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The title of this week’s Music Monday playlist [give & take] immediately caught my eye, as I felt intrigued by the yin/yang essence of it all. Maggie Umberger graces us, once again, with a balanced blend of ease inducing sounds and equally invigorating beats! Find center amongst the madness of this Spring’s fickle weather and life’s innate rollercoaster by recruiting Maggie’s mix as the soundtrack to your week–you won’t be disappointed!

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By: Danielle Wilson

If we’ve yet to meet, or maybe we have, but you haven’t connected the voice behind these posts with the little pixie sized woman fluttering around the studio, my name is Danielle and I’m a (not so new, anymore) instructor at Bare Feet! I’ve mentioned my history with BFPY here and there in past posts, but I’ll give you a little synopsis to refresh your memory:

I began practicing at Bare Feet in 2016, about a year after I moved to West Loop. I was dancing professionally at the time and utilizing my off and on yoga practice as cross training alongside my hefty dance schedule. It was a time in my life when I felt I didn’t quite fit in anywhere, insecurities piling up like the mismatched socks we swear we’ll sort through some day. On top of that, I had serious trust issues with, well, literally everyone; needless to say, socializing with anyone at the studio was out of the question. I’d walk in, lie on my mat, close my eyes, and cut out the people, the conversations, and the all-around energy within the room. The walls I built around myself restricted my practice to a mere physical expression, but honestly, I had no idea it could be anything more than that. I was unaware of the many connections and blessings I was willingly missing out on, the depth of love and support I refused to tap into, for so long…until now.

About a year ago, I applied for the BFPY mentorship program, and was fortunate enough to work with the incredible Ali Brashler as my mentor for two months. I vividly remember how awkward and uncomfortable I felt sitting in my first meeting with Ali—it had nothing to do with her, she was her usual friendly and fabulous self, but it was that exact nature which triggered discomfort and insecurity inside me. I hoped, so highly, to be just as cool, funny, and wise as her, and mostly to be as accepted within the community as she was. Really, all this says is I wanted so badly to be embraced by this community I held at arm’s length for so long, but I was terrified and had no idea how to make that happen. If you’ve ever taken Ali’s class, maybe you’ll understand when I say she has an energy about her that puts you in a “just do it, stop thinking so hard, walk into the fire and trust that you’ll figure it out” mindset. Looking back, I’m so grateful for this go-getter attitude in her because it motivated me to rip off the Band-Aid and stare my insecurities directly in the eye in order to work through and overcome the things that made me uncomfortable. 

The mentorship program served as a stepping stone, not only in my teaching career, but in my attempt to connect and communicate with the amazing people at Bare Feet. A little conversation here, a smile and some eye contact there—every moment carved into the discomfort I felt just a little further than before, until, for the most part, it dissipated all together.

Fast forward to present day, I’ve been teaching weekly classes of my own for over six months now, and my experience when I walk through the studio doors has transcended into something so beautiful and radiant with love—I’m smiling ear to ear just thinking about it. Bare Feet feels like home. The blue, orange, and yellow have become familiar and welcoming colors, as have the smell of incense and sight of genuinely happy people. I’m getting to know the community by name, learning to understand what makes you all tick, speaking to your deepest questions and desires while you’re on your mat, and laughing alongside you more times than I can count. It’s better than any narrative I ever could have conjured up in my head back in the spout of my suffocating insecurities.

Recently, I’ve had it a little rough. Life’s been overwhelmingly busy, and keeping a level head, steady heart, and grounded spirit have proved quite challenging. Amongst it all, though, BFPY has become my safe haven. It’s not that I’m escaping my worries and woes when I cross that yogi threshold, but more so I feel safe within those experiences, held in my mental and emotional states, and reminded that it’s all going to be okay. Every face that walks through the door sheds just a little more light and love on my life, and for that I am wholeheartedly grateful. 

Thank you for being a beacon of hope. Thank you for remaining consistent and patient during the many years I proved resistant towards you. Thank you for embracing me no matter the day, the energy, the flow, or the woe. I may be stepping up as your guide when I stand at the front of that room, but man, you, BFPY, YOU are the real MVPS, the super heroes of my daily struggles and the nurturers of my soul. I just couldn’t imagine embarking on this journey any other way. I see you, I honor you and I love your divine, ever-evolving spirits—thank you.

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Robin, our fearless leader, is in full force this week! With the support of these upbeat, Earthy jams there’s no doubt she’ll be bringing her high vibrations and lust for life to your mat. So whether it’s in your living room or amongst the warmth of our orange and yellow walls, take a listen, soak in the music, and break it down on your mat to raise it up in your life!

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Bradshaw’s bringing you the beat this week as Music Monday’s featured teacher! His upbeat energy is enough to light up your day and keep you coming back to his evening classes for more. Take a listen, and when you get caught up in the good vibes, follow their lead because here at Bare Feet we #followthehappypeople !

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By: Danielle Wilson

Lately, I’ve felt the sting of living in multiple different worlds. There are so many reasons why I enjoy participating in the various cultures associated with my many passions, interests, and careers. So much wisdom is gained from exposing yourself to different perspectives, values, and ways of life—it keeps us grounded, open minded, understanding, and compassionate. What happens, though, when your thought process and priorities begin to liken more closely to one community over the others?

I’ve been engrained in the culture of dance my entire life. It shaped me in an infinite number of ways, teaching me self-discipline, work ethic, time management, dedication, team work, leadership, artistry, and so many other incredible skills and values. The thing about anything, though, is it’s all only healthy if it remains balanced. Dance culture promotes pushing yourself well beyond your limits, every time: running on no sleep? Chug a coffee. Experiencing intense physical pain? Fight through it. Struggling through an impossibly busy schedule? Figure it out. Although this mentality has taught me just how strong and capable I am in the face of adversity, I’ve come to realize, through my exposure to yogic culture, that it is massively unhealthy. 

Yoga has taught me how to prioritize myself and my health: mental, physical, and emotional. My practice has proven to me that I can’t choose to do it all every time, both on my mat and off. Sometimes I have to cancel plans, sometimes I can’t perform my best, sometimes I have to lower my expectations, and you know what? It’s okay! We aren’t meant to rise to the occasion every time. We weren’t built to burn the candle at both ends and “just fight through it,” and the truth is, I don’t like how my body, mind, and soul feel when I run on little sleep and lots of coffee. So, why should I keep living a life in which I don’t like the way I feel? 

The more I engrain myself in the yoga community, the more the values and mindset within it resonate with me as the way in which I want to live my life. This go, go, go, career driven, busy bee, western society we live in encourages us to put out, burn out, and figure it out. Well guess what? I’m not about it anymore. I see this way of life in which people cultivate love and understanding for the human condition in yoga, and it just feels right to me. Living for sensation, for peace and contentment, these are things that ring true in my soul. It’s enlightening and exciting to realize there is a way of life I can feel light, and loved, and accepted in as is, but what’s becoming difficult for me is bringing these values, and this mindset into the dance culture I’ve known for so long. 

My dance community doesn’t quite understand when I need to take some hours off because my anxiety is through the roof. They show concern, but in the same breath, give me the “we’re all stressed and busy, and we all find a way to make it happen” gambit. In all honesty, when I was in the muck of that culture, I would give me students and peers the same speech, but I’ve evolved in my mindset since then, and I’ve realized that life is so much bigger than the never-ending to-do list lying in front of me. It’s not their fault for speaking on behalf of the only culture they’ve ever known, and I have compassion for them for being incapable of understanding this new value system I’m choosing to live my life by. The question that’s been weighing on me, though, is how do I continue a relationship and life with these people who are not only finding it increasingly difficult to understand me, but are also acting and speaking (subconsciously, I’m sure of it) in a way meant to seduce me back into the mindset that proved toxic to my soul? I haven’t quite discovered the answer yet, but here’s what I do know: I know it takes more courage to fit out in a community than it does to fit in one, I know that choosing to only surround myself with likeminded people may feel easier but will inevitably stunt my growth, and I know that the only way I will actually make a difference in this world through the yogic mindset and way of life that’s brought me so much clarity and happiness, is by remaining an integral part of the communities which fail to acknowledge these values. 

The pull of my many worlds has brought on intense stress and anxiety for me as of late. I’m taking my time in navigating my situation and trying to be patient and compassionate with all parties involved, including myself. There’s a part of me that wants to retreat to my yoga community and never leave; that would be easy, but I guess I’ve never been someone to shy from a challenge. Maybe it’s not so much about placing energy in the validation of people and communities who foster opposing values than I do. If yoga has taught me anything, it’s the understanding that we’re all on separate journeys, we’ve all experienced different cultures, and none of us or our experiences are better or more “right” than the next. So, maybe I just continue to follow my journey, not shunning or shutting out those who express resistance to that which I know is right for me, but rather shedding compassion and respect for them for speaking up for what they know and believe. I think this is an ultimate act of love and courage, the ability to be completely a part of those which oppose us: to show them respect, show them compassion, and above all, show them unconditional love.

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What better way to ring in this rainy day, than with Julia Frazier’s “April Showers” playlist! Julia’s jams will give you a little energy boost to get you up and at ’em today, while staying just smooth and groovy enough to ride the wave of ease and relaxation that comes along with a stormy day. Bundle up and turn on your speakers, the good vibrations are ready to pour over you!

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By: Danielle Wilson

My classes, my movement, my words of inspiration all habitually reflect the thoughts and themes currently stirring around in my mind and in my heart. I am a being consciously thriving on growth, always aiming to learn and transform and expand my horizons—a tendency which sends me into an almost constant state of internal reflection. On a personal level, this is a state of being that can both work for me and against me, in any given moment. Questions, curiosities and theories fall in and out of each other in my head like a never-ending rabbit hole, sometimes providing substantial answers or solutions, but never going too long without simply perpetuating existential confusion. However, when it comes to living as a yoga instructor, a lightworker, a leader of mindfulness and love—whatever title I’m embodying—this is a practice that enhances my ability to serve the people around me, every time. 

Recently, I’ve been steeping in themes dealing with experience. Prior to now, I tended to believe that in order to change the way I feel, think, or act, I had to take action in changing the atmosphere and people around me. It’s an empowering thought: not happy at your job? Find a new one. Not pleased with your friends? Make new connections. In many instances, out with the old and in with the new can be the best mentality and action to take. Sheesh, if I had only kept count of the times I’ve realized that the suffering I’d been enduring was a product of being around toxic people or an unhealthy work environment and had to cut those things out of my life entirely in order to create space for a fresh, more peaceful state of being. If your knowledge of the Zodiac expands even minutely beyond that of the average person, you’ll understand when I say this is me embodying the stereotypical Capricorn I’m capable of being, so quick to cut anything and everything out of my life if it doesn’t seem to serve my highest good. I came to it, though, as of late, that maybe I can change the way I experience people, situations, and life in general, without clean slating them completely, if I simply alter the way in which I go about them. 

External factors of our lives don’t always have to take responsibility for our experience. Whether I already enjoy the way I experience something or someone, or not, I’ve realized that changing the way in which I perceive the experience or choosing a different route to reach the peak of it, will always provide me with new lessons, wisdom, feelings, perspectives, and opinions. For someone who loves to learn (mainly about what makes the world, including myself, tick), investigating this theme has been quite gratifying. How many aspects of my life do I experience habitually? In what other ways can I go about experiencing these facets of my life, and most importantly, what more will I learn from living life through this practice? 

On our mats, we can practice the same flow, but take different variations or modifications, choose a different playlist, or maybe none at all, alter the atmosphere through the use of heat, or incense, or plants, and each one of these decisions will lead us to experience the same flow, differently. It is also possible, though, to simply alter the way we go about the flow in our perspective and transform the practice completely. The experience on my mat took on a new life when I stopped utilizing it as merely an effort towards staying in shape, it brought me more self-love and peace of mind when I quit comparing myself to the people around me, and my practice evolved completely when I chose to see it as a conduit to spiritual connection. This, I believe, is the most personally empowered manner in which to stimulate change in our lives. It is a matter of being willing to release our conditions and habits in order to gain new insight on the experience. This pushes the boundaries of our minds, hearts and spirits in a way that makes us kinder, lighter, more understanding and compassionate of ourselves and the world around us. It helps us realize that the idea of there being one right or better way to do, be, or live is absolute nonsense. Through this, we begin allowing ourselves to experience life from a deeper and truer place of authenticity, and we start being more accepting of others as they do the same. We release expectations because we know no matter how things go down, there will be wisdom to gain, and we open ourselves up to a life of less suffering, heightened sensation, and more clarity of the beauty that’s always existed around us and within us.

So, where in your life can you break the mold of your habits? How can you perceive the same, differently? What alternative path can you take to arrive at the same destination, collecting fresh ideas and perspectives on your way? Whether it’s on your mat or in your life, I challenge you this week to catch yourself in moments where the need to change an external factor arises. Can you pause, and choose to alter something on an internal level instead? Maybe you’ll find that you had the power to experience the same, differently, all along? Or maybe you’ll discover that there really are some toxic external factors that need releasing? Regardless, your willingness in to be internally fluid will pay off twofold—you’ll learn something new, take a step towards evolution, and prove to yourself that a stagnant version of you is the unhappy version of you. Learn, grow, change, see, experience: I dare you.

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With warm, radiant weather outside, and throwback summer jams hitting your ears, what could go wrong this week?! Brian Chan is helping us start it out on a high note with these throwback hits, both on our mats and off with this week’s Music Monday! Take a listen, and soak in ALL the high vibrations!

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By: Danielle Wilson

I was reminded of my own internal strength this past week, my exceptional ability to endure discomfort, and my raw loyalty to presence, experience, and separation of ego and spirit. 

Our fierce leader, Robin French, has added another holistic healing/self-care skill to her belt, offering Gua Sha treatments to anyone brave enough to withstand the potential pain that comes with this ancient Chinese medicine technique. Gua, meaning scraping, and Sha, translated as toxins, this vigorous body work releases toxins from fascia, ridding the body of excess inflammation, breaking up scar tissue, and on a more spiritual front, shedding past emotional traumas that have settled into the nooks and crannies of the physical body. It is a treatment that comes with the price of some pretty intense bruising—something that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed, particularly within the first day. Although the bruises heal quite rapidly (at least in my case), they are quick to tell the story of the heightened level of pain experienced throughout the process.

As we sat down to begin, Robin gave me the lowdown about the pain I’d signed myself up for. She explained that we could stop for breaks at any time, and that each experience with Gua Sha is different, the first time usually being the most sensational and uncomfortable. It doesn’t take much to scare me, and I’ll admit, there’s nothing more tantalizing to me than a test of my personal strength—physical, mental, emotional, and otherwise—and so, we began. 

It wasn’t long before Robin was exclaiming her shock towards my ability to withstand pain. After inquiring if I was sure I was okay, and my response so effortlessly slipping out of my mouth, it was obvious she found my pain tolerance quite remarkable! At first, it was a total ego booster. In my head, I was like, “aw yea, she’s right, I’m tougher than I look and it’s pretty impressive!” But I no longer allow my ego to celebrate itself for too long, especially over such rudimentary accolades. At this point in my life and my soul’s journey through mindfulness and yoga, it is more so in my nature to veer towards reflection of why I am the way I am, think the way I think, or feel the way I feel.

The truth is, the scraping was incredibly painful, but as I sat there and wondered about why exactly I was able to keep my composure and show almost no sign of discomfort, a powerful memory came to mind:

A little over a year ago, I was staying on a self-sustainable farm in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, obtaining my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certification. The land was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Giant jungle trees with monkeys swinging from branch to branch, enormous butterflies fluttering from one bright colored flower to the next, and the eternal chirping of birds and bugs filling the air with an aliveness I had never felt before. Our casitas were made from refurbished storage units and painted to match the vibrancy of the jungle around us. An open yoga platform served as the centerpiece of the camp, built from fallen trees in need of repurposing around the farm. Connecting the many facets of this heavenly place, was a path filled with pebbles, just big and small enough to give a painful stabbing to the bottoms of bare feet. 

This place felt so pure, so full of ancient and natural spiritual energy. I wanted so badly to feel one with it all and soak in as much of the organic Earth I could before I returned to my concrete city. One of the most basic and human ways to connect with Mother Nature is to allow the soles of your feet to bond with her beauty. I found it difficult, though, to walk the pebble path without being in complete and utter pain. I watched as one of Sangha sisters walked effortlessly down the path day after day, until I finally approached her on the matter, “how do you do it?” I asked, “how do handle the pain of this path under your feet?” She turned to me slowly, her face calm and curious as to the intensity of my inquiry, “I am not this body,” she said, as she turned and almost floated the rest of the way down the path. 

I stopped in my tracks. I know exactly what she was telling me: our souls are these immaculate spirals of energy taking up temporary residence in these very tangible, physical bodies. We utilize these bodies to experience a multitude of emotions and sensations so that our spirit can learn the lessons it needs to grow on this beautifully mysterious journey. Succumbing to pain is an act of the ego, not of the spirit. Sitting in discomfort is our true Self’s ability to watch the pain, to be in it, but not of it. We learn to master this state of being through practices like yoga and meditation. We focus on accepting the pain as a neutral experience that carries a weight no more or less than any “positive” experience like a gentle massage, warm bath, or relaxing facial. Every sensation and emotion in life is meant to lead us to a lesson—big or small—and it is merely our ego that divides these experiences into “good” or “bad.” 

So, do I actually have a heightened and impressive pain tolerance? Or have I simply begun to master my ability to separate my Self from my pain? I’d like to think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless, this spiritual representation of mind over matter isn’t something to brush off as nothing. I explained to Robin that extreme pain tends to send me into a state of meditation; it’s almost as if I am meditating on the pain in the same way we focus on our breath during flow. My mental and emotional focus is tunnel vision on the sensation of my pain, not in the sense that it overcomes me with sadness and fear, but more so out of curiosity, out of a willingness and openness to learn. Imagine if we all lived our lives from the sentiment of “I am not this body.” Would we face our fears more courageously? Would we more readily accomplish that in which we once deemed impossible? Would we take more risks, spawn more growth, and create more success from our mere ability to walk more effortlessly into the fire of our pain? I think so, and I believe it is not my tolerance to pain that signifies my true strength, but this incredible willingness to see my Self as separate from my body, as a divine and magical energy that is more fierce and powerful than this physical body could ever be.

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Well, we survived yet another winter intermission amongst the growth of spring this weekend, and as we push forward towards the light and warmth of the sun, what better than a little music to keep us moving?

This week’s Music Monday is brought to you by the energetic and elegant, Anissa Mercado! Her chill beats playlist is the perfect mashup up of easy, spiritual sounds to put you in a balanced frame of mind for the week ahead!

Loving what your hearing? Check out Anissa’s 6am Power class on Tuesdays for more!

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