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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Day 18: Thursday, June 26, 2014:

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

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

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

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

Eye of the Tiger

Day 14: Sunday, June 22, 2014:

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

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

“You are a survivor.”

And she was right; I am a survivor.

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

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

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

Stop surviving.

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

CHOOSE TO BE VICTORIOUS.

You will be glad you did.

Our Bodies Should be Temples of Love

Day 13: Saturday, June 21, 2014: 

Why can’t we just be happy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Year in Review: An Honest Look Back Part II

Day 10: Wednesday, June 18, 2014: My Year in Review: An Honest Look Back Part II

15. Dinner in Weho at Hugo’s on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 with Greg. This is the first time I see Greg semi-serious as he tells me he’ll wait for me to make the right choice (as in picking him to date) and that I am worth it. Apparently older men (he’s only 35 people) know what they want and actually put in some work to court you–I could get used to this. Regardless, I tell him he’ll be waiting forever because I’m dating someone else, we work together, AND I am his boss.

14. Equinox Woodland Hills 9am Saturday, November 23, 2013 post Greg’s cycle class: Greg kisses me. I am tingly and gooey and exploding all at the same time. Confused and conflicted, I get into my car to call someone. I called my sister, no answer. I called my best friend, no answer. I had to call someone, I needed to confer with someone—anyone about what just happened! Finally, I call my mother. I fill her in on the past week of my life looking for some motherly advice and solace. Finally, I ask my mother what I should do. Her reply, “I think you should stop kissing so many boys.” Yeah, thanks mom. That was really helpful.

13. Ultimately, that kiss was the kiss to end all kisses. Our romance blossomed quickly and Greg and I became a couple. Initially, we had to keep our relationship under wraps at the cycling studio but it was a matter of time before we both wanted to live our relationship out loud and share it with others—so we did. We launched our full assault of our love and life on our social media for all of the world to see (you know you love it).

12. Our first New Year’s Eve together! It’s simple, fun, and filled with possibility. Our dumb drunk friend pulled some embarrassing stunts including wandering off and putting herself to sleep in the host’s bed!

NYE 2013

NYE 2013

11. At only two months into our fledgling romance, in mid-January Greg and I venture home to New York for a long weekend. My family warmly receives Greg and I get to meet some of his college friends. Home visit = SUCCESS!

10. One Down Dog, my yoga studio moves into our very own and brand new space on Sunset and Fountain.

Some of my fellow ODD family, fellow instructors, and the best people I know. Yes, yogi's do drink people.

Some of my fellow ODD family, fellow instructors, and the best people I know. Yes, yogi’s do drink (in moderation of course).

09. The cycling studio opens in late January—early February. Saying that we encountered minor hiccups would be an understatement. Despite being a music themed and oriented studio/cycling experience we open with our sound barely functioning and our mic system non-existent. The music isn’t loud enough, instructors are shouting over the music on the mic to be heard, the facility is not fully functional, and zero marketing was done by the owner to alert the world of our opening. Classes are nearly empty and instructor morale tanks. Even I’m having a hard time rallying myself to teach my 6 cycling classes a week to 5 people in a 45-bike room.

08. For marketing purposes, the cycling studio offers a free ride to the public in exchange for their consent to film it. Nick Lachey and Sean Stockman are among the riders in the class. One of the highlights of my year was being able to have my work as a fitness instructor validated and preserved on film. That very evening, 2 weeks before I am to be issued my healthcare, my boss and owner of the cycling studio informs me that she can no longer afford to pay me my salary.

07. The next day, I apply for teaching jobs with LAUSD and I am called for an interview at Helen Bernstein High School. I am hired on the spot to teach English to juniors and seniors in Hollywood.

06. Ultimately, shortly after returning to the classroom I stop teaching at the cycling studio that I helped create and build.

I sure learned a valuable lesson about helping someone else start their own business: Don’t do it.

05. In late March 2014, I move again. This time I am moving into Greg’s apartment, which is also in Studio City.

04. Buti yoga training: African Tribal dance, yoga, and plyometrics. Insanely hard and ridiculously out of my comfort zone but exhilarating and a wild personal victory since I am a terrible dancer—not anymorrrrrreeee!

03. My sister Kassi comes to visit in May and while she is here my 16-year-old 1998 Honda Accord dies. We spend her last day in town buying me a 2014 Honda Civic.

Augustin and his gf Andrea with me at graduation. These two young people are such beautiful souls. I will miss them terribly.

Augustin and his gf Andrea with me at graduation. These two young people are such beautiful souls. I will miss them terribly.

02. My incredible students graduate from high school on Friday, June 6, 2014. I take so many pictures that my lips quiver from smiling. I sob like a baby in my car leaving graduation. This is my very first high school graduation that I have attended in my 10 years as an educator. But what also made this so special was that these were my students. I taught them. I guided them. I pushed them to read, write, think, and learn. I have never been more proud in my entire life. These kids stole a piece of my heart and with my heart my time too—as now I am the Assistant Girls Soccer Coach.

01. It is now June 18, 2014 and now I am 32 years old. The last and most important thing I have done this year is listen to my essential self, advocate for myself, and allow the love I deserve to pour into my life.

Sometimes we need to be blinded to be taught how to really see. I firmly believe that one must walk in darkness in order to appreciate how to bask in the sunlight.

I don’t regret anything I have done, the people I loved (or thought I loved), the different jobs, or leaving teaching in the first place. Each and every experience led me to this very moment with the very best people someone could ever ask for. My past merely dictated my present but I created my future. Now, as I move into my 32nd year of life I do so with grace and a strong man by my side that makes me think I can fly. And you know what? I can fly. Because as I look back at my year and ahead to the future, I choose to measure my life in love.

From Darkness into Light, from Darkness into Light…

Today Can’t Always Change Your Life

Day 8: Monday, June 16, 2014:

 I picked up a new yoga class that’s Monday mornings at 6:30am. And though I have a strong aversion to teaching fitness classes [or doing anything really at that hour aside from sleep] in the morning, I agreed to take it on and see where it goes. What do I have to lose? After class, I came home and napped. I had a solid 1.5 hours to sleep before 10am Crossfit.

9:30am arrives and 9:30 leaves.

I convinced myself that I needed to sleep and opted to skip Crossfit (a decision I regretted all day). I rationalized this extra sleep a few ways but the strongest excuse I devised were that my inflamed traps (trapezious muscles) needed a break. I don’t know, but perhaps there was actually some merit to that.

On Saturday while doing kettlebell swings at Crossfit, when my arms were extended over my head there was an excruciating shooting pain at the base of my neck. It happened immediately during my very first swing too. This was definitely something unusual and foreign to me. Kettlebell swings are my jam—I light them up and take off. What was going on?! Before panic set in, I called the coach over to check my form. Nope, form was on point (this I already knew but it never hurts to have someone check out how you’re moving through an exercise that’s bringing you discomfort). We decided to move forward with the exercise but keeping the kettlebell at eye-level. This brought me some mild relief from the pain but it seems that I am experiencing some sort of spasm in my traps (now I am a doctor, well WebMD makes me feel like I am). Ever since Saturday, my traps have been supremely tender and essentially screaming at me even when not engaged and I am resting, walking, or breathing. I have been using my Yoga Tune Up balls to help release some of the tension but they’re still pretty raw. Fingers crossed tomorrow’s WOD isn’t too heavy on the upper back.

I went for a run today.

I guess you could say I like running. I run races. And from time-to-time run outside but that’s really it. I am not a great runner but I wouldn’t say I am a bad runner either. It’s just one of those things that I do because I have to and it’s fitness related but I don’t really care either way if I considered ‘good’. I will leave the running to the runners and I will stick to what I am good at: yoga, cycling, and lifting heavy things. With that, it was hot outside so I wore shorts. I normally prefer to workout in pants but figured why not?

Two steps into my run: my shorts are riding up.

My thunder thighs are slamming together for the world to see as I try to find a comfortable pace and not trip over myself as I fight a losing battle to pull my shorts down.

My music wasn’t doing it either. I mean, c’mon. I JUST uploaded all of my new favorite songs.

I glance down at my tracker and note that it has only been half a mile. REALLY?!

Now, I’m hungry too. Shit. I knew I shouldn’t have slept and gone to Crossfit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

1 mile in and I decide to head back home.

2 miles later I am home, run the stairs in my complex 10x, do some squats, and call it a day.

Not everyday is going to be a life-changing day in the gym, on the mat, in the box, on the pavement, or wherever you get your workout on–it just can’t be. For me, today was that day. And you know what? I am just fine with that. I am not going to berate myself for surrendering to whatever distractions I had going on today because tomorrow is a new day and I get to start over. And tomorrow starts with Crossfit at 10am no matter what. PLUS, at 8 days in I start tomorrow with 2 inches less on my waist, and down 1 inch across my bust AND diaphragm. So was today a success? I think it’s safe to resoundingly state: YES, YES!

Clarity amidst the Chaos

Day 5: Friday, June 13, 2014:

Friday the 13th.

Full Moon.

Mercury in Retrograde.

I am on a cleanse. 

Basically, we are screwed and it’s the end of the universe. Yeah, yeah. You feel off and you are afraid to admit it, but now you can fully surrender to it knowing it isn’t just you. It is OK to feel a little off right now. BUT what is SO exciting about all this is the new moon signifies a fresh start and opportunity to set intentions free so that they may gestate and manifest. FREE YOURSELF and find yourself!

I am feeling so alive and full of clarity that I am rejuvenated. This cleanse is certainly starting to really kick in. Oddly enough, the morning after the cleanse was a little rocky. I was awake at 5:15am to teach a 6:15am cycle class and struggled to sleep the night before. It was really unusual to lay in bed at 11pm and feel energy surging through my body! I haven’t felt this alive in years. Despite my lack of sleep, I felt strong and powerful during my wee morning hour class and came home to read up on the effects of the cleanse days.

My research turned up some information affirming that others also cited feeling so invigorated that they too couldn’t sleep. Phew! It’s always good to have validation to your crazy (totally kidding here). Additionally, despite the cleanse day I wasn’t starving when I awoke. I expected to run for my shake in the morning foaming at the mouth, but nope. I felt calm, rested, and ready to ride! As a matter of fact, preparing to do damage control, I brought a bunch of snacks to the gym and didn’t eat one of them–even after my class. I was satisfied, sweaty, and happy.

I opted to skip Crossfit after my ride to let my body recover as I still had two more classes to teach, one of which would be pretty taxing as it’s a cardio vinyasa yoga class.

Dinner was a fabulous mish-mosh of mess as I like to create for myself: brown rice, eggs, tomatoes, spinach, avocado, and chicken with some olive oil. Greg ate the same thing minus the rice with 2 corn tortillas instead. Eating whole foods again with the shakes is filling my belly and it kind of feels like it’s sharpening my mind. Does that make sense? All of these super foods are awakening my physical and mental self in ways unimaginable. I can’t wait to see how I feel in 30 days!

Trust the Process

Day Four: Thursday, June 12, 2014: Cleanse Day, that is all I have to say

Remember that movie, Kids? That terribly gross and graphic look at young teens having unprotected sex passing along the AIDS virus? Yes, that one. Well, there is a scene where a man on a skateboard is toting himself around panhandling singing “I have no legs, I have no legs.” Yesterday morning I woke and I literally could only feel my torso. By no means do I mean to mock this poor soul in the film (which I am assuming is a real person) but I am merely trying to draw a comparison. I could barely roll over, let alone lift an arm. I panicked, and exclaimed to my boyfriend, “How am I going to be able to teach yoga today?!?!” I didn’t have a choice, that’s how. Boom.

Sure enough, I was able to teach. As with any muscle soreness once the body gets warm and the blood flowing, the muscles become limber and lubricated and alas, we have movement! However, I will admit my triceps were substantially fatigued, but I felt good enough to take a Pilates class late in the evening.

Today was a cleanse day. That meant no food, zero. As in nothing I could chew–green juices/drinks included. I sipped my prescribed beverages for the day and took my supplements. After class one I was ravenous enough to eat a small child. I checked in with a friend to keep me accountable, stuck to the plan, and pushed on! Sometimes, you just need to let go and embrace the process.

Like so many of us, much of my work with food and fitness is mental. So in recognizing this, I vowed to myself that I would trust the process fully. I must let go and fully relinquish myself to my program, keep an open mind, and house lightness in my heart. For me, that is what it will take to achieve success this time.

What was odd was I didn’t feel tired. I laid down to nap and couldn’t. Hmmmm. I could ALWAYS nap. So I cleaned my house, well sorta.

I taught class two, then took a Pilates class. Came home, downloaded music and made a playlist for my cycling class and it was 10pm and still wasn’t tired. Not only wasn’t I tired but I wasn’t hungry either. Where on Earth did this energy come from?! All I know is I felt alive and invigorated. And folks, I liked it.

Cleanse Day 1 closed and I patted myself on my back for making it. But let’s be real, I knew I could and I knew I would do it because I refuse to let myself fail–not this time.