Category Archives: Commitment

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.

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.

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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Look Up, Help is On the Way

Before my cycling class at Equinox tonight, I overheard a young woman talking on her cell phone. She was reaching out to someone for motivation before her workout, as she didn’t want to attend the class for which she came to gym. The girl talked at length about needing to look better than this other girl who had an Audi and so on. I slowed my pre-class ritual and tapped into this young woman, yes, I was pseudo-eavesdropping. I wasn’t interested so much in what she was saying, it was how she was saying it.

I could hear the pain and frustration in this young lady’s voice and I knew it all too well. She was lost. She was seeking something and didn’t know what she was looking for and that’s when I realized that young woman on the phone was not a stranger, she was a reflection of a girl I knew very well and if I knew anything about this girl [ahem, me] she needed someone to extend an olive branch. So naturally when she was off the phone, I interjected with some unsolicited advice to a total stranger, in a locker room, about a situation to which I was not privy.

I learned that, let’s call her AJ, was talking to her father about her ex-girlfriend who used to belittle her appearance with comments like “If you worked out you’d look sooooooo much better” and “If you had lashes you’d look sooooooo much better” and now post break-up, AJ wants to take back some of the power she gave to her ex and prove to herself that she can do anything and be anything she wants on her own accord. AJ, a stunning, lean, blonde with a sweet and unsure smile, has a quiet way about her demeanor. Above all, I could tell instantly that this girl was fragile and needed something or someone strong to rock her world to show her just how powerful she is already. I knew that though she needed something big, she also needed tenderness.

As 5:30pm loomed, and I finished getting dressed, I encouraged her to sign up for my indoor cycling class. Ok, I coerced her but she snagged the last bike available and met me in the cycling room. It was AJ’s first time cycling and she was nervous. I set her up, helped ease her nerves, and introduced her to some of my regulars. AJ was now family.

We rode tonight, and we rode HARD. AJ never quit and she had a huge smile on her face the entire time. During class, I high-fived her, gave her kudos from the instructor podium, and after class she gushed about how much she enjoyed something she ‘never thought she could like’. But really, this isn’t about winning AJ over with my class. It is what she said after class when she quoted Plato, saying that my actions earlier in the locker room reminded her to:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

My charge in life is not limited to my work as an instructor or educator. I am a humanitarian. There was someone broken, and in need to be seen by someone. I am so glad I looked up from my own shit to see this young woman.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see AJ again. I sure hope I do. But as far as I am concerned, if I were able to ease her pain, even if just for a short time, or leave her feeling empowered and capable of fighting for herself then that’s a massive success.

I encourage you to pause from your own life.

Look up.

Look around.

Reach your hand out to someone who may need a little help taking that first step for him or herself.

I can assure you that you will be glad you did and hey, before you know it folks, maybe we can actually live the Pay It Forward Movement just by being there for someone, seeing someone, and letting others into our world.