lifestyle

30 Days of Yoga

Pictured here is Maile, owner of Tula Yoga Studio in Logan Square. (Photo from  tulayoga.net )

Pictured here is Maile, owner of Tula Yoga Studio in Logan Square. (Photo from tulayoga.net)

I've been practicing Yoga for about 10 years (on and off), and from the moment I stepped into my first yoga class, I knew I had found a component of my life that was going stay with me forever. I've moved around to several cities during these past 10 years and I have found yoga studios that I loved but have had to move on from. Since coming to Chicago, I tried out several Yoga studios to see where I felt at home - there were a lot of trial and errors, Groupons that allowed me to speed date studios with no commitment, referrals from others, but it wasn't until I found Tula Yoga Studio that I knew I wanted to commit to learning from the teachers who communed in its space.

Before I write about the 30 day challenge, I'd like to tell you a bit about why this studio is so special, and also why it captured my yoga spirit from the very first class I attended. 

Yoga is a spiritual activity to me, and my yoga mat is my personal sacred ground. It is during this time where my body becomes aware that it is breathing, alive, and able to reconnect with the fact that, at the end of the day, I am me. The reason I tell you this is because it has become increasingly more important to me to be around people who are spiritually aware of the universe, and my yoga practice is my highest priority to achieve this kind of surrounding. 

I have found the instructors at Tula studio to be extremely spiritually aware of their surroundings while thoroughly emotionally intelligent at the same time. It is a rare skill to be able to meet spiritual states with an appropriate emotional response, and Tula, I believe, has achieved that. I haven't encountered every single instructor just yet, but the ones I have communed with all possess this rare skill - and I make an extra effort to attend their classes. And let me tell you, it is a wonderful encounter with every single class. 

Maile, the owner of Tula, is also someone who I look up to. Her heart and vision for opening up a studio tailored to students who want to learn and grow in their yoga practice is unparalleled and she has single-handedly pushed forth a growing organism that Logan Square cannot ignore. Not only did she collect Tula's great instructors, but this lady has thought of everything when it comes to servicing yoga students, and I finally discovered why. She shares this on Tula's website:
 

"I purposely chose not to pursue a yoga teacher’s certification or training program before opening the studio because I wanted to make sure that I built the studio through my naïve eyes of a student, still open to many ideas and interpretations."
- Maile Wicklander


Many yoga studios have changing areas, cubes for personal storage, yoga storage, etc. but Maile also thought about the little things that make all the difference. The bathrooms have bobby pins and hair ties, the common area is always stocked with complimentary tea, there are spray bottles to clean your mats after class, complimentary towels and mats, and so much more - all of which I have used when needing them the most, and it is because of these things that make Tula so great. Could she be a service designer?! I'd say, "Yes."

Over the course of a few years of attending this studio, I saw students in past years take on the "30 day Challenge." Yoga every day for 30 days. "Are you crazy?" you ask? That's what I said. My mind couldn't grasp this idea and I had the utmost respect for those who I saw take on the challenge. "I could never do that," I thought. But in the 3rd year of watching students conquer their 30 days, something gave me the courage to want to try. So, I took the plunge. If not now, then when? Right?

"Alright, I'll do it," said I.

The first 5 days were really tough. My body was exhausted and I couldn't even think. On the 5th day, Rhiannon (the resident Yoga teacher), asked me how I was doing and I told her that it was pretty difficult - that my body was exhausted. She kindly told me that with every yoga class, I didn't have to push myself like I normally do, and that it was ok to rest - and then it hit me. I had been approaching every class like I usually do - by giving it my all. Except going everyday as opposed to 3 times a week should be entirely something else, right? This tidbit of wisdom set the stage for the next 25 days and I am so happy that I had that talk with her. It gave me a larger perspective of what I was trying to accomplish and that my body needed to be heard with more sensitivity than usual. So, I did as she said and it set me up for better game plan.

I could talk about the yoga itself but to tell you the truth, that part is the least interesting component of this experience. Yes, I had to make it to class every day. Yes, my entire schedule ran around making it to class. Yes, I had muscle cramps every now and then - but, these are all things we experience when we put our physical bodies through something like this. 
 

What was more magical to me than my body becoming freakishly strong was the community that was brought forth to me by just showing up.


Here are 10 beautiful moments that occurred during the challenge:

1) Re-encountering a friend who I had lost touch with for about 2 years.

2) Finding out that one of my Letterpress students is the roommate of one of the yoga instructors.

3) Re-connecting with an artist who I had worked on a project with a year ago and hadn't seen since.

4) Spending quality time with Tula's fellow yogis while putting together care packages for Syrian refugees during my first yoga happy hour.

5) Demoing a pose for the first time which made me panic inside but I accomplished without fainting (whew!).

6) Discovering the most wonderful camomile tea blend that Maile brings in from the Logan Square farmer's market. It is that good.

7) Understanding what "Restorative Yoga" is and realizing how much training my mind needs while practicing yoga. (I found another favorite yoga teacher because of this class!)

8) Learning about Maile's vision for the studio when creating it - which made me appreciate it even more (you can read about it here).

9) Miraculously accomplishing yoga poses I have struggled with for years.

10) Communing with the people of Logan Square.


I've mentioned this before but I am an extreme introvert who has learned to survive in an extrovert world, and part of what I've been learning to do is to just go and be. During this challenge, I had to go and be, and the universe graciously met me there. Overall, this challenge opened my eyes to see more than what my body can physically handle - and to focus in on what it's trying to tell me everyday. It let me see the beauty of a community space that encourages communing with each other on the premise of just existing. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 

I'm now back to my schedule of 3-4 times a week but it's different now when I go to Tula. Each class is more intentional. I have a better understanding of what I'm doing and what my body requires of me. I also feel more confident in my yoga practice than I have ever been while knowing that there is still so much more to learn - and I think I'm ready for it. For this I am extremely grateful.

I chatted about this challenge to some folks I work with and conversations began to arise about micro-challenges - which is the idea of creating little 30 day challenges for yourself that are small, but are still based on commitment. I'm wondering what I should do for that... tweet everyday for 30 days? I'm so bad with social media... maybe I'll just stick to just writing more. :)



UX Notes: I'm going to mention a little bit of a feedback engine that was given to us 30 day yogis. We had a calendar on the wall where we could put a colored star every day we participated. So small and tiny but such a great way to feel accomplished everyday. No wonder this works in a classroom setting with kids, right? I cannot stress how important it is for product designers to make sure that small rewards are given towards users while completing a task. Make it as cheesy as you want but it will keep your user fueled to achieve their end goal. 

Service Design Notes: How might we learn from what Maile created in her yoga studio? It is clear that her empathy for a yoga student stemmed from her own experiences, and it is this empathy that drove creative solutions and services that builds loyal students who keep coming back for more. Let's make sure we participate in the services we are designing so that we can have this kind of empathy for the users who use our designs!

New Thoughts on Marie Kondo's Tidying Regime

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marie Kondo has ruined my life.

Ok - that's a little dramatic, but remember this post when I cleared out my apartment using Marie Kondo’s method?

I’m here to tell you that, yes, my place stays tidied and things are, generally, always in their home... but there have been several moments where I have looked for something and then realized that  - oh yeah, it didn't bring me joy in the week I was clearing out my space, but it looks like I'm going to have to spend money to buy it again because I actually need it. OMG. Kill me now.

Although the KonMarie method has brought order to my environment, it has also bestowed upon me the unwanted gift of neurotic behavior as I now constantly worry about whether my things are in their appropriate homes. Do I really need to be thinking about this when I want to be writing and making things? No. But then on the other hand, when I'm writing and making things, would I be bothered if my environment was a mess? Yes. 

So, the struggle continues. I write this to warn those who may be at the brink of embarking on the KonMarie way of life. Just be careful with how you intake her information and how much of it you commit to. I drank the Kool-Aid because I was more than just thirsty to know how one keeps and maintains tidiness, and now I am trying to balance myself so that this method of living does not run my life. 

You have been warned.

Design-tervention

Have you ever had a friend-tervention? When your friends stage an intervention regarding something in your life because they know you need it?

I've had several done by those who love me and I've also been part of a few acts of the kind towards the people in my life I care about. At times, it is quite necessary but sometimes, looking back, I think that some of them could have been constructed better in its delivery. A few of them, when evaluating with a bigger picture in mind, most definitely could have just used patience in knowing that the loved one will get there eventually and absolutely needs to get there on their own. Hurt feelings aren't the best way to pursue interventions and during my college and early 20's, my naivety rushed critical understandings that perhaps one was not ready for - I also feel the same way about several things that were thrown in my direction when I wasn't ready for it.

Human Centered Design isn't any different. A lot of times, it is actually, in fact, an intervention. When you're reconsidering a project, putting it on hold to perhaps insert a HCD process, or even when you're reevaluating something that has been done from an HCD lens, you are intervening on behalf of humans. This is a good thing, in theory, but delivery is key. What that delivery consists of is perhaps the greatest piece of the puzzle when designing anything. Designers must know this criticality within the process. 

I'd like to share an intervention that is happening to me during this design residency I am taking part of for two weeks.

A Civilla class that begins and ends with a circle of community and expression of thoughts.

A Civilla class that begins and ends with a circle of community and expression of thoughts.

In my past work environment, I will share that it was a bit toxic in the context of management personalities, as well as general advocacy for design as a professional skill. I won't go into detail about specific stories and people, but just know this - it was not healthy for me to be in that environment anymore and I had to pull myself out of it. (This is a great reason to take a sabbatical if you are kicking around the idea. Take a step back and reevaluate who you are in your work environment. If you don't like it, maybe it's time for you to take a step back and recalibrate your compass.)

What I will share, though, are the behaviors that were drawn out of me by putting myself through an environment in which I thought I could handle. To name a few, the following are things that came to surface: Actions that were opposite from 'Shine Theory' with my fellow women workers; Political insecurity which manifested itself by speaking downward towards those who I felt threatened by; Insecurity in the credit and value of my work; and a wretched habit of name dropping just to level up to those in the room.

It was terrible. I was terrible. 

Another goal that I added to my list during this sabbatical is to regain who I am as I despised who I was becoming in a work setting. I am not perfect and I will be the first to say that I am absolutely responsible for these actions because they are mine, but I do know myself and I know that within my beliefs regarding what is right and what is good, it doesn't include any of the above actions. It hurt my heart to know that I had evolved into a person I promised I wouldn't be. So, I put an end to it.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't be smart in how you navigate work culture. You must learn the way the machine works and move through it in your most sincere, truthful, and kindest manner. You must know and master the system so that you don't let it push you around.

Environments and their surrounding cultures are critical to the kinds of people organizations will produce if constructed a certain way. We are always growing as people and when you're young, you're kind of a flaring firework that is just waiting to explode into the air to be recognized as a shining, talented creature. If you deny this, you are lying to yourself. Work culture in America is constructed this way and if you are trying to survive for the many reasons you have on your priority list, all humans behave in this way. Darwin is absolutely right in this context - it is the survival of the fittest.

But, what happens when the ones who make it to the top are monsters? Well, they produce fellow monsters, of course. And what happens when the ones at the top are gentle, kind but firm leaders? They produce fellow gentle, kind but firm people.

I share these thoughts because I have met wonderful leaders during this design residency and I have experienced, again, what it means to be led in a thoughtful manner. It has given me hope for myself that I am actually not this way in work groups when respect and encouragement are foundations for a working culture. I am relieved to know that I am not a monster in the working world and have more confidence in myself and my work than I ever did in the past. This all happened in 1 week.

I'm proud to be a member of Civilla's family. 

I sit in my temporary home in Detroit and think about how miraculous this experience is. The story of how I got here and who I have met is nothing short of a miracle. What I am learning right now, I will never give up for the world. Never have I ever met such beautiful souls with whom I have immediately connected with and wondered, "Why am I meeting these people now? What took so long? What is happening right now?!" 

For starters, Civilla is a social impact/innovation startup that began in Detroit at the beginning of September 2015 (that's last month). This little group has one of the biggest hearts within the range of startups I have consulted with, and the projects they are pursuing are a testament to that fact. Passion is the project. Social intervention is the evolving experiment. 

Civilla has taken a repurposed storage closet as their first home. A great transformation indeed.

Civilla has taken a repurposed storage closet as their first home. A great transformation indeed.

Although Civilla is intervening on behalf of the people of Detroit using the HCD method, I am proud to say that they have intervened in my life as a beacon for knowing what exact environment and culture makes me feel safe and confident when it comes to work. I can only attempt to describe the joy I feel of knowing this truth. Perhaps using a food analogy will help. I feel as though I have tasted the simple, yet delightfully thoughtful bowl of porridge that is ever so slight in its first impression but immersed with enriching ingredients that slowly expose themselves bite by bite - teaching you the roots of what food and taste should be while humble in its packaging and delivery. Better? I hope so. I need you to understand this.

From left to right: Lena Selzer, Adam Selzer, and Michael Brennan

From left to right: Lena Selzer, Adam Selzer, and Michael Brennan

There is nothing about this experience that I expected in my lifetime, but I will wholeheartedly accept it and appreciate, in utter awe, the fact that it is happening. The universe is beautifully mysterious like that - I often wondered what would actually come out of my sabbatical but this journey has proved to be filled with more than just rest and goal seeking. Or could it be that through the pursuance of rest and goal seeking that the things that must open our eyes actually come to fruition? At this point, however way you want to look at it, I'm just glad it's happening. 

UX Notes: We are what we experience and our experiences will guide our future decisions and paths. If you are enjoying your current experience in your workplace, bravo. Continue with that experience but don't forget to challenge yourself so that you will grow. If you aren't enjoying your experience in your workplace, I challenge to seek out why that is. Was it the 'Login' process with HR that exhausted you right from the beginning? Or was it the enticing interactions you fell in love with during your interview and when the curtain was unveiled, you saw the reality of what you signed up for? Think about it.


Tidying

On the flight from Copenhagen to Chicago, I read Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I couldn't sleep at all during the flight so I plowed through the entire thing - and I'm so glad I did. 

I started my sabbatical by cleaning out my apartment but after reading this book, it seems as though I had only just dusted my shelves. Lady Marie is hilarious in the way she goes about talking about one's home and belongings, so for the pure joy of reading someone else's thoughts about belongings, this book is a must read.
 

"But when she pulled open her sock drawer, I could not suppress a gasp. It was full of potato-like lumps that rolled about. She had folded back the tops to form balls and tied her stockings tightly in the middle.[...] I pointed to the balled-up socks. 'Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?'"
Excerpt From: Marie Kondo. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”


Beyond the great representation of your belongings having a life of their own, Kondo does a great job of allowing you to follow through with her advice and thought process by encouraging you to ask yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" 

I documented some of my process but the biggest eye-opener for me was the realization of the sheer amount of things I possess in my little apartment.

All of the books I own in my apartment were laid out on my dining table. I love books with all my heart and this was the category that was the hardest for me. (Do you see my dining table bending a little? Ha.)

There were joyful + painful moments as well as lots of memories flooding through my thoughts while completing the process of tidying my apartment but after I completed it, I felt new, refreshed, and cleansed.

Total bags tossed into the trash? 15. I know. I couldn't believe it either.

One of the things that Lady Marie advises to do is to "[visualize] the ideal lifestyle you dream of." The one thing I had always wanted to do was to reorganize my bookshelf as a color gradient - because, why not?! Being a visual person, sometimes I won't remember the name of a book that I'm thinking of but I know the color and can see the cover in my mind. So, naturally, this way of organizing my books makes sense for me.

This process of tidying was probably one of the best experiences I've ever had. Kondo states in her book that it would also teach you to edit out other things in your life and I think that this is a true statement. 

As a UX designer, it already gives me a new perspective when it comes to choosing hierarchy of information, process flow, and editing material out. If you're in the industry, ask yourself, "Will it bring my user joy?"
 

UX Notes: Designing experiences should be done with the user in mind but what happens when you have multiple kinds of brain processes accessing the same material? Filters can be a point of contention with content managers and designers but having visual filters may be a feature that many have not yet experimented with but could provide another way for others to naturally find what they need. Hey Amazon - what if you had book cover color filters in your search process? I'll bet that your sales would go up (even if it's a little margin) and that you would have die hard, loyal fans.

 

Solfinn + Family

Remember when I went to that pop-up dinner from Rødder? And then they invited me to their wine shop the day after? I went and had a wonderful hang with them. 

One of the things that Rødder prides itself on is their knack for finding natural wine that is oh so delicious and wonderful. I bought a bottle to gift the Airbnb that I was staying at but felt tempted to bring it back home to the states with me instead.

Inside the store there are rad posters of bands and just a quaint space where you can tell most of the finances and emailing takes place for this small business. 

The sweetest treat of the day, other than the amazing rosé they opened and shared, was the arrival of Solfinn's daughter who was dressed oh so french and chic. 

I also met Solfinn's wife who had apparently designed some of the posters that were inside the wine shop. She is an architect by trade and told me that she will be returning to work in a few months.

She was so social and playful the entire time and was also very curious when it came to my camera. (Photographed here is also the international phenomenon, Sophie la Girafe)

Solfinn and his beautiful family. They had just spend 3 weeks in Paris for their holiday and were back in Denmark to cook up a storm.

I was so pleased to be able to hang out with just awesome people and I really felt all the kindness ooze out of everyone. Maybe it was the weather that day or it could've been the wine but it was just so chill. 

I love good people.