Gabriella Dondero Luu likes to stay on her toes—and not just when it comes to yoga. She's a corporate accountant by day, a certified yoga teacher and a black belt in taekwondo. Plus, she rides motorcycles during her downtime (seriously, is there anything she can't do?). After experiencing years of back pain, Gabriella turned to yoga, admittedly skeptical and convinced it wasn't for her. But, like so many, she soon found her footing and fell in love with the practice. She describes it as the "yin to her yang," the perfect complement to her already active, high-gear lifestyle. Although, according to the yogi, it's really not all that different from riding a motorcycle. We had to know more, so we picked Gabriella's brain about how she finds balance in her busy life, the lessons she's learned from her practice and the songs she's currently feeling for yoga (she even curated a playlist for us).
How did you get into yoga?
About five years ago, I stumbled upon yoga by way of my doctor’s orders. I grew up heavily into contact sports, which left me suffering from a really bad back. In an attempt to save it, my doctor advised me that I needed a more structured way to stretch, since stretching on my own was nonexistent. I was barely able to forward fold and reach my shins—forget about touching my toes—so I began my research (I research EVERYTHING). Yoga? I thought, too slow for me, not my style, not something I’m interested in. Little did I know what I was really in for. I eventually signed up for a workshop that was offered at my home studio, and the rest is history. Yoga found me at a time when I needed it most. I’ll never forget the day I walked into that studio—I discovered so much more than stretching. I joined a community and became part of a family. I started a journey that I didn’t even know I was ready to embark on. My eyes were wide open with curiosity and an eagerness to learn. It wasn’t only about a yoga class, it was also about me. Most importantly, I found home.
You work full-time as a corporate accountant. How do you juggle teaching with a day job?
It can be a lot. I feel like I’m busy all the time, but it’s a good busy, and I’m so grateful for it! My day job is very demanding, but I am committed to teaching and practicing because it's what keeps me grounded. I’m always working, although yoga never feels like work, and at the end of the day, I love watching my students grow! How do I juggle it? Well, there are 24 hours in a day, and I spend about 15% of that sleeping (I don’t sleep much), 10% commuting, 20% practicing and teaching and 55% working! How’s that for numbers?
Aside from yoga, you're really into riding motorcycles and you have a black belt in tae kwon do! How does yoga play into your active lifestyle?
Yoga is the yin to my yang. Even though my practice is more of a yang style, it’s a great supplement to my active lifestyle. I’ve always found solace in things that challenge me, and yoga has challenged me the most. Similar to riding motorcycles, yoga is a discipline, and it continues to keep me on my toes! People are often confused and think that motorcycles and yoga have nothing in common, but I always say they are one and the same. Riding motorcycles is my cheapest therapy. Trying to control all the variables that come with riding this complex, powerful machine is a lot like trying to control the noise of the mind. You have to be laser focused, clear of clouded thoughts and free of distractions at all times. There is no “texting and riding,” no Instagram and no conversations. Just you, the road and the machine.
What have you learned from building your yoga practice?
I’ve learned that the only way through is THROUGH. Hands down, the greatest part of my yoga practice is the journey. The downfalls, the victories, the million times I’ve given up, the tests, the challenges, the discoveries—they have all been valuable lessons that have followed me off the mat and continue to change my life. I’ve learned that there's no end game here, but there is always a way to improve and learn something new. The journey within is not an easy one, but the lessons along the way are beyond worth it.
Who are some of your favorite yogis to follow on Instagram?
There are too many to name! I am so grateful to be part of a community of so many inspiring people all over the world. I feel blessed that I get to follow their journeys through social media every single day. However, my ultimate favorite yogis are close to home. Victoria Arvizu @victoria.arvizu and Laura (Sykora) Kasperzak @laurasykora. These two ladies have been my inspiration and teachers from day one. They were my first community, my first lecturers and the teachers at the first studio I stepped foot in. They not only continue to inspire my practice and push me to always strive for the best, but they are also my family.
What are you manifesting right now?
So many things—where do I start? Currently, I’m manifesting the power of belief. To believe in myself, to believe in my abilities and to trust that whatever it is that I put my mind to, I can achieve it. There are so many opportunities in this world, and we only have one life to access them. We are so powerful beyond what we know, and I feel it is our responsibility to share that with the world. There may be times when we lose hope and get sidetracked by failure, but as long as we believe, the possibilities are infinite.
What's your yoga music style?
I just want to preface this answer with, I like hip hop and I cannot lie. My sequences are highly energetic and movement based, and the songs match the energy! So, if you ever attend one of my classes, be ready for vibrant music!
Inspired by Gabriella's story? Follow her on Instagram!