Category Archives: Focus

Stripped

wildthingFor the month of July I have been participating in an Instagram backbend yoga challenge. In the 3 years that I have been teaching yoga, never once have I participated in one of these yoga challenges. Actually, I think there was a time maybe wayyyyyyy back that I attempted one and after 2 days I lost the steam. Maybe it wasn’t the right challenge for me. But really I chalk it up to a few things as to why up until very recently I rarely posted pictures of me in yoga poses or committed to an online yoga challenge. Yoga and fitness is a very ‘look at me’ kind of industry. I try not to play into the yoga instructor stereotypes of being scantily clad in inaccessible yoga poses for the masses to gawk at. Frankly, I think it sends a bad message to the masses. I think what the yoga and fitness industry has done to sell its self is disgusting. These industries prostitute themselves in an effort to sell a product whether it be protein powder, a studio, a clothing line—whatever, by using sex to lure in buyers by making yoga now a sexy thing. Basically, they are SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE.

11755233_10100762894859621_5240393937280972723_nYoga is about love and equity. Yoga is about hitting your mat and delving closer and closer to your essential-self. Yoga is about non-attachment and never competing with anyone, and that also includes yourself. And finally, yoga loves and welcomes everyone regardless of size, sex, race, sexual orientation, or class. Yoga is blind; it embraces us and loves us, even when we can’t love ourselves. So why are these yoga challenges and half-naked yogis so dangerous?

They don’t tell us or even guide us to look inward. They are 1-dimensional, showing us how yoga should look: white, skinny, and if you don’t have a handstand, well then you aren’t a yogi. At least, that’s what I take away from all of this. As a yoga instructor, I know a few things about the human body and one of them is that there are some people genetically blessed with hyper-mobility. Yogi’s in splits, backbending, arms back behind their heads, clasping their foot. Yeah, that will NEVER be me. Aside from a host of injuries, my body doesn’t move that way. Hell, I am a yoga instructor and my body doesn’t move a lot of ways. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that because this body can move in a lot of other ways as it runs, jumps, squats, punches, and is SO strong that I wouldn’t trade it in for a backbend. In that same accord, the science and statistics note that hyper-mobile yogis ARE wired differently muscularly AND they are prone to injury more than their less-mobile counterparts. YES, the super bendy get hurt more often as a result of pushing too hard and too far, and often may skip warming up because their bodies make challenging asana (poses) easier, or more accessible.

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That said, I don’t hate these people per say. The genetically blessed, the actors and models turned fitness instructors, the dancers, and me: The short, muscular, ethnically ambiguous unyoga yogi with purple hair and a fiery spirit. Together we all comprise this industry and there is room for everyone to shine in their own right. So I caved and I decided that it was time to participate in a yoga challenge but do so on my own terms. I was going to use this challenge as a way to unveil how yoga looks when real people do it and what happens when real people can’t do crazy shit on their hands or twist into a pretzel. I wanted to start carving out a niche for all the people with real bodies to be welcomed, embraced, and thrive. I wanted to show the world that yoga IS blind. I combated my demons and I choose to shoot my yoga challenge without a shirt on, in my sports bra. If the tall and lean can do it—why can’t I? Why shouldn’t I? Should I care that my belly is a little soft? Should I worry what others will think if I can’t do a pose because I’m a yoga instructor? I decided to say screw it all and strip myself down to tear down borders and barriers to pave the way for others:

Be yourself, love yourself, and stop giving a shit what others think about you.

11659456_10100755511974981_6370464093040561674_nTaking off my shirt has taught me so much more than I anticipated. First, it certainly has helped me hate myself less because I have started to embrace my body. Who would have thought that taking off my clothes for thousands of people to see would do that?!—but it did. Taking off my shirt is liberating and a way for me to make a statement that real bodies are not going to fade into the backdrop of celebrity fitness personalities because someone else says so. Yoga is about reclaiming your emotions and life while serving others. This yoga challenge, with my belly exposed is my first stab at The Body Movement: real bodies, real fitness, real people, real stories.

I refuse to hide my body from the world. I have worked too damn hard, had too many injuries, too many knee surgeries, and sweat through countless classes and trainings to let someone else tell me how to define my yoga practice and dictate whether my body is undesirable. This yoga challenging is where I take back the power. This yoga challenge is where I show the world that strong IS sexy and yoga is for everybody. Join me. Start baring it all—take your shirt off and join me #TheBodyMovement #DaretoBareitAll #TakeoffYOURshirt. Are you in, or are you in?

Find me on Instragram at arielle_miller, it’s time to start #TheBodyMovement self-love revolution and celebrate all bodies!

hand to foot

Go and Be Impressive

Settling back into real life and a routine since the wedding has been challenging. My eating and nutrition have been unrestrained and getting in regular workouts with errands and such just hasn’t happened. I’ve been feeling sluggish and out of shape. It’s amazing at how fast that happens, right? While working out today I felt tired but kept pushing. Despite the fact that today’s effort wasn’t my best display of athleticism, it certainly was the best I had in me in those very moments and that’s what really matters—being the best version of ourselves in the present moment.

My runs felt heavy but I kept pushing. I kept thinking to myself that I did this to myself and I can undo this to myself because I am strong and have the power to do it. Running, rowing, running, rowing. My arms no longer felt attached to my body. I battled to pump my arms while on the treadmill and sometimes I even had to straighten them out and whip them around myself because they were so fatigued from the rower. But I kept going. I was tired; no, I was exhausted but I kept going. And then I looked to my right. The guy next to me was losing steam. Normally, when I am working out for me, I turn off the Fitness Instructor so I can be present for me. But I don’t know, today it felt right and something in his face made me to turn to him and offer him simple words, “C’mon, you’ve got this.” I know all too well that a little encouragement can go a long way when you are down and out, so I figured; why not?

The man didn’t seem to hear me because he didn’t respond. I contemplated saying it again or something else but I didn’t. I redirected my energies to my legs that were seemingly still attached to my body and propelling themselves forward on the treadmill. Finally, the workout ended. The same man I ran next to came up to me after class and said “Thank you, I really needed that.” We chatted briefly and he told me he thought I was ‘so impressive’ and that he couldn’t keep up with my speed. He shared that he was inspired by my hard work and that my kind words in class helped him finish the workout.

Impressive, eh? Someone thought I was impressive?! And here it turns out that in order to be considered impressive all I had to do was be me and show a little compassion.

Go be you today. Go be friggen impressive and look over to a stranger tonight in class [yes, even in yoga] or anywhere, and tell them something nice and encouraging.

Up Close & Personal

I just came back from a workout after driving home and crying to my mother on the phone. I walked into my apartment, ate the remaining half of Greg’s gluten free marble brownie (sorry, Greg!), and started to feel bad for myself. As a matter of fact, over the course of the last 2 hours, I have mentally and verbally beaten myself up so badly, I am ashamed. I received a work-related email in which my boss would like to speak to me. I should have known better than to read the email 30 seconds before my workout, but I did nonetheless. Thinking my emotions associated with the contents of the email would motivate me, they did the contrary. I completely shut down.

I walked onto my treadmill feeling deflated, worthless, fat, ugly, and hated every fiber of my being. I gazed into the mirror in front of me and the negative self-talk didn’t stop. It was a barrage of fire and I was assaulting myself. As class started and hit its flow, the emotional and mental onslaught didn’t let up. The entire workout, I was distracted, angry, and lacked focus. I was so stuck inside my head that every step while running, every pull while rowing, every weight I lifted was sheer agony. I just wanted to scream in frustration for myself and my emotions that seized control of my mind and now robbed me of my workout [Damn it, there goes my money. Wasted money and a wasted workout].

While working out at Orange Theory Fitness I always run my ass off on the treadmill. I have always logged mileage and speeds in the ‘Runner’s Category’ and I have been happy with my progress. Never walking during a workout, I always push myself by amping up my speed just another .1, then another, then another, and I empower myself. Typically, I am fueled intrinsically but today in the last set of my treadmill work on a 9 incline, I lost all my steam. For the first time ever in one of my OTF workouts, I gave up in the second to last set and walked. As if I hadn’t endured enough of a battle thus far, now I was reduced to walking. Oozing with self-hatred and fuming from my self-perceived defeats of my workout, I came back for the final 30 second all-out push at an incline of 11. While I didn’t succumb to my initial defeat, I spent an entire hour of my workout loathing every minute of it and every part of my physical and emotional-self.

If you’re wondering how this happened, it’s really very simple. I am very sensitive. Yes, me—very sensitive. While I present rough and tough, I am a ball of mush, hormones, tears, and all that gooey shit. I was ‘that’ kid that cried if a teacher yelled at me or if someone hurt my feelings as a kid. So the email that I read before class completely got me off kilter because it played into my insecurities and inadequacies as to what I am offering people as a fitness instructor. At three years into this industry, I have learned lots and lots of things: what I like to teach, where I like to teach, for whom, when, etc. I have also met some amazing people and have great friends as a result of my classes. But there is also a very ugly side to this industry. While I try not to get caught up in the fact that I am short and muscular and will never be a ‘fitness model’ or personality, I have always stayed true the fact that I am a bad ass, period. I work hard, teach hard classes, care deeply about my work and participants in my class and that’s that. BUT when others perceive those efforts differently, or class attendance is low, it hurts and I take it personally because this work IS personal. There is no other way to say it. Each and every song on my playlists are designed to evoke emotion and to enhance class. Every ride is mapped to offer an intense experience and a workout to blow your mind. Every yoga class is taught with my heart to challenge your body and soul. So when someone doesn’t like my work or stops coming to class—it hurts.

You would think that over time, some of the realities of the feedback and people outgrowing me as an instructor would get easier, but it doesn’t. My husband and others have told me for years to stop making everything so personal, but how can I not take it personally? I am responsible for helping people reach goals, get healthier, become fit/more fit, work on challenging asana (yoga poses), empower themselves, cultivate strength and confidence, redefine commitment, help them find the light, and I am not supposed to take this work personally?!?! As a fitness instructor I am entrusted with people most often at their most vulnerable. Subsequently, my work IS personal and I take what I do as instructor very seriously because I care. Every single bit of my work is personal because people trust me to guide them, support them, and keep them safe during a workout. As far as I am concerned, that is a pretty tremendous amount of responsibility I do not take lightly.

IMG_8062So while my skin is certainly not any thicker by working in this industry, I am going to continue to bring love and light to my work. I am going to continue to fight my demons and re-commit to my work and hope that while I am on this path, others will join me. I am going to continue to work on inner-cising to build myself up, the same way I help bring up those around me and own every single bit of my greatness. After all, I do have an obligation to the people who take my classes to be there for them—so this is for you. And though this industry doesn’t love me back because it tells me I’m too short, too fat, too muscular, too purple, too rogue, not yoga enough, too ‘Schwinn’, or don’t focus enough on alignment, and the list goes on, what I am is ME.

I am vibrant. I am real. I am true. I am me.

And whether you want to admit it or not, I am you.

Teacher Feature; Let the Sharing Continue

With so many exciting and awesome things happening this month and this week with my birthday AND wedding; I want to make absolutely certain nothing gets overlooked!

This month at yoga studio where I teach, I am the featured instructor in what we call the #ODDlight. In conjunction with the awesome team at One Down Dog we crafted something where you can learn little known facts about me, what attracted me to yoga, and even check out a baby pic [get your awwwww’s ready]!

Here is a little teaser from the One Down Dog blog:

Why do you teach? What brought you to become an instructor?
I teach yoga to heal and empower others. I teach yoga to share its gifts, joys, and empower others to look inward without fear. I teach yoga because I believe this sacred kind of magic needs to be treated with care and deserves to be upheld in the most noble of ways. I teach because without yoga, I do not know where I would be today.

Yoga found me and saved me from myself. I was depressed, very, very, very depressed and I was angry. I blamed the world for slighting me and being out to get me. I was urged to take yoga classes by my doctor and I fought it. I refused to go under the misguided perception that I’d be sitting on a dirty floor, chanting shit that meant nothing to me, and that just didn’t resonate with me. I am very Type A, always moving and I thought yoga was going to be hell on earth so NO THANK YOU.

And then one day, I just went to yoga. As simple as that, I went to yoga.

I woke up and said, “Today, I am going to try yoga.” From the minute I walked into the studio, I relished the ritual of taking off my shoes, carefully unrolling my mat, and how the yoga made me feel. There was this instantaneous deep connection with my feminism and beauty. This outward expression of moving my body made me feel strong, celebrated, and above all beautiful. Yoga made me feel like I was the only person in the room and that I was of boundless strength. As my practice started to evolve, the initial attraction of yoga’s athleticism progressed into something so much larger than myself filled with trainings, Sanskrit, and even chanting. My body yearned [and still does] for this ancient traditional practice and I was hooked. In darkness, yoga showed me the light but more importantly yoga built me up to find the light—Yoga showed me that I was the light.

To continue reading the post, click here.

Writing a Legacy Worth Leaving Behind

“Those who know, do.

Those that understand, teach.” 
― Aristotle

Joseph and I after the graduation ceremony. Yes, I am in yoga pants, as I hustled my butt over to Westwood after teaching a double. When you care about someone or something, one doesn't make excuses--one makes IT happen!
Joseph and I after the graduation ceremony. Yes, I am in yoga pants, as I hustled my butt over to Westwood after teaching a double. When you care about someone or something, one doesn’t make excuses–one makes IT happen!

Yesterday, I had the distinct privilege and honor to watch my former student Jospeh (whom I taught in 2005-2006 when he was in 8th grade!) graduate from UCLA with a degree in English.

While I’m not a parent, I can only imagine what an overwhelming sensation experiencing such a momentous life event maybe, as I cried like a baby in route to the ceremony and during it. I wept with joy and hope for this young man’s bright future, as it is now HIS time.

Over the last few years, my relationship with my career as an English teacher has been tumultuous. I spent the early years of my career fiercely over-committed to the job by starting my day an hour early and leaving well into the evenings.

I drove students home from school, made home visits, fundraised via a non-profit I created to purchase materials for my classroom, and even owned and operated a website for my students to blog. I made myself fully and completely accessible to my students and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was no break from my students or my work. I was so dedicated that even on breaks from school, I taught/worked with my students at school in my classroom for FREE to ensure their success!

It was a time in my life that happened in a sort of blur of children, testing, more children, and some great memories. But I also know that during this time while dedicated to my students and school, I had zero life beyond my career, packed on the pounds, and was depressed.

As I dove deeper and deeper into my career, my passion started to fizzle and before I knew it, I hit full out burn out. I cried driving to work in the mornings; I cried when I came home from work. I just couldn’t be at work without wanting to leave the instant I opened my car door. I was lost, angry, and so confused—why was I feeling this way? What happened to me? Wasn’t this my life’s work?!

After months of enduring this horrible vicious cycle, my curiosity got the best of me and I actually mustered the courage to wander into a yoga room. What seems like almost instantly, my life was forever altered for the better. Yoga taught me how to control my breath and how to build the capacity within myself to find balance. And slowly, as I started to regain my footing in life and at work, I started to advocate for myself by ensuring my emotional well-being was always first.

I stopped staying late at school. I immediately left after the last bell to hit a yoga or cycling class, or to play soccer. I did however still arrive early to tackle school work and I also kept my room open to students during recess and lunch times. I knew that in order to continue to serve others in this world, I had to nurture and serve myself first. I learned through my subsequent burn out and revitalization through yoga, that I must do me before I am to be able to truly help others reach their potential.

Yoga and physical movement provided me with the capacity to learn what it meant to value myself and strike some sort of work-life balance. So I am sure you are wondering if my teaching suffered during this journey to reclaiming myself…As a matter of fact, the more I delved into myself, underwent yoga teacher training, and teaching fitness; it made me a better human and an even better teacher. Teaching group fitness helped reawaken my sense of compassion and ability to embrace everyone and meet individuals exactly as they were. So coming back to my sweet Joseph now walking across the stage at UCLA with a degree in English, he hopes to become a teacher. I cannot think of a more powerful way to leave a mark on the world than to inspire someone to go to college, graduate, and essentially follow in my footsteps. I texted my family saying, “My life’s work is complete. I have made my mark, I can die now…

Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, pre-ceremony
Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, pre-ceremony

My years of struggle and heartache seemed to disappear when I saw Joseph’s sweet face emblazoned on the screen. They simply all faded away because today was the day I got to watch in real-time the powerful effect that teachers have upon our youth.

People say that today’s youth are well, you know—technology obsessed and nothing like ‘us’. I mean we played outside and used a card catalog when researching school projects in a place called a library—there was no such thing as Google. But if you look a little deeper, and look a little closer, today’s youth are still children waiting to have the right person come into their lives to ignite that spark. It is up to us as teacher, leaders, instructors, clergy, parents, etc. to harness the youth’s interests and help them reach their full potential.

I will never forget the day I watched Joseph graduate from UCLA. I will also never forget how special it felt to sit amongst his family, beaming with pride. It is the Joseph’s of my life that continue to remind me why I became a teacher and for that gift Joseph, I am eternally grateful.

Sweating, my religion; My body, my Temple

My wedding is in one week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.