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Life Happens, Learning Happens, + Life Still Happens

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 20: I am grateful for so much that I can’t keep up

If you know anything about me, you know I hate delivering anything other than the utmost of excellence in all that I do. So you can imagine that when I set out to tackle these 30 Days of Thankful and haven’t been able to deliver I have been left frustrated with myself for letting down my readers. I shared this frustration with my best friend Mali via text when discussing an amazing project she’s currently working on to help the homeless. Mali’s reply was:

Moving yourself to action is easy, moving others to act takes more work, but it has far more value. We all fall of our goals and life happens. You’ll get back to your blog and whatever you decide matters to inspire others.

Mali’s right. I can’t be too hard on myself and I also cannot make excuses. I think in some respects I deliberately choose to take on more because I enjoy being busy but because life is so much of a competition to me: how much can I do and not lose my mind? I think my outlook needs some tweaking though. The work I do on my blog, with my high school students, and as a fitness instructor isn’t about grand standing and showing the world how much I can do. It’s simply about being a friggen rad human.

A recent gift from a former student who traveled to Paris with her family for her 16th birthday

Recently, my work with my high school students has started to really pay off. I am feeling more utilized as a staff member on campus and I am even presenting things to the staff too. My students and I are delving into powerful material and concepts and I leave work thinking that somehow, somewhere I helped change someone’s perspective, attitude, and trajectory in life. Just this morning, my father said to me, “if you change just 5 people’s lives in the duration of your teaching career, that’s more than most people can ever say in their lifetime.” For the first time in a long time, I am slowly starting to see all of the joy that exists within my day. I find myself thinking, well, I don’t hate today; so I guess that’s a good thing.

Students choose to spend their free time in my classroom during nutrition (a type of recess in the early morning where the children are fed) and lunch. We talk about life, fashion, boys, and even books. We laugh and we giggle, and I inhale my food while monitoring those students I am holding for detention whilst preparing for the rest of the day. The bustle and hustle isn’t glamorous and most days my hair is in a ponytail, my clothes are wrinkled, and I look tired, very, very tired. But in spite of the system, the bad apples, and my bewilderment as to why kids don’t do their work; there is so much for me to be thankful and grateful.

  • 12191817_10100835396316121_7387359616663759758_nMy honors students share stories of their lives and performed poetry where they were very vulnerable i.e. drugs, suicide, death, etc. They’re unafraid to be themselves and our classroom has become a safe haven where we pretty much cry together on a daily basis. Just yesterday after student performances of their poetry a young lady said to me, “I’ve hoped and prayed for a class just like this one my entire life. I just can’t believe it’s actually coming true.”
  • My students bring me little gifts and trinkets when they take trips or see something they know I’ll like. One of my former students brought me back a beautiful Eiffel Tower statuette all the way from Paris! Another gave me a My Little Pony key chain ‘just because’. But it’s not about the gifts. It’s about someone going the distance to show you they thought of you and cared enough to express that. I’ve gotten many gifts over the years but in the last year, my students have gone to such incredible lengths to show me that they care about me that I cannot help but feel like I am so much more to them than ‘just their teacher’.
  • They’ve started calling me their “School Mom.”

And for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever in my entire career I feel like most of my students understand what I am all about: Hard work that is made of an iron will and being a good human. As far as I’m concerned, you can have the best grammar in the world and if you’re a shitty person it doesn’t matter. While character education was removed from early education years ago, it’s completely non-existent [and perhaps never even existed in the first place] at the high school level. As it is, teachers are scrambling to teach the required standards and some feel going beyond the said curriculum isn’t their responsibility. But I see that differently. Coaching and building decent people with compassion and critical thinking skills is priceless in comparison to the Periodic Table of Elements. Equipping students with the capability to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity, be kind to others, and that their words have great power to enact change—well, that’s what it means to be a teacher.

So I guess my [attempted] 30 Days of Thankful really has been fruitful. It has given me some great insight into my work as a teacher. It has forced me to step back and look at the world I’ve created for my students and the new perspective has shown me that I am swimming in blessings. Each and everyday, regardless of the situation or circumstance; I must continue to seek the hidden joys nestled within my classroom for they do exist if I choose to see them.

Free Kindness for Everyone!

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 10: I am grateful for the Goddess in the Parking Garage

I am not going to bother discussing at length that there is a lapse in writing my Thirty Days of Thankful Challenge. But what I will say is the following: Grades are due at school. I will catch up. And grades are due.

Moving on.

While attempting to leave Equinox this evening, I locked my keys in the trunk of my car. Remarkably, I just said an expected “Shit, are you kidding me?!” But I didn’t fume. Hell, my heart rate didn’t even change. I’m telling you that after teaching children all day, teaching a cycling class, AND then taking yoga that I locked my keys in my car and I wasn’t even mad about it?! YUP.

I suppose one could chalk up my calmer disposition to the post yoga blissful high [ohmygawd, I see the most amazing colors in my savasana, but I digress] or maturity; but whatever it was, I didn’t even react to the situation. Simply, I calmly walked over to the valet and explained the situation. I inquired if I could pay for my parking and get a new ticket so I wouldn’t have to pay for the time I waited for AAA (Triple A) to rescue me. The nice woman working the desk made a note on my parking ticket and said it wouldn’t be an issue. We made small chit chat about silly things we have done and that was that. She allowed me to use their phone since I didn’t have cell service in the parking structure and within 15 minutes AAA arrived.

In 3 deft moves, my car was unlocked and I was headed home when the woman who signed my parking ticket showed up at the exit and said, “I’m just going to let you go this time, have a nice evening.” I was floored by the woman’s kindness. As it was, regardless of my car drama I was over on time and would have needed to pay but that didn’t matter; she met me with kindness anyway. While I didn’t even get the nice woman’s name and I am not even sure that I will ever see her again; I am reminded from our brief interlude that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice to stranger. I am looking forward to being able pay it forward because to be kind to someone else is the greatest gift one could give.

When Old is New


#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 8: I am grateful for Rediscovering Hidden Goodies in my Closet

Everyday I open my closet doors and stare into the abyss remarking to myself that I hate my clothes and have nothing to wear. It’s no secret that my wardrobe is stale and in some serious need of updating but as I have evolved over the years, I find myself spending less and less money on ‘real people’ clothes and more money on leggings, sports bras, and fitness class. My, how I have evolved. So every day when I try to get dressed for work, or when I am faced with the daunting task of going out, the same song and dance ensues:

  • I stare blankly into the oblivion that is my closet
  • I touch a few items, pondering if I should donate them and attempt to recall when I last wore said item/s
  • Uninspired, I close the doors and lay on the bed in my undergarments complaining to my husband that I have no clothes and we don’t have the money so I can shop


[On Sunday] after our soccer game we had a quick turn around before errands and a movie, so there was no time for my usual tantrum. I stepped into my underwear and my favorite grey jeans. Clothed in my black bra and pants, I gazed blankly into my closet and opened and closed the doors a few times before remembering this cute shirt I love but never wear…After shuffling about in some drawers I located the shirt. Awesome, now if I only had footwearCan’t I just wear flip flops? Ugh, no it’s too cold for that…And that’s when they caught my eye.

My combat boots.

I reached into my closet and grabbed boots. I found my thick socks [since the boots aren’t really my size but they were the last pair and I HAD to have them], maneuvered them under my pants, and slipped into my boots. I stepped back from the mirror and to my utter amazement and complete shock; I actually liked my outfit. I walked out of the bedroom to show my husband and I think I talked a good 15 minutes about my combat boots: That I probably hadn’t worn them in 2 years and I couldn’t even be sure if they were still considered cool. Finally, my husband reassured me that they were indeed still cool, but one could never be sure.

unnamedBut my renewed faith in my wardrobe and sense of style has little to do with my combat boots, so much as how I feel while wearing them. I’m glad they caught my eye and we’ve rekindled our love affair. There’s no greater feeling than when something old feels brand new and you fall in love with it all over again.

Let Them Eat Cake

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 6: I am grateful for life’s indulgences

You can’t get too caught up in what you can’t eat, should or shouldn’t do, or that one cocktail. While moderation is key; balance to life is essential too. I believe that sometimes we self-impose rigid boundaries and a set of parameters so stringent that in the end it ultimately sets us up for failure. Personally, I have been guilty of obsessing and immersing myself in work, a cause, a fitness trend, or even meal plan. It wasn’t until a year ago when I discovered a lifestyle that allowed me to thrive and that was eating paleo aka “The Caveman’s Diet” or in layman’s terms: Dairy free, gluten free, grain free, soy free, and sugar free. Initially though, I was completely swept up in the whole thing and I totally get how culty our causes can become. I am proud to report that my husband and I still eat predominately paleo but have made some changes like incorporating some grains and, are you ready for this? TREATS (on occasion!). This balance in my life has come in the form of my husband, as he helps me ease up on myself and sometimes that means eating tasty treats.

So tonight while working on our respected laptops and sipping some red wine, we noshed on cake. And you know what? It was delicious.unnamed-2

Let go just a little. Don’t be afraid to experience life by making it a point to infuse a little balance. I do believe that balance is what they call living. Live a little and have a piece of cake.

I am My Father’s Daughter

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 5: I am grateful for the Lessons My Father Bestowed Upon Me           

 My father and I have a long history of not getting along. My father, a strong, loud and abrasive man is a Scorpio. Me, well I am a strong, loud, abrasive woman and I am a Gemini. Clearly, you can deduce that as a result of our incredibly similar dispositions that my childhood or more specifically, my teenage years were filled with explosive arguments. Often times as a teen my lack of self-control and vicious tongue landed me on some serious punishment to my room for days, maybe even weeks at a time.

unnamed-2Growing up in my house was pretty special. Our parents loved my sister and me dearly and our youth was filled with trips to Mexico and innovative birthday parties. Yet despite this, I detested my father. My father represented order and structure. He was strict with my sister and I; harder on me since I was the oldest. We weren’t allowed to have short hair, dye our hair, wear make up, have boyfriends, or even go on sleep over’s. My youth felt oppressive and during a time when all I wanted to do was desperately fit in, I felt stifled living under my parent’s regime.

My parents are your typical bluecollar folk. My father has an Associate’s Degree and my mother holds a high school diploma. We lived on Long Island in a suburb of Manhattan close to the beach in a modest house. We owned two cars, my sister and I had our own bedrooms, and we never went without food, clothes, or other essentials. My parents worked hard to give us a childhood where we could thrive. My parents let us be kids. I never babysat my younger sister and we always took vacations as a family. Family time was and continues to be paramount. We prepared and ate dinner together every single night. Regardless of being grounded, there was no ‘eating in our bedrooms,’ so I had to face my parents even when I loathed the face time. Dinnertime was family time. Even now, well into my adulthood if I am visiting and I am not going to be home for dinner, I still have to let my parents know.

My father was always self-employed in advertising or other endeavors but he mostly he dabbled computers when I was younger. My father’s was different than my mom’s since she commuted into NYC daily and my dad left for work around 9am after a leisurely breakfast and Howard Stern.

unnamed-3Eventually, my father’s business ventures tanked and his business went bankrupt. My father was out of work for about 2 years. We never knew how bad things really were for my parents with creditors calling the house seeking to collect debts. My parents did an exceptional job shielding us from their financial woes. Everyday, my father got my sister and I ready for school: he cooked us breakfast, diligently did our hair (my mom taught my dad how to make ponytails for us!), and drove us to school. When dropping us off at school, my father always made sure we hugged and kissed him goodbye. As we got older this ritual made us insecure and embarrassed so we tried to evade this by running out of the minivan as fast as possible. My father, never one to go down without a fight would roll down the car window and call to my sister and I, mortifying us in front of our peers. Sometimes, he even would walk us into school, lift us up and kiss our faces making a spectacle of his love for us. At the time, we wanted to die. It was horrific to have your parent, nonetheless your stay-at-home dad humiliate you in school.

Growing up I knew I was different than my friends because we shopped at Payless and Marshall’s and TJ Maxx before it was ‘cool to get a bargain’. My school projects while incredibly unique were comprised of making soap sculptures and other ingenuity that further alienated me from me peers. I still remember one birthday in particular, I don’t know how old I was turning and I don’t even remember who was there. All I remember was what we did to circumvent the fact my parents couldn’t afford to host a party at one of the hip hot spots around town. My father printed and copied outlines off the computer of animals and landscapes. Then we went to supermarket and bought all sorts of dried beans in assorted colors, shapes and sizes. The beans were placed in bowls on the dining room table with bountiful amounts of Elmer’s glue. We glued the beans onto the pictures my father printed but it didn’t stop there. We also each made our own English Muffin pizza bagel! It was creative and obviously tons of fun but again, I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t be like everyone else.

Why couldn’t we have more money? But really, money aside, I just wished my father would be like everyone else’s parents: liberal, lax, and let us listen to Z100 in the car instead of oldies. I acted out. I was ungrateful and angry. I cursed at my parents and I am ashamed to say it, even spit in their faces a handful of times. Filled with rage I went off to college then moved to Los Angeles immediately thereafter. I started my life on my terms, far far far away from that Long Island home as an English teacher for LA Unified. As I started my journey as a teacher, my father’s structure, high standards, passion, confidence, and individuality were wildly apparent. My thick skin to Own My Awesome and be proud of who I am permeated into all facets of my life. Still present today as I mentor youth and inspire people in my fitness classes; the lessons of my father live on.

My father taught me how to be your own person. Abba, which is Hebrew for father, never played by anybody else’s rules. I suppose he didn’t play because he couldn’t. Abba is just too much of a revolutionary and visionary to follow anyone else; he must lead. From my expressive choices in hair color, to my bohemian style of dress, to my quirks as a teacher—my father’s influence on the woman I have become is obvious: I am my father’s daughter.

Strong, loud, and abrasive.

No one defines me or can tell me to play by the rules.

Recently a colleague of mine remarked, “You’re like a walking art project!” My confidence and strong sense of self was cultivated in my youth by my Abba who simply lived his truth. I didn’t know it at the time, but my father established a strong set of morals within me by simply being himself.

unnamed-1I owe all that I am to my father and his ability to stand tall amongst a sea of followers and march to the tune of his own drum. I am thankful that the lessons of my youth shaped me into a fiery force.

I am my father’s daughter.

Happy 62nd Birthday Abba. I love you more than words [I guess pun intended].

I am Grateful for My Husband

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 4: I am grateful for my husband

My husband Greg is my biggest fan. Every time I write a new blog post, he’s sure to be the first person to let me know how much he enjoyed what I wrote. Greg also is the only person who constantly asks when I am going to write about him. Well, Greg, this one’s for you.11822820_10152957373526176_6482384569058165266_n

As I mentioned in Thirty Days of Thankful, Day 1, this whole 30 Days of Thankful emerged from my need to self-medicate my boredom and frustrations with my professional life. I knew that I needed to gain perspective and in order to do so, taking a look at the many blessings in my life would help me gain some clarity. Now, I’m only 4 days in so there obviously hasn’t been a major shift as of yet, but I am enjoying protecting my time to write each and everyday.

Moreover, I think that this process is bringing me closer to my husband because I am sharing so much with the world but also with him. I am opening up and being completely vulnerable about my deepest and most intimate thoughts about myself, even the ugly, dark parts. In particular, the last few days have been hard because Greg was in San Diego for work. Greg’s absence wasn’t so much the issue as was being hungry. I barely ate while he was gone since Greg does all the cooking! No matter how long his day, how far he drove; like a machine Greg arrives home from work and immediately starts cooking so that when I walk through the door, dinner is ready.

11013280_10100758970099871_65938193947997885_nI am continually inspired by the selflessness of my husband when it comes to investing in our marriage and our love. But Greg doesn’t just nourish me to sustain my physical-self. It’s so much more than that because he feeds my soul by supporting me when I need it most. He doesn’t cower or recoil when I have a meltdown about my job. He listens to me and holds my hand when I share stories, aka nightmares about working in an urban school. He offers insight, help, and always poses solutions. Greg emails me inspirational quotes, always shares what he learns at trainings and seminars, and even offers to help me exit education ‘if that’ll make me happy’.

So when I think I’ve got it so bad and things are not working out, I remember that my husband believes in me and I can’t let him down. Greg draws his strength from me and I in turn, draw mine from him. Our love and relationship is one of balance; Greg grounds me when I get caught up in myself. And conversely, I help Greg live out loud a little and get outside of his comfort zone. But more importantly, everyday my husband reminds me that true love means working in tandem to ensure each one of us is better for one another and the world than we were the day before. Truly, we really are Team Awesome. Marriage like any relationship is about push—pull and Greg is my push and my pull because Lord knows each and everyday with me is surely an adventure!


I am Grateful for New Adventures in Fitness

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 3: I am grateful for new adventures in fitness

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

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

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

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

Class started.

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

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

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

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

Join the 30 Days of Thankful Challenge!

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.

I am Grateful for Coffee

#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair

Day 2: I am grateful for coffee 

Every morning, the first thing I do before even going to the bathroom is turn on my Keurig coffee maker. I make precisely one large cup of coffee with 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar and almond milk. This simple pleasure is one that brings me great joy. Each and every morning, like clockwork, I indulge in the same flavor of organic all natural coffee with no artificial flavors and it never gets old. In particular, my favorite part of my morning ritual is the stillness and utter silence before the madness of children running through my doors, the loud music of my fitness classes, and the chaos of sweat in my workouts. Clutching my coffee, I browse my social media, read emails, and often write for my blog.

coffee cup from cleaIn addition for being grateful for coffee today, I am so honored that one of my 10th graders brought me coffee this morning. Clea stopped by my classroom while on the way to 1st period to bring me a dairy free, naturally flavored caffeinated beverage that she made at the coffee shop where she works. Humbled by the gesture, Clea inspired my thanks today [and reminded me that in spite of today’s youth and their shortcomings, there is hope].

Happiness doesn’t need to be lavish or complicated. And though our routines sometimes can get stale, try to find the pleasure in what we do and why we do it.

Join the 30 Days of Thankful Challenge!

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.


Thirty Days of Thankful, Day 1

Now seems like as good as anytime to start chronicling my gratitude. No, I didn’t pick the month of November because it houses Thanksgiving and our obligatory time to give thanks. I picked November because right now in this moment and really for sometime, I have been feeling depleted, defeated, and frankly depressed [I think]. I am completely restless in all aspects of my life except with my relationship with my husband. We are blissfully in love and happy. As a matter of fact, I often think if we lived alone on an isolated island together all would be right in my world; but alas we don’t.

Recently, my husband transitioned full time into the fitness arena. He is now an Area Group Fitness Manager for 24 Hour Fitness and we are also moving. There’s a lot of change and upheaval in our lives and while I thrive on major changes and love them, something for me is just off. Often I feel myself not looking forward to doing the things I thought for so long I loved and while I am trying to find my place in this world it seems just when I take a step forward, I then take two steps backwards, sideways or hell, in a circle. And though I recognize this dance is life, the woman I want to so desperately be has no friggen clue who she is; nonetheless wants to be. I feel lost, impatient, and above all, I feel bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.

So, to help combat what I can sense could potentially be a hugely dramatic downward spiral I have decided to try to fight my feelings with gratitude. I am committing to daily blogging for the month of November sharing the good in my life, the joy, the light, and all the small smiles.

In the words of my dear friend and fellow yoga instructor Brianna, “gratitude is always a good thing to hang out with.”

Day 1: I am grateful for my students

Recently, I asked my students to complete a reflection for their 1st marking period grades. There was an optional question that was designed to serve as a personal dialogue directly to me discussing, explaining, or conveying something should the students so desire.

Here are just a few of the highlights (click on the picture to enlarge it). I intentionally took pictures of them and said to myself, “Arielle save these. Remember how you feel in this moment for when you feel alone and beaten down, these shall pick you back up.”

Student response 4 Student response 8 Student response 7 Student response 6 unnamed Student response 5 Minji reflection Clea reflection

If you would like to join me over the next 30 days, here’s the challenge:

  • Follow and subscribe to my blog and social media outlets
  • Comment on my blog with your gratitude for all of us to read and share in
  • Post your gratitude on your social media outlets, using #TheGirlWithPurpleHair and #30daysofThankful.

Now, start giving thanks!

Freedom from Our Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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