Eight years ago, I walked into SoulCycle in West Hollywood a completely different person than I am today. I was 48 years old, 300 pounds, eating poorly, and smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day. By this point, I had already lived a lot of life and had been to a lot of dark places, but now my body was shutting down. My doctor cautioned me that I was a ticking time bomb – if I didn’t change my behavior fast, I was going to drop dead of a massive heart attack. So when I randomly walked by SoulCycle during a trip to a shopping center, I pushed myself to abandon my shopping plans and instead take a class.
Given my physical condition, I was scared I wouldn’t make it through that first class, so I chose a bike closest to the door so the studio staff wouldn’t have to carry me far to get me out of the room if I collapsed. The room was dark, but I couldn’t hide the overwhelming shame and sadness I felt as I clipped into the bike. But when the music came on and I started pedaling, something inside me changed – at the very edge of my consciousness was a glimmer of hope. I hung on to that glimmer with all I had and, slowly, my confidence started to grow.
Few things in my life have felt as good and as satisfying as finishing that first class. So I went back the next day. And then the next. And then again the day after that. Soon I was completely hooked – riding multiple times a day – at first in the far corner of the back row, and then eventually front and center, and then eventually on the podium.
SoulCycle very quickly became my sanctuary. It was a place where I could work my body, and also clear my mind by letting go and just getting lost in the music. I was getting stronger and losing weight, and I was feeling more energized, increasingly confident and happier overall. I became even more acutely aware of just how interdependent the mind and body are, and how reliant each is on the health of the other.
SoulCycle completely changed my life, and nothing could be more rewarding for me than to have the opportunity to give that same experience back to my riders. I am so grateful for the fact that I GET to do this work. That’s why I give 100% to every single class I teach. When I get into the room, I am completely focused on how I can inspire my riders to work hard and get the best physical and mental experience possible.
I am strong at motivating and inspiring people to work hard to become the best version of themselves. If I can be where I am today, they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. I bring the lessons I’ve learned from the experiences I’ve had with me to every class, and with that knowledge – and a little bit of humor – I motivate my riders to work.
My class is always high energy and fun, but it’s also a safe space where people can be themselves and ride through their personal challenges. My approach to teaching has always been to deliver a holistic experience that not only focuses on exercise, but also on achieving mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Since physical health and mental health are so critically dependent on one another, I always strive to talk to my riders about real-life issues and how to harness strength and work through challenges to inspire them, ground them and give them the confidence to better themselves both physically in that room and overall in their everyday lives.
I am particularly focused on working on emotional and spiritual wellbeing in my classes, because for decades before finding SoulCycle I dedicated my career to counseling people in therapeutic settings to help them improve their outlook on life and achieve an overall better way of living. From conducting one-on-one sessions to guiding small group meetings, to giving talks at large conferences, I have coached people through life challenges – whether it be an addiction, eating disorders, trauma or stressful career or family situations – to help them heal, find peace and realize their goals.
I decided to partner with Cycle for Recovery because it ties into the most profound issue in my life, mental health. I got sober in the 1980s where there was still a stigma attached to being an alcoholic, and even less understanding of having a mental health issue. I have PTSD as a result of growing up in a highly violent environment. I have suffered through deep depressions, I have attempted suicide 3 times. I am a walking talking survivor of numerous mental health issues.
Cycle for Survival will allow me to pay forward the kindness and help that was given to me with love.
Connect with Noa on Instagram @noashaw26