Category Archives: Health & Wellness

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

 

 

Look Up, Help is On the Way

Before my cycling class at Equinox tonight, I overheard a young woman talking on her cell phone. She was reaching out to someone for motivation before her workout, as she didn’t want to attend the class for which she came to gym. The girl talked at length about needing to look better than this other girl who had an Audi and so on. I slowed my pre-class ritual and tapped into this young woman, yes, I was pseudo-eavesdropping. I wasn’t interested so much in what she was saying, it was how she was saying it.

I could hear the pain and frustration in this young lady’s voice and I knew it all too well. She was lost. She was seeking something and didn’t know what she was looking for and that’s when I realized that young woman on the phone was not a stranger, she was a reflection of a girl I knew very well and if I knew anything about this girl [ahem, me] she needed someone to extend an olive branch. So naturally when she was off the phone, I interjected with some unsolicited advice to a total stranger, in a locker room, about a situation to which I was not privy.

I learned that, let’s call her AJ, was talking to her father about her ex-girlfriend who used to belittle her appearance with comments like “If you worked out you’d look sooooooo much better” and “If you had lashes you’d look sooooooo much better” and now post break-up, AJ wants to take back some of the power she gave to her ex and prove to herself that she can do anything and be anything she wants on her own accord. AJ, a stunning, lean, blonde with a sweet and unsure smile, has a quiet way about her demeanor. Above all, I could tell instantly that this girl was fragile and needed something or someone strong to rock her world to show her just how powerful she is already. I knew that though she needed something big, she also needed tenderness.

As 5:30pm loomed, and I finished getting dressed, I encouraged her to sign up for my indoor cycling class. Ok, I coerced her but she snagged the last bike available and met me in the cycling room. It was AJ’s first time cycling and she was nervous. I set her up, helped ease her nerves, and introduced her to some of my regulars. AJ was now family.

We rode tonight, and we rode HARD. AJ never quit and she had a huge smile on her face the entire time. During class, I high-fived her, gave her kudos from the instructor podium, and after class she gushed about how much she enjoyed something she ‘never thought she could like’. But really, this isn’t about winning AJ over with my class. It is what she said after class when she quoted Plato, saying that my actions earlier in the locker room reminded her to:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

My charge in life is not limited to my work as an instructor or educator. I am a humanitarian. There was someone broken, and in need to be seen by someone. I am so glad I looked up from my own shit to see this young woman.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see AJ again. I sure hope I do. But as far as I am concerned, if I were able to ease her pain, even if just for a short time, or leave her feeling empowered and capable of fighting for herself then that’s a massive success.

I encourage you to pause from your own life.

Look up.

Look around.

Reach your hand out to someone who may need a little help taking that first step for him or herself.

I can assure you that you will be glad you did and hey, before you know it folks, maybe we can actually live the Pay It Forward Movement just by being there for someone, seeing someone, and letting others into our world.

A Letter from my Fiancé

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


 

Babylove:

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

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

Friendship

SISTERLY LOVE:

SisterHood

HARDWORK / ACCOMPLISHING SOMETHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO:

HardWork

FIGHT / DON’T QUIT:

NeverGiveUp

COUPLE EXPERIENCES / RACES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY:

FirstCoupleRagnar

MARRIED COUPLE TO BE:

EngagementPhoto

INSPIRATION / ROLE MODEL:

Inspiration

NEW SCHOOL / LEADER:

TeacherFeature

 FUN TIMES FOR A GOOD CAUSE FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE:

CFS_A&G

A VERY RARE EXPERIENCE:

rareexperience

 BEST BIRTHDAY EVER:

bestbirthdayever

THE START OF YOUR FUTURE:

thestartofour future

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

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

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

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

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

 

Walking My Way

This evening I planned on taking a yoga class. But after my training session I emerged from my nap lethargic with a headache. So, despite really needing to go to yoga—I passed. Instead, I putted around the house for a while; creeped people’s social media then finally decided that I needed to get moving if I were going to hit those 10,000 steps that call to me on my Fitbit.

I tied my sneakers and bounded out the door with my Vega shake and cell phone in hand. I wanted to ditch the phone all together but knew I was trying to link up with Greg and he’d be calling, so my phone was along for the ride, but I intentionally didn’t bring headphones. I wanted to soak up life at my favorite time of day—dusk. I know many people look to the early morning hours and sunrise as representing hope and possibility, but for me the crispness of the evening air, people coming home from work, the laughter of children playing on their front lawns, and the sun slipping into the horizon hold the key to my personal hope.

I strode around my neighborhood of Studio City with my head up, off of a phone screen, noting the houses that surround our apartment complex. I made mental notes of the ones I loved with the Spanish style terracotta roofs, manicured walkways, and mature lush fruit trees.

I listened and even slowed my stroll to pause and appreciate the giggling of children scooting around the sidewalk in front of their houses and just playing. I smiled as I recalled growing up in Oceanside, New York with my family and playing outside with my sister until our parents bellowed our names “ARI!!!!!!! KASSII!!!!!! DINNER!!!!!!” from the front door signaling playtime was over.

People walked their dogs. I mean a lot of people were walking their dogs. There was a pep in people’s steps that I don’t recall ever noticing before. Was the calm of the evening promise responsible for such happiness? Or was I just too caught up in myself or looking into a phone screen that I never noticed the bustling community of my own neighborhood?

People smiled and I smiled back.

I felt empowered and I wasn’t even doing anything. I was just walking with nowhere to be, no destination—just walking. Strolling. Admiring. Savoring. Observing and fantasizing about the home that my soon-to-be husband Greg and I will one day share: I saw Greg getting out of a black SUV and walk up the path to our home, then through the front door to be greeted with a kiss and dinner. It was clearly a made-up moment but hey, the key to achieving our dreams is to visualize them and for me an eternal dreamer, though this moment only happened in my mind, something told me it felt right and would be within our reach.

There was a couple rollerblading. I actually passed them twice on my aimless meandering and smiled again as they held hands rollerblading and chatting. I think I even giggled to myself because I pondered, Is this still a thing? Do people still rollerblade? Wait. Do people still own rollerblades?!” Apparently the answers are yes but it doesn’t really matter because here was a couple doing something active, bonding, and enjoying each other’s company. Some people Crossfit, some run races, some cook dinner, and others rollerblade.

IMG_6565I admired the subtleties of the trees lining the streets and how on each street though indistinguishable from the other, each still looked and felt different because the foliage on each street had its own flair. These streets could have been Anywhere Road in Anywhere USA yet they felt deeply personal to me like these streets were mine.

The Hollywood Hills kissed the sky and embraced the evening as the lighted homes glistened in the distance looking down upon The Valley like a sage guardian.

I walked home and my Fitbit vibrated alerting me that I met my daily goal of 10,000 steps. I rubbed my wrist and thought God, I love this thing. Inspired by my desire to meet and exceed my daily steps my Fitbit led me to an adventure right outside my door. So maybe I wasn’t supposed to get my yoga on today and I was right where I needed to be, exploring, dreaming, and just being alone with myself in stillness.