Confronting my Essential Self

After the response I received on Facebook with respects to a status about returning to the classroom to teach for my 10th year [wow when did I get old?!], I decided to elaborate upon it here on my blog.

Two years ago, I walked away from teaching. My fitness career was taking off. I was being offered more classes than I could keep up with and I was just DONE with education.

I was over it all. Over waking up early, grading papers, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, parental atrocities, LAUSD, unrelenting, unfair, and unrealistic legislation, and finally, the disenfranchised youth.  When I left the classroom, I couldn’t get out fast enough. I was checked out. I was burned out, beaten down, and I felt as if I had nothing more to give.

I spent my summer post education hustling to line up as many jobs, classes, and opportunities as possible. Finally, in what seemed like the break of a lifetime, I was approached and hired as the Lead Instructor and General Manager of a brand new cycling studio by a young woman who read my [old] blog. I thought to myself I hit the big time with this gig: salary, eventually paid vacation and sick time and indoor cycling all day, everyday.

I was elated that I was now going to have more autonomy over my life and schedule. I could finally teach classes during the day, sleep later, train all day, stay up later, and really live fitness.

As summer ended and the new school year rolled around, I read my friends posts about their first days. An overwhelming sense of “HAHAHA SUCKEERRSSSSS” came over me. I refused to ‘like’ their statuses because now I was no longer a teacher: I got out. I took a stand. I stuck it to those kids, the school, and the district.

Ugh. Sometimes I am angry at myself for the things I think. Really, what about a little grace and humility?

It didn’t take long for me to dislike working at the cycling studio. Everything about it just wasn’t me. Sure, I have the capacity to manage but is it really me? I was ALWAYS on call: morning, noon, and night. If my boss called, I answered. If she emailed, I replied. I was working tirelessly to build someone else’s business with my unique and innovative ideas while laboring over manuals, scheduling, learning new computer programs, and hiring instructors. I spent my days in stretchy pants as yet another faceless LA cliché writing on a laptop in a Starbucks.

Eventually, as the opening of the cycling studio neared I had to sub out more and more yoga classes. Finally, I was asked to give up my classes at One Down Dog so that I could be more available for the cycling studio. Well, if you know anything about me, you know that One Down Dog is not just some place where I teach yoga. As one of the original instructors who helped open the place, it is my home. One Down Dog is a sanctuary, my family, and happy place. As time unfolded, it seemed that what I wanted this job to be and what it ended up becoming were grossly misaligned to my needs, desires, and heart’s passions. Yet, in the midst of this all, I repeatedly told myself that this is the work I wanted to do, in the industry I wanted to work in, so I kept at it.

I was miserable but I refused to admit that to myself because in my eyes, accepting that I wasn’t happy meant that I had failed at something I had set out to do.

As many of you will agree, in most cases, the grass really isn’t greener. It’s a funny thing how we want what we want, even if we don’t know what it is what we want [that's a mouth full, read it again slowly and think about it]. Everything I thought I once wanted, when I finally got it still seemed as if something was missing. And for one thing, I sure as hell wasn’t any happier than when I was in the classroom.

I learned so much about myself while I was away from the classroom. First, I learned I missed the structure of the day and school year. Yea, that structure I so desperately tried to rebel against? Yup. Turns out I need it and I like it. I missed seeing my students smile when I came to support them at sporting events, musical performances, or took an interest in their personal lives. And to be completely honest, I missed the certainty of my paycheck.

With all these things swirling around in my mind and life in February while out to dinner, Greg suggested I look into teaching again because ‘it’s my life’s work’. I threw a fit, stormed out of the restaurant before our food even arrived and I tried to break up with him. I know, immature. But what you need to understand is I was so paralyzed by my denial and inability to accept that I may have made the wrong choice that I lacked clarity. Besides, I gloated and boastfully poked fun at my friends still teaching about parent conferences, back to school nights, and LAUSD drama. How could I go back to the classroom and not look like a failure?

And then, I just did it. I went out, looked for a job and got one. I mean who am I living this life for anyway? I needed to just get back out there, do me, and not worry or care what the world would think of me going back to the classroom. As fate would have it, I applied to Helen Bernstein High School on a Wednesday afternoon, interviewed Thursday morning and was hired on the spot. I started work the following Monday.

And just like that, I was thrown back into teaching. Head first, I jumped into high school and soaked up the material, the kids, and the culture. From the instant I walked onto campus I felt like I belonged. There is a very real and palpable energy in a school that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. I cannot even put my finger on what it is, but there is something magical about a school campus and in a classroom. Maybe it’s all that possibility of what’s ahead. But those walls, those halls, and those buildings speak to me like nothing I have experienced in my life. I kid you not, when I talk about how I feel about my work and my students, many times I tear up from the emotions surging through my body.

With great risk comes great return.

I firmly believe you MUST take a chance on yourself and life when it calls to you. I do not regret leaving the classroom for a second. Taking time off allowed me to find a renewed sense of passion and faith in the process and my work. And what’s more, leaving the classroom allowed me to get a little closer to myself. I stopped running, hiding, and denying who I really am. After one of my cycling classes, a friend of mine who is a respected yoga instructor said to me:

“In class, you always tell us to stop running from ourselves and to be courageous in confronting our most essential self. So, why are you so afraid? Why are you running away from teaching? Why are you refusing to be your most essential self?”

Needless to say, that conversation took place after my last class at the cycling studio. It was all I needed to give me the confidence to head back with zero doubts. With the support of friends, family, and a loving man by my side I started a teaching assignment in late February 2014. And if you ask me, aside from saying YES to marry Greg, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

I have found myself again.

I have found a home at Helen Bernstein High School.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, if you’re wondering what I think of myself: Do I think I failed in the fitness industry? Do I feel like I couldn’t hack it? Pffffffff, heeelllllllllll no. I went back to the classroom because I wanted to leave a legacy behind in this world. I wanted to leave this planet a better place than when I came into this world. I wanted to dare myself everyday to leave an indelible mark on this Earth. And I do. I do it all. I teach kids. I teach adults. I make playlists and I grade papers. I still wear stretchy pants to work though I think my principal would prefer I don’t. Whether in fitness or in my classroom, we cry, we laugh, we smile, but above all–we connect.

 

For those of you who missed it, below is the post from my Facebook on August 11, 2014 that inspired this blog entry:

It is the eve before my 10th first day of school as an educator. One year ago, I was not returning to the classroom as I pursued my passions in fitness in yoga and cycling.
As life would have it, at a little more than half way through last school year; I landed back in a classroom at a high school in Hollywood.
For years, I have grappled with being an educator. Despite awards, great successes, and my ability to inspire urban youth to achieve, I ran away from my essential self. Like a coward, I fled and cultivated other strengths and interests–anything to not be a teacher. I spent years ashamed of being an educator, hiding and running from who I really was at my core. When asked what I did for a living my response always was, “I am a fitness instructor.” However, that all changed when I landed at Helen Bernstein High School.
After 8 years in a middle school setting, I now know that I am a high school teacher.
I AM AN ENGLISH TEACHER.
I am an English teacher and I am damn proud of the work I do but most of all, I am honored to serve the most incredible youth in this city.
It took leaving education, a new principal taking a chance on this mysterious girl with purple hair who materialized mid-school year for me to find myself again.
I am an English teacher.

Yes, I love teaching fitness and that is a huge part of my life and who I am. But strip me down and my heart beats for those kids whose lives will be forever altered by being students in my class. There is nothing more valuable in this world than being THAT person to help a young person be the first individual in his/her family to graduate high school or go to college. For many of my students, my classroom is a haven for them to feel safe, nurtured, and pushed beyond what they ever imagined was possible. Together, my students and I are strong and together we can accomplish anything.

I am an English teacher.
I am an English teacher.
I am an English teacher and tomorrow is my first day of school and I can’t wait.

Inner Monologue Of A Spin Class Student

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Arielle:

As an indoor cycling instructor, I know what it’s like to be in class and in the zone. Like any fitness activity one engages in (like running) the inner-dialogue and journey is often hilarious. Seriously, the things I tell myself while running or riding–if someone could record my mind it would make you wonder and laugh at my expense.

This was certainly a funny read, enjoy!

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

Oh man, why is it so early? Better not look in the mirror. Yep that’s definitely a bad idea. It’s WAY too soon for that. Wait, what is that smell? (*looks down*) Wow, is that coming from my spin shoes? Must address this after class. (*creates new iPhone “note”*). Why is the woman next to me shouting at her friend? It’s 7 a.m. Why is she even making noise? Isn’t the first rule of spin class NO talking? Let’s kick her out. I guess class hasn’t officially begun. Damnit. Can we get this show on the road? Oh crap, there’s a sub today?! Alright, I’m leaving. No, NO. You’re already here. Stay put. This is only an hour of your life. Stop whining. (*takes a sip of black coffee*). Alright, which bike am I? Number 13? Shit I totally forget. Why is this old man looking at me funny? 

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If You’re Happy and Love Yourself, Clap Your Hands!?

I’m not counting days anymore, sorry, I can’t. I am not even back at school yet and life is running away with me and I am having a hard time keeping up with this blog. In part I have been so silent because Greg and I are eagerly planning, or attempting to plan our upcoming wedding, which is so much fun and quite the rabbit hole, if you know what I mean. The wedding planning is part of it, but the real reason is it seems that ugly beast that resides within me telling me I am not good enough has seemed to creep to the surface again.

As I neared and completed my 30-Day Cleanse late last week and earlier this week that inspired this blog in the first place, reality set in, and then the anger. Oh, the anger. I will write exclusively about the cleanse, what it was, and my thoughts on it later this week. But in the meantime, I wanted to share my personal struggles with self-acceptance. I am just going to come out and say it:

  • I hate my body.
  • I hate my stomach.
  • I hate my thighs.
  • I hate my arms.
  • I hate my boobs.
  • I just hate it all.

I have spent the last 6 days pretty much sidelined with a recurring knee injury that just so happens to be my millionth ACL tear [yes, I need surgery AGAIN and no, I do not know when]. Despite my knee and its shortcomings, I have tried hard over the last 9-10 months to not let it effect what I do, how I do it, and my workouts. I have run 3 Spartan Races braced. I limped, hobbled, crawled—did whatever I needed to finish because I wasn’t going to miss out on something I love so dearly. I also ran in the SoCal Ragnar Relay. And I continued to teach yoga and cycling, AND even went back to Crossfit after taking a hiatus. My resolve reminded me that I am a fighter and my knee wasn’t going to hold me back. Unlike a fitness class when I remind people that the mind quits before the body, in my case, my body is in full-fledged rebellion mode—yet again.

I have spent the last couple of days in such agony, they even while resting with the leg propped up, I am gritting my teeth and wincing in pain. The warm, dull, radiating pain washes outward from behind my patella (knee cap) is consuming my thoughts and commandeering my emotions, and all I can muster right now is irritable or more irritable.

As I thought it prudent to scale back on Crossfit for the last week, I still cycled and taught all of classes. My decreased physical fitness level left me with plenty of time to berate myself for my body quitting on me [again] and for the self-hatred to build a not just a home but an offensive mansion in my mind.

I’m not a wallower. Well, I was for a long time in my adult life, but in recent years I have consciously worked to remain positive and active in creating the life I wanted for myself rather than succumbing to circumstance. But over the course of the last few days in looking in the mirror at my cellulite riddled thighs and ass and my soft tummy, I became angry and bitter. The “I work so hard” and “I eat right” and “I hate myself” commentary ran on repeat in my head. I have cried and spent hours trying to figure out how I can possibly avoid wearing a bathing suit on the trip Greg and I are taking next week to Lake George.

“Maybe if I were tanner, it’ll conceal my cellulite.”

“Maybe I can just wear my lululemon shorts with a bathing suit top…? Yeah, that may work.”

So, why do I hate myself? Why can’t I accept who I am? Why can’t I love my body for all that it does for me?

Better yet, how does one learn to love his/her body?

Over the past week, in the last two WOD’s at Crossfit (including today’s), I did well. I would be so bold to even say I did very well. Despite my unrelenting standards and ferocious competitiveness, I ran well, worked hard, and posted great times. Why am I so unable to pat myself on my back and celebrate my own victories? You know why? Because nothing is ever good enough and the same even applies to yoga. My knee has made balancing postures really difficult for me. Actually, it’s very painful so I even avoid demonstrating on my right leg (well now you all know, so the jig is up) and my yoga has taken a major hit due to the instability of the joint. Most days, Vinyasa Yoga, my favorite type of yoga tends to put stress on my joint, triggering pain and discomfort. Much of my personal practice has stagnated and all of those amazing grand ideals of being able to tackle more complex poses have left me feeling deflated and worthless. I mean, how can I be expected to participate in the yoga selfie game and flaunt my asana if my body is shutting down as I am marred by injury after injury? I am being slightly sarcastic here, because I hate the vanity aspect of yoga and the fitness world, but if you want to play in the sandbox sometimes you’ve gotta play by someone else’s rules—it’s just the way it is. Sigh.

I think what is so hard for me to digest about this all is that I feel robbed. I do. I feel like the things I love to do have been prematurely plucked from my grasp and dare I say it—undeservingly so. So the anger sets in. I am frustrated with my body not only for it giving up on me, but despite my workouts, and commitment to nutrition—my body never changes. There I said it, and I feel better for being honest and just putting it all out there.

I try to practice kindness to myself and I try to be patient, but beyond that I do not know how to accept myself. Admittedly, I also don’t know how to love myself. I certainly can help others embrace their bodies and celebrate themselves, but why can’t I do the same for myself? Recently, my dear friend Kat shared something with me while I was venting about my frustrations, “Would I let someone say all those things about my best friend?” The obvious answer is best friend or not—I would never allow someone to say the things I say andthink about myself in my presence about another person I know. So, why am I giving myself permission to hate myself?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Day 18: Thursday, June 26, 2014:

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

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

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

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

Gratitude Attitude

Day 16: Tuesday, June 24, 2014:

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

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

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

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

2. BOYFRIEND: Greg

3. MY PERSONAL JOURNEY IN FITNESS: Hiking and Yoga

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

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

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

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

Now, it’s your turn.

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

Eye of the Tiger

Day 14: Sunday, June 22, 2014:

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

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

“You are a survivor.”

And she was right; I am a survivor.

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

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

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

Stop surviving.

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

CHOOSE TO BE VICTORIOUS.

You will be glad you did.

Our Bodies Should be Temples of Love

Day 13: Saturday, June 21, 2014: 

Why can’t we just be happy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Be Good When You Can Be Great

Day 12: Friday, June 20, 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limits Only Exist When We Set Them For Ourselves

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

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

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

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

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

In November all of that changed.

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

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

To revel in the process.

To test our character through adversity.

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

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

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

Giddy for Gains

Day 11: Thursday, June 19, 2014:

Today was a cleanse day, so like last Thursday no food. However, today was also Day 11 and that meant it was time to take some measurements. Interestingly enough, I am losing from my mid-section, chest, and bust areas first. Hey, I’m not going to complain but normally I lose weight everywhere else first THEN release from the trunk region. All the same, I am excited to report I have lost the following:

  • Chest:            -2 inches
  • Diaphragm:  -2 inches
  • Waist:            -.5 inches
  • Abdomen:     – 1 inch

I would also like to add that I saw an overall loss in other areas too but I felt it wasn’t worth reporting here, as the loss was what I would quantify as negligible.

At this point, I feel fantastic. People are starting to notice the changes in my body saying things like, “You look really good” and “You’re looking really lean.” NOTE when you say these sorts of things to someone who is TRYING really hard to make changes in their life, they feel really, really, really good when they hear these sorts of things so don’t stop doling out praise. Additionally, I am feeling much better overall. I am not napping anymore and haven’t napped since I started the cleanse. As a matter of fact, I am incredibly energized and feeling very rested upon waking in the mornings. What’s also so awesome is I am starting to actually feel more fit, stronger, and leaner. I can feel it and it feels so good.

It is too early to tell whether my results are due to my 30-Day Super Foods Nutritional Cleanse or my increased fitness level. Since starting this cleanse, I used it as an opportunity to reset my life and myself. I used the cleanse to kick-start a healthier me and that meant re-committing myself to MY own fitness for me. So for the past 11 days (and maybe even about a week or so prior), my fitness level has sky rocketed with Crossfit and yoga. So in truth [and it’s still way too early to tell] my gains or shall I say loses, could be a combination of factors. Let’s se how the rest of my time on the cleanse pans out.