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NAMASWEAT

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NAMASWEAT

It's no secret that I have been focused on the hustle lately. Between teaching a full schedule at SoulCycle, I have continued to develop as a private yoga instructor and personal trainer while brainstorming my next project. Coming up with a new idea can be such an intimidating process. Finding the courage to get started and stay committed is not something I have accomplished alone. In fact, I would not be here without the incredible network of talented, successful, and inspirational people I am so blessed to have in my life. I have been challenged, inspired, and motivated to become more than just an instructor.

This is how a big idea became action... how a vision became a plan... how my coaching style has become my personal brand, and how I hope to impact the fitness industry.

It started with creating a logo. As someone who was never able to color within the lines according to elementary school standards, I knew I needed help. So I reached out to my talented friend Ryan. The only thing I knew I needed to incorporate was antlers.

One of my forever inspirations has always been and will always be my grandfather. Before he passed, he would always tell us to "buck up" when we were sad or upset. He was a man of few words but when he spoke you listened. To "buck up" means to stop playing into negative emotions and get real about the fact that no matter what happens--no matter how hard our challenges may be-- we alway have a choice. We can choose to let the circumstances of our lives knock us down and keep us there, or we can BUCK UP and realize that the Universe saves the hardest challenges for the strongest people. We can choose to use our challenges to become stronger. We can choose to tell ourselves a different version of the story happening in between our ears and choose a more positive dialogue. This isn't easy for everyone, but it's something I will always try to help others accomplish... to buck up is to consciously and actively CHOOSE a positive outlook... to stop complaining and do something about it... to find gratitude within the hardest moments of our lives. I didn't want to hear it when he last said it to me, but it will guide my life forever. 

The next step was turning an idea into something tangible. I have always known that I want to help others FEEL better through physical fitness, motivational coaching, and community outreach... but how? I started to think about what makes most people feel intimidated about doing the things I can help them with, like yoga and personal training. I asked friends and colleagues what they feel like they need to add to their routines and what was keeping them from making that happen...

Then, after a private session with my friend Rebecca, she served the truth right to me. "What are you waiting for? You always tell your classes that it's not about perfection... to embrace the mess... so why are you waiting for your idea to be perfect?" She was right. I had been holding back because I was afraid to fail. I was afraid that my idea wasn't good enough... that other's might not like it... or that I might be criticized for even trying in the first place. That night I created a plan and now NAMASWEAT is my newest endeavor.

NAMASWEAT is a combination of yoga and cross-training offered in a group setting so that we can work together to take down our fears and insecurities and add balance to our lives without feeling intimidated. The premier event is tonight at the marina green in San Francisco and I haven't felt this excited about anything since the day of my SoulCycle audition. 

There is a lot of power in not knowing what is coming next. I could spend all day worrying about letting people down, but instead I am going to buck up and remind myself that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now. It is going to be messy, experimental, and imperfect.. just like life! Without trying to predict and control every aspect of this new venture, I am arriving in this chapter of my life with an open mind and an open heart. I want to continue learning more about the needs of others so that I can better serve the fitness community. Creating NAMASWEAT is a big step out of my comfort zone, but I have faith that the people who need it and the people who will benefit most from it will find it. 

What do you need? What are you looking for? In what areas of your life do you need the most support?

Perhaps I can help.

#NAMASWEAT

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Surf Yoga Beer: Playa Maderas, Nicaragua 2016

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Surf Yoga Beer: Playa Maderas, Nicaragua 2016

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When I signed up for a fitness retreat through Surf Yoga Beer over Thanksgiving week, I thought that I was just trying to get away and explore a new part of the world with my boyfriend. I was excited about the beach bootcamps, surf lessons, and yoga sessions that I already knew would be part of the experience, but I truly had no idea how life changing this trip would be. Among the 22 participants, the only two people I knew going into it were my boyfriend and my friend Mantas, who I went through SoulCycle instructor training with about four years ago. Everyone else was new to my world, and each person gave me a gift that I will hold in my heart forever. Throughout our lives we learn to wear certain costumes—versions of ourselves that we believe are socially acceptable and desirable. When we arrived in Playa Maderas, Nicaragua, you could tell immediately that everyone felt safe enough to take off their costumes, and present themselves to one another in a real & vulnerable way. After all, when you're being woken up at 6am every morning by a disco ball speaker blasting music in your bedroom and Mantas getting you to dance yourself awake in preparation for that morning's beach bootcamp workout, you don't have much time to think about impressing anyone.

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As we began that first workout together—full of relay races, team building exercises, and partner workouts—we began to develop our relationships with one another right away. We cheered each other on while pushing ourselves as hard as we could, not because anyone asked us to, but because we knew that we were participating in something much greater than simply working out and burning calories. We were inviting one another into our world, seeing ourselves as one team working together & celebrating every single moment for exactly what it was... messy, sweaty, challenging... and there were zero complaints.

After our morning workout, we enjoyed a healthy breakfast at the main house before heading back down to the water for surfing lessons. Some people, like myself, were beginners, so those with surfing experience became our teachers, our coaches, and our motivators. When I was finally able to stand up and ride my first wave, I could hear myself screaming from the inside out, "YES!!! YES. YES. YES." 

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Everything about this trip was a huge YES.

There were so many incredible moments throughout the trip, like the night we had a bonfire on the beach. One of our SYB teammates, Phil, brought his guitar and performed while we all sang along to songs we knew and loved, then he taught us the Surf Yoga Beer theme song that he wrote while on another retreat in the Amalfi Coast. A real life praying mantas came to visit, landing perfectly and precisely on Mantas' head. We all smiled and stared in disbelief. It was one of many signs from the Universe that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. We looked into each other's eyes, listened intently, and shared openly. I learned things about my new friends that I suspected few people in their worlds at home knew. I stood up at the bonfire and decided to vocalize my gratitude for sharing our lives with one another, telling the group that it's because of people like them that keep us all learning and growing as human beings. "I cannot become greater without learning from you, and I hope that learning from me somehow helps you become greater as well... all we really need in this life is community and water." 

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On Thanksgiving morning, we didn't let a little hurricane warning stop us from going on more adventures. Half of our group went zip lining through the jungle, and the other half went on an ATV tour. Zip lining was a huge highlight of the trip for me, especially when a Canadian woman inspired our whole group to try zip lining upside down! "Could you imagine if we hadn't met her? We could have done the whole thing right-side-up and never realized that there was a whole other way to experience it." After the zip lining tour was over, we grabbed some road beers and headed to town for lunch. As soon as we sat down, however, the hurricane alarms sounded and the entire town was evacuated.

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Once we made it back to the house, Eddie, our personal chef and SYB leader, was clearly concerned. It was Thanksgiving day and we were unable to go to the store or any restaurants for food, so we waited as the SYB team began to brainstorm some ideas for getting everyone fed and keep the positive vibes flowing. Liza, our cocktail expert from New York, began teaching everyone the basic components for creating a well-balanced cocktail, while Eddie used everything available to him in the kitchen to create a unique, yet totally satisfying, Thanksgiving meal. The rain began to pour as we sipped on blended cocktails, ate full plates of pasta and grilled veggies, and listened to one another—sharing stories of fear, heartbreak, and life experiences that helped shape us into who we are. It was a beautiful thing to recognize that many of the challenges we think we have have faced alone, are the similar challenges that others have faced as well. This experience taught me so much about the importance of leaning in, asking seemingly hard-to-answer questions, and deepening the conversation so that it becomes more real & authentic than just surface level information sharing.

The next morning, the storm had cleared and we were once again woken up by our SYB leaders, Mantas and Carl, breaking into our rooms at the crack of dawn for beach bootcamp. This time, however, we knew much more about one another than on that first day.We were a family now—a tribe of SYB warriors, and we wanted to celebrate this togetherness as much as we could on our last full day in Playa Maderas. When Mantas asked my boyfriend, Nick, to lead the group in our final workout, it reconfirmed the importance of collaboration throughout this adventure. Nick played football for UC Davis, something everyone learned about during one conversation or another, so Mantas invited him to teach us some of the football drills he used to do with his teammates. Nick taught us how to call out the drills, then invited others to lead the drills from then on. We all took turns leading a drill that some of us had never done before, but we did it with the excitement and enthusiasm that radiated throughout our journey together. We high-fived, smeared mud all over each other, and assembled a human pyramid to finish the morning strong.

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Our unbelievably powerful bond was solidified that night at our final dinner in town. Before we ate our food, Mantas took us down to the beach and handed out an award to everyone, praising their best moments on the trip and gifting them with some sweet SYB swag. As we celebrated each person, it was clear that these people had all affected our lives in incredibly inspiring ways. From powering through workouts with the best attitudes, to making sure everyone felt heard and included, there wasn't a single person that didn't play an integral role in making this trip truly life-changing for everyone. We were all a bit nervous to say our goodbyes the next day, but instead of succumbing to our anxiety, we DANCED. Phil went on stage and performed, but unlike his bonfire singalong, this time he had the entire restaurant band backing him up. The smiles were relentless and true. No one was faking it. We were all so genuinely happy to have experienced everything together and we just wanted to make every moment last a little longer that night... which eventually turned into a late night game in the pool called "tequila carwash," but you'll have to learn how to play once you sign up for a retreat yourself!

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Surf Yoga Beer Nicaragua changed my life in a way that I never could have predicted. It renewed my faith in humanity and reminded me about the importance of listening to others and learning from our shared experiences. We can look at someone and think we know their story, but human beings are so much deeper than the costumes we wear. We are all complicated, imperfect, inspirational people who have lived a lot of life and have so many stories to share. "The only way to recognize the greatness within ourselves is by recognizing the greatness in others." Striking a balance between hard work and having fun is what Surf Yoga Beer is all about, but turning that idea into a reality is where the participants come in and make it happen.

I am so inspired by this trip and will continue to use the lessons I have learned to develop into the woman, friend, leader, and lover that I was put on this Earth to become. But as I have learned, I will never accomplish this goal alone. It will take more people, more stories, and continuing the relationships that began in Playa Maderas to keep the momentum going.

To the 22 people who became one huge friend family for life, thank you for filling me up. Thank you for listening to me, thank you for sharing yourselves with me, and thank you for reminding me what life is really about. We are forever connected and now we have a responsibility to continue our roles as leaders in our hometown communities. It is never goodbye, just see you later... I love you all with my big, full heart.

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If you are looking to go on a trip that pushes your physical limits and heals your heart through physical activity and team work, Surf Yoga Beer is for you. Mantas and his team have retreats running throughout the year, so check out their website if you are interested and sign up! I promise you will not regret it. In fact, I promise you will LOVE it.

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Self-Love and Body Positivity: Challenge Accepted.

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Self-Love and Body Positivity: Challenge Accepted.

ano This picture was taken just over ten years ago, on my sixteenth birthday, in New York City.

I was meeting with every major modeling agency through a talent manager I had recently met at an open call modeling convention. I eventually signed on as a new talent for a company in Los Angeles, but I wasn't exactly happy about it. When the above photo was taken, I was 5'11" and about 130 pounds. Still, I believed I had more weight to lose... especially if I wanted to have a decent modeling career. I was consistently told to "lose another five pounds." I was also told that I had to quit swim team because it was broadening my shoulders, and leave the basketball team because of how muscular it was making my legs.

To say that I was not loving myself is a huge understatement. In fact, I had the most dysfunctional relationship with my self-image when I was my thinnest. I was compulsively counting calories and carbs as I lightly snacked throughout the day. I started "power walking" through my neighborhood in a sweat suit in an attempt to slim down my basketball butt. Every meal felt like torture; trying to keep myself satisfied while feeling guilty about every bite. I never thought I was thin enough. Exercise became a punishment for treating myself, and this eventually caused me to resent working out altogether.

It was the most unloving relationship I have ever been in.

My whole world revolved around trying to achieve a physical ideal that wasn't even my own, and I eventually became a stranger to myself. In my modeling-industry-warped mind, I was constantly criticizing and comparing myself to the the iconic images of famous models in magazines and on television. It was so much easier to be critical of myself and to pick myself apart than to feel good about my body...

I didn't pursue a modeling career for long.

Fast forward ten years and I am a much healthier, happier version of myself than I was at sixteen, but I still struggle with being self-conscious about my body. I've always been tall and athletic, but I've had a hard time embracing my "Amazonian" stature. I always wanted to know what it would be like to be small and petite. Even when people would compliment my height and tell me how lucky I was, it fell on deaf ears. There was another girl named Lauren on my basketball team in high school; because she was shorter than me, our coach decided to nickname her "Little Lauren" and... you guessed it, I was "Big Lauren."

It felt like getting punched in the face every time he said it.

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I know I'm not alone in struggling to find that happy place with my body, and perhaps everyone experiences a certain degree of self-body-shaming because of the amount of media content we are exposed to today. For every "Instagram model" that floods the internet with filtered bikini photos, there are women everywhere lamenting their own physique. Now, more than ever, it seems as though loving yourself—truly L-O-V-E-LOVING your body, your shape, and the way it moves, evolves, and changes—is one of the hardest things to do.

During a recent class, I asked my riders to come up with three things that they truly loved about who they are. As I started to make my own list, it was a clear reminder of how difficult this simple suggestion can be. I decided to focus on the things that my body can do, instead of what it looks like, and the list began to grow. I can teach upwards of twenty SoulCycle classes in one week. I give great hugs. My body is able to practice yoga on a regular basis. I have a beating heart and air in my lungs... there were so many more things I could do, or be grateful for, than things I wanted to change. That's when it clicked... maybe the concept of self-love isn't something that comes with an answer?

What if the answer is to challenge ourselves every single day to practice self-love?

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It's still a huge challenge for me to feel comfortable working out in just a sports bra, but maybe that's the whole point? Maybe we have to play an active role in developing a positive relationship with our bodies by doing things that remind us of what we love about ourselves? Creating that mental list of things that we are grateful for, exercising because it feels good to take care of ourselves instead of doing it because we're punishing ourselves for consuming calories... working out in clothes that help us embrace our bodies and appreciate the way that they move and flow; a seemingly small act, when practiced regularly, can have a huge impact on our overall self-esteem.

We must be relentless in our practice of self-love and body positivity.

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STRENGTH comes in many different shapes and forms. The more we practice embracing what makes us different, and the amazing things our bodies can do, instead of what they look like, the more we might be able to celebrate ourselves and move away from that overly critical mindset.

Yoga has always been something that makes me feel strong and connected to my physicality, so I decided to wear a new outfit from Lucy Activewear to Dolores Park and practice some poses that make me feel proud of what my body can do. I might not have the size-zero physique I once did, but my body is capable of things I never could have done in that condition. Today, my relationship with food is a balancing act: as an athlete, I need fuel and nutrients to supplement my active lifestyle, but when I have downtime, I am never one to say no to a treat. Instead of shaming myself for having a body with curves and texture, I am choosing to be proud of my shape and the many things I can do with it.

A little something, every day.

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What do you do to make yourself feel proud of  your body? What makes you feel strong? I propose we make a commitment to put these answers into action on a daily basis and continue practicing the self-love that we deserve. Please share your story, leave a comment and check out my SoulCycle schedule in San Francisco this week!

Check out the Lucy Activewear collection and post a photo of yourself doing something that makes you feel strong and confident with the hashtag, #lucyletsgo!

Photography by the brilliant soul that is Jennifer Brody. Find her at the new Calabasas SoulCycle studio soon!

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