so crappy about this whole thing is that without her knowing it, she totally put me in check [hence this blog post] and I am grateful for it. Lesson learned.

Let’s face it, she has a shitty job in the respects that she probably encounters shitty people while giving them shitty parking tickets. It’s shitty, but it’s a job nonetheless. Regardless of her job and my role in all of this, this was the perfect time and place for me to make someone’s day just a little better and I blew it. I friggen blew it.

I want to apologize to the woman who gave me the ticket.

I want a second chance to run out of that salon to suck up my own stupid shit and joyfully talk about her power color, and my newly dyed locks (let’s face it, everyone knows how much I love talking about my purple hair). I want the opportunity to tell this woman that I try to live my life by leaving everyone I encounter with feelings of inspiration, joy, happiness, and confidence. I want that meter to expire just before I run into that street so I can practice what I preach and extend the same benevolence to this woman.

For what it’s worth, and though you will never see this, I am sorry I didn’t leave you with the best version of myself. I hope our paths cross again so that I can hopefully lift you up instead of being one of those shitty people while getting a shitty parking ticket.

Walking My Way

This evening I planned on taking a yoga class. But after my training session I emerged from my nap lethargic with a headache. So, despite really needing to go to yoga—I passed. Instead, I putted around the house for a while; creeped people’s social media then finally decided that I needed to get moving if I were going to hit those 10,000 steps that call to me on my Fitbit.

I tied my sneakers and bounded out the door with my Vega shake and cell phone in hand. I wanted to ditch the phone all together but knew I was trying to link up with Greg and he’d be calling, so my phone was along for the ride, but I intentionally didn’t bring headphones. I wanted to soak up life at my favorite time of day—dusk. I know many people look to the early morning hours and sunrise as representing hope and possibility, but for me the crispness of the evening air, people coming home from work, the laughter of children playing on their front lawns, and the sun slipping into the horizon hold the key to my personal hope.

I strode around my neighborhood of Studio City with my head up, off of a phone screen, noting the houses that surround our apartment complex. I made mental notes of the ones I loved with the Spanish style terracotta roofs, manicured walkways, and mature lush fruit trees.

I listened and even slowed my stroll to pause and appreciate the giggling of children scooting around the sidewalk in front of their houses and just playing. I smiled as I recalled growing up in Oceanside, New York with my family and playing outside with my sister until our parents bellowed our names “ARI!!!!!!! KASSII!!!!!! DINNER!!!!!!” from the front door signaling playtime was over.

People walked their dogs. I mean a lot of people were walking their dogs. There was a pep in people’s steps that I don’t recall ever noticing before. Was the calm of the evening promise responsible for such happiness? Or was I just too caught up in myself or looking into a phone screen that I never noticed the bustling community of my own neighborhood?

People smiled and I smiled back.

I felt empowered and I wasn’t even doing anything. I was just walking with nowhere to be, no destination—just walking. Strolling. Admiring. Savoring. Observing and fantasizing about the home that my soon-to-be husband Greg and I will one day share: I saw Greg getting out of a black SUV and walk up the path to our home, then through the front door to be greeted with a kiss and dinner. It was clearly a made-up moment but hey, the key to achieving our dreams is to visualize them and for me an eternal dreamer, though this moment only happened in my mind, something told me it felt right and would be within our reach.

There was a couple rollerblading. I actually passed them twice on my aimless meandering and smiled again as they held hands rollerblading and chatting. I think I even giggled to myself because I pondered, Is this still a thing? Do people still rollerblade? Wait. Do people still own rollerblades?!” Apparently the answers are yes but it doesn’t really matter because here was a couple doing something active, bonding, and enjoying each other’s company. Some people Crossfit, some run races, some cook dinner, and others rollerblade.

IMG_6565I admired the subtleties of the trees lining the streets and how on each street though indistinguishable from the other, each still looked and felt different because the foliage on each street had its own flair. These streets could have been Anywhere Road in Anywhere USA yet they felt deeply personal to me like these streets were mine.

The Hollywood Hills kissed the sky and embraced the evening as the lighted homes glistened in the distance looking down upon The Valley like a sage guardian.

I walked home and my Fitbit vibrated alerting me that I met my daily goal of 10,000 steps. I rubbed my wrist and thought God, I love this thing. Inspired by my desire to meet and exceed my daily steps my Fitbit led me to an adventure right outside my door. So maybe I wasn’t supposed to get my yoga on today and I was right where I needed to be, exploring, dreaming, and just being alone with myself in stillness.

The F Word

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Now is the time to regain control of my body and my mind. I am firmly making a commitment to actively start to embrace myself and love the outside parts of me the same way I love the bomb-ass insides of me.

To be completely honest, I am at a total loss when it comes to trying to figure out where my inability to be kind and love myself originated. I have spent YEARS trying to identify that once I graduated college, entered the workforce, and became a teacher how I literally become obsessed with being the best. On a level, my extreme perfectionism is what has made me great at what I do and has really catapulted me to success as both an English teacher and fitness instructor. However, my unrelenting standards of myself have led to me this crossroads where I berate myself for my self-perceived shortcomings. My mind is a battleground of hostility raping my thoughts of anything positive.

I hear what students, friends, and loved ones say, “Oh, but you’re so strong and all those races you run!” And to me the translation in my head is:

Strong is the new word for voluptuous. And last I checked, voluptuous implies a negative connotation that we want to believe is disguised as curvy which is simply put: A nice word for chubby, chunky, or unfit.

[See? I told you it was a mess up in that head of mine]

That being said, I embrace the cold hard fact that my outsides do not match my insides and despite this whole “Positive Body Image Movement” I am not happy with myself and I want to change it.

Recently, I hired a personal trainer. Befuddling to imagine that as a trainer and a group fitness instructor that I would hire someone to work me out when I am more then qualified and capable of working myself out. The reality is just that when it comes to taking care of me I am bad at that. I live my life to help catapult others to greatness. Being a teacher and coach IS who I am. But when it comes to me, though I am filled with intense drive, I just cannot find the will to rally for myself. In some respects my fuel for perfection keeps me going but when faced with lifting after teaching a cycling class, I cannot muster the energy to motivate myself. Having someone whom I trust with the care of my fragile ego of my physical-self is paramount in helping me find how to love the outside me. Not surprisingly, finding the right person to empower me was easy since between Greg and I we know and have access to some of LA’s top trainers—yaassssss. I feel so touched, honored, and blessed at the lengths and willingness so many people were willing to extend in working with me. Ultimately, I ended up selecting someone I greatly respect and admire. What’s more is I picked someone I knew would not allow me to trash myself.

My first session was great. It was fun and it was hard. Never inaccessibly hard but the right amount of rehabilitative exercises to strengthen my knee while combining intervals to help me burn fat. And then, while working on the TRX machine it hit me. Right smack in the middle of my workout I had an epiphany.

Not only now, but in recent years when working out I hold back. Don’t get me wrong, in Crossfit I RX (as prescribed without modifications) my workouts and I work hard at anything I tackle but there is this part of myself that keeps something inside, locked up, and reserved. First of all, why do I hold back? What am I afraid of? Why can’t I go just a little longer, a little harder, with a little more weight?

The answer is I am so terrified of failure that I let it paralyze me.

I feel like I have built myself up to the world [and myself] that not being able to do something and do it well means I am a failure.

I shared this thought with my trainer and she seconded the notion that she suffers from the same thoughts. I am glad I shared it because it helped me feel justified but what’s more is by sharing it, it allowed me to finally take control of my fears of failing. Once I said it, and put it out into the universe, I had to own it and there was no looking back. I don’t think that until that precise moment that I even knew I subconsciously held back. It just kind of manifested in that moment so blatantly reflecting my true-honest self back for me to see. So I looked.

I looked without judgment and I committed to myself right then and there to have the resolve to not fear falling short of my own expectations.

I feel like by calling out my fears head on, out loud in the world has already given me strength. It has already made me stronger than I was before.

Tomorrow I have my 2nd training session and for the very first time in a long time, there will be nowhere for me to hide. Just me, some sweat, and unbreakable resolve.

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Inner-cising is the New Exercising

We are officially 7 glorious days into the New Year and it’s a perfect time to take personal inventory of the goals and intentions we set forth just a mere week ago. So, how are you doing thus far? I know that some goals will take time to unfold but what about the nitty gritty of it all in disconnecting so you can reconnect to yourself? Have you been kind to yourself? Patient and welcoming of the process? Excited about the potential of the New Year as it unfolds? How have you started chipping away at carving out your life and the path you want to walk? At 7 days into the year, I will let you know how I am doing with my intentions:

I have been taking better care of myself. I suppose it’s easy to do when I am not in the classroom, but I have been taking really good wholesome care of my body. In the last 4 days alone I have taken 2 yoga classes, well kind of 3 but whatever.

The irony and curse of yoga instructors is that we hustle all across town to serve our students and in the madness of it all from creating playlists to cleverly beating LA traffic, our own practice sometimes gets put on hold. I have enjoyed this delightful time with my body. My surgery and knee injury have taught me so much.

Yoga Tune Up
Therapeutic Yoga Flow at Equinox Encino with Yoga Tune Up balls.

First, there is this almost hyper-awareness of everything going on in my body right now. At least when I practice yoga—not right now, I am just sitting on the couch writing this with a grumbling tummy and all I can focus on is eating…Hmmmm, maybe that awareness really has shifted into all arenas after all. Nonetheless, I digress. In my recent dances on the mat everything seems so much more precise. My inhales and exhales deliberate and my movement sacred. It’s a funny thing what limited mobility does to a person, it forces you to slow down and savor whatever movement you do have. What’s more is I had a conversation with one of my Group Fitness Manager’s at Equinox and she said something that really resonated with me. While sharing about coming back from an injury where she broke her foot, she recalled thinking to herself “Ohhhh, that’s how people feel in my class.” And then it struck me—I realized my injuries and coming back from them are what make me human and better what I do because I get it—I see you. I really see you.

One of the greatest gifts that this journey of healing and self-discovery has given me is a new lease on my perspective of compassion and empathy. Not that I didn’t employ such things before while teaching but like you, I break and need to repair myself. Like you, sometimes I am afraid to move my body because of how it will feel. And like you, right now I am not where I want to be.

This is our time to employ a true sense of community as we take 2015 by storm and we heal one another. In class we look to our right, then look to our left and we say “Hi” to whomever next to us. We support one another when we are down and elevate each other by just being present. Showing up and hitting our mat consistently is what continues to connect us to our essential self while allowing us to acquire the tools to help serve those around us. Each an every time I show up to class, I show up to heal myself twofold: physically and to take the tools I learn on the mat and share them with you. Let’s dig in, tap in, and work in as we inner-cise while exercising and employ self-love and kindness.