Category Archives: Determination

Live Your Truth

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am Grateful for New Adventures in Fitness

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 3: I am grateful for new adventures in fitness

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

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

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

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

Class started.

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

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

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

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

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Freedom from Our Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Struggle Makes You Stronger

It doesn’t matter how you slice it, dice it, package it, or present it; rejection in any capacity hurts. Unfortunately, a by-product of going after things in life is being told no or that you’re not good enough and in the end one just has to be resilient in coping when things don’t work out as anticipated.

Specifically, I discussed a little while back that I was auditioning for a slot to be invited to coach at the new Orangetheory Fitness opening in West Hollywood. As you all know, OTF is my favorite way to sweat. So when I was invited to audition for the new studio I was giddy and ready to show my stuff. Leading up to the audition, I studied the script for days. I recorded myself reading it and walked around town running errands listening to myself. I played it while in my car driving. I forced my sister Kassi to Facetime with me and listen to me practice. I spent the 2 days before the audition presenting the script aloud to myself while alone in my apartment.

I psyched myself up telling myself I can do this over and over and over again.

I watched and listened to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6 Rules to Success.

I did everything within my power to ensure I set myself up for success so when I walked into that room, they’d have no choice but to offer me a space in the training program.

Turns out when Greg and I arrived for the audition there were over 40 people there. No one told us we’d actually be taking a portion of a class led by one of the trainers and we were freshly showered but oh well—ain’t no thang.

The workout ended and we broke ourselves into groups of 5. The group audition consisted of 3-minutes on the mic walking participants through the beginning of an OTF class. Out of the 5 people in our group, I can say with confidence that Greg and I put on the best show for the team evaluating us. We got through the entire script, infused our own unique energy, and were able to hit all the necessary numbers i.e. 22-26 strokes per minute on the rower to warm up. Personally, I think Greg and I crushed it. By no means did I assume the job was necessarily ours but I walked away from the experience knowing we did a killer job and was proud. Needless to say when the rejection emails came, we were shocked and disappointed.

A glimpse into last week’s Sunday Sweat class at One Down Dog

Greg was informed that he placed in the top 10 of the 40+ people and I was told I placed 8th. We were given some great kudos regarding our audition but no real feedback as to why we didn’t make the final cut. The initial sting of rejection hurt. But as time ebbed on, I started to really think about who I am and what I offer as an instructor. I concluded that I am a badass. Going into this, I vowed I wouldn’t let my self-worth be associated with getting or not getting this job and I am thrilled to report I haven’t let myself get caught up in the negativity of not getting something I wanted. No one can define my self-worth but me, period. So I didn’t get the job and that is a major bummer, as I would have loved more than anything to represent Orangetheory Fitness. However I remembered that I teach yoga and cycling in LA to throngs of people who come to a workout that I design for them with a carefully orchestrated playlist. I stand in the humility of the work I do and the honor to teach for such incredible people. I am truly blessed and thankful for all of the beautiful souls who continue to show up and trust me with their workouts.

Furthermore, I know that I am capable of boundless things because I believe in myself. Even though I may not always come out on top, I won’t stop continually putting myself out there. I do not regret for a second gambling on myself, for if you never try and take a chance, you’ll never know.

Take a risk and take a chance on you.

You are worth it.

Every attempt to be great prepares you for greatness. Dream big and never quit on yourself even when it seems others may not see your power.FullSizeRender

Give Back to Others

Day 6/6—Give Back to Others

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”                                                 ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Of all the things I have discussed this week over the course of our Six Days to Success, giving back to others and being of service has to be what I call the great equalizer and a personal favorite.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it perfectly, it doesn’t matter where you are from, what you know, or what you cannot do. So long as your heart if filled with the desire to help another soul without needing or wanting anything in return—then you too can be of service.

People tend to neglect giving back. People interpret giving back as needing to throw money at this cause and that cause. And while there is a need for that [and I am not knocking monetary donations] such as in the case of natural disasters like the earthquakes in Nepal; the power of sitting with another soul and really seeing them is infinite and more meaningful then writing a non-profit organization a check.

Service is about being part of something that is bigger than yourself. I think for some people it’s just part of the fibers of their being and others need to make a conscious effort. But no matter if it’s innate or inane, there is a real need for us to fill the cups of others. Like the late Maya Angelou stated, “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.” So, where does one begin? How does one get involved and give back by being of service?

Personally, I have always found that the best way to get involved was to align myself with something that resonated with me. Aside from the obvious service work I do as a public school teacher in Los Angeles, I feel really passionately about genocidal atrocities. A large portion of the work I do in my classroom hinges around The Holocaust, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and the Armenia Genocide.

IMG_0171At the height of the conflict in Darfur, Sudan I partnered with Jewish World Watch to help educate my students on the conflict and how we could get involved without actually flying to a refugee camp. We fundraised at our school and within our community. It was amazing to see how my student’s families and friends whom are living in poverty selflessly gave what they had to a cause across the globe. The beauty about giving to others is it never matters how much. For whatever one can and chooses to give, is always more than enough. We didn’t want to stop there though. We wanted to have a bigger impact. We wanted the world to know we knew what was going on in the world and we weren’t going to just sit back and watch the horror unfold. I always empower my students to advocate for themselves and others for silence is an affirmation and if stop speaking up, it will ensure that history repeats itself.

IMG_0170So, I paid out of my pocket to commission vans to drive the students from Eastern Los Angeles to Woodland Hills to participate in The Walk to End Genocide. My colleague Alice helped me by volunteering to drive a van and also supervise our students. We made tee shirts, signs, walked and chanted for our cause. My students and I were so empowered by standing up and speaking up that to this day this walk reigns as one of the most defining features of my adult life.

It doesn’t take much to ignite the spark of change to be of service. It’s merely the desire to replace time with yourself and include time for others in your schedule. More recently, my husband and I signed up to volunteer with Imagine LA; an organization that pairs mentors with homeless families to help them get back on their feet. Some people in our lives chuckled when we told them we are going to start to volunteer because we couldn’t possibly be able to do it ‘with our schedules.’ Yes, our time together is minimal but we are still spending time together while we are helping others. Also, the way we see it is if we can’t be there for other people, what’s the point to living? In the end we only have each other and the relationships we form with others. If by being present, really being present means I can forever positively someone else’s life than that’s really living.

Start small. Let the service bug bite you. You can still make a mark on this world without needing to go out in the community too.

Start a community group. Meet with people in your neighborhood, read and discuss real issues in the real world and I assure that before long, you will be compelled to hit the streets and enact great change.

Right now I am the faculty advisor of a club at my high school called Stand Up, Speak Up. My former students were so moved by some of the work we did in our English class last school year that they wanted to start a club to bring awareness to our school, problem solve, and get involved. You never know who will be touched by the work you’re doing—service and passion go hand in hand and are contagious.

What are your interests and passions? How can you make time and space to be a better community member and help elevate others around you? Giving back should be called Gaining Back because the things you learn about yourself through helping others will echo in your life for eternity.

Work Your Butt Off!

Day 5/6—Work Your Butt Off!

Nothing and I mean nothing in my life has ever been easy for me. Everything I have, everything I have achieved, every success I have tasted has been due to gritting my teeth, rolling up my sleeves and digging into do the dirty work. Without hesitation, without thinking something wasn’t possible I know that with hard work anything and everything is possible.

When I decided I wanted to be a fitness instructor I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I knew I wanted to be a fitness instructor and that was enough. I was just going to have to make it happen. I took my first fitness certification course with Mad Dogg in Spinning in July 2012. I was mesmerized by the podium and fantasized about being up there. Shortly after my Spinning training, I had my first cycling audition in West Hollywood at Cycle House. While I know I didn’t tank the audition, I also know I didn’t crush it because I didn’t get the job. But not getting the job didn’t really seem to bother me because the feeling I got while on the instructor bike—the exhilaration, the sweat, the power, the ability to inspire, had me hooked like a drug. I didn’t feel defeated by not getting the Cycle House job but couldn’t wait to get back up on that instructor bike and do it again.

My second audition was for LA Fitness [Hey, we all gotta start somewhere]. I left my middle school teaching job early to drive ALL the way across town to audition for a shot to snag some indoor cycling classes. I showed up and walked into the cycling room to see bikes I have never seen before or ridden on. These were Keiser bikes [barf]. Slight panic set in. Hoping Monica, the woman auditioning me would be compassionate to my cause, I let her know that this was my first time riding a Keiser bike. The audition was quick, not even a full song in total length. Monica gave me some pointers about my RPM’s then glanced down at my resume and paused. She looked up and matter-of-factly stated, “Oh, you teach yoga.”

“Oh no, no. I don’t teach yoga. I take yoga” I divulged.

“Well, could you teach yoga?” Monica inquired.

Without hesitation, I mustered my confidence and said, “I mean, I’m a teacher, I guess I can teach anything…?”

Right then and there without ever having actually taught yoga, Monica had me take her through a flow. Two minutes later I was hired to teach 1 cycling class and 2 yoga classes a week for $15 a class.

I was so ecstatic a gym hired me and that I had THREE CLASSES too! I didn’t stop to think that there was anything wrong with my pay rate—I was now officially a fitness instructor!

My tenure at LA Fitness was transformative. I really honed my craft, found my voice, and met some amazing people that are still dear friends in my life. As my hunger for teaching fitness seemed insatiable, I started auditioning at boutique studios and larger, more reputable gyms. Concurrently, I started teaching at a small studio in Redondo Beach called Studio Pulse and was also on the schedule at Spectrum Athletic Clubs in the South Bay and Redondo Beach. However, as my classes filled at LA Fitness and I eventually earned my 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification, I wanted my pay to reflect my certifications and packed classes. Besides, I was making way more than that elsewhere but I was loyal to my membership following and felt indebted to LA Fitness because it was where I started. I held out a while. The timing didn’t feel right. So while living in Hollywood and still teaching middle school English full time, I took every single fitness job I was offered—no matter the distance. At one time I was teaching in Redondo 2x a week, South Bay, Westwood, AND Studio City [and that’s not counting when I subbed classes too!]. Needless to say, I put a ton of miles on my car. However, I knew that in order to get to the top, you’ve got to start at the bottom. Finally, I knew the time came to leave LA Fitness when I met Jessica Rosen, the owner and founder of One Down Dog (affectionately referred to as ODD) in Silverlake. She took my yoga class and hired me on the spot. I was going to be a real yoga instructor in a real studio! I think having someone believe in the work that I was doing gave me the confidence to finally walk away from LA Fitness. Nevertheless LA Fitness refused to give me a pay raise and with One Down Dog, I put in my two weeks notice.

As One Down Dog worked to gain its footing in those early months, it was hard work but never felt like ‘work’. Jessica was starting a new studio. We were building a following, handing out flyers, and hustling to make ODD happen. For whatever reason, it just felt so right. With so many moving parts and the new studio, I still busted my butt to the beach cities multiple times a week to teach indoor cycling. I knew that the more I taught, the more people I was in front of, the better I got. With every class and every playlist I was gearing up to muster the courage to audition for the big guns. The gym of all gyms: Equinox. I knew that when I went to audition for Equinox I wanted to blow it out of the water. I knew I wanted them to want me and that meant I had to be awesome.

Turned out Equinox was getting ready to open Encino and they had a hiring day in Downtown LA. I was invited to attend the audition and told I would hear more about it later in the week. Later in the week came and went and I didn’t hear anything. But my friend who attended the hiring fair did hear back. Fortunately for me since she told me where the audition was being held, I decided to crash it. I thought the worst-case scenario was that I didn’t get to ride and the best case was that I got to audition and show my stuff. I did indeed get to ride and I felt think things went really well. I was confident that I nailed it.

Well I didn’t.

I felt a huge sense of disappointment and wanted to know where I could improve, but that was that. I wasn’t going to be an Equinox instructor.

Then by a stroke of luck about 2 weeks later I landed another Equinox audition via another cycling instructor friend. This time, after the audition I was welcomed to the Equinox Family as a sub.

It has been almost 3 years since I walked out of Equinox South Bay as a sub. I am proud to report I have had various classes at Equinox clubs all over LA and still actively sub all over town when needed. Now I call Equinox Glendale and Downtown my homes with regular classes. The magic of my work and my journey to Equinox are never far from my thoughts. And just because I achieved what I set out to do doesn’t mean I don’t stop striving for excellence. The real work has only just begun because when you’re not working to be the best—someone out there IS working to beat you.

Always, put in hard, hard, hard work and work your butt off!

Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

Day 4/6—Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

People and their opinions of us can have a profound affect on our actions. Their negativity has the ability to pollute our universe of positivity and ultimately drag us down. Fortunately, for the duration of my life I never really entertained when people said I couldn’t [or wouldn’t be able] do something. I suppose I have always felt that I was just naturally a pretty resilient person, and that people who tried to tear me down were idiots—but what do I know?

While in college, I changed my major a few times before finally declaring my dual major of English Literature and Education. About mid-way through school because of the nature of my major change, I would need to add on an extra year but that’s neither here nor there. In my very first education class in my new major, I was constantly met by tremendous opposition from my professor. It was clear from the start we didn’t mesh well.

Every single shred of work I completed was slammed. It seemed that no matter what I did, I could never meet the expectations of the assignments and frankly, I found most them to be a colossal waste of my time. True to my nature, I shared how I felt about the work we were told to complete. It seemed everything we read, watched, observed, learned—you name it, we had to write a reflection. Shit, we wrote so many reflections, our reflections had reflections. I felt the work was menial and unnecessary. Naturally, this didn’t help my case. I squeaked by the class with a ‘C’ but the professor left me with some parting thoughts of her own [and know it has been YEARS, so I am paraphrasing]:

“You will never be a good teacher, Arielle. You are just too you. You are too different; students and administrators like teachers who follow the rules and don’t feel the need to be so out-of-the-box. Good luck, you will need it as you will struggle every step of the way because of who you are…”

At the time I was too young to really react the way I would today, but I remember scratching my head wondering what the hell kind of shit storm did I just step into with this new major?! There wasn’t a second I actually believed this woman because in my heart of hearts, I knew that kids needed someone like me to push them to be great.

I spent the rest of my undergrad career reflecting on virtually everything. Those of you who have majored in education understand my plight. I had a few, maybe 3 professors I felt were dynamic and inspired me but for the most part I was bored. I was already finishing college a year late so I wanted to hurry up and start my life. In the spring before I graduated, I entered my Teaching Methods courses that consisted of portfolio creation, student teaching, mock interviews, and exit interviews for graduation.

I completed my student teaching in Rockville Centre, New York and felt like I was really ready to enter a classroom of my own. Eager to get my life started and head off to Los Angeles, I still had to pass the review boards grueling mock interview and recommendation process. Every bit of our time in college would be scrutinized. My portfolio, student teaching evaluations, lesson plans—all of it would be torn apart because it ‘would make me a better teacher’.

My old classroom at Virgil Middle School

The results of my exit interview process came back. The chair of the English department was petitioning to prevent me from graduating with my class. Apparently, the chairperson was up in arms that I somehow made it through the English department and she never met me and I that never took one of her classes [yeah, that was on purpose. Everyone knew she was an epic bitch]. Additionally, she felt my confidence was arrogant and my lesson plans were ‘too original’. In the end, it turned out she couldn’t actually prevent me from graduating. There was momentary panic and I had to rush some things to school to prove my validity but I took something away from all of this: People are afraid of different.

Making tee-shirts to participate in The Walk to End Genocide by Jewish World Watch

Fast forward to my teaching career in urban Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I worked [and continue to work] in a low income, transient neighborhood where my students receive free lunch from the government. The demographic is challenging to work with and grossly under performing. These are the kids that people say ‘can’t learn’, those kids are my students. Well, let me tell you about my work with ‘those kids’. In just the first 6 years of my teaching career, I accomplished the following:

  • Was nominated and elected department chair of the English department
  • Co-authored the School for Advanced Studies (SAS) programming to bring an in-house magnet program to our school
  • Spoke at a nationwide educational conference
  • Won Teacher of the Year
  • Created a website and non-profit called Only Cool People Read for my students
  • Graduated with a 3.98 GPA from my graduate program earning my Master’s Degree in Leadership with a Tier I Administrative Credential

And oh, one last thing. Those kids, the ones no one wants to teach—the ones that ‘can’t learn’…?

On the statewide standardized exams not only did my students out perform the LAUSD school district in every single subset, but they also outperformed their counterparts STATEWIDE.

But hey, my college professors were right: I wouldn’t be a good teacher; I would be a great teacher.

Don’t ever, ever, ever listen to the naysayers.




Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Day 3/6—Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Fear is a funny thing. It tricks us into living boring lives because we are afraid of failing. We are so paralyzed by the possibility of things not working out the way that we envision that we quit on ourselves before we even start. All too often, we’d rather accept to resolve that ‘this is just the way it is’ and leave it at that. But what kind of lives are we living if we are living to simply wish and hope, and not chase after what we want? No one is going to live your life for you, No one is going to be able to help you figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing—so maybe it’s time to put some work in and figure out what it is you want out.

Life is way too short to condemn yourself to misery. Today, we are going to F**K our Fears and instead of being terrified of failing, we are going to re-evaluate how we look at failure. Failure doesn’t mean that you weren’t successful.

Failure means you took a risk and you tried. Failure is an opportunity to grow from your mistakes, learn from those around you, and emerge victorious. Failing makes you courageous because you took a chance. To try and fail means you were brave and didn’t sit idly by as a bystander to your own life or circumstance.

No matter how crazy or lofty my ambitions have been and continue to remain, I couldn’t possibly fathom a life where I lust for things and never try to achieve them. The more impossible the ambition, the more terrified that I am, the more I know I need to listen to my intuition and commit to whatever is speaking to my heart.

OTF birthday
Sweaty post OTF class on my birthday 2 days before our wedding
As promised, I will share what I am working through right now. Last February 2015 I wandered into Orange Theory Fitness Los Angeles in Brentwood. Within what seemed like just minutes, I completely and utterly fell in love. For the first time in years, I rediscovered an aspect of working out I hadn’t been able to find on my own. For what seemed like an eternity, I was generally uninspired by the things I did while sweating which in turn caused me to gain weight and become unhappy. But things were different at Orange Theory Fitness aka affectionately referred to as OTF. The challenging workouts enveloped me. I discovered that after all these years of thinking I hated running that not only did I like it [gasp] but I was good at it. I never ever thought I would say that—I was always dead last on every team run while in college…Now, I was a runner and I wasn’t just keeping up with the group, I was setting the pace and leading the pack. OTF showed me through the challenging workouts how to find my strength and power again. I learned more about myself in a matter of months while consistently working out at OTF than I had in recent years while fumbling from workout to workout. Soon I found that when I couldn’t make my workouts I missed them; I longed for them. I wanted to be there and what’s more, I started to crave running. Crazy, I know. I felt this massive shift inside my body. At first it started slowly then came on suddenly. I started to subscribe to this notion that I could do anything. For me, the strength and power I cultivated at OTF fueled my confidence from within and I started to feel more capable of putting myself out there in a variety of situations, even if that meant I might fail.

Naturally, as my interest in OTF evolved I started thinking about what it would feel like to work there as a coach/trainer. While I didn’t openly discuss my wonderings with anyone, my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to learn more. So when OTF posted on Facebook that they were hiring, I immediately sent in my resume with an email expressing my interest to be considered for coaching opportunities. I remember the excitement I felt just sending my resume over and crafting the email. I know it was just an email but this was the first step and I was eager, proud, and excited all at the same time. While I had no clue what this could or may mean with respects to my teaching job, I sent my info along because if you never try or take a risk, you never know. And you can’t get too caught up in thinking too much about these things either. Sometimes we over-think things and talk ourselves out of doing them. Other times, we spend so much time thinking about what would need to change in our lives should something present itself that we never even bother because the idea a big change seems to be ‘too much’. Well screw it, I say go big or go bigger.

OTF meThis upcoming Saturday, along with my husband Greg, I will be auditioning for a spot to be admitted to the OTF training program. The process for selection and admittance is competitive and frankly, it intimidates me. I am terrified of not being able to showcase the best me on the mic in my 3-minute audition. As a matter of fact, I have spent the last week going over scenarios in my head. I know my anxiety is driving my husband nuts because he keeps telling me to relax. Yet amidst my anxiety, as always, Greg has been instrumental in holding firm space for me by reminding me of the following:

  • If I do not get invited to the training program, I am still a talented instructor. While I may not be right for OTF, I am still great at what I do and I cannot let the possibility of not getting this job define my self-worth.

Additionally, my mother reminded me last night that should it not work out, it wasn’t meant to be. Of course both Greg and my mother are right but rejection no matter how you slice it or dice it hurts. Nevertheless I am going into my audition on Saturday with the best version of myself, ready to rock the hell out that room, and spread my awesome. It’s that simple. I believe in myself, I have to. I stand firmly behind the woman I am and the work that I do. I will not let the idea of failure hold me back from putting myself out there and taking a chance on myself. What’s more is I refuse to let my recent doubts and insecurities hold me back. Because I am terrified about what this audition will entail is precisely why I am doing it.

I am not going to let fear define me or dictate the trajectory of my life. I am in control of my successes and I choose to try instead of accept things as they are.

What scares you? What are you scared of doing because you are fearful of failing? Put it out there and embrace the possibility of failure as a learning experience. I know you can do it, now you just need to believe in yourself.

Break the Rules

Day 2/6—Break the Rules

There are all these rules that we always need to abide by: don’t do this, you can’t say that, you can’t wear that, etc. We allow ourselves to be defined by these self-imposed chains that we permit to shackle us and it’s absolutely horrible. How can we possibly thrive if we are constantly functioning within someone else’s set of rules?!

Recently, Oprah Winfrey was slammed for having published in her magazine that only people with flat stomachs should wear crop tops. The backlash was intense leading thousands of woman taking to the interwebs to proudly share their bellies whether someone else found them to be flat or not (click here to learn more). Who’s to say what and how we should wear something?! If you want to wear a crop top and you feel good in it, wear a crop top. I kind of feel it’s that simple. Personally, for me clothing has always represented such a terrible source of frustration. I am short. So unless I buy pants in ankle lengths there’s about a foot of fabric that needs to be hemmed. And let’s not talk about my thighs and waist. Trying to get a pair of pants over my thighs let along fit me in the waist has been my life-long struggle. Ladies with thick thighs, you know the struggle and it is very real [never forget though, thick thighs save lives].

For the life of me, I never understood who designers make clothing for: most people are not 5’10…I often leave shopping excursions empty handed, frustrated, and many times in tears feeling like shit because nothing fits. What’s more, is I wish I had an ounce of the confidence many of the woman in this article have to wear the crop top and own their bodies in their awesome splendor. I think for me, much of the insecurities I encounter with my body don’t come from not wanting to love myself—because I do. For the first time in my life I have embraced my legs and now they’re my favorite body part. It’s more so about what I do for work as a fitness instructor. I worry that people will look at my body, judge it, and think I don’t work hard, eat right, or couldn’t possibly know anything about working out since I myself can’t get a handle on my own physique. Again, this is my shit.

Everyday is a battle to look in the mirror and love what I see reflected back to me. So in an effort to start building myself up, when I get dressed for work in the morning I stand in front of my bedroom mirror naked and tell myself something I love about myself. I know, it sounds hokey; talking to yourself. But try it. The power of positive affirmations have been proven to work. For if you don’t build yourself up, no one else will. You must first see your self-worth before others do, so start believing. The time is now.

To put it in perspective:

Despite what people have to say about Miley Cyrus I have to say I really admire her. While I didn’t have time [ok I forget] to watch last night’s VMA’s, I did get a chance to read about what she wore. Slammed by so many people for wearing her signature outrageously bold and minimal outfits, I looked at the pictures and thought to myself: You go get it, girl. Keep doing you and who gives a crap what the world thinks. You can see what Miley wore by clicking here.

If you don’t bend or break the rules and interpret them on your own accord, we don’t allow space for innovation and genius.

Arielle Miller-CohenI have had bright purple hair for over 2 years. Over the years, it has gotten brighter and now I have dyed the front of it blue. I don’t offer any apologies for wanting, no needing to express myself. People often ask me or stop me on the street saying, “Oh, but you couldn’t have a real job with that hair!”

Idiots. Not only do I have a real job, I have a Master’s Degree too. When are we going to stop passing unfounded judgment on people solely based on one’s appearance?!

I refuse to consider employment, let alone work anywhere I cannot have colored hair, need to cover my tattoos, or stifle my need to express myself. I am an individual. I have passions and interests and those passions and interests contribute to the person I am and how I leave my mark upon this world. Bottom line, I just need to be me.

Like it, love it, or leave.

I don’t offer any apologies for who I am. Strong and fiery, I voice my opinion regardless of whether it represents what others want to hear. My honesty has made me unpopular but I am not here to win any congeniality contests—I am here to live my truth and that means upholding the highest level of integrity I can so that my truest and most inner-self can flourish.

How do you uphold your truth? How do you Break the Rules so that you can continue to blossom and leave your mark on the world?

Trust Yourself


It’s really hard to believe in yourself when you feel like your life has spiraled out of control and you feel completely directionless.

I have spent years waking up and going through the motions; walking into work like a zombie, not really seeing anyone or feeling much of anything. It seemed that by the time I left my job I was aware that a day had happened, words came out of my mouth, and I did my job but something was [and to a degree is still] missing. I recall leaving work and it almost feeling surreal because I was so unhappy I couldn’t fathom coming back the next day to rewind and start anew. It was a daunting thought considering I spent 20 grand for a Master’s Degree in a field I no longer wanted to be in.

I am ‘just a teacher’. So let’s face it, what could I possibly have to offer the ‘real world’ and work force? I felt trapped by my degrees and imprisoned by the conviction I held for my profession in my early to mid-twenties. I couldn’t leave teaching. What would I do? Who would hire me? What would people think if I walked away after all this time?

Arielle Ragnar Napa 1st legDistracted by my own languor, the noise was so deafening there seemed to be no way out until I found fitness. I mean really found fitness. Not fitness for the sake of needing or wanting to lose weight or get a bikini body, but the kind of fitness that was visceral. I found indoor cycling, yoga and later Crossfit, Spartan Race, Ragnar, and now Orange Theory.

I found that I needed to strike a balance to be happy in my workplace and that was sweating my face off as much as possible when I wasn’t wrangling America’s youth into loving the latest novel I was desperately trying to sell to them. As my enthusiasm and work in fitness expanded I was happier overall but 2 years ago I quit my teaching job to pursue my dream: I was going to be the next best thing in fitness since Jillian Michaels [insert ridiculous cackle here]. Initially, I found excitement in my new work but learned very quickly that teaching 20 group fitness classes a week was not all that it’s cracked up to be. In addition to my indoor cycling and yoga classes teaching load, I was taking on personal training clients. Nevertheless, despite my clients reaping the results of their nutritional coaching and training with me, after a while clients just kind of move on and stop renewing their sessions. The hustle of group fitness was daunting and survival mode set in.

Teach, teach, teach.

There were no sick days.

There were no mental health days to recharge.

I had no choice but to become a machine.

Me with two of my Spartan Race friends who came out to support me at the cycling studio I opened on my hiatus from education
With two of my Spartan Race friends who came out to support me at the indoor cycling studio I opened while on my hiatus from education

My livelihood became dependent upon how many classes I could teach in a week, was offered, and head counts. It didn’t take long for me to step back and realize that I was getting fat from not having time to workout but I was also still unhappy. Really? Wasn’t this choice supposed to magically fix all of that?! Within 6 months I found myself back in a classroom, and like before, it was only a matter of time before the honeymoon period wore off and I regretted coming back. Now, the lesson here isn’t that I am chronically miserable. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It took major guts for me to Trust Myself and walk away from my teaching position. At the time I was working for UCLA at a prestigious school. People thought I had lost my mind that I was going to ‘just teach yoga with a Master’s Degree’. People worried about where I would get health insurance, and how I would make money, and threw all these ‘What If’s’ at me. And while I considered them, I had to let go of what other people thought about my choice and own the hell out of it.


It didn’t work out. I know that and you know that—I am [still] back in the classroom. But I learned a hell of a lot from my venture out of teaching. I learned what doesn’t make me happy and that’s what this journey is all about; redefining what happiness is and how it transpires in our lives. Now, at my 2nd school in almost 2 years, I am still unsure if being an educator is my role. Sure, I like it a lot more than I did a year ago but there is something tugging at my heart and soul. There’s a whisper in my ear saying “Is this it…? There’s something else for you…If you dare to take a peek…I can’t seem to shake it. What I can say it certainly isn’t is being a full time group fitness instructor. But is this ‘something else’ calling to me to pursue my dreams as a writer? To bring to life my vision of fitness and empowerment through education? Am I supposed to be doing something else?

My intuition tells me the answer is resoundingly, yes.

1974982_10152296329801450_453456657_nSo, in an effort to Trust Myself I am going to start submitting my writing to online outlets. I am going to start trusting in myself as a writer and shoot to share my words with a larger audience. And if it doesn’t work out, like my failed attempt to leave teaching two years ago, I will live and I will learn, and I will be better for it because I trusted myself.

As a reminder, here are take-aways from the piece above:

  • What speaks to your soul and makes you giddy with joy and excitement?
  • What have you learned about taking a chance or risk in your past?
  • Stop giving a shit what other people think or say and just do it!

Now, it’s your turn. Share with us your tales of when you trusted yourself, what you learned but let’s dig a litter deeper: How are you going to take what you’ve learned and channel it moving forward? What does it mean to you, to Trust Yourself?