Health and Wellbeing Motivational Speaker
Maria is a disruptor who traded the corporate world for her passion for fitness and wellness. Since age 16 and nearly 30 years, Maria has taught group fitness classes in various formats. In 2012, Maria discovered Pilates and fell in love with the method of combining strength, flexibility, and fluidity. She was impressed by Pilates’s impact on her fitness routine and daily functional movement. Maria completed a 600-hour certification as a Romana teacher at Pilates of Dunwoody in June 2013 under Holly Pruell Leun and Juanita Lopez.
The Rebellious Pilates studio opened its doors in the late fall of 2017. Continuously fascinated by the human body and based on her transformation, Maria firmly believes that Pilates can impact not only physical but also mental and spiritual wellbeing. She is a huge believer in the method and the importance of consistency, repetition, and precision, as well as teaching clients to respect and listen to their bodies. She teaches her students to work with intent and integrity.
Before founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance) and Georgia State University (MBA, Finance).
Outside of Pilates, Maria stays busy balancing family and entrepreneurial life. Maria’s favorite job is being a mom of her young daughter. Maria enjoys learning, working out, dancing, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
A couple of pivotal events in my childhood were the development of my girlie curves in middle school. I had a butt, and that didn’t escape the attention of the mean girls. Combined with my all A’s, I was bullied for being a nerd and for having a big butt. Thanks to my awesome parents, I knew better than to crumble. At age 12, I signed up and became a regular gym member. I quickly fell in love with intense workout classes. I also chose to rise above the ‘nerd comments.’ Those only made me more determined to do well in school.
We moved to the U.S.A. in the fall of 1992. There were several pivotal moments related to the move. I was 15, and moving and assimilating to a new country and culture was quite a growing experience. Mom was not thrilled about the move. She went through a depression. When things started slowly falling into place, we received the devastating news that my dad had advanced lung cancer. The doctors gave him six months to live. It was a tremendous shock as my dad was in excellent health with no prior health conditions. He was not a smoker. They said the cause of his cancer were environmental toxins.
Dad went through chemo, radiation, and a brief remission. We celebrated his recovery. However, cancer came back fast and furious in the fall and spread to dad’s brain and skin. Doctors gave up on him. He passed away a year and a half after his diagnosis.
I was 19. It was another time when I had to grow up quickly. My mom doesn’t drive, so I had to take dad to doctor appointments. I had to do groceries. I had to drive my younger brother to soccer practices. I was also a young girl, studying, working, and wanting to hang out with my friends.
I finished high school as a salutatorian and earned a bunch of scholarships to go to college. I attended the University of Georgia where I earned my BBA in Finance. I worked for a few years and then completed my MBA in Finance at Georgia State University while working. I finished both degrees with the highest honors. Post grad school, I moved to New York City – a city I fell in love with while completing a summer program an undergrad. It was the best place for me personally – I am a true city girl – but also professionally in Finance. I lived there for two years until I got married, and my hubby brought me back to Atlanta, GA.
It was time to have a baby. I had timed it perfectly, you know, between when I can take time off and when I can position myself well to not miss a promotion … except my body refused to cooperate.
There were emotionally draining 2.5 years. I did every test under the sun to always hear: “Everything looks great.” There was no diagnosis as to why I had such a tough time conceiving but knowing what I know now, I will bet you it had to do with stress levels, toxins, and too intense workouts.
I finally gave up on the idea that I will ever be a pregnant woman… and then a pregnancy test showed positive. We couldn’t get excited. We had seen those before only to hear that they are false positives … heart-breaking. Once I did a blood test and received the confirmation phone call, I was over the moon. It was a rainy, cold, and windy day … yet one of the most beautiful days in my life.
My pregnancy was ok. I did gain 50 pounds and was at 200 pounds. It wasn’t because I was eating for two. However, the intensity of my workouts decreased significantly. I was so scared that something can go wrong. At the end of the pregnancy, 2 days before my scheduled C-section date, I had to be rushed to the hospital due to a blood clot in my left calf. Upon admission, the doctor casually informed me that the clot could be fatal. I looked at her and asked: Are you telling me that I can die before I see my baby? Yes.
As she walked out, I broke down. I couldn’t be tough anymore…
Long story short, our baby was born healthy. I made full recovery.
Fast forward 6 years later...
I was doing well in the corporate world. I was that girl who inspired me to be the CEO one day. Yet something was missing. And it was getting worse and worse by the day. I would walk into the office and literally feel suffocated.
You see, I had had a dream for a long time…. My passion had always been fitness. Since my first job, I would tell my closest friends: One day, I will have my own fitness studio! 20 years went by … the paycheck, my titles, and benefits were getting better. I actually didn’t hate what I do. I had been mostly lucky to work with many amazing people. My husband was an entrepreneur. I was the one with a stable job. If I were to share my desire to make a change, most will pretty much laugh and say: Oh, that’s cute.
When my daughter was 1, she had a complex febrile seizure, an experience I do not wish upon any parent. We were told that while most kids outgrow this type of seizure by the time, they are 5 or 6, my daughter’s chance of recurrence was higher because of the length of her seizure. As a result, every time she would spike a fever, she had to drink Tylenol or Motrin. When she started daycare, she got sick frequently. Because of our experience with her seizure, even the slightest fever would bring worry. That is when I discovered essential oils. I was looking for an alternative way to support her immune system. Taking the essential oil route was a huge eye-opener to environmental toxins – what these are, and how we can easily eliminate some of them. That was another big breaking point for me in terms of discovering the power of our own bodies….and somehow it interestingly intertwined with my personal family history – my dad’s early death, my issue with conception, my blood clot, my daughter’s seizure…. I was onto something…
I shared my desire to quit corporate with my husband in March of 2015. I don’t think he took me seriously. He told me we are not ready. I told him he has a year to get ready, whatever that means. March of 2016, I received my bonus and told him: that I am ready. He said we are still not ready. But that was pretty much the extent of our conversation. I told him he has 6 months. He ignored me. In August of 2016, after a forecast review with my awesome boss, I resigned. I don’t know if she could tell how nervous I was. I literally needed to get back to my office because I thought I was going to throw up.
I texted my husband. No response. He didn’t talk to me for a week. Not a word. I was so excited to share my news with my friends. Most of the feedback was that my plan didn’t make sense. I received much-unsolicited advice. A few friends seemed supportive … until I heard the words spoken behind my back or saw the smiles of mockery. My marriage was falling apart. Those were all great excuses to spend my first half-year of entrepreneurship in victimhood.
Then, I woke up and had a ‘WTF’ moment one day.
What kind of rebellious business was that?!? I felt fake and hypocritical, guilty, ashamed … all of which made me feel worthless. I had lost my societal privilege. By societal norms, I was now just a Pilates instructor, and that didn’t carry the same weight as a Corporate Finance Director. I was allowing those around me to reinforce these feelings.
That’s when I had my defining moment. You have a f*ing choice. Raise up or be a f*ing coward and go back behind the desk and forget about your stupid dream. Which one is it going to be?!?
If you ask me, I have always had a gift for movement. Even prior to Pilates, I had a great eye for alignment and integrity of movement execution. Those have always been an essential part of my teaching style. I have also always loved working with and motivating people. Once I discovered the depth of the Pilates method and saw the incredible results it brings to people of all fitness and capability levels, I knew this was my calling.
While the old me loved the insane type of workouts, the new me treasures my body way too much to abuse it that way. I believe that once we fall in love with movement, we never have to work out a day in our life. And everyone can do it. Just move. Move with integrity. Move to be aware. Move being consciously connected body and mind. It is powerful not only in the fitness room.
My entrepreneurial journey took me on a tremendous personal growth path, one I never expected to be on. As part of that journey, self-care, including movement and mindfulness, has been an undisputable contributor to my success. I feel empowered and unstoppable, freed, happier, more present in the moment, and much calmer. I know that I am on the right path for myself, and my purpose is growing by the day.
It is my desire and purpose to pass on to you what I have learned so that you can be equipped with the tools and mindset to live your best life and be your true, authentic self.
I will end with a quote that personally speaks to me on the topic of movement.
“… Jenny runs for her soul, not her body. It is the fitness of her spirit that sets the tone of her days, changes their timbre from strained to effortless.”
(From The Artist Way, by Julia Cameron)