Do You Even Mantra Though? One Illustrator's Journey to Finding Her Chill

This is a short story written by Isa D'Aniello. Isa illustrated the amazing lettering on the No Pants Zone, NOPE, and 100 Chill undies AND the lettering on the image above as well as the Slow n' Steady collection logo. She absolutely killed it and we are so proud to call her our friend and creative partner. Isa recently moved from New York to Austin, so we asked her to contribute a short story to the blog that reflected on how the move has affected her. Turns out, she has gone full yogi on us and adopted a mantra that is helping to keep her head clear and her work 'on fleek', as the youth say. Follow her instagram to see her latest work and to find out when she's teaching her next lettering workshop!

Lying on the floor in a dark candlelit room, Ben, a burly 6’2 yoga instructor, asked the room if anyone had any injuries to declare. My best friend Robyn and I looked at each other and whispered to each other “broken hearts,” trying our best not to laugh or cry, or both. It was summer after sophomore year of college and I was in the midst of that one breakup that ruins you. As timing would have it, we both were. We clung to the idea of learning yoga as a method of distraction and source of positivity. I had bought a yoga book a few months before in the $5 section of Barnes and Noble and we would flip through it at my apartment, trying to learn the poses on our own. 

An illustration from Isa's Lyrics to Live By series. View more. 

An illustration from Isa's Lyrics to Live By series. View more

As all yoga studios do, Black Swan began class by asking yogis to set an intention. Early intentions of mine were merely to survive the next 60 minutes, but mostly I set an intention of focus. To conclude the practice, all classes ended with a few minutes of savasana, after which we would sit in prayer, hands to heart’s center. We would take a final breath as a class, bow our heads and say “namaste.” After attending a few beginner classes, we found ourselves at the more advanced vinyasa class, where the room was heated to around 95 degrees and lit only by candlelight. Not being a particularly religious or even spiritual person, the 10:30 PM sweaty class felt extremely cleansing, and it became a sort of religion. Night after night, we'd ooze out of yoga class drenched from head to toe as if we'd just taken a dip in the pool. It was the one place where I felt I could go and focus on breath, movement and nothing else. Seated on the mat one night at the end of class, Ben instructed us to bring our hands into prayer. “Bring your hands to your forehead — for clarity of thought,” he said. “To your mouth — for clarity of speech...To your heart — clarity of action.” He called this the anjali mudra. We bowed with the usual exhale and uttering of “namaste.” Feeling a sense of calm and clarity, I smiled at the thought of this mantra. From then on, I made this series a part of my practice. With time and dedication to the practice, both Robyn and I began to feel everything fall back into place.

An illustration that Isa made for one of her clients, Jeep.

An illustration that Isa made for one of her clients, Jeep.

After graduating in 2012, I moved to New York, where I lived for a whirlwind of nearly three years. A few months ago I returned back home to Austin, Texas in favor of a slower-paced and healthier lifestyle. Admittedly, the last three years have been filled with drastic change: with high highs, and low lows. But no matter which studio, no matter which yoga class, or no matter which city I’m in, it’s comforting to always end my practice in the same soul-centering anjali mudra that resonated with me so deeply years before.

It’s 10:30 AM as I lay in a sun-drenched yoga studio. Quite the contrast from my near-midnight yoga ritual I grew to love so much. And while so much has changed over these past few years, there’s always a sense of sameness that comes with how I end my class. Almost like a private, secret tidbit of knowledge, I bring my hands in prayer to my forehead. “For clarity of thought,” to my mouth, “for clarity of speech,” and to my heart,  “for clarity of action.”  Smiling to myself and bowing low on the mat, I feel life begin to slow back down.