Last week I talked about feeling completely and utterly broken down and demoralized. And while feelings are feelings and we should feel them and honor them, I certainly don’t condone wallowing in self-pity.
My words last week were meet with your support and affirming words of understanding and appreciation for giving you a voice. After my post went live, the comments, texts, messages, and emails flooded in for days. I was so humbled to be a representative for the voiceless as that’s always my goal as a writer. Well, I want to give us a new voice, rather another voice. I want to give us the ability to see the power in goal-setting, putting it all out there, and chasing after things we want. I want us all to reformulate our energies and look ahead to the future as goal-crushers and I think I have just the right amount of focus and inspiration to do that.
Still reeling from my bruised ego and shit show at last week’s IG Getaway in Santa Monica, my dear childhood friend contacted me reminding me about this video he had been wanting me to watch on You Tube. Busy for a change, his requests got lost in the shuffle but then yesterday while savoring the calm before the storm of students bombarded my day, I finally watched the video he sent me: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6 Rules to Success.Click here to watch it, or watch the embedded video below.
Now, I know. You’re laughing because it’s Arnold. You know, the former Governor of California, the Terminator, or even the same man marred by having an affair and an illegitimate love-child with his cleaning lady—Yes, THAT Arnold. I laughed at first too, even told my friend Craig that I couldn’t possibly have anything to learn from this man. Oh, how utterly wrong I was—I happily ate those words after watching that video. Arnold’s words pierced to the depths of my soul. I cried listening to him for it was as if Arnold knew I was fumbling aimlessly, and listlessly, trying to figure out who I am, what I am supposed to do, yearning to find my purpose in this world. I wrote down his 6 rules:
Break the Rules
Don’t be Afraid to Fail
Don’t Listen to the Naysayers
Work your Butt Off!
Give Back to Others
And while devising a lesson to bring this incredible information to my high school students, I realized that I had to share this with my readers too. Let’s do something together over the next 6 days.
Each day I will feature one rule from the list in the order they’re posted above. Each day I will discuss how that rule will take shape in my life and I will share my goal-setting to achieve success with all of you. But the work isn’t done there! You have homework too!
For each day I post, I want you to hold yourself accountable by commenting and posting your road map to success for that specific rule to success. Start brainstorming now, because we start tomorrow!
It is time to stop wishing and wanting and time for us to manifest that shit. We are in this together—I can’t wait to hear from you all tomorrow: Trust Yourself.
It has been a while since I have been able to take a yoga workshop and spend time under the instructorship of a seasoned instructor and just learn. So when my friend Armen of Pack Your Mat let me tag along to join him at the IG Getaway in Santa Monica I was stoked.
The day was started ripe with anticipation. We arrived early and poked around at the vendors. I must admit, my schedule has been crazy and I haven’t hit my yoga mat in a while so I was a little nervous but I was ready to discover new things.
My first workshop was with famed yogi Mackenzie Miller. I intentionally choose to attend the Backbend Workshop since I struggle immensely with any sort of backbend. Immediately, I liked Mackenzie. She’s a teeny little powerhouse who is funny, quirky, and incredibly knowledgeable. She is down to earth and grounded despite her 157k followers on Instagram. Mackenzie had us introduce ourselves to someone we didn’t know in the class and for me that helped decrease my anxiety. Not knowing what class would entail, I set my mat to the side and near the back. Everyone seemed to know one another and seemed at ease. With their six packs taunting me in their cropped yoga tops I felt exposed and uncomfortable. I was wearing my favorite pants, my 2-year-old Lulus and an American Apparel tank but my outfit clearly wasn’t stylish enough to be considered cool [I guess it’s a good thing I have my hair going for me]. Class hadn’t even started yet and I already felt demoralized. There were men there, but I didn’t even notice. My eyes and brain only ruminated on the long lean limbs of these instayogis and all I could think was I don’t belong here and “Shit. I can’t believe I let myself think that even for even a second I belonged here.”
The warm up was vigorous. My muscles were shaking. No stranger to sweat and hard work, I relished this challenge. Then the workshop portion started. We moved through a series of backbends—each completely and utterly inaccessible to me. I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and self-hatred. I started to shut down and knew the eagerness and smiles had faded and was now being replaced by rage. The darkness had crept in and I was assaulting myself—I’m too fat, I don’t practice enough, I’m a bad instructor, my body is just wrong, why did I come here…and the thoughts went on and on. They just didn’t end.
Now, in the interest of transparency, here’s a little aside: I am working through some shit at the moment. Recently, I have allowed my confidence to become completely shaken by some feedback I received regarding my teaching and style and I can’t seem to move past it. I have been swimming in self-doubt and insecurity and to top it all off, since I have been playing soccer again I can barely walk. The pain in my right knee is intolerable and I am panicking.
With my compromised confidence and the constant worrying about my knee, an intense backbend workshop literally brought everything to the surface and I felt myself crying. I’ve cried in yoga before but not like today. This was an angry cry and I didn’t like it.
I coveted the skinny girl in front of me who not only wore white yoga pants, but she looked amazing in them. I envied the girl in the sports bra with the subtly toned abs and her effortless handstand. Finally, I just sat on my mat, observing and then taking notes:
I feel really bad about myself here
Out of my element
Out of my body and unable to do what I will it to do
I feel like I’m a prisoner of my physical self and I’ve condemned myself to thinking I’m worthless because I can’t do these poses
Is this what yoga has come to, or shall I say, is this how my yoga has evolved? I had no reason to get so upset. After all, this was their practice and well, this was mine…Simply, I teach yoga but certainly don’t have the time or make the the time for my practice anymore. I don’t have a Guru, teacher I would follow into fire, or even a place that I practice at regularly. My practice has been reduced to when it’s convenient and that needs to change immediately.
Conversely, as a result of being a multi-faceted fitness person, I don’t just do yoga. I also cycle, run, lift weights, wear heels to work all day, and when I can I roll out (which is never but I did do it once this week!). Because I have so many fitness passions, I don’t practice yoga as much as I did before I became an instructor, but I am very active in so many other arenas nonetheless. Unfortunately, my endeavors on a treadmill, on a bike, and lifting weights makes me classically tighter than many other yoga instructors. Not to mention, many yoga instructors are former dancers, and well, if you have ever seen me attempt to catch a beat you sure as hell know I was never a dancer. My yoga instructor friends, teachers in classes, and even Mackenzie in yesterday’s workshop remark[ed] about my tightness and lack of mobility in my scapula and thoracic region. And while this truth is obvious, I know it and it continues to hurt my ego.
Why can’t I be more flexible in my spine? Why can’t my knee stop locking, popping, or constantly hurting? Why can’t I stick a handstand? So many ‘Why’s’ flooded my thoughts that I concluded that my yoga was ugly.
Immersed in a bustling yoga scene of instayogi’s from all over the world AKA Los Angeles and a room full of teachers, I felt unprepared and alone. I felt confused about my place in all this and where I fit into this community. Finally, I concluded that my yoga is ugly.
Egos and handstands.
Midriffs and girls who practice with their hair down and make up (Hell I wish, I just sweat SO much).
Beautiful people, each more attractive and hip than the next.
Posses of the cool kids.
As an outsider, I think much of what I experienced yesterday really hit me because it was like I was that girl on the bus going to school again. The fat kid with no friends, mercilessly made fun of by the cool kids because I was fat and uncool. So much of what we feel when we feel it is a result of our past and my past is filled with pain. For me, I was transported to that time when I was the kid who didn’t get included, never got the invite to the cool kids’ parties, and simply dealt with her emotions by eating them. So last night, I ate my feelings and sadness away in a gluten free pizza. So what I am saying is YEARS later, I guess I still haven’t learned how to cope with my feelings of inadequacy.
I need to believe I am worthy of yoga and resolve to love my body. How does one even do that? How does one receive the love and confidence one so desperately needs and wants that validates one as worthy?
Though yesterday was filled with sweat, tears, and doubt, I do not regret attending for one second. I learned a lot about myself; had my ego majorly checked in class by being out-practiced by pretty much everyone, and I put myself out there.
So for now, I guess my yoga is ugly. I am just going to have to accept that at this moment this is where I am and am going to work on meeting myself with kindness.
A few days ago, I received a text from a friend. Her boyfriend sent her a video of Ronda Rousey talking about how she isn’t some “Do Nothing Bitch” and that the video reminded him of me. I watched the video in awe and insanely flattered. Rousey hit the nail on the head—she certainly ain’t no Do Nothing Bitch, but neither am I.
Right now, there seems to be something amazing happening in the mainstream media world. Women like Ronda Rousey and Coach Jen Welter (Cardinals assistant coach) are paving the way for physically and emotionally strong women to be celebrated for their efforts and athletic pursuits. Now, while women are still a long way from being treated like our male counterparts in the professional arena, we are making progress and that is better than stagnating.
For me, seeing a powerhouse like Rousey openly discuss what people think of her ‘manly’ physique and not give two shits is exactly what I am talking about. Now, on a personal level I do not watch nor really condone the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) aka kick the shit out of someone and beat them to a bloody pulp—but that is just me and I can still see and respect the athleticism of it all. Rousey embodies the strength and determination I love to see in a person, especially in a woman.
As a woman, we are so often put down or held back merely as a result of our gender and that is just bogus in 2015. People are still astounded when woman achieve greatness in the workplace, on the field, or in the gym. You guys, women are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and SO MUCH MORE; it’s terribly archaic to assume because I have breasts that I am less than a man. Frankly, I think it’s all a load of bullshit and I work tirelessly everyday to change this out-dated stereotype by proving I can be just like the boys in and out of the gym.
Growing up I was a thick kid. I have mentioned before that my mother had to take me shopping in the ‘Husky’ section or even the Ladies section because I was overweight. I could sugar coat this and be kinder in discussing my thick thighs and glutes but there is no sense in that, I was a fat kid, period. As if shopping in the fat-kid and old lady sections weren’t demeaning enough, I was into sports and in the 80’s and early 90’s. At this time, girls weren’t playing with the boys and I was ridiculed mercilessly. There were no girls on football teams and equity in school athletics for girls was just emerging—ugh, can you believe that?!
I was taunted for playing with the boys.
I was brutally tormented by the kids on the bus, in the yard at lunch, or while at summer camp because not only did I play with the boys—but I was better than the boys too. I always felt like because I was a girl, I had something to prove. The kids called me horrible names like Lesbo, Dyke, and Tomboy. And while I really didn’t even know or understand why liking to play sports meant I was a lesbian, I just didn’t understand the insult [and still don’t]. How was being athletic something bad? Thankfully, my father was way ahead of the game. He modeled and raised me to truly own my awesome and be my own person because while I am deeply sensitive, I possess a thick skin for haters. I mean let’s be real here:
If you’re hated, you are doing something right, right?
As powerful and athletic women like the US Soccer Team, Rousey, and Welter pave the way for girls to not just play with the boys but to be respected like the boys, I can’t help but wonder could I be like them? Could I be that person for a little girl who looks to me for inspiration, the courage to look the haters in the face and say, “Like it, love it, or leave because I’m not going anywhere”. I guess on a level I try to be that person through my high school teaching and work as a yoga instructor. My goal is to always deliver a face-meltingly hard workout while empowering others to build themselves up and find their place in fitness.
So girls, this one is for you. Do not ever let someone hold you back from something you love. Never listen to the naysayers, because I can’t and I won’t have no place in your vocabulary. Embrace your ferocity and own it for there is only one version of you and it’s beautiful.
For 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.
Yoga 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.
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.
Taking 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!
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.
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.
So 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.
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.
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…”
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
My 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.
So 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?!
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 listento 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 awesomefor 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…]
In 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.