Category Archives: Accountability

Life Happens, Learning Happens, + Life Still Happens

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 20: I am grateful for so much that I can’t keep up

If you know anything about me, you know I hate delivering anything other than the utmost of excellence in all that I do. So you can imagine that when I set out to tackle these 30 Days of Thankful and haven’t been able to deliver I have been left frustrated with myself for letting down my readers. I shared this frustration with my best friend Mali via text when discussing an amazing project she’s currently working on to help the homeless. Mali’s reply was:

Moving yourself to action is easy, moving others to act takes more work, but it has far more value. We all fall of our goals and life happens. You’ll get back to your blog and whatever you decide matters to inspire others.

Mali’s right. I can’t be too hard on myself and I also cannot make excuses. I think in some respects I deliberately choose to take on more because I enjoy being busy but because life is so much of a competition to me: how much can I do and not lose my mind? I think my outlook needs some tweaking though. The work I do on my blog, with my high school students, and as a fitness instructor isn’t about grand standing and showing the world how much I can do. It’s simply about being a friggen rad human.

A recent gift from a former student who traveled to Paris with her family for her 16th birthday

Recently, my work with my high school students has started to really pay off. I am feeling more utilized as a staff member on campus and I am even presenting things to the staff too. My students and I are delving into powerful material and concepts and I leave work thinking that somehow, somewhere I helped change someone’s perspective, attitude, and trajectory in life. Just this morning, my father said to me, “if you change just 5 people’s lives in the duration of your teaching career, that’s more than most people can ever say in their lifetime.” For the first time in a long time, I am slowly starting to see all of the joy that exists within my day. I find myself thinking, well, I don’t hate today; so I guess that’s a good thing.

Students choose to spend their free time in my classroom during nutrition (a type of recess in the early morning where the children are fed) and lunch. We talk about life, fashion, boys, and even books. We laugh and we giggle, and I inhale my food while monitoring those students I am holding for detention whilst preparing for the rest of the day. The bustle and hustle isn’t glamorous and most days my hair is in a ponytail, my clothes are wrinkled, and I look tired, very, very tired. But in spite of the system, the bad apples, and my bewilderment as to why kids don’t do their work; there is so much for me to be thankful and grateful.

  • 12191817_10100835396316121_7387359616663759758_nMy honors students share stories of their lives and performed poetry where they were very vulnerable i.e. drugs, suicide, death, etc. They’re unafraid to be themselves and our classroom has become a safe haven where we pretty much cry together on a daily basis. Just yesterday after student performances of their poetry a young lady said to me, “I’ve hoped and prayed for a class just like this one my entire life. I just can’t believe it’s actually coming true.”
  • My students bring me little gifts and trinkets when they take trips or see something they know I’ll like. One of my former students brought me back a beautiful Eiffel Tower statuette all the way from Paris! Another gave me a My Little Pony key chain ‘just because’. But it’s not about the gifts. It’s about someone going the distance to show you they thought of you and cared enough to express that. I’ve gotten many gifts over the years but in the last year, my students have gone to such incredible lengths to show me that they care about me that I cannot help but feel like I am so much more to them than ‘just their teacher’.
  • They’ve started calling me their “School Mom.”

And for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever in my entire career I feel like most of my students understand what I am all about: Hard work that is made of an iron will and being a good human. As far as I’m concerned, you can have the best grammar in the world and if you’re a shitty person it doesn’t matter. While character education was removed from early education years ago, it’s completely non-existent [and perhaps never even existed in the first place] at the high school level. As it is, teachers are scrambling to teach the required standards and some feel going beyond the said curriculum isn’t their responsibility. But I see that differently. Coaching and building decent people with compassion and critical thinking skills is priceless in comparison to the Periodic Table of Elements. Equipping students with the capability to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity, be kind to others, and that their words have great power to enact change—well, that’s what it means to be a teacher.

So I guess my [attempted] 30 Days of Thankful really has been fruitful. It has given me some great insight into my work as a teacher. It has forced me to step back and look at the world I’ve created for my students and the new perspective has shown me that I am swimming in blessings. Each and everyday, regardless of the situation or circumstance; I must continue to seek the hidden joys nestled within my classroom for they do exist if I choose to see them.

Live Your Truth

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 7: I am grateful for being able to lead, guide, teach, and grow others

I’ve been teaching group fitness for 3 ½ years. I have taught countless yoga and cycling classes, trained clients, and attended an innumerable amount of workshops and continuing education. And somehow in all this time not once have I ever been so inclined to actually lead a workshop all my own. People have urged me to lead a workshop, but really I was never inspired to actually lead one myself. I guess I shouldn’t say that I wasn’t inspired, rather so much as I was more insecure in what I could really offer participants looking to learn from me. Nevertheless, this all changed when I led a unique “wall class” when I was subbing at my studio and attendance was lighter.

Sweat Unleashed flyer AMCAfter class, two of my regular students [I hate calling them students because so many of them become my dear friends and these two souls are my friends] remarked how distinctive the format was and that I should turn it into a workshop. And such, with my confidence and faith in myself revived, Sweat Unleashed was born.

Sweat Unleashed, a 2-hour workout that fused intense handstand work and preparation on the wall to build strength and confidence; along side fun and funky arm balances and transitions. I wanted to share something more with participants that just teaching poses in isolation. One of my goals was to empower people to walk away with the capacity to transition in and out of more advanced asana (poses) during flows in class, I wanted to people to really take what we learning in my workshop back to their mat while practicing.

My message was clear, “Live your truth and live with intention. We are so much more than what the world sees, so do you, be you, and live your truth.”

Simply put, the workshop was amazing. We had almost 20 people show up on a Saturday night to challenge themselves in unimaginable ways. Participants wrote about themselves, reflected on quotes they were given, made new friends, worked with partners, and left with a whole bunch of deliciously challenging new things to incorporate into their practice.

unnamed-2In turn, I left the workshop proud of myself for putting myself out there and grateful I was able to share something I love with so many people. I was humbled and honored to be considered ‘the expert’ as I showed the group my favorite arm balances and strengthening exercises to make them stronger inside and out. Additionally, the love and support of my best friend Rachel, my husband Greg, and all of my regular students really helped foster my confidence to move forward with Sweat Unleashed.

And like I asked of participants in class to Live Their Truth, by leading this workshop and spreading nuggets of my perspective when it comes to yoga, fitness, and confidence; I too am Living My Truth. Just like my students learn from me, each and everyday I too learn from them. It was truly an amazing experience and I cannot wait to plan another workshop! See? You never know who will come into your life and push you towards greatness. With an open heart and an open mind the possibilities ARE endless!

I am My Father’s Daughter

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 5: I am grateful for the Lessons My Father Bestowed Upon Me           

 My father and I have a long history of not getting along. My father, a strong, loud and abrasive man is a Scorpio. Me, well I am a strong, loud, abrasive woman and I am a Gemini. Clearly, you can deduce that as a result of our incredibly similar dispositions that my childhood or more specifically, my teenage years were filled with explosive arguments. Often times as a teen my lack of self-control and vicious tongue landed me on some serious punishment to my room for days, maybe even weeks at a time.

unnamed-2Growing up in my house was pretty special. Our parents loved my sister and me dearly and our youth was filled with trips to Mexico and innovative birthday parties. Yet despite this, I detested my father. My father represented order and structure. He was strict with my sister and I; harder on me since I was the oldest. We weren’t allowed to have short hair, dye our hair, wear make up, have boyfriends, or even go on sleep over’s. My youth felt oppressive and during a time when all I wanted to do was desperately fit in, I felt stifled living under my parent’s regime.

My parents are your typical bluecollar folk. My father has an Associate’s Degree and my mother holds a high school diploma. We lived on Long Island in a suburb of Manhattan close to the beach in a modest house. We owned two cars, my sister and I had our own bedrooms, and we never went without food, clothes, or other essentials. My parents worked hard to give us a childhood where we could thrive. My parents let us be kids. I never babysat my younger sister and we always took vacations as a family. Family time was and continues to be paramount. We prepared and ate dinner together every single night. Regardless of being grounded, there was no ‘eating in our bedrooms,’ so I had to face my parents even when I loathed the face time. Dinnertime was family time. Even now, well into my adulthood if I am visiting and I am not going to be home for dinner, I still have to let my parents know.

My father was always self-employed in advertising or other endeavors but he mostly he dabbled computers when I was younger. My father’s was different than my mom’s since she commuted into NYC daily and my dad left for work around 9am after a leisurely breakfast and Howard Stern.

unnamed-3Eventually, my father’s business ventures tanked and his business went bankrupt. My father was out of work for about 2 years. We never knew how bad things really were for my parents with creditors calling the house seeking to collect debts. My parents did an exceptional job shielding us from their financial woes. Everyday, my father got my sister and I ready for school: he cooked us breakfast, diligently did our hair (my mom taught my dad how to make ponytails for us!), and drove us to school. When dropping us off at school, my father always made sure we hugged and kissed him goodbye. As we got older this ritual made us insecure and embarrassed so we tried to evade this by running out of the minivan as fast as possible. My father, never one to go down without a fight would roll down the car window and call to my sister and I, mortifying us in front of our peers. Sometimes, he even would walk us into school, lift us up and kiss our faces making a spectacle of his love for us. At the time, we wanted to die. It was horrific to have your parent, nonetheless your stay-at-home dad humiliate you in school.

Growing up I knew I was different than my friends because we shopped at Payless and Marshall’s and TJ Maxx before it was ‘cool to get a bargain’. My school projects while incredibly unique were comprised of making soap sculptures and other ingenuity that further alienated me from me peers. I still remember one birthday in particular, I don’t know how old I was turning and I don’t even remember who was there. All I remember was what we did to circumvent the fact my parents couldn’t afford to host a party at one of the hip hot spots around town. My father printed and copied outlines off the computer of animals and landscapes. Then we went to supermarket and bought all sorts of dried beans in assorted colors, shapes and sizes. The beans were placed in bowls on the dining room table with bountiful amounts of Elmer’s glue. We glued the beans onto the pictures my father printed but it didn’t stop there. We also each made our own English Muffin pizza bagel! It was creative and obviously tons of fun but again, I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t be like everyone else.

Why couldn’t we have more money? But really, money aside, I just wished my father would be like everyone else’s parents: liberal, lax, and let us listen to Z100 in the car instead of oldies. I acted out. I was ungrateful and angry. I cursed at my parents and I am ashamed to say it, even spit in their faces a handful of times. Filled with rage I went off to college then moved to Los Angeles immediately thereafter. I started my life on my terms, far far far away from that Long Island home as an English teacher for LA Unified. As I started my journey as a teacher, my father’s structure, high standards, passion, confidence, and individuality were wildly apparent. My thick skin to Own My Awesome and be proud of who I am permeated into all facets of my life. Still present today as I mentor youth and inspire people in my fitness classes; the lessons of my father live on.

My father taught me how to be your own person. Abba, which is Hebrew for father, never played by anybody else’s rules. I suppose he didn’t play because he couldn’t. Abba is just too much of a revolutionary and visionary to follow anyone else; he must lead. From my expressive choices in hair color, to my bohemian style of dress, to my quirks as a teacher—my father’s influence on the woman I have become is obvious: I am my father’s daughter.

Strong, loud, and abrasive.

No one defines me or can tell me to play by the rules.

Recently a colleague of mine remarked, “You’re like a walking art project!” My confidence and strong sense of self was cultivated in my youth by my Abba who simply lived his truth. I didn’t know it at the time, but my father established a strong set of morals within me by simply being himself.

unnamed-1I owe all that I am to my father and his ability to stand tall amongst a sea of followers and march to the tune of his own drum. I am thankful that the lessons of my youth shaped me into a fiery force.

I am my father’s daughter.

Happy 62nd Birthday Abba. I love you more than words [I guess pun intended].

I am Grateful for My Husband

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 4: I am grateful for my husband

My husband Greg is my biggest fan. Every time I write a new blog post, he’s sure to be the first person to let me know how much he enjoyed what I wrote. Greg also is the only person who constantly asks when I am going to write about him. Well, Greg, this one’s for you.11822820_10152957373526176_6482384569058165266_n

As I mentioned in Thirty Days of Thankful, Day 1, this whole 30 Days of Thankful emerged from my need to self-medicate my boredom and frustrations with my professional life. I knew that I needed to gain perspective and in order to do so, taking a look at the many blessings in my life would help me gain some clarity. Now, I’m only 4 days in so there obviously hasn’t been a major shift as of yet, but I am enjoying protecting my time to write each and everyday.

Moreover, I think that this process is bringing me closer to my husband because I am sharing so much with the world but also with him. I am opening up and being completely vulnerable about my deepest and most intimate thoughts about myself, even the ugly, dark parts. In particular, the last few days have been hard because Greg was in San Diego for work. Greg’s absence wasn’t so much the issue as was being hungry. I barely ate while he was gone since Greg does all the cooking! No matter how long his day, how far he drove; like a machine Greg arrives home from work and immediately starts cooking so that when I walk through the door, dinner is ready.

11013280_10100758970099871_65938193947997885_nI am continually inspired by the selflessness of my husband when it comes to investing in our marriage and our love. But Greg doesn’t just nourish me to sustain my physical-self. It’s so much more than that because he feeds my soul by supporting me when I need it most. He doesn’t cower or recoil when I have a meltdown about my job. He listens to me and holds my hand when I share stories, aka nightmares about working in an urban school. He offers insight, help, and always poses solutions. Greg emails me inspirational quotes, always shares what he learns at trainings and seminars, and even offers to help me exit education ‘if that’ll make me happy’.

So when I think I’ve got it so bad and things are not working out, I remember that my husband believes in me and I can’t let him down. Greg draws his strength from me and I in turn, draw mine from him. Our love and relationship is one of balance; Greg grounds me when I get caught up in myself. And conversely, I help Greg live out loud a little and get outside of his comfort zone. But more importantly, everyday my husband reminds me that true love means working in tandem to ensure each one of us is better for one another and the world than we were the day before. Truly, we really are Team Awesome. Marriage like any relationship is about push—pull and Greg is my push and my pull because Lord knows each and everyday with me is surely an adventure!


I am Grateful for New Adventures in Fitness

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 3: I am grateful for new adventures in fitness

People always ask me how I “do it all” from running, to indoor cycling, to yoga, to HIIT workouts, to surfing, to soccer, to Spartan Races, to Ragnar, and now a half marathon [that my husband I have not really started training for]. And to the world as a result of social media it sure does seem like I am successfully doing it all but really, what I am doing is a whole lotta everything and not truly delving too deep into anything because I’ve got my hand in too many pots.

For the entire time I have known my husband Greg, he has always tried to steer my energies towards my yoga practice and teaching. Greg subscribes to being a specialist as an instructor, yet the irony is he teaches EVERYTHING and excels. Well, do as I say not as I do, right? Though I definitely agree with Greg’s ideals, just practicing and teaching yoga would be leaving my soul devoid of so much more that I thrive on from when running, lifting, racing, and feeling the pulse pounding music in my veins: Competition.

So recently, when visiting my best friend Mali in San Diego when her boyfriend Kam astutely observed that I need something to light my heart on fire; to train for that was solely for me without the need to be the best per say; I took it as a sign. I decided it was time to pick myself up out of this “I dunno what I want and like to do” funk and seek out my long time friend Courtney who’s a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I decided I was going to try something so radically new and different and see if TKD could start to replace the missing pieces of my soul.

Last night was my first time ever in any sort of martial arts gym, studio, dojo, facility, whatever, you get the point. Immediately, I liked the pants because they’re baggy and shapeless, just how I like my clothes to mask my body from the world. I reveled in the hierarchy of the whole thing—bowing when entering the floor, when leaving, before a match, and after. TKD had definitely piqued my interest as I watched fighters gracefully engage in what looked like a well-choreographed dance. I was utterly clueless, that’s for sure; but I could not stop watching in awe. It was enigmatic and captivating.

Class started.

While Courtney insisted it was a beginner’s class all of a sudden, these nationally ranked fighters showed up. My heart started to race. I was petrified of failing, looking like a fool, and doing it wrong. As it turned out, these competitive fighters were getting in some last minute training for a fight that’s coming up this weekend.

The warm up started off easy enough with jogging and some stretches. I got this, I thought to myself. And then Master Villa lined us up to do some stuff. I say stuff because most of the time there’s tons of inaudible shouting and modeling and then you’re off! Do it or we all do squats. Kicks, pivoting, and some more bizarre hopping around then kicking aaaaaaand I am dead last in everything. Hot with embarrassment I wanted to hide. Never in my life have I ever been on such display and felt like I was so out of place. I felt exposed and inadequate and wanted to so desperately plead with the others “But I can be athletic! This just isn’t my sport!” But then Master Villa made the group cheer for me and I built myself back up, “Don’t quit. Be kind to yourself. Everyone starts somewhere. Yes, YOU CAN.”

We sparred and worked on technique. I got to kick paddles and while working with Courtney I asked a million questions and I loved it. I felt the stability of my yoga practice in roundhouse kicks and I was grateful my hips cooperated. I felt strong and though at times I was awkward, not once during the almost 2 hour class [yes, almost 2 hours] did I give up. I worked through my own issues with feeling like I didn’t belong and today: the tops of my feet are raw and tender from the sparring and paddles. I felt empowered that I tried something new. After I got over myself and out of my own way, I loved each and every moment. Now I can’t wait until the next time I can go back and live grossly out of my comfort zone; for if you never try, you’ll never know.

Greatness never comes from comfort zones. Forge a new adventure, for the most meaningful journey you’ll ever lead in this life is the one with yourself.

Join the 30 Days of Thankful Challenge!

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.

I am Grateful for Coffee

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 2: I am grateful for coffee 

Every morning, the first thing I do before even going to the bathroom is turn on my Keurig coffee maker. I make precisely one large cup of coffee with 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar and almond milk. This simple pleasure is one that brings me great joy. Each and every morning, like clockwork, I indulge in the same flavor of organic all natural coffee with no artificial flavors and it never gets old. In particular, my favorite part of my morning ritual is the stillness and utter silence before the madness of children running through my doors, the loud music of my fitness classes, and the chaos of sweat in my workouts. Clutching my coffee, I browse my social media, read emails, and often write for my blog.

coffee cup from cleaIn addition for being grateful for coffee today, I am so honored that one of my 10th graders brought me coffee this morning. Clea stopped by my classroom while on the way to 1st period to bring me a dairy free, naturally flavored caffeinated beverage that she made at the coffee shop where she works. Humbled by the gesture, Clea inspired my thanks today [and reminded me that in spite of today’s youth and their shortcomings, there is hope].

Happiness doesn’t need to be lavish or complicated. And though our routines sometimes can get stale, try to find the pleasure in what we do and why we do it.

Join the 30 Days of Thankful Challenge!

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.


Thirty Days of Thankful, Day 1

Now seems like as good as anytime to start chronicling my gratitude. No, I didn’t pick the month of November because it houses Thanksgiving and our obligatory time to give thanks. I picked November because right now in this moment and really for sometime, I have been feeling depleted, defeated, and frankly depressed [I think]. I am completely restless in all aspects of my life except with my relationship with my husband. We are blissfully in love and happy. As a matter of fact, I often think if we lived alone on an isolated island together all would be right in my world; but alas we don’t.

Recently, my husband transitioned full time into the fitness arena. He is now an Area Group Fitness Manager for 24 Hour Fitness and we are also moving. There’s a lot of change and upheaval in our lives and while I thrive on major changes and love them, something for me is just off. Often I feel myself not looking forward to doing the things I thought for so long I loved and while I am trying to find my place in this world it seems just when I take a step forward, I then take two steps backwards, sideways or hell, in a circle. And though I recognize this dance is life, the woman I want to so desperately be has no friggen clue who she is; nonetheless wants to be. I feel lost, impatient, and above all, I feel bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.

So, to help combat what I can sense could potentially be a hugely dramatic downward spiral I have decided to try to fight my feelings with gratitude. I am committing to daily blogging for the month of November sharing the good in my life, the joy, the light, and all the small smiles.

In the words of my dear friend and fellow yoga instructor Brianna, “gratitude is always a good thing to hang out with.”

Day 1: I am grateful for my students

Recently, I asked my students to complete a reflection for their 1st marking period grades. There was an optional question that was designed to serve as a personal dialogue directly to me discussing, explaining, or conveying something should the students so desire.

Here are just a few of the highlights (click on the picture to enlarge it). I intentionally took pictures of them and said to myself, “Arielle save these. Remember how you feel in this moment for when you feel alone and beaten down, these shall pick you back up.”

Student response 4 Student response 8 Student response 7 Student response 6 unnamed Student response 5 Minji reflection Clea reflection

If you would like to join me over the next 30 days, here’s the challenge:

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.

Now, start giving thanks!

Freedom from Our Stories

Learning in any capacity is such a gift. So when I have the opportunity and the funds permit it, I soak up as much as I can so that I can continue to grow and evolve. This past weekend at my yoga studio One Down Dog we hosted Gaiam yoga instructor Clara Roberts-Oss. Currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia Clara is a gift to the yoga world; leading retreats, workshops, and teacher trainings all over the world. Her no-nonsense approaches to educating teachers and realism with respects to yoga make Clara special.

Exactly one year ago, I met Clara when she visited LA to lead a weekend-long workshop. It was a transformative 3-days for me. Surrounded by friends and fellow instructors from the studio we soaked up Clara’s knowledge and enthusiastically brought it back to share with the students in our classes. But it’s not just Clara’s knowledge that makes her so special. Often, workshops and trainings for yoga instructors turn into a ‘look at me’ display of complicated asana and inaccessible poses. Not with Clara. While we explored and learned all about how to teach fancy arm balances and challenging poses like scorpion and variations of forearm stand, never did Clara post up for us to gaze upon her practice. As needed, Clara showed us things. But this workshop, as with the one I took one year ago was about our learning, MY learning—how to master these poses for myself and how to incorporate them into my classes.

Clara is a breath of real fresh air in a community that is saturated with yogi’s that were dancers, gymnasts, and contortionists modeling poses that most could only dream about. Her social media outlets are humble and rarely updated. Clara doesn’t play the game so many of us [myself included] get sucked into of posting yoga pictures with the hopes of being Instagram famous. But she’s no shrinking violet either. Real, gritty, and fearless, Clara speaks to each and every participant on their level. Simply, Clara is Clara

For me, someone like Clara is what I need in my life and my practice. I wish more than anything she were based here in LA because right now, I don’t have a teacher and I haven’t had one in YEARS. I feel so lost right now, fumbling through my professional life as teacher and not having a stable yoga home to practice or a teacher to guide me. This instability within my heart at work and on my mat only compounds my listlessness. I am desperately seeking some sort of peace juxtaposed with growth and I don’t know where to find it—at least for a weekend I was able to soak in as much of Clara as I could to recharge for some time. Click here to check out something awesome I learned this weekend, or watch the video below.

Clara isn’t like a stereotypical yoga instructor inviting you to dump your life’s shit on her so she can help you rediscover yourself. She makes you do all the work. Basically, Clara’s approach:

Here’s the work you need to do, do it.

Clara assisting me in a forearm stand variation: look closely–my palms are turned up as opposed to down

Specifically, while Clara was teaching us how to fall out of forearm stand I raised my hand and told her I can’t kick up on my bad leg since I’m missing my meniscus. Clara looked at me and in front of the group says “I don’t see why you can’t kick up with that leg. You’re just choosing not to.” Touché. So, while my right leg is not my strong side or pretty side, I practiced both sides where normally in my own practice, I don’t. I don’t practice much of my asana on my right side not because I am physically unable, but because it’s not seamless, pretty, or easy. Clara’s directness shoots straight to my heart. She knows that I don’t need soft coddling. I am an athlete. I don’t respond to hugs and gentle nudging. I need to be barked at, pushed, and sometimes shit talked. Don’t coach or stroke my ego—tell me I can do it, and I will; which is exactly what happened shortly thereafter.

Falling is scary. It’s horrible enough when you don’t expect it, but actually trying to fall?! Now, that’s a whole new experience. We learned how to fall out of forearm stand—split the legs, bend the leg that’s over your head, and TA-DA! You’re over! WHOA. NO WAY. I don’t have the shoulder mobility, I have an ugly wheel practice, my body just won’t bend that way.

As a yogi, I am incredibly fear based and petrified of falling. I started rambling audibly about my fears—rattling off every injury I have had from my zillion knee surgeries to the narrowing in my L4 & L5…

Clara overheard me and from across the room matter-of-factly states:

“We get so caught up in our story. Stop thinking. You’re thinking way too much. Combat your fears and just do it. Go. Now. We are all watching.”

I didn’t think. Clara told me to do it, she knew I could do it, and I did. Forearm stand, legs split, and down I went and pretty darn gracefully too. I could have cried right in that very movement for I cannot recall in a long while feeling as victorious as I did in that moment.

While I am certain Clara is unaware of her effect on me; her direct, shut up and do it, approach is precisely the kind of yoga love I need and desperately crave. While we don’t know each other well and I know virtually nothing about Clara personally, I feel very connected to her, safe, and empowered.

unnamedI learned so much about myself in the weekend I spent with Clara. But for me the most influential lessons I am taking away with me is to not get too caught up in “Our Story.” As people, we use our stories to define us, victimize ourselves, rationalize behavior, or as excuses. We give ourselves the permission to opt out by using our stories as a hindrance. Unfortunately, we use our stories to imprison ourselves and that needs to stop. As my mother put it when I shared this anecdote with her, “It’s human nature”. And I agree with my mother it’s human nature, but it doesn’t have to be. We have the ability to change our mindset and ultimately change our lives should we want.

It’s time we all start writing a different story, one where you’re the hero of the story and nothing stands in your way. Are you ready to join me? Because I know I want this story to have a very different ending and I have already started rewriting my tale. You hold the pen, together we can tell a different story—now, don’t just start writing, start DOING.

To Be a Woman

While working in the professional world I’ve learned that as a woman with a well-developed derrière and what society likes to call “curves,” I must not wear any sort of form-fitting clothing to work. Society has conditioned others to view my body as sexy when in reality my physical-self is just that; a shell that warehouses my mental, social, and emotional-self, but the world doesn’t see any of that. The world or shall I say men, only see a short girl with a fat ass and for some reason that’s carte blanche for men to comment, heckle, and harass me and other women alike.

While leaving campus today at around 4:15pm, I saw a group of young men congregating near the only exit available to me to leave. Throughout my years in education, I have become increasingly aware of my body and sadly uncomfortable by it. Walking the crowded halls of a campus through throngs of adolescent men has taught me to walk briskly, head down, and at all costs; avoid groups of young men if I want to minimize the onslaught of unwelcomed sexual advances, comments, and cat-calling. Today was no different.

Grab your phone.

Look down.

Appear busy.

Move deftly.

Do not make eye contact.

Must get to car as fast as possible.

As I approached the circle of boys, I recognized a few faces from the halls but I didn’t know any of their names. A boy sharply shouted, “MIZZZZ MILLER!”

I pretended to ignore them as they weren’t my students and I didn’t know them.

Grab your phone.

Look down.

Appear busy.

Move deftly.

Do not make eye contact.

Must get to car as fast as possible.

Finally, an anonymous male voice from the crowd:

“Look at all that booty.”

Immediately, the words accosted my ears. And right then and there every single fiber of my being tightened, my face reddened, and I felt naked and completely exposed. Time seemed to slow and halt in a stillness that felt like eons as I ruminated over my response and how to react.

I contemplated mouthing off to the boys, demanding who was responsible, and asserting my teacher-ness but alas, I did not. Instead, I felt intense shame for my body. I was embarrassed and hyper aware of my butt—was it jiggling? Can they see it? What are they thinking as they watch me walk to my car?

Was this really happening to me?! Again?!

Hot with shame, and feeling grossly exposed, I didn’t stand up for myself. I was paralyzed. My body and my mind couldn’t respond.

By the time I got to my car, I was crying. I opened my car door and sat sobbing in the stale warm air of my car while I replayed the incident in my head. I felt disgusted with myself, and my body all because I am a woman.

What the fuck has happened here?! How is it that as the victim of sexual harassment I am blaming myself?! Wrought with guilt for what may appear to someone as not a big deal, I skipped my workout, and cried the entire 20-minute drive back to my house.

There is something seriously wrong with how women are perceived in our culture. For years I have ensured that I do not wear anything to work that alludes to my womanly figure because women with bodies are considered ‘voluptuous’, sexy, and temptresses. First off, that’s bullshit. Second, I work hard for my body. It’s lean, muscular, and something I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about. But when skinny, tall, and lanky women wear fitted clothes, they’re not seen as sex objects. I don’t get it. It really doesn’t make any sense to me—we emulate the model-like body in beauty magazines and Hollywood, but somehow a curvy woman’s physique is considered sensual??? Someone PLEASE explain this to me.

Here’s what I know: I am not letting what happened today on campus die with me.

My silence would only affirm that if women do not stand up and speak up for themselves, nothing is going to change. While I may not have spoken up for myself at the time, I refuse to stand idly by to misogyny and sexual harassment at my school or in society.

Together we must take a stand and speak out against such verbal assaults against women. And while I may have been silenced once by my own insecurities, I am stronger now.

I am ready.

Reboot, Restart, Reconnect, Rediscover

Today is the most holy of holy days in the Jewish religion: Yom Kippur. Many are familiar with it as the Day of Atonement where Jews repent their sins, recognize their sins, and ask God for forgiveness while fasting in an effort to keep Jews reflective and uncomfortable. At least up until last night, that’s what I have always taken away from it. However, since I have been old enough to make my own decisions, I have not gone to synagogue nor observed the holiday, or any Jewish holiday for that matter. Since leaving the comfort of my parent’s home at 18 I ran as far away from my Jewish faith as I could. I wanted to define my faith; if I even wanted a faith, and no one was going to force me to do anything I didn’t want to do [something’s never change]. For the last 15 or 16 years or so, I wouldn’t define myself as faithless but more so as confused. Confused about what it meant to be an American Jew and what it meant to really call myself a Jew.

A few years back, I found yoga and yoga nurtured and continues to nurture a very spiritual aspect of my life but yoga is not a religion. While Buddhism and much of its principles are present in my life and resonate with me, I am not a Buddhist. Lord knows I put way too much emphasis on where my yoga pants are from to ever really practice non-attachment. That said, I’ve always been a Jew.

A tattooed, non-practicing, never-dated-a-Jewish-guy until I married one kind of Jew.

Two years ago when I met my husband Greg, being Jewish suddenly became important to me. Maybe because he’s a Cohen and I had to look up the religious significance of what “Being a Cohen” meant, but when our relationship got serious and we started the path towards marriage we agreed that we wanted to be as Jewish as we could within the parameters of our lives. In a nutshell, we wanted to delve into our Jewish faith together as a married couple, dip our big toes into the pool, and test the waters of our faith.

Instrumental in guiding us towards this journey of self-discovery was our Rabbi, Sarah Bassin. The Rabs as we like to call her was and continues to be a pivotal person in our lives as our spiritual advisor and friend. She listens to our frustrations with the faith and nudges into the right directions while not pushing us too hard for she knows we will just write it off. This year, we couldn’t afford to rejoin our temple and we both really wanted to attend services to see what being Jewish as adults was all about. The Rabs gifted us High Holy Day tickets providing we give a donation we can afford which we gladly did last night on Kol Nidre.

While the reform movement has adopted a new prayer book, one that is entirely foreign to me and a little too untraditional for my taste, being in temple the last few weeks has been transformative. Last night while attending Kol Nidre services, my husband and I shared tears together during Rabbi Laura Geller’s sermon. I was so moved by her words I took notes on my phone to recall them to share today. And while I am sure I cannot do her sermon justice, here’s what I took away from coming back to my faith on the High Holy days as an adult:

Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur are solemn and a time where we recognize our sins. It is the time where we acknowledge our figurative death and make peace with our mortality but it’s more than that. It is a time of rebirth. It is a time to clean out our hard drives, delete what we no longer need, upload what we want and hope for, and start a new. Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur are about erasing everything, getting rid of what we no longer need that’s slowing down our hard drive, and finally having a fresh new start with a clean slate.

Like in yoga we experience a figurative death and rebirth in our final rest of savasana.

In mythology, the Phoenix experiences a fiery death and re-emergence to only rise again more beautiful and stronger than before.

And in Judaism, God gives us the same opportunity to do so, we are afforded the same opportunity to stop, reset, and start again should we choose to do so. And like in yoga and with the Phoenix, Judaism says that there is no shame is starting over or again, for it means you were courageous enough to have a real and honest dialogue with yourself to start over. And no matter where we are in our process of honoring ourselves, God hears us all and honors us.

I clutched the hand of my husband last night while surrounded by hundreds of other Jews. I looked down at his fingers intertwined in mine and then I continued to feel awe for my people. Filled with pride and then overwhelmed by intense shame, I thought to myself 6 million Jews died for this and I couldn’t even get my ass to synagogue?! And then I was proud, because Hitler did not succeed—we are still here.

Finally, at the end of the service, people shared stories with the congregation of how much Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills meant to their families. Greg and I both continued to shed tears of powerful connectedness to our fellow congregants. And though we are just finding and figuring out our faith, we are inspired and hopeful to bring Judaism into our home and make space for it to reside in our hearts. No, we are not observing the holidays the way many do. But we are taking the steps to be better Jews to keep our faith alive. The Rabs has tantalized our interest in Judaism and while we are a long way from bathing in the pool of our faith, as I interpret the New Year and Yom Kippur to symbolize, we are deleting things to make space for the hope of our religion and heritage to thrive on our terms.