I’ve known and been inspired by Kelli since middle school, and was lucky enough to eventually convince her to be my friend (thanks, Livejournal, teenage angst, shitty mom’s, etc.). Getting her to join the Boo Forever Collective was practically a no-brainer, especially given our work together to create our one-of-a-kind Brelli Frompkin’s pieces. To get a closer look into her artwork, I asked her a few questions, to which she answered with the intimacy you could only expect from people who have known each other through childhood and into adulthood. Read her replies below, and be sure to check out more of her work at mintfresca.com.
How did growing up in Park City/ Utah influence your artwork?
Growing up in Park City was a privilege and a blessing. As an isolated bubble, it provided quiet space to paint and daydream ~7,500 feet above sea level in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the West: mountain-desert woodlands, wetlands full of cawking birds, and snowy afternoons both rural and urban.
I learned to paint as quickly as the light changed in an effort to capture Park City’s mutable atmosphere. I embrace my expressionistic, painterly style. If I work too long on a piece, sometimes I end up ruining it. I’ve learned to let things go earlier than planned because I like the mid-points more than the final product. I like to think people are able to recognize my line work because of both my process and style, and that my art is a direct expression of my spirit.
Park City reminds me of the beauty of nature, the freedom of youth, and the bliss that comes from chasing joy, but I have both loving and painful memories from growing up there. My childhood in winter paradise was full of dramatics, yelling, isolation, sometimes kid-led chaos that exploded our house into piles of furniture, appliance-box forts, and endless mountains of toys, the ones our mother bought for us in place of showing warmth, kindness or affection.
After seeing Hereditary, I mentally connected dots that Park City is obviously a horror movie town. It’ll forever remind me of the escapism, neglect, and white-supremacist patriarchy widely present in settler colonies like Park City. Now I wonder if growing up in a literal horror movie town had some direct translation into my fascination with death, the occult, social violence, darkness, ghosts, magic, murder, mystery? Or if it’s just a Pluto in Scorpio kind of thing?
Regardless, any of the sentiments in my art that reflect the feeling of home, or disenfranchisement from feeling at ‘home,’ come directly from the privilege of growing up in the wealthy “socialist democratic republic” of Park City, Utah.
What medium do you feel most drawn to and why?
I dabble in many, I’m not sure one calls me more than others...I’ve always loved painting: acrylic is convenient, accessible, easy to clean up; oil has a nicer feel to it while painting; egg tempera is smelly, impractical, difficult, but so satisfying to pull off. It's creamy and indulgent, slow to dry, movable, flexible. I love texture— pen and marker provide the most control for small details, but it’s fun to experiment with paint brushes, palette knives, varying textured materials and paint viscosities.
The limitations from different media provide new challenges to overcome. I recently started playing around with digital art on the iPad, and it was surprising to me how much I had to start drawing practice over from the beginning, with line styles, then shapes, then texture, then color.
The options to create digitally are so much more limitless I think in some ways than creating in reality—for example, being able to correct mistakes or practice without wasting materials. There are so many ways to play with digital tools that it can be overwhelming sometimes to think about, but I’ve always had a hard time with focusing on just one thing at a time.
“Kellen Frankentompkinstein” is a self portrait—how do you feel that illustration encompasses your presence, and how did you decide what to include in it?
Growing up, I often felt like a monster (I still do sometimes), like a cobbled together, disheveled mess. I was created and feared by my maker, my mother. One time while gardening in the yard, I accidentally hit my little baby brother in the face with a huge shovel. I was probably 8 and he was 3, and I was digging a hole for a bigger plant with an adult-sized pointed metal shovel. I closed my eyes, straining like a fool to lift, right as little-toddler-brother stuck his face over the opening of the hole.
I hit him square between his eyeballs. My mom rushed him away, toward the van, off to the clinic, yelling back at me, ‘What kind of monster are you?’ It always stuck with me afterwards. I ran away crying, to hide. When my mom and brother got back from the doctor, my brother had 9 waxy black stitches between his eyebrows. I felt horrible, and I wondered if my little brother was going to be afraid of me for the rest of my life, the same way my mom was. “I'm your little monster, mom, this is who you created, your destructive little demon learning to love herself,” I didn’t say.
Kellen Frankentompkinstein depicts how I see myself. Even though I know these feelings are born of an emotional childhood that’s long since gone, I still often feel and see myself as a dysmorphic monster, like I’ve corner-copia’d (a bad pun, sorry, like a cornucopia) my way back into a cave, or a corner, on display for gawking. I surround myself with a spilled mess and distracting wallpaper, I haven’t taken time to harvest the fruit in front of me. A family heirloom, my grandma’s begonia, sits behind my hastily thrown together, tangled body, a wild mockery on display in a private corner of a public room. I take up all this space, and I feel awkward as hell doing it. The plant is blocked because my existence suffocates and destroys the life and growth my ancestors manifested for me in this lifetime.
How does painting/ drawing/ etc. express the messages you’re trying to put out—and what are those messages? (especially thinking of “And Still the Heart”, but you can talk about any piece)
The messages I hope to express in my work are around:
Allowing art to move you to heal,
Eating a snack is a spiritual act,
Honoring all aspects of the self to return to divinity
“And still the heart,” was inspired by one of my favorite paintings by my mom, it hangs in my living room. It’s very Matisse-heavy in style, but less formalized or complete. A woman sits sleeping at a table, surrounded by plants, oranges rolling on the table. There’s a large abstract vase that camouflages her round body, the perspective lines are off and bizarre. Everything about the painting; the moment of rest and stillness; the color palette, incomplete linework and bizarre perspective; feel bold and daring to me. I loved my mom’s art, however weird or experimental. The relationship we had was healthiest when it was channeled through art. In that space, we could create, encourage and support each other.
In my piece, I wanted to capture the serenity that comes from rest because I think it’s important to honor our need for rest, and to allow art to create space to recover from whatever ails us. By including folded laundry, one of my greater adult nemeses, the sentiment feels like rest post-accomplishment. Have you ever taken a nap after checking off everything on your to do list? My favorite feeling in the world is when there’s no place to go, nothing to do, and nobody to see. Taking care of myself, self-care as a form of self-discipline (to quote the Trap Witch), is an exercise I’ve had to learn and develop as an adult.
What kind of music influences your work?
I love to make art while listening to instrumental experimental music, like a lot of your playlists are amazing for meditative sketching. I love Tokimonsta and Susumu Yokota, but anything with a solid rhythm that I can tap into, like Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, also works well. Sometimes I obsessively listen to Dolly Parton for months at a time.
Some of the best music to make art to is hip hop, period. I love Missy Elliot and Bby Mutha, but I also obsessively listened to Beyoncé’s Lemonade when it came out. The self-affirmations in hip hop, as well as the radical resistance that comes from the mere existence of black women or femmes in USA, is inspiring and worth uplifting. I love feminine and queer artists who, in the most colorful and expressive ways possible, disrupt the traditional white male creative canons.
What sort of visuals influence your work?
My most obvious influence is probably Paul Gauguin, but I’d also include Matisse, Mary Cassatt, Marc Chagall, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele. I love post-impressionist, post-colonial artists. Contemporary loves of late include Polly Nor’s monsters, as well as Kliu Wong’s visceral violence in neon. I can’t get enough of simple lines + colors of Japanese printmaking and woodblock art, particularly the Shin-hanga period style. Lily Yeh, urban alchemist installation artist, is one of my personal favorites because she integrates the importance of design and art into communal spaces where transformational healing is deeply needed to move forward after traumatic pasts.
What else influences your work—food, television, literature, etc?
I’m moved by fruit, plants, some vegetables, organic shapes, experimental or expressive color palettes, light play and texture development.
I love to sit and watch the light change as the sun moves across the sky. I’ve never been able to depict the airiness of light and atmosphere the way I’d like to because I have a hard time restricting myself when it comes to color. I’m learning to experiment more with pastels for variety, as well as black and white textured linework. My most recent Plein Air paintings for the Block Urban Plein Air project are good examples of how I let color overwhelm atmosphere, regardless of perspective depth in the scene.
Other influences would definitely include my friends, as well as nature, space, the earth. My dreams are a constant inspiration for my artwork, as well as music and poetry. I enjoy trying visualize the emotions behind language.
Many of my pieces have been inspired by lines of poems, including popular favorites like Pablo Neruda’s Oda a la Alcachofa (Ode to the Artichoke), and lesser known voices like Jeffrey McDaniel, whose work I was obsessed with as a teenager. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ magical realism. Horror movies, monsters, ghouls and ghosts. Comics, specifically Calvin + Hobbes.
What would you say to your 15 year old self if you had the chance to time travel and give her advice?
Follow your joy. Don’t let anything come in between you, self-love, and what brings you absolute joy. Use art to express whatever feels bigger or darker than words will allow. Don’t fear your darkness, your shadows, your destruction. You are worthy and loveable just as you are, monster or not.
I wish I could tell my younger self to focus on my passions instead of trying to be everything that people around me wanted me to be. It’s so easy for me to absorb the ideas and experiences of people around me, I wish I had dedicated time to loving myself earlier, sooner. I wish I could say to follow your joy, not let boys, bad friends or toxic love distract me from knowing myself. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to feel anxiety and put yourself out there anyway. Don’t give up on your art, your creativity or yourself. You are worthy, valued and loveable.
What would you like to say to your future self?
Look how far you’ve come.
I think it’s important to look back in order to assess our growth. It’s just as easy for me to dwell on the past as it is for me to stay stuck in the perpetual present and ruminate on the what-ifs of the future. Instead of over-thinking, my therapist is having me focus on things that are important and try to forget the rest. He had me list and draw circles around everything I care about vs everything I have the ability to control. The things I can’t do anything about, I’m trying to worry less about. I’m trying to start fewer fights and be more graceful. I’m trying to express my rage in healthy outlets, and not at people or things that don’t deserve to experience the immensity of the kind of rage women can carry.
I’m learning to love myself in all my roundness and rage, and I think that’s a self-improvement journey worth celebrating privately. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. I’ve learned a lot about myself, survived external circumstances I couldn’t control, and learned tools necessary to move through memories that weight on me and tie me to the past.
I hope my future self is full of bliss, joy and confidence. I hope she embraces change and challenges. I hope art and writing fulfill future Kelli and become my main source of income. I hope my art moves people to get in touch with the natural divinity within them. I hope they learn that no external source can take away the divinity within you. By learning to be with and make space for all versions of ourselves, even the monster ones, the hurt and hurtful selves, the impatient and unpolished selves, we make space to observe and integrate into the most whole versions of ourselves. And lastly, I hope I can teach people that eating snacks is often a spiritual act, so take comfort in your sustenance and allow yourself to move forward into your best future self.
You can take a piece of Kelli home with you by visiting her home on the Boo Forever Collective.
my most recent piece, a commission to create a scene of the big cottonwood canyon. the embroidery measures about 22” W x 16” H, which is a bit larger than pieces I’ve done in the past, and was a fun challenge.
are you interested in prints, a desktop background, or maybe a different custom piece of your own? shoot me a word.
I remember being instantly drawn to Jaggy Mone’s artwork, and immediately wanted to collaborate or meld minds while working on projects together. Her photography feels like breathing landscapes—their images feel vibrant and full of life, but are captured during a moment that could be missed with the blink of an eye. Browsing through them makes me feel like I am in her shoes, camera to my own face, absorbing the same moment in a similar state of mind—whether that be in a blur or through razor sharp focus.
As vibrant as her singular images are, soaking in her collages evokes a deeper resonance as they become chopped and reinterpreted, and I wanted to get a better perspective into her work. Read through our dialogue below, and be sure to browse her full catalogue available at the Boo Forever Collective!
BF: What sticks out to you most when you decide what to include in your digital collages?
JM: I look to create balance from contrast. Therefore I’m drawn to the organic shapes of natural landscapes and the structured lines of architecture, color vs. black and white, textured vs. smooth surfaces, loud vs. subtle. Because my recent work has taken on a more political agenda I also tend to focus on photographs that execute the message I’m trying to convey. Ultimately however, I want my art to be aesthetically pleasing, so if it fits the look i’m going for then it stays, if not, I throw it out.
BF: What was going on in your head when you were creating “Great Walls”?
JM: “Great Walls” was created after sitting through yet another torturous State of the Union address (“Resurrection” being the first) in the Trump Era. Again, I was left feeling completely depressed, frustrated and disturbed by the trajectory of where this country is going. Having to channel these negative emotions into something, I produced this piece, which symbolizes the wall that Trump hopes to build and a throwback to the “Great Wall” of China, both of which have and will be great failures. Walls don’t get us anywhere, they’re an obstacle, in this case, to peace and prosperity.
BF: What medium do you feel most drawn to and why?
JM: Being the perfectionist that I am, I always felt very much boxed in by my drawing and painting skills (or lack thereof). I rarely found that my art translated or lived up to my standards. After my grandmother passed away nearly 10 years ago I inherited a bunch of old magazines destined for the dumpster, from then on collage became my medium of choice. With endless materials to choose from I was finally capable of bringing to life a creative vision that had been stifled for too long. A few years later I began living nomadically and therefore lacked the space to continue creating in the same way, this is when I transitioned to digital collage. Years of traveling led to thousands of photographs which led to thousands of new materials. Because of this, I now, almost exclusively, use my own photography when it comes to collage.
BF: What kind of music influences your work?
JM: Gotan Project- “Live 2008”, has had a huge impact on my art over the past year. This album is incredibly political, describing an era of impunity and mass disappearances within Argentina under the Dictatorship of Videla, who rose to power in a coup d’etat backed by the CIA in 1976. I found the album to be relevant under the current political climate, and beyond that it’s beautiful and very inspiring. Gold Panda- “Good Luck and Do Your Best” struck a chord with me in Greece, it’s an album I refer back to regularly. Washed Out- “Mister Mellow” was the soundtrack to my life in 2017, couldn’t imagine a more relatable album. Weval has been and continues to be my most overplayed artist. Beyond that I currently find: Working for a Nuclear Free City, Paradis, JJUUJJUU, Holy Wave, Jerry Paper, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The Helio Sequence, Gorillaz, BADBADNOTGOOD,Bonobo and Tommy Guerrero to be inspiring.
BF: What else influences your work—food, television, literature, etc?
Politics influence me greatly. For better or worse I spend a lot of the time reading and pondering about US foreign policy and international relations. I love listening to podcasts while working on more tedious art projects mainly: War College, Democracy Now, Intercepted, Presidents Inbox and BBC’s The Documentary. I obsessed over Russia the past year, not really sure why…it had nothing to do with the current scandal but more to do with a history and culture I felt I knew very little about. I found it all to be so incredibly fascinating that nearly all the pleasure reading and Netflix watching I did, involved Russian subject matter or language, therefore it’s played heavily into my recent art. “Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy”, “Crime and Punishment”, and “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” all influenced me over the past year.
Life experiences always inspire, specifically backpacking and canyoneering trips with my best friends in Utah’s pristine deserts and mountains. Having worked the California festival circuit for the past 3 years I’ve had the chance to meet radically creative people and see some pretty trippy shit. The monotony of trimming weed and slinging coffee has allowed me the time to think of future art projects and money to fund them. Lastly my move to the monstrosity that is Mexico City has been an endless source of inspiration.
BF: What would you like to say to or see for your future self?
For now I envision myself shifting into a more settled and routine lifestyle then the one I’ve been living for the past few years. I want to focus on art and transitioning out of the service industry. That being said, I still have quite a few countries and adventures to cover on thee ol bucket list. Taking the Trans-Siberian Railway from China to Russia being at the top along with completing the Pacific Crest Trail. Considering my “life plans” change almost weekly I really can’t say where I’ll be in the future and I’m ok with that…
I’ve stolen a lot of retail in my life. Food, toiletries, clothes, jewelry, school supplies, books, gifts… I have never worried about being shot or killed for it. No one ever looked at me twice when I had stolen goods from right under their nose. I know why.
I admit that some of the stealing came from the thrill of it. But it started out of necessity. It started because I couldn’t afford to eat. Then it became because I couldn’t afford to look good. Or I couldn’t afford to appear stable, or successful. I’m financially stable enough now that I haven’t felt the need to steal for a few years, but it still feels like the corporations I was stealing from are stealing more from me, and from my community. Whether it’s storing the majority of their money in offshore accounts to avoid taxes, paying workers the bare minimum in order to subsidize their profits, lobbying to deregulate the market or destroy workers unions, or making profits from the financial crisis of 2008, corporate owners clearly only care about lining their pockets while they take the rest from us.
I’ve gotten away with a lot of shit for things that black people have been killed for. Elijah Wood was just shot and killed by police in West Valley last week for being suspected of stealing a phone. Nobody ever called the police on me for stealing. I know I’ve been protected by my whiteness, and I know this status has afforded me a lot of safety that isn’t afforded to everyone. Black people are being arrested on the daily just for being black. We have a lot more work than just diversity training to undo the racism this country practices.
A big focus of my yoga practice has been ahimsa, or non-violence. That means attending to the violence you commit to yourself first, then the violence you commit to your close ones, the violence committed to your community, and finally the violence that your actions commit to the world at large. As I’ve attended to violence, I am shocked at how it plays itself out in our day-to-day life as Americans. The ways I was taught to categorize violence as a white, middle-class Mormon girl from Utah, are very different from the ways I see violence now. It’s a very heavy feeling to sit with. My family, the Mormon community, and white settlers have committed a lot of violence that we are not addressing.
Working on abolition, as a thought process and political action, has been a way for me to sort through this. I do not want to be a leader or overshadow the work of any other abolitionists. The work Eliza and I have focused on is trying to address the source of violence, and focus on how we can, as Miriame Kaba & so many other brilliant women summarize in this interview, organize around making violence unthinkable. Police, the prisons, the military, corporations and the state are all sources of violence, and we can’t forget that as we fight for racial, social, economic and environmental justice.
Eliza and I asked for contributions from people who sympathize with abolition, whether or not they refer to themselves as abolitionists, to compile into a zine. There was a lot of emotional work that was put into this first edition of local views. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank our contributors enough. We are hoping to have more copies to sell at upcoming markets around the Salt Lake area, but you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy. We are leaving it free to download and share, but if you feel like contributing to the cause, please consider donating to the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
If you would like to help us cover future printing costs or pay our contributors, you can do so by donating below.
Find out more...
Part one of a seven part series. Featuring a hand-stitched binding.
This 35-page zine includes everything you need to know about opening or balancing your muladhara (root) chakra. A place for notes is available at the end, with more resources listed if you want to deepen your chakra practice. Written and designed by Brinley Froelich, featuring back cover artwork by Kelli Tompkins.
This is a limited edition, and includes a free downloadable PDF.
after thirty five hours of stitching in every spare moment I had the past week, and with incredible help from many friends, my window display is live at the gateway! go check it out on 70 S Rio Grande, just north of Victoria's Secret.
Special thanks to Willard, Katie, Jordan, Max, Brody and Kamryn for your help in one way, shape, or form.
We should support women of color all year long, but since this is the time of year that most of you will be spending money and cashing in your end of year bonuses, consider shifting capital to them. Read the cornerstone piece about why you should give your money to women (especially women of color).
For people local to the Salt Lake area, this website has a list of people of color owned businesses and artists. S/O to Ella Mendoza for compiling all this useful information.
The ELIXHER Index features restaurants, retailers, organizations, and more that are owned by Black lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women.
Help Puerto Rico by supporting their economy! Shop+Hire a boricua connects you to entrepreneurs and small business owners in Puerto Rico. You can also find many items on the Raices Yoga shop, which features products made by Puerto Ricans.
Commission a woman of color artist to create something for your loved ones.
Leave extra with your tip.
Follow the hashtag #BuyBlack & #ShopLatinX on Twitter and Instagram for more ideas
You may also choose to skip shopping on Black Friday and use the money you would have spent to donate to support the communities targeted by the Flint water crisis. I personally think this crowdpac to build a movement in Flint is a pretty great place to do that, but there are tons of charities and GoFundMe’s that you can also donate to.
What did I miss? Leave it in the comments!
Excited to announce that me and Maggie will be having a booth at the RAW Artists Showcase on December 6th at the Rockwell in Salt Lake City!
In order to reserve our spot, we are required to sell at least 20 tickets. I understand that this is a bit on the pricier end, so as an incentive, I'm offering a free 8x10 print to whoever buys a ticket! Purchase tickets here. (Note: You *must* purchase them at that link in order for them to count toward our account.) If you're unable to make it, you can still support by purchasing a ticket (or several!), and they can be transferred to someone who would like to go.
Once you've purchased your ticket, forward me the receipt or screenshot to email@example.com, and indicate which option of print you'd like.
Join me at Fellow Shop on the second Sunday of each month for a gentle morning flow, followed by a refreshing and bubbly mimosa!
Next class will be on November 12th at 10am. Register online or in person at Fellow Shop: 217 E Broadway, Salt Lake City.
I'm teaching a Flow Yoga class again this semester at the University of Utah! Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:30-7:20pm, first day is on August 22nd, last day is on December 7th. This class is open to registration for students, faculty and staff at the University of Utah. Find out more info and sign up on the event page.
Several people have asked me how I transfer images onto fabric for my embroideries. So, here's a tutorial!
WHAT YOU NEED
- Arylic medium. I use a matte finish for my pieces.
- Any image printed in ink. Keep in mind that when you transfer your image, it will go on backwards, so I usually avoid images with text. If you want text and you're printing yourself, make sure your design has the text reflected. I've found magazine paper works best, but I've also used images printed at home and images from books.
- A piece of fabric. I use standard muslin fabric. It's important that your fabric is untreated, as most colored fabrics are treated with dye which will alter the image colors, or may not hold any of the image colors at all.
- An easy to clean surface. There will be residue underneath the fabric once painted with medium, but it's easy to wash off with soap and water.
- Paint the area you want to put the image on using the acrylic medium.
- Place the image face down on the wet surface. Smooth out the image as much as possible, and fill in the corners with medium underneath up to the edges.
- Cover the image with another layer of medium, continuing to smooth out the creases as much as you can. (Side note: I don't try to do this too much because a- it's damn near impossible, and b- I like the imperfection of the white spaces after I peel the image off. It's still important to do this though to get a better transfer.)
- Lift the fabric up and place it on a flat surface that you won't mind getting a little sticky. I usually put my images on an old book, magazine, or plastic bin, or hang the image up with clips.
Let the fabric dry overnight or for a few hours—the longer the better. (Notice the creases and how it translates in the final image.)
- Place the image in a shallow body of water. I use an old plastic bin and scrub brush for this part because it gets a little messy.
- Gently scrub the image until you start to notice it peeling off.
- Continue scrubbing gently until the entire top layer is removed, rinse the residue off, and let the image dry for a few hours before altering.
Once I'm done with the transfer, I liked to add my own embellishments using thread and needle. Fair warning: if you have experience stitching, you'll notice this is a little more difficult than stitching on fabric since it has another layer of toughness to it. I wear a thimble when I stitch on image transfers because you have to thread the needle up and then down for each stitch, as opposed to just threading through, so there's more opportunities for a nice lil poke in the finger.
& VOILA! We have a patch!
get this for your loved one~
Originally posted on Medium
My motivation to practice yoga sprouted after religion, therapy, and medication failed to release me from what I believed for a long time to be a chronic depression that I carried. After I began a semi-regular yoga practice, I started to unfold my mental habits, which allowed me to see that I was capable of tweaking them into clarity. The physical and spiritual side effects became an added bonus, filling in the gaps that didn’t make sense to me for so long. I know that what works for me isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to a serious mental illness, but in my experience, I’ve accepted that this is the healthiest habit I can cultivate and maintain, as it’s the most effective tool I’ve utilized to manage the ebbs and flows of my unbalanced mind. The seed was planted, now I am in the midst of sowing. This is far from an easy journey.
My desire to practice yoga has never wavered, but I’ve run into a lot of dead ends along the way. Lack of access to a studio, class, or teacher has trapped me in dormancy for long periods. Weariness became common early on in my practice as one or a combination of money, time, energy and accessibility blocked me from participating. I know students who experienced abuse from their teachers and vice-versa, which made it discouraging to find reasons to continue the practice. Another significant aversion stems from a disillusionment with the dominance of white girl yogis with name-brand social media sponsorship's, who are less than inspiring; while on the other hand, serious gurus feel difficult to approach without a serious understanding, commitment, and background to the practice. It feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t world for me, and it’s frustrating to try to find where my practice fits in.
Slowly, I’m beginning to realize that the dominant narrative in Western yoga is stuck in this limited context that creates gatekeepers of information, making it seem as if you need the right resources to exchange in order to learn the right method of practicing yoga. I reject that. I believe yoga should be, and is when you know how to look for it, available to everyone — regardless of income, location, history, or ability. Before you assume a practice is unrealistic like I did for a time, I invite you to find different ways to approach the process.
First off: you do not need a mat. The routine of flowing through a set of asanas (poses) within a start and ending time is helpful for warming the muscles and building strength, but it it isn’t necessary. Days or weeks may go by before you can realistically set aside that much time to practice anyway, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. At times, I have locked myself in a bathroom and stretched when I wanted to try a pose without anyone watching me. Use the mundane parts of your day to change the position you’re body is in. Roll your wrists in a circle and pull your fingers forward and back while you watch a movie. Bring the top of your foot behind your hip while you sit at a park. Flow through a cat/cow movement while you’re seated at your desk. There are many subtle stretches and breathing exercises that do not require you to isolate yourself or your time.
Let books, apps, and YouTube videos become your guru. There’s a wealth of information available at libraries and online, and there is no reason you shouldn’t use that to your advantage. Watching videos from the comfort of your home can be a great way for you to become familiar with the poses and terminology without feeling intimidated in a class with other students. Reading different books and about different practices can also help you realize what parts you like, and what parts you want to avoid. Even browsing the yoga section and magazines at a bookstore and jotting down the names of the authors whose books or teachings sound interesting can be a kickstart to online research, if you aren’t sure about purchasing a book to add to your library.
Keep in mind, though, that it is easy to become overwhelmed or confused with conflicting information, especially if you don’t know where to start. I suggest starting with illustrated reference books as these are well researched, organized, and cited, and often list websites or names of teachers for further learning. It may touch a subject that you never knew of that particularly interests you, which will help you narrow your search when you go online. The more you learn, the more you will learn what you want to learn.
Allow the other limbs of yoga to become a part of your method. Asanas (the poses you flow through in what’s usually understood as a yoga class) are only one limb of the eight limbs of yoga. There is a lot of material that could be discussed here, so instead of trying to summarize the intricacies of each, I invite you to look into what yama (ethics), niyama (spiritual self-discipline), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (ecstasy) mean to you, and how they can enrich your day-to-day experiences.
Master your own routine. I typically recommend the sun and moon salutations as a good place to start with your own practice, but you may have more experience and want to come up with your own sequence. The sun salutations are a great foundation for the rest of your practice, and you can perform them alone when you’re short on time. Watch videos, read about the sequence, learn the right alignments, and practice them with a friend until it becomes something you can flow through without consciously thinking about it. Timing the breath with your movement, learning the benefits of the poses, and knowing the right counter-poses is conducive to allow your experience to drift into new possibilities.
Don’t let one style of yoga turn you off to staying engaged. There are so many types of yoga out there that you’ll find something for every level and interest out there, especially once you realize that not all yoga practices are asana-based. Experiment with different types and write notes or contemplate on what you liked or didn’t like about the time you spent practicing a certain style. You may have resistance to bhakti, kundalini, yoga nidra or kirtan, for example, but after trying or revisiting it after avoiding it for awhile you may find that it touched you in an unexpected way. To reiterate and revise what I said earlier: the more you practice, the more you will practice what you want to practice.
If you found a guru you particularly like, reach out to them. Most yoga teachers I know of do not teach at one location only, but spread their resources across multiple venues. They may even have a newsletter, blog, or website you can follow for inspiration or information on special events they are hosting, or they may have recommendations for what they look out for. Tread carefully here: some teachers that used to inspire you may do or say something you disagree with or that makes you feel uncomfortable. Remind yourself that they are on a path just as you are. You’re going to be okay if you split at the fork.
Invite a friend to join you. Sometimes all we need is a little encouragement from someone we know and trust to take us to a class, or to practice with in a park, at the office, or anywhere with enough space. Instead of waiting around for someone else to invite you, be the instigator! Telling someone you want to go with them also makes it a little harder for you to back out of the commitment, since you have someone to be accountable to.
Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. Some people are naturally more inclined to be militant with their practice through setting goals or counting days practiced off a checklist. Integrating your practice into a daily existence isn’t a discipline, and you don’t want it to become a chore that you will find excuses to avoid. Find joy in the ways you can use your insight to enrich your experience. Be adaptable in your practice and find creative ways to synthesize it with each breath. Most importantly, thank yourself for every effort you make. Sometimes what we feel is insignificant will later become a life-altering wisdom we carry with us.
I’m not a perfect example of what a healthy body, mind, and soul looks or acts like, but the union of those elements that we practice in yoga allows me to continue toward that. It’s important to remember: there is no arrival. There is no bar to reach. You do not suddenly become enlightened and free of all your mental, physical, or spiritual ills. Yoga is a cycle free from the arc of beginning to end, and practicing it allows you to shape your own evolution, with a myriad of ways to flow through it.
My friend Miguel asked me to embroider something on his favorite jean jacket to remind him of the Basaseachic Falls National Park outside of his hometown near Chihuaha, Mexico. I didn't want to recreate the images I found online, so I took some liberties in the design and turned it into a three-part panel of patches representing the actual falls traveling to the river beneath it.
I had a ton of fun working on this, I'm excited to work on customizing more!
- Stavroz- The Finishing
- Jeffrey Paradise- Cruise Control (Rollmottle Remix)
- Tourist- For Sarah
- Parra for Cuva- Auryn
- DJ Richard- Vampire Dub
- Steve Hauschildt- Eyelids Gently Dreaming
- Caribou- Dundas, Ontario
- Anchorsong- Ceremony
- Evenings- Lovelo
- Aphex Twin- Avril 14th
- Tsaik- Tehraj
- Iman Omari- L.A. Vibe
- Jon Hopkins- Inner Peace
- Ghost Feet- November
- Heathered Pearls- Thought Palace
- Botany- You Might Be an Eye
- DJ Shadow- Midnight in a Perfect World
- Portico Quartet- Prickly Pear
- Near the Parenthesis- Neume
- Gold Panda- Halyards
- The Range- Seneca
- Flume- When Everything Was New
- Groundislava- Jasper’s Song I
- josh pan- Do You Believe in Soulmates
- Soft Glas- Commute
- Beatsofreen- Slowly Rising
- Oddisee- Brea
- Kodak to Graph- Sequatchie Eve
- XXYYXX- Red
- Body-San- Mama Celeste Side Up
- Stumbleine- Comatose
- Kidnap Kid- Moments (instrumental)
- Daniel Lanois- Two Worlds
- chanes- Landscape
- Blue in Green- Rainy Streets
- Mooninite- Orange
- D33J- Sleeping Out
- Moby- Live Forever
- To Rococo Rot- Die Dinge des Lebens
- CFCF- In Praise of Shadows
- Luxury Elite- S.W.A.K.
- Suzanne Kraft- Two Chord Wake
- Dntel- Bay Loop
- Tycho- From Home (Mux Mool Remix)
- Daniel T- Planetisimal (Rollmottle Remix)
- Ratatat- Supreme
- Taku- Yes (Nujabes Tribute)
- froyo ma- Berrymilk Sea
Photos by Miguel Nieto, stitching by me :)