Carrie Ann Inaba

Tough Dance Judge

Carrie Ann Inaba. Healthy Living Magazine

Carrie Ann Inaba. Healthy Living Magazine

A judge on Dancing With the Stars since 2005 and choreographer for Miss America Pageant and American Idol, Carrie Ann Inaba has had to pay the price for her passion: one of the worst cases of spinal stenosis her doctor had ever seen.

HealthyLivinG: What is your dream?

Carrie Ann Inaba: I have many dreams. Life is a wonderful opportunity to dream and to make those dreams come true. But my dream is to live in a world where there is no more cruelty. And that means ending cruelty towards our fellow men, women and children and of course to all the innocent animals that inhabit this world with us.

HealthyLivinG: What is your biggest achievement?

Carrie Ann Inaba: That’s a tough question. I don’t know if I’ve yet accomplished my biggest achievement. I still have many things I would like to do, but I am excited that I have started my own 501c3 charitable organization to help animals in need. The Animal Project Foundation was founded in 2013 after my cat, Shadow, passed away. I realized I had so much more to give—to all of the animals in the world—and was called to duty. I first named it The Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project but this year removed my name from it because I have never been one for a lot of attention, and the cause is much bigger than me. Our goal is to eradicate the need for the euthanization of healthy and innocent animals in our shelters and improve the human animal connection that I believe is therapeutic. So far, we have saved many, many lives and hope to save more every year. We do this by providing emergency rescue funding, organizing free spay/neuter events and free medical services to underserved communities in Los Angeles and offering animal welfare education.

HealthyLivinG: What do you regret?

Carrie Ann Inaba: I feel fortunate that I don’t have many regrets in life. However, there is one thing I wish I had been fortunate enough to have had happen in my life and that would be to have a child. I always imagined myself with a daughter of my own… But life happens fast, and, before I knew it, I looked up and I was 47 without children. But I focus on the fact that I have a beautiful bond with my ex-fiancé’s daughter who is now 18 and I have been fortunate to be a mother/friend figure to her for the last 6 years. She is very special to me and I treasure our beautiful and unique loving relationship.

HealthyLivinG: Is it harder to be a judge on DWTS than dancing by yourself?

Carrie Ann Inaba: It is much harder to judge on DWTS than it is to dance. Dance, while it may be physically demanding and require a strong spirit, has always been my safe place. To dance is to be completely authentic and in the moment. For most of my life, it was the way I expressed myself and understood my deepest feelings and passions. Being a judge made me face my fears of speaking in public. When I was young I had to go to speech therapy because I spoke with a funny voice. I had to learn the correct way to speak so as not to hurt my vocal chords. It’s always been an area where I was not confident. Also, I have never felt that words were enough, or at least my capacity to use them, and that is why I make a lot of noises when I judge. I know sometimes I make silly noises to express myself but people always come up to me and they know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s hard to be eloquent of what I believe is the most eloquent language in the world—the body’s language.

HealthyLivinG: Does professional dancing involve a lot of injuries? What caused your spinal stenosis? Does this affect your fitness routine?

Carrie Ann Inaba: When I was diagnosed a few years ago with spinal stenosis, a very painful condition, the doctor told me that my injury was an injury he hadn’t seen in any other type of profession than that of a professional football player. I was shocked, but all those years of throwing my head back caused a lot of damage. I also have no more cartilage left in my hips, which can be quite painful. And, more recently, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my ankles and feet. These conditions can be painful but they are completely bearable—and, I think, a small price to pay for all the joy that dance has given me. When I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an auto-immune condition that among other things can cause incredible and random fatigue, it was a huge adjustment.

I had been having a hard time with my energy levels which affected everything, especially my fitness routine. It has taken me two years to figure out what exactly works for me. I used to do kickboxing, martial arts, weights and dancing as my workout. Now I do a combination of yoga and Pilates as my core fitness regimen. I don’t overdo like I used to. I used to push myself to the limits all the time. Now I enjoy a healthy and balanced routine and I’m kinder to myself about my workout schedule. I’m not as skinny as I used to be, but I’m okay with that. As I grow older, I have learned to cherish my body and its functions even more. I do a half an hour of yoga at least three times a week at home. I have a small studio right off my bedroom that is filled with light. I like doing yoga in there, and I listen to music and inspiring words while doing it. I always feel incredible after my practice.

HealthyLivinG: As usual our traditional health tip for our readers?

Carrie Ann Inaba: Be humble, kind and thankful for all the wonderful things you have in your life. Gratitude goes a long way.

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