”Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” ~ Jason Crandell
When I graduated college two and a half years ago, I was pretty lost. As if adapting from the college party lifestyle to the real world wasn’t enough, I was also completely unhappy with my job. I felt confused, insecure, and just completely lost. I didn’t know how to handle all of the various new emotions that were challenging me on a daily basis. I wasn’t able to internalize them OR let them go. I just held onto the emotional frustration with no true outlet….until I began yoga. While I don’t practice yoga as often as I used to or would like to, it remains an INTEGRAL part of my life and my weekly workout regimen.
The biggest components of yoga that helped me were 1. the release, 2. the breath, 3. the intention setting. While I would workout after work in a more traditional gym setting, yoga felt like a different kind of escape. The community of the studio, the concept of everyone breathing and flowing together made me feel less alone. By being in harmony with others, I found harmony within myself. By focusing on my breath, I was avoiding the thoughts rustling around in my mind. I also focused on goals I had for my practice (i.e. nail a crow pose, head stand by next summer, etc.) By practicing slow, detoxifying movements, in a heated room, I felt a release and a detox in body and mind. And finally, when setting an intention in the beginning of class, it allowed me to lift myself up, rather than talk myself down. The instructors always seemed to understand what I was going through, even if they shared a world famous mantra, it spoke to me and made me feel strong.
My practice became frequent, and it felt necessary after long, stressful days. It was like medicine to me– a healthy way to handle any anxiety or stress. Another beautiful thing about yoga is how it works like a language. Wherever you go, it stays the same. The flows will change, but the movements remain the same. When I moved to Chicago, I knew that if I found a yoga studio here, I would be set. Lucky for me, I immediately had two studios I loved within walking distance! While unfortunately my career struggles continued in another city, I remained grounded by staying focused on my practice and knowing the studio was open for me whenever I needed to calm my body or quiet my mind.
Thankfully, I finally found my career path, and therefore all of the other challenging feelings diminished. With that said, I still feel the need to come to my mat for a release. I may need some light movement to wake up my body and set my intentions, or I am craving that mental and physical release. And, guess what? Years later, there are still SO many poses I can’t do. While focusing on that took my mind off of other stressors, it ultimately added an element of frustration to my practice. While I am certain fear has prevented me from nailing the poses, I shifted my perspective, and now go to yoga solely because of how it makes me feel.
This whole journey has made me grateful for my body’s ability to slow down while my thoughts are racing, as well as breathe out loud to quiet my mind. It’s made me grateful for my body when I was not confident for any of my other gifts. It provided a sanctuary for me when no other place felt safe.
With that said, I wanted to provide some of my favorite studios, so you too, can find your sanctuary, your place of peace and self love when you need it most. I try to practice yoga at least once a week. While I aim to go to a studio to surround myself with other yogis, sometimes I use YouTube or Studio TIU videos to fulfill the need for a quick morning stretch. It has majorly helped in my fitness journey for soreness and stress. You do not need to be expert or feel intimidated. Think of it this way: There’s only room for YOU on your mat, no room for judgments.
My favorite Chicago studios
Zen Yoga Garage
A neighborhood favorite of mine, it is obvious how much locals love this place. I’ve never taken a class that wasn’t completely full – its amazing! The garage opens in the summertime, circulating fresh air in, just in time for the cool down and shavasana portion of class. They also love to light inscents or smudge palo santo throughout the room, and then spray essential oils at the end. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get a hands on shoulder massage with oil when in corpse pose. My personal favorite teacher is Chris Morehead. His 6PM class on Tuesdays is my absolute favorite!
Mireipoix Wellness Studio
This local small business has the most beautiful and intimate aesthetic i’ve ever seen. I aspire to be minimalist in my home, but its just not possible. So, when I go to Mireipoix, I feel an amazing escape from reality and soak in all of the white walls, plants, and earthy decor. This studio has kombucha on tap, supports local businesses like coco kind skin care, and you don’t even need to bring your own mat — they provide it for you. The space transforms into a studio with a curtain that separates from the front. No mirrors, no heat, just you, your mat, and a community of others practicing together. They even have hip hop yoga….yes.
Corepower yoga is an esteemed business, with chains every where, and a ton in Chicago alone. When I first moved here, I was in close proximity to two different Corepower locations, which made for extremely easy access to yoga at almost any time. As long as you know what style class you want, you’ll always get the fix you need at Corepower (C2 is my personal fave, with sculpt as a close second)! My favorite instructors in the lakeview/lincoln park area are Elyse, Brandy, Kara and Lindsey W. A little fun fact: I started teacher training here, but decided it was too much at the time. But, you never know what the future may hold! 😉
No matter which emotion I am feeling, I find that a little movement goes a long way in getting my day started. When that movement is paired with breath, I am able to think mindfully, set intentions, and flow into a happier, healthier mindset. Take the time for yourself, and the sweat, burn, and other athletic traits of yoga will just be an added bonus.
I would love to hear your stories about yoga, and how you incorporate it into your life. Namaste.