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Location: New York, NY

A Time For Reflection

Really though...
Location: New York, NY

New Beginnings

I took the plunge! I packed up my entire life and moved all the way to New York City. Think thats insane? Thats okay! I knew that if I truly wanted to grow as an individual I would have to really push myself and get out of my comfort zone. I truly believe once you're in a place for a while you become complacent and it's harder and harder to break away from who you once were.

I've literally only been here one week but I've been feeling extremely inspired. The city moves FAST, but I've met so many people in the short span of me being here and I can't wait to meet more. This journey has been tough and at times disheartening but I believe in my heart that things will get better. After all, things always get worse before they get better right? 
Location: Houston, TX

Off the couch & onto the mat: 30 days of yoga

When it comes to fitness you can rest assured that I’m no Ronda Rousey. I’m the kind of person that likes to think that I am athletic; I was a cheerleader, ran track in high school, and taught power tumbling and gymnastics for a few years. But sometime after college I fell off the fitness bandwagon and I haven't been able to get back on since.

When a good friend of mine named Jessica took the plunge and opened up her very own yoga center, I attended the grand opening and the words she spoke inspired me to give yoga a try. She challenged us all to participate in a 30 day yoga challenge. She told us that the heart of this challenge was commitment. Not just to the studio, but to yourself and your practice. This means making a promise to yourself and following through on it. This means letting go of all excuses and fears of failure and promising to set aside time to practice each day. Despite never having done yoga before I signed up for the challenge. This was in part because anytime we hung out Jessica would always tell me about the benefits of yoga and partly because I’d always been curious and with the challenge to hold me accountable I felt ready to try it. I could see myself now, standing outside of the studio with my Manduka mat wearing a cute little yogi outfit and sipping on a freshly squeezed juice packed with antioxidants after class. The rules for the challenge were simple. Come in at least once a day, take a class and place a mark by your name for the day you came in. Instructors would check you in as well (so there would be no cheating) and at the end of the challenge there would be a celebration for everyone and for those of us that completed the challenge we would receive a yoga mat.

I didn’t know a damn thing about yoga but I knew I wasn’t a quitter. That night I tried stretching to see how out of shape I was. I stood up and slowly leaned over and stretched out my arms as I tried to touch my toes. I closed my eyes and waited to feel my fingertips touch my toes. After feeling nothing but air I opened my eyes and was surprised I no longer could touch the floor. My ability to do even the simplest pose like downward facing dog was embarrassing, but I had faith that I would only get better. I took booked a yoga-in vinyasa class for the morning and went to sleep feeling excited about starting my practice.

Day 1:
I enter the bright studio a pick a place near the back door. I’m hiding but also placing myself strategically in case I embarrass myself and need to make a quick exit. Our instructor asks us to hold a plank for ten more seconds. Sweat drips from my forehead, staining my new yoga mat, as my body shakes uncontrollably and I struggle to hold the pose. I quickly glance over at the girl next to me—she composed and looks totally Zen. I’m wondering if I can make a quick departure without anyone noticing. As we rest on our mats I’m realizing this is only day one of my 30-day yoga challenge and I may have made a terrible mistake.

Day 3:
This time our instructor is focusing on poses that open up the shoulders and back, she said it's to accommodate all the desk-sitting we do at work. At one point in the class I struggled to get a good grip, my mat began to feel like a slip-n-slide and my eyes began to burn as the sweat that poured down my face quickly clouded my vision. The one good thing about this class was that it was made up of mostly newbies, so I felt like I was on a level playing field. The flow was challenging enough but I was definitely keeping up. I left feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Day 5:
Today I waddled into the studio feeling a little stiff. I looked around and saw a good mix of people of all ages and hoped that meant there would be a mix of abilities as well. Today we focused on holding deep stretches and we tried pairing them with breathing. Our instructors voice was extremely soothing. Her instructions were clear and well paced, and she said that with yoga it's more important to feel - not see - how a pose is supposed to work. Her words really gave me confidence to try out some new poses and finish the class on a strong note..

Day 7:
Holy crap. My body is so damn TIRED. Even though I was feeling strong and confident in last night's class I’m feeling so exhausted today. I have to admit that I was intimidated by the names of all the poses I couldn’t pronounce but now I feel like I’m getting into a groove. I’m starting to feel like it’s not important if I can’t do certain poses. I’m proud of myself for even showing up! For this class we’re moving a bit more slowly and being a bit more deliberate with our movements. We’re holding poses and repeating Vinyasa sequences about three or four times. From the time I started this class my arms are shaking, and I start feeling like this is not going to go well. I start to wonder if I am going to be able to complete this challenge. Despite my shaking arms and legs I make it through the 60 min class.

Week One Reflection:
To put it politely the first week of this challenge was hell. I used to consider myself a fairly decent runner, but I definitely wasn’t used to stretching and bending. “Listen to your body, don’t push it past your limit or force it to do what it’s not able to do,” instructor Liz Susong told me after a particularly grueling class. It was a piece of wisdom I would hear again and again: Not only does forcing your body into yogic submission invite injury; it won’t help you become stronger or more confident on the mat.

Day 9:
After being so sore for a couple of days a friend of mine suggested I do a restorative class. I'd never done a restorative class, or really anything slower than a beginner's Vinyasa class, so when we started pulling out all the props (two blocks, bolsters, and even straps) I was seriously confused. Our instructor dimmed the lights and started to conduct the class in the dark, lit only by a few tea candles in the windows. It was absolutely glorious. I felt so peaceful and being in the dark with nothing to focus on but yourself was one of the best feelings. Five minutes in, and I quickly realized this class was all about comfort and relaxation. After sweating profusely all week I was more than happy to relax and go with the flow. The next 60 minutes were spent with my eyes closed as we transitioned slowly into relaxing poses. When we went into child's pose I basically fell asleep. It was so peaceful and truly amazing.

Day 11:
It's 6 a.m., and man does it feel early. I headed out before the sun was up to try a sun salutation class. I'm feeling much looser since taking a restorative class and we started off with slow Vinyasas that allowed my body enough time to wake up. After a few sun salutations, we did some great spine twists and hip stretches. When we moved to savasana I lifted my neck and pushed my computer-hunched shoulders back; really getting into the stretch. It felt like I had gone to a chiropractor to get my back realigned. So good.

Day 15:
Since starting this journey my friend Jessica told me that eventually downward facing dog becomes comfortable as child's pose. Up until this point I’ve been skeptical. I have a love hate relationship with downward facing dog. I have yet to fully own the pose and feel comfortable. Usually the longer we hold the pose the more my arms and shoulders are punished until my entire body is shaking uncontrollably. But today something truly magical happened. About two-thirds of the way through the class, after several Vinyasas, I found myself in downward dog and...I was comfortable. I wasn’t shaking or holding my breath trying to focus on my lack of oxygen as opposed to the pain my body was feeling. I felt the stretch in my calves and for once I embraced it. I was finally starting to see what everyone was talk about: down dog really IS a resting pose when you do it right.

Week Two Reflection:
I'm happy to report that I officially know enough poses and their names (some even in Sanskrit) to not have to keep my eyes glued on the person in front of me so I can know what’s going on. Which is refreshing. When I focused on doing the poses in ways that worked for my body, as opposed to trying to simulate the person in front of me, something amazing started to happen. This was week two and I could easily touch my fingers to the floor. My arms and shoulders were getting stronger, my clothes fit better and my abs were tighter. I could keep up with the rest of the class. I had stopped comparing myself to the people that were around me and focused on myself. And crazy as it sounds I was really enjoying myself. 

Day 21:
Today when I went to set up my mat, I looked around and realized the only space that was available was in the very front row. And instead of being scared I embraced it and took my place as class began. I wasn’t bothered or feeling self conscious at all. Which was AMAZING. Especially since on day one of this challenge there was no way I’d be caught like a deer in the headlights struggling to do yoga in the front row. But today I think something clicked. I was starting to get it. Yoga isn’t about how good you are compared to other people, it’s a progression that allows you to compare the progress you’ve made. With this revelation I completed the class at a sweaty, steady pace and reflected on this during our mediation.

Day 25:
Today's class was fast paced and I was proud of myself for keeping up. I had gotten the hang of some progressions by now and could really feel how much my body had changed. This fast paced class was the perfect way to burn some steam before bed. I felt really strong and confident. Bonus: I slept like a total baby.

Day 27:
Time for a confession: My body needs a break. It’s not like I should be surprised. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything with as much commitment as I’ve put into this yoga challenge. I find myself wanting to go to class, I am actively seeking out new classes to try and googling poses that I can ask about the next time I see my instructor. I feel different lighter I suppose, more balanced. Meditating daily in class has helped tremendously with my mood. I don’t find myself getting stressed out as often and my back is stronger in addition to my abs deciding to make a comeback. I know that I’m tired my muscles are still aching, but its a good kind of ache. The kind that keeps you coming back for more.

Day 30:
Walking into the studio today I feel the love of this community gathering space. This class was excellent. There was a good crowd, and a good range of ability levels. Karlene did a terrific job of orchestrating the class. Best part? I was able to successfully stay in Utthitta Hasta Padangusthasana pose! Which is essentially balancing on one foot with one leg outstretched as you grab your big toe. I’m sure for most Yogis this isn’t exactly rocket science but I have had a hard time with this one, especially since I had lost a lot of my flexibility. I'm definitely no pro, but it's a good starting point. No matter what your shape or size may be you can still be strong and kick some tree pose ass! But most importantly like any workout routine you have to stick to it. You have to make yourself show up and put the work in everyday to see results. It’s mind over matter. As I meditate and reflect on my final class I can’t believe that one I’ve completed the challenge and two that I’m sad this is coming to an end!

Participating in this yoga challenge taught me something about yoga and how it relates to myself. It’s a practice. From the time I started this challenge I would always hear my instructors say that you for sharing your practice with them, or that they wanted you to reflect on your practice. This is something I never really understood until I began this journey. The term “practice” is all about YOUR experience and how it evolves over time. I mean we’re all practicing together right? Taking this challenge and pushing myself past my limits is what I loved most. 30 days of and I don't think I could have succeeded in this challenge unless I took a yoga class every single day for 30 days. It was an enlightening experience. My savasanas got me to another level of relaxation that no massage or deep sleep could achieve. I loved how alive my senses were after I left each class. It helped me begin to discover my practice and what I want to achieve out of yoga. I plan on continuing my practice and discovering what new poses bring to me. Completing your own 30 day yoga challenge will require commitment and focus but it’s not something that is unattainable. Completion of the challenge won’t guarantee that yoga will become a habit for the rest of your life (you can fall out of good habits just as easily as you can fall into bad ones) but it will definitely be a step in the right direction. SO what are you waiting for? Take the leap, start a 30 day yoga challenge and enjoy the journey.

An Open Letter to The Illmore

Lets be real. The majority of the people that bought tickets to The Last Illmore are people that go to SXSW. When you can pay your way into the most exclusive party of the year the crowd won't be the same. It just sets a different standard. As for me, the only reason I even come to South By to attend the Illmore. Since its inception I have done some crazy shit for their scavenger hunts. I live for the mystery, trying to sneak in when passes fall through because this is the one party I'm guaranteed to have a good fucking time. This year I hacked into the Illmore site to find the link to purchase tickets. I don't even know how to hack. I know enough code to create site, but once you start telling me about jquery and bootstrap I start to lose interest and my eyes glaze over a little bit. I worked with a friend to dig even deeper into the site until he found the url. Needless to say when it comes to the Illmore I’m all about it. After that link was disabled I made sure my Twitter notifications were on. When that link went live on Twitter I was driving back to my office, but I quickly pulled over on the side of the road to purchase a three-day pass for my friend. She got the chance to go for the first time last year and was hooked. Hands down the Illmore makes SXSW. I’ve met some of the coolest people, made amazing connections, seen artists up close and personal as opposed to standing six feet back and being blocked by security and a fence. The memories that were made (fitting 5 people in a Smart Car, joining BaeWatch and submitting my "application," cutting the excess strips off of my friends wristbands and then taping them together so that I had a "wristband") trying to get in the Illmore is part of the experience.Waking up in the morning and recapping the crazy shit that happened last night with my friends is definitely something that I'll never forget.

I can respect that things go wrong and that as an event gets larger it’s harder and harder to keep it going. While this is true for the majority of events at South By it's especially true for the Illmore since they push so many limits in terms of permits, licensing and what is and isn’t legal according to the city of Austin. And I can respect that this year Illroots and ScoreMore wanted to do it on their own. The hype surrounding the Illmore this year was unprecedented. An article in Billboard magazine and a shout out via the New York Times can do that for you. So many people were talking about the Illmore that I was really worried about my chances of getting in, but as a vet I had faith that somehow something would work out. When I realized that there weren't really going to be any insane scavenger hunts I was surprised, but since I’ve had the opportunity to go for so many years I had no qualms with paying my dues after so many years of greatness. Anytime I get asked about the Illmore I tell people the lineup is always a secret and it’s always dope. The fact that ScoreMore and Illroots historically throw the sickest parties of the year for FREE still amazes me. 

After the damage done to the house during Kendrick Lamar’s legendary set in 2013 I can only fathom how much the repairs for that cost, and can totally understand why the Illmore started to move from house parties towards venues. The founders of ScoreMore, Sascha Guttfreund and Claire Bogle are 25 or 26 I believe, and so back then they may have been 22 or 23. I never thought about it then, but when I look back now I can’t imagine getting so much recognition for throwing the craziest party of the year but being stuck with the bill.

I can also respect that the Illmore has always been an event for artists to escape. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of that by a friend sneaking me in or meeting some people that are all about the p. So I know what to expect. Some nights you get in some nights you don’t. I’ll never forget. In 2015 I met a girl who knew a guy making copies of the artist bands for his friends. That’s how amazing this party is. Once you go to the Illmore once you’ll do whatever you can to go back.

For the last Illmore I thought they would go back to their roots. Host one crazy house party that would be the talk of the town and literally bring Austin to its knees. When people tell me they go to South By I always ask if they’ve ever been to the Illmore. Everyone is always surprised to hear about the best party of SXSW that they’ve never even heard of. When I tell them some of the stories and things I’ve experienced their eyes fill with amazement and they quickly want to know how they too can be a part of this exclusive party. 

So this year I went in expecting to rage. I’m a diehard Illmore fan to my core. This is something I look forward to every year. So it was pretty hard to hear the DJ repeating songs in between sets, having to pay for drinks that have been historically free, and devastating to have drinks cut off at 2 am like they were last year. But I also understand that when a party is being watched by everyone it’s hard to set that previous after-hours expectation when things are above board and compliant with TABC regulations.

If you don’t understand the history of the Illmore you should really do some research before being so hard on them. The Illmore has never been a formal ticketed concert. It started as a house party for the friends and family of artists. It was THE place to party with the bonus of not having a million media cameras in your face or a bunch of people you don’t know trying to snap a picture with you. ScoreMore upped the ante and turned it into an fullfledged event by partnering with sponsors and showcasing raw talent.

But the Illmore has been so much more than just a party. It’s also been the place where artists meet up and create amazing things. I’ll never forget that Skrillex and Diplo both performed at the Illmore, and they went on to create Jack U. Ramon Ramirez of Daily Dot reported that Chance the Rapper met producer Nate Fox at the Illmore which led to them creating Acid Rap. The Illmore is the one event that brings artists together again. A musician I was dating told me that SXSW used to be the place where artists came together to make shit happen, or get in touch with artists they may not have access to, but now the entire festival is dedicated to fans as opposed to musicians. And he hates it. He'd rather stay in LA than deal with "the bullshit" of SXSW.

We'll never know how hard it is to put on events like this, what artists or venues fell through or what kind of restrictions the city is placing on the organizers. I’d really like to apologize to The Cool Kids. You guys are amazing at what you do and it’s unfortunate that people's expectations were skewed. I think people were more upset at the event and were feeling let down as opposed to actually being upset with you. It didn't help that some guy was onstage yelling at everyone talking shit on Twitter before you guys came out. As the event came to a close the rumor mill had already been spinning. Unfortunately, rumors are a little too powerful and the whole thing just got really out of hand. People started saying that Drake was going to show up, there was even a girl that working the event that told my friend Drake was going to be there, so I think people had that messed up expectation. But I’d like you to remember that the majority of people at the venue had never been to the Illmore prior. Fear of missing out runs so high that it brings the people that complain about the event back to the event they are complaining about. It’s so unfortunate but it’s my opinion the crowd had a skewed expectation of what the Illmore really is and expected an organized SXSW concert. I think that frustration combined with the increasing sobriety lead to a series of unfortunate events of people being disrespectful by booing and chanting "fuck this shit." And again, I’d like to apologize. No artist deserves to feel that kind of negativity.

Tory Lanez, thank you for being so high energy and fucking amazing. I have mad respect for you man. I will never know what it’s like to have to go on stage and try to turn a frustrated crowd around, but you really did an exceptional job getting everyone excited about the last night. One for the books I’m sure. 

I’m a social media expert. Seriously. That's my day job. I live for the content creation and I know how to work the system. When the Illmore tweeted out two VIP bands at a Raising Canes location I rushed to the car with my friends and we raced across town to pick them up. We tweeted a video of us with the wristbands and they responded. In social media it's all about that exposure and I knew it would be good for other people to see the bands had been picked up so they would stop driving out to the location. 

I’m just going to dive in here and say that I was surprised when I was blocked by Illroots for saying I was disappointed. I didn’t even mention anyone in my Tweet, but was singled out for expressing my genuine feelings. When I wrote I was disappointed it was because of the things I mentioned above and broken promises referred to the guy tweeting my friend about the "water bottles" he was bringing us that never showed. Maybe he was a troll and not a part of the Illmore but it was still a let down. And then the trolls started going in on me. Which was so crazy. I've never seen people get so nasty before. I tried to embed the orginal tweet but it has since been removed. When the original tweet went out I took a screenshot to show the friend that originally introduced me to the Illmore. We both couldn't believe how petty this whole thing had gotten. 

And I totally get that social media can be vicious. People can say whatever they want with no repercussions, and many times people have complete anonymity on Twitter because their accounts don't have a real photo or name. I just want to say I’ve been where you are. Where people are talking shit and mentioning you to the point that it's excessive and really fucking depressing. People feel that they are talking to a brand or a company and forget that it’s usually one person or a small team running a social media account. I get responding the way you did. You were frustrated or angry and had probably seen a lot of negativity already. My tweet was the one that pushed you over the edge. I know first hand that reading a lot of negative comments and not having the time or the energy to respond to them all can really get you down and it's unfortunate that so much negativity surrounded an event that is usually nothing but good vibes. 

So like I said before I am a die-hard fan, and I was disappointed because I’m nostalgic. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun, dance my ass off or make new memories with some really dope people. I did all of those things and more, but yes I was disappointed. And to be fair I don’t know your side of the story, so at the time I was not considering that things could have gone wrong or something could have fallen through. I convinced a lot of my friends to come out (only one had gone with me to the Illmore before) and so for people who had heard my stories of previous Illmore filled with mystery, clues and a scavenger hunt they were disappointed that this Illmore wasn’t like the ones before. And yes I completely understand that things change and there were/are factors that I may not ever know about, but I thought it was bizarre that I was blocked for “being negative” because I said I was disappointed when there were people actually calling the Illmore “trash” or a “waste of money.”


And while this post may never be read by anyone at all I’m hoping that this open letter will be a chance to clear the air, and give everyone a fresh start. A more formal written article about the last Illmore probably would have still resonated with readers, but I think a blog post makes my words feel more personal so I can be more direct. So yes, this open letter can definitely be seen as a narrative of a whiny millennial who is upset that “things have changed” but I really hope it’s the chance to open a healthy dialogue between Illroots, ScoreMore and the real fans of the Illmore.
Location: Houston, TX

A Few of my Favorite Things

With the holidays coming up I'm constantly on the hunt for one-of-a-kind and unique gifts for my friends and family. This season I've teamed up with Shop Catalog to curate a small collection of prezzies that the people in your life might enjoy. I painstakingly picked each and every item on this list and one of my favorites are the Katie Diamond Lana Studs I'm wearing in the photo above. Earring jackets have come back in a major way and every time I wear these beauties I get a wave of compliments. Be sure to check out the entire collection here.

photos // jessica ofelia