From Core

Core Instructor Spotlight: Joe Royal

Good Pillar Guests

March 13, 2020

I'm originally from a small town in Washington state called Marysville. I left Washington at 19; I had grown up doing musicals and acting, so that brought me to LA. While I was there, I pursued  acting, and fitness, along with a few other random things. After being in LA for about six years, I got a job working at  SoulCycle, and have been teaching there for almost five years now. When I first started, SoulCycle asked me to move to New York, so I lived there for a while. And then from New York, they asked me to open the first couple of studios in Austin. After about a year, I  moved back to LA for a few months, but when a spot opened up in San Francisco, I jumped at it, and I've been in SF ever since.

In all the places I’ve been, I’ve always found good people. The people I’ve met along this crazy journey of life have taught me a lot; it always feels like there is something new.. By always encountering many different kinds of people, I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to find new perspectives.

“I’ve always found good people.”

While in San Francisco, I started to reflect on the trajectory of my life. I took time to explore different things in wellness and fitness and I tried meditation. I just started to really find my routine and what works for me to keep me feeling good. It was during this that Core reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested in teaching at their meditation studio. So I went on an audition and, bada bing bada boom, here I am.

Meditation gives me balance — balance that I didn’t know I needed when I started teaching cardio classes. I realized I was always running on this high energy level; truthfully, a lot of it was caffeine induced, and I was starting to burn out. So I started to cut back on how much I was teaching and I started to explore meditation and yoga. I needed a more restorative kind of wellness. I started to find that balance, and now it's really improved my life outside of work. I’m more grounded in my body, and now that I’m running on a lower intensity, I find it easier to handle the challenges that life presents. I have so much more control and I still feel good at work. But now I also feel good in my personal life, which is awesome.

For me, I believe that physical and mental fitness go together like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve put physical wellness first for most of my life. And I noticed that, because I was doing it at such an intense magnitude, it was actually negatively affecting my mental health because I was always so stressed. And then, I experienced a big loss and Through that loss, I realized I had to find balance. Sometimes life is just going to hand you things that are so big, and a workout won’t solve it.

“Physical and mental fitness go together like peanut butter and jelly.”

I believe that you need to do something positive for your body and your mind every day. Sometimes that positive thing for your body is resting, and you need to listen to that. We’re in a time where there's so much stimulation and there's so much going, it’s important to  take time to meditate or a moment to be alone. Be quiet. Just be quiet with yourself, or do a more restorative physical thing like yoga, if that’s what works for you. But yes, it’s a good combination; peanut butter and jelly.

It’s great to see that people are starting to see the value in mental health. There are more apps that are geared towards it, more people that are talking about it openly. You know, I'm in therapy and I was home with my family this past weekend, and to them it's so foreign. They're like, “Why would you go to therapy? What's wrong with you?” And I'm like, there's nothing wrong with me: life gets a little wild sometimes and it’s nice having help navigating my path and the next move.

But, just because it’s more accepted, doesn’t make it easy to do. With my classes at Core, I try to just keep it as simple and as matter of fact as possible. I want everyone to feel comfortable, whether it's for 10 minutes or an hour. Whether you're super advanced and meditate all the time, or maybe you're a complete beginner and you've never even heard the word “meditation.” Simplicity is key.

I think there is an assumption that people who teach something have it all figured out. Yesterday, I did a Pilates class, and I think  because the instructor knows I teach fitness there was this assumption that I was going to be good at it.. Then I walk in, I don't know how to use this machine, and I don't know the names of any of the moves.

It’s the same with mental health. I have hurdles. Everyone does. And there is not one person in this world who is ever in perfect mental health. That doesn't exist, because the world is always changing.  

“There is not one person in this world who is ever in perfect mental health.”

I tend to be a little bit of a people pleaser, and I think many people can relate to that. And I really work in therapy on boundaries, like which ones I should implement to keep myself safe and keep me the best version of myself. I can be there for my friends, my family, the people I love, and I can perform my best at the things that matter to me, because I do this work. But I struggle with it so hard, especially because I’m in such a different place than my family. I think there are people who move away from their hometown who can relate to that. These  are sometimes my biggest boundaries.

Self-love is also a challenge. I live within this environment, this society, where I feel like I'm so hard on myself, and I'm always asking myself, “Why didn't you accomplish that yet?” or something like, “How could you have messed that up?”Even recently, I taught a Core Studio class. I came in without prioritizing time to personally meditate beforehand. It was a very calming and zen class, but I started the class in such an anxious place. After I left, I was talking to my friend who had been in the session, and she could see I was starting to beat myself up. She was like, “You just taught a wonderful class. Why would you put yourself down like that?” So my hurdles are definitely self-love and boundaries. That’s what I find that I'm always working on. And some days are easy and I slay it. And then some days, I'm just like, you know, I'm at 40%, but that’s okay.  

There are times when I'm teaching on the bike and my legs just want to quit. That’s something I can push through. A friend broke it down for me beautifully. She said, “No one in this world runs at 100% all of the time. It doesn't matter if you're on a bajillion medications. You don't run at one hundred percent. We're not meant to and not built for that.” And so I try, when I'm having those 40% days, to kind of keep that in mind. The trick I’ve found is to go take a moment and meditate for myself. And there's some really great love and kindness meditations that we have on the Core app. Or I'll listen to a positive podcast while driving. I just try to find little things to reinforce me being good to myself. Having a day where you are at 40% is so normal. Putting yourself down isn't doing any good; it's not validating anything. So, why feed into it? I don’t want to give my power to something that's not going to serve me well.

“I don’t want to give my power to something that's not going to serve me well.”

If I could teach a meditation class to anyone, maybe it would be Oprah, because obviously. And then there's an author named Alan Downs, who wrote this book called The Velvet Rage. It's this book about growing up. I grew up in a very conservative, very small town. I'm gay, which has been very challenging for my family, even to this day, having been out for almost 10 years. The Velvet Rage breaks down the experience of growing up gay, and talks about seeking validation, and I think it applies to anyone who has ever felt different and felt like you can't fit in. I combatted being different by trying to get validation, and growing up, that was through theater. I decided I was going to do plays and try not to be home. I made myself at home  at my friends’ houses, and got their parents to be proud of me, rather than worry about my own. The book really helped shed light on some of these parts of my life, and helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Currently, I’m listening to the podcast Super Soul Conversations. They just had an interview with Michelle Obama, and it was wild just hearing someone like that share their experience in such a relatable way and hearing people laugh and share hard times. It’s crazy how those hard moments become connections. That kind of brings you back down to earth. If I want to laugh and not really think about my day, I listen to Small Doses podcast by Amanda Seales - I love that one.

I also do audiobooks. So right now, I’m listening to Stop Saying You're Fine by Mel Robbins. And that's wonderful, it's helping me stay grounded as I'm trying to accomplish different goals. And then when I'm really in a low place, the audiobook I love and often return to is You're a Badass by Jen Sincero, because it's so much about self-love, self-empowerment, giving yourself gentleness, being kind to yourself. And it's very refreshing, because I think with mental health and self-help books, people can think it's very woo woo or too commercialized. Even if mental health is very foreign to you, it's something that you can listen to (or read), and it reminds you to be good to yourself, and know just how great you are.

Joe discovered meditation after years of leaning into “Hustle Culture.” The practice of meditation has taught Joe how to stay grounded even when the world can feel so big — it has provided him with tools to capitalize on positive feelings, and to proactively approach anxiety and negativity. Joe’s class will empower you to return your body and overcome any emotions you are processing. Away from Core, you can find Joe teaching fitness, drinking Blue Bottle, or fawning over cute cats on Instagram.