Category Archives: Determination

My Yoga is Ugly

It has been a while since I have been able to take a yoga workshop and spend time under the instructorship of a seasoned instructor and just learn. So when my friend Armen of Pack Your Mat let me tag along to join him at the IG Getaway in Santa Monica I was stoked.

The day was started ripe with anticipation. We arrived early and poked around at the vendors. I must admit, my schedule has been crazy and I haven’t hit my yoga mat in a while so I was a little nervous but I was ready to discover new things.

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My attempt to practice opening my shoulders in a supported hallow back–I am NO WHERE near where this pose should be or even looks like!
My first workshop was with famed yogi Mackenzie Miller. I intentionally choose to attend the Backbend Workshop since I struggle immensely with any sort of backbend. Immediately, I liked Mackenzie. She’s a teeny little powerhouse who is funny, quirky, and incredibly knowledgeable. She is down to earth and grounded despite her 157k followers on Instagram. Mackenzie had us introduce ourselves to someone we didn’t know in the class and for me that helped decrease my anxiety. Not knowing what class would entail, I set my mat to the side and near the back. Everyone seemed to know one another and seemed at ease. With their six packs taunting me in their cropped yoga tops I felt exposed and uncomfortable. I was wearing my favorite pants, my 2-year-old Lulus and an American Apparel tank but my outfit clearly wasn’t stylish enough to be considered cool [I guess it’s a good thing I have my hair going for me]. Class hadn’t even started yet and I already felt demoralized. There were men there, but I didn’t even notice. My eyes and brain only ruminated on the long lean limbs of these instayogis and all I could think was I don’t belong here and “Shit. I can’t believe I let myself think that even for even a second I belonged here.”

Class started.

The warm up was vigorous. My muscles were shaking. No stranger to sweat and hard work, I relished this challenge. Then the workshop portion started. We moved through a series of backbends—each completely and utterly inaccessible to me. I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and self-hatred. I started to shut down and knew the eagerness and smiles had faded and was now being replaced by rage. The darkness had crept in and I was assaulting myself—I’m too fat, I don’t practice enough, I’m a bad instructor, my body is just wrong, why did I come here…and the thoughts went on and on. They just didn’t end.

Now, in the interest of transparency, here’s a little aside: I am working through some shit at the moment. Recently, I have allowed my confidence to become completely shaken by some feedback I received regarding my teaching and style and I can’t seem to move past it. I have been swimming in self-doubt and insecurity and to top it all off, since I have been playing soccer again I can barely walk. The pain in my right knee is intolerable and I am panicking.

With my compromised confidence and the constant worrying about my knee, an intense backbend workshop literally brought everything to the surface and I felt myself crying. I’ve cried in yoga before but not like today. This was an angry cry and I didn’t like it.

I coveted the skinny girl in front of me who not only wore white yoga pants, but she looked amazing in them. I envied the girl in the sports bra with the subtly toned abs and her effortless handstand. Finally, I just sat on my mat, observing and then taking notes:

I feel really bad about myself here 

Out of my element 

Out of my body and unable to do what I will it to do

I feel like I’m a prisoner of my physical self and I’ve condemned myself to thinking I’m worthless because I can’t do these poses

Is this what yoga has come to, or shall I say, is this how my yoga has evolved? I had no reason to get so upset. After all, this was their practice and well, this was mine…Simply, I teach yoga but certainly don’t have the time or make the the time for my practice anymore. I don’t have a Guru, teacher I would follow into fire, or even a place that I practice at regularly. My practice has been reduced to when it’s convenient and that needs to change immediately.

IMG_9191Conversely, as a result of being a multi-faceted fitness person, I don’t just do yoga. I also cycle, run, lift weights, wear heels to work all day, and when I can I roll out (which is never but I did do it once this week!). Because I have so many fitness passions, I don’t practice yoga as much as I did before I became an instructor, but I am very active in so many other arenas nonetheless. Unfortunately, my endeavors on a treadmill, on a bike, and lifting weights makes me classically tighter than many other yoga instructors. Not to mention, many yoga instructors are former dancers, and well, if you have ever seen me attempt to catch a beat you sure as hell know I was never a dancer. My yoga instructor friends, teachers in classes, and even Mackenzie in yesterday’s workshop remark[ed] about my tightness and lack of mobility in my scapula and thoracic region. And while this truth is obvious, I know it and it continues to hurt my ego.

Why can’t I be more flexible in my spine? Why can’t my knee stop locking, popping, or constantly hurting? Why can’t I stick a handstand? So many ‘Why’s’ flooded my thoughts that I concluded that my yoga was ugly.

I mean, it had to be, right?

I can’t backbend.

My stomach has rolls.

I’m short. Very short.

My thighs rub together.

I can’t wear white anything on my bottom half.

And I only have 1,228 Instagram followers.

Immersed in a bustling yoga scene of instayogi’s from all over the world AKA Los Angeles and a room full of teachers, I felt unprepared and alone. I felt confused about my place in all this and where I fit into this community. Finally, I concluded that my yoga is ugly.

Egos and handstands.

Midriffs and girls who practice with their hair down and make up (Hell I wish, I just sweat SO much).

Beautiful people, each more attractive and hip than the next.

Posses of the cool kids.

As an outsider, I think much of what I experienced yesterday really hit me because it was like I was that girl on the bus going to school again. The fat kid with no friends, mercilessly made fun of by the cool kids because I was fat and uncool. So much of what we feel when we feel it is a result of our past and my past is filled with pain. For me, I was transported to that time when I was the kid who didn’t get included, never got the invite to the cool kids’ parties, and simply dealt with her emotions by eating them. So last night, I ate my feelings and sadness away in a gluten free pizza. So what I am saying is YEARS later, I guess I still haven’t learned how to cope with my feelings of inadequacy.

I need to believe I am worthy of yoga and resolve to love my body. How does one even do that? How does one receive the love and confidence one so desperately needs and wants that validates one as worthy?

Though yesterday was filled with sweat, tears, and doubt, I do not regret attending for one second. I learned a lot about myself; had my ego majorly checked in class by being out-practiced by pretty much everyone, and I put myself out there.

So for now, I guess my yoga is ugly. I am just going to have to accept that at this moment this is where I am and am going to work on meeting myself with kindness.

Right now it’s like this.

Ain’t no ‘Do Nothin’ B**ch’

A few days ago, I received a text from a friend. Her boyfriend sent her a video of Ronda Rousey talking about how she isn’t some “Do Nothing Bitch” and that the video reminded him of me. I watched the video in awe and insanely flattered. Rousey hit the nail on the head—she certainly ain’t no Do Nothing Bitch, but neither am I.

Watch the video Ronda Rousey Do Nothing Bitch video, or click below.

Right now, there seems to be something amazing happening in the mainstream media world. Women like Ronda Rousey and Coach Jen Welter (Cardinals assistant coach) are paving the way for physically and emotionally strong women to be celebrated for their efforts and athletic pursuits. Now, while women are still a long way from being treated like our male counterparts in the professional arena, we are making progress and that is better than stagnating.

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Jen Welter, Cardinals Asst. Coach

For me, seeing a powerhouse like Rousey openly discuss what people think of her ‘manly’ physique and not give two shits is exactly what I am talking about. Now, on a personal level I do not watch nor really condone the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) aka kick the shit out of someone and beat them to a bloody pulp—but that is just me and I can still see and respect the athleticism of it all. Rousey embodies the strength and determination I love to see in a person, especially in a woman.

As a woman, we are so often put down or held back merely as a result of our gender and that is just bogus in 2015. People are still astounded when woman achieve greatness in the workplace, on the field, or in the gym. You guys, women are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and SO MUCH MORE; it’s terribly archaic to assume because I have breasts that I am less than a man. Frankly, I think it’s all a load of bullshit and I work tirelessly everyday to change this out-dated stereotype by proving I can be just like the boys in and out of the gym.

Growing up I was a thick kid. I have mentioned before that my mother had to take me shopping in the ‘Husky’ section or even the Ladies section because I was overweight. I could sugar coat this and be kinder in discussing my thick thighs and glutes but there is no sense in that, I was a fat kid, period. As if shopping in the fat-kid and old lady sections weren’t demeaning enough, I was into sports and in the 80’s and early 90’s. At this time, girls weren’t playing with the boys and I was ridiculed mercilessly. There were no girls on football teams and equity in school athletics for girls was just emerging—ugh, can you believe that?!

I was taunted for playing with the boys.

I was brutally tormented by the kids on the bus, in the yard at lunch, or while at summer camp because not only did I play with the boys—but I was better than the boys too. I always felt like because I was a girl, I had something to prove. The kids called me horrible names like Lesbo, Dyke, and Tomboy. And while I really didn’t even know or understand why liking to play sports meant I was a lesbian, I just didn’t understand the insult [and still don’t]. How was being athletic something bad? Thankfully, my father was way ahead of the game. He modeled and raised me to truly own my awesome and be my own person because while I am deeply sensitive, I possess a thick skin for haters. I mean let’s be real here:

If you’re hated, you are doing something right, right?

As powerful and athletic women like the US Soccer Team, Rousey, and Welter pave the way for girls to not just play with the boys but to be respected like the boys, I can’t help but wonder could I be like them? Could I be that person for a little girl who looks to me for inspiration, the courage to look the haters in the face and say, “Like it, love it, or leave because I’m not going anywhere”. I guess on a level I try to be that person through my high school teaching and work as a yoga instructor. My goal is to always deliver a face-meltingly hard workout while empowering others to build themselves up and find their place in fitness.

So girls, this one is for you. Do not ever let someone hold you back from something you love. Never listen to the naysayers, because I can’t and I won’t have no place in your vocabulary. Embrace your ferocity and own it for there is only one version of you and it’s beautiful.

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.

Sweating, my religion; My body, my Temple

My wedding is in one week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Beyond the Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

relationship-quotes_carrie-bradshaw

 

 

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.

A Letter from my Fiancé

I have received tremendous feedback from readers in response to the entry (Hello, Darkness my Old Friend) that I shared with you all yesterday. Most readers empathized and thanked me for my honesty as it spoke to them, while others like my family in particular, were terrified. While I recognize that I am a public figure and to many their source of hope and motivation, I think it’s important to note that like everyone else, I experience emotions–and very real ones at that. Despite what sometimes is hard to say or see, I will never censor what I write and share with the world because it goes against the grain, makes people uncomfortable, or exposes the inner not-talked about depths that haunt our souls. With that, I have been inspired to share one of the responses with you all here. Below is something my amazing fiancé Greg wrote and sent to me while I was at work today. Stay tuned for other updates on Hello, Darkness my Old Friend coming at you later…


 

Babylove:

You know how much I love you, how much I want you to be happy and how much I support you.  So here are some quotes to get your mind flowing on happiness and some pictures to remind you about all the good you have in life.  Be happy, no matter what the struggle, you have a lot and you have me.  Remember what I wrote yesterday.  Keep pushing and never give up.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
― Albert Camus
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust
Here are some photos and why I choose them:
FRIENDSHIP:

Friendship

SISTERLY LOVE:

SisterHood

HARDWORK / ACCOMPLISHING SOMETHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO:

HardWork

FIGHT / DON’T QUIT:

NeverGiveUp

COUPLE EXPERIENCES / RACES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY:

FirstCoupleRagnar

MARRIED COUPLE TO BE:

EngagementPhoto

INSPIRATION / ROLE MODEL:

Inspiration

NEW SCHOOL / LEADER:

TeacherFeature

 FUN TIMES FOR A GOOD CAUSE FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE:

CFS_A&G

A VERY RARE EXPERIENCE:

rareexperience

 BEST BIRTHDAY EVER:

bestbirthdayever

THE START OF YOUR FUTURE:

thestartofour future

And here is a poem to reflect upon and how I would like you to think everyday.  Read it every day:
Promise Yourself
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
― Christian D. LarsonYour Forces and How to Use Them

I LOVE YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.  YOU ARE MY SOULMATE, SNOWFLAKE.
– Babyhands

 

The F Word

20120611-225556

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Health, Happiness, and Healing: Starting Over

This sure has been one whirlwind of a week! I have so much to say so I am just going to unload it all in a series of posts in no particular order. I think what I would like to address first is my recent news which many of you already know via my various social media outlets.

Finally after years of seeing doctor after doctor and specialist after specialist I was recently diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The road to finally get here has been filled with lots of tears of frustration—lots and lots of tears of frustration. With my recent diagnosis there is a sort of vindication as these last two years many doctors treated me like I was crazy. I mean, my blood work wasn’t just normal; it was stellar, reflective of someone who was very fit and committed to eating healthy. One doctor even beamed, “Your blood work reads like a pediatric patient—it’s even better than my kids!” So if the blood coursing through my body tells a story of health then why did my period mysteriously disappear 2.5 years ago to only come back months later but only intermittently?

How is it possible to gain 30 pounds despite committing to programs and lifestyles like Isagenix, vegetarianism, veganism, going gluten free, and [recently] the Paleo lifestyle paired with an intense fitness regimen?
How is it possible that right around my 30th birthday my reproductive system completely shut down and I was no longer ovulating?

No one it seemed could provide me with any answers so I continued to cry, workout harder, restrict more calories, and cry some more.

Finally one day my gynecologist looked me in the face and flatly said, “Arielle, we have no explanation why you’re infertile when you are so healthy. It seems as if your brain isn’t signaling to your ovaries to release the egg…” [Note: I was not trying to get pregnant] Naturally, not having the answer she decided to give me some hormones to induce menstruation which never did happen. But you know what did? All the wonderful side effects of hormone treatment: extreme mood swings and depression. Deep, deep, deep depression. There were times it was so dark in my mind I actually could see myself ending my life. I know it’s hard to imagine someone ‘like me’, a lover of all things in my life filled with such darkness but when the people we trust to take care of us do not understand what we are suffering from, they toss anything and everything at the problem and hope to find a solution. I felt so alone and angry that my body could just turn on me. I had no control over my cycle, my weight, and now my very own thoughts were being robbed and captained by a beast I could not tame. Thankfully, this extreme darkness only represents a brief period of my life during which I called my mother crying:

“I know I always said I didn’t want children…but now that the universe has stripped me of that gift without asking me and I didn’t even get a say in the matter.”

Eventually, I did start to menstruate albeit irregularly but apparently so long as one gets at least 4 periods a year it’s considered safe. Who knew that? Girls! You can be healthy and only menstruate 4x a year! Stop taking your placebo pills now! Whatever. I still don’t buy this bologna. But when you’re in a crowded room screaming and no one turns around, after a while you stop screaming and walk out.

Fast forward two years later and I am teaching fitness in LA. I have done some unimaginably awesome things like shoot a yoga reel, an indoor cycling fitness video, become a brand ambassador for a fitness clothing line, had a 4th knee surgery, and so much more all while I worked out more and harder and only got fatter. My clothes have stopped fitting. The only things I can really wear and experience some sort of comfort in are ironically workout clothes. I suppose the yoga instructor in me should embrace the fact that regardless of my expanding waistline [and knee injury] I was killing Crossfit workouts, running serious distance, and a cycling machine so I should be happy, right?

There is nothing worse than looking at yourself in the mirror, pinching the oozing sides of your stomach, then poking it in an effort to will it back into place. What’s more, there is nothing worse than facing the people of your classes wondering if they’re staring at you wondering how a fat ass like you landed this gig in the first place.

The cycle of self-hatred is vicious and to top it all off, when a doctor tells you that you’re gaining weight because ‘you eat too much’ it really doesn’t help the cause.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t just fade away into the masses and leave this thing alone, whatever this “thing” was with my body. All I kept telling myself and imploring doctors:

“I’m a yoga instructor damn it, I know the body. I understand the body. I know my body and I am telling you something just isn’t right.”

In yet another attempt to get some answers, recently I made a second appointment with my new gynecologist to get some answers. And though I am not sure I am any closer to understanding my body and why it hates me, I did finally get a diagnosis and have started medication.

But the real reason why I am sharing my story is to empower other women. Each day is a struggle to love my physical-self as I can be terribly rigid when it comes to self-acceptance. I genuinely want to take the steps to understand and control my PCOS while learning how to love myself. Since I subscribe to the notion that community can help elevate us all I have started a secret Facebook group for women with endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, cancer, or depression. Really I wanted to create a place for women looking to understand their inner-selves a little more is welcome. I wanted a sacred space where we share, we heal, and we work towards understanding ourselves just a little better. I wanted a place for women to share their stories without feeling judged and to feel heard. I wanted a place for someone like me to feel less alone and cultivate the tools to learn how to build myself up instead of berating myself for my self-imposed inadequacies.

I created this space for woman to stop surviving and to learn how to thrive.

I have never been one to sit and wallow in self-pity for an extended period of time. Notice how I carefully used the words extended period of time. But with my recent diagnosis I hit the interwebs and have started collecting a group of strong, beautiful, passionate women who are looking to connect. Perhaps it’s our pain that brings us together, but it’s our love and compassion that unites us. After all, my entire life has been about servitude—English teacher, yoga instructor, cycling instructor. I do not know how to do anything else. But what life has taught me is that I can be a victim of circumstance or I can take an active role in all of this and be a victor. I am choosing to stop allowing my exterior to determine my self-worth and how I feel about myself. Though I recognize what an uphill battle that this will be, with the community of women in my new support group I know we can do this together.