OBSERVE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the human experience and perhaps where we have taken a wrong turn. When did life become having our eyes glued to our phones writing #blessed but forgetting to actually immerse ourselves in the experience? When did life get so busy that we are always playing catch-up with no time to simply just live and exist? When did we stop remembering that we are all in this together? That we are much more alike than we are different? Why must we create a hostile environment of honking at one another and throwing up the middle finger rather than sharing the road? Why can’t we support each other on our chosen path rather than judging and tearing each other down?
I don’t have all the answers but I am sitting with the questions and observing myself so I can notice if I’m participating in the problem or being part of the solution. As I was pondering these questions and taking note of the environment I live in here in Los Angeles, I kept wondering: why don’t we create a better atmosphere? One that we can all enjoy and be part of. An environment that makes us believe there’s enough to go around for everyone. That we are enough. One that reminds us to treat each other with kindness. I kept pondering these questions, and at the same time, I kept observing my environment to see what role I play within it.
THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE
This past Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to teach at Lightning in a Bottle festival (LIB) for the second year. If you’ve never heard of it, think Coachella but with much more awareness of health and consciousness. After I finished teaching my first class, I was floating on cloud nine and I fully immersed myself into the environment the festival created, perhaps in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have done. First, there was a bubble machine with people dancing to YMCA. So I went and did the same! As I crossed the bridge, I decided to high five everyone who was partaking and worry about washing my hands later. I satisfied my appetite with a veggie bowl and garlic fries! I watched the sunset with hundreds of strangers who felt like family. I did an opening fire blessing circle with the Wisdom Council and once again a bunch of strangers felt like family. This was only day one.
Day two, I sat underneath a beautiful tree that felt like it was hugging me. While eating some cherries there, I wondered where Memory Palace was (since I wanted to hear the next talk scheduled there)—only to look up and see I was already there. Life’s funny little humor reminding me, everywhere we go, there we are. I got to experience the Gong Sanctuary and be transformed with sound healing underneath another beautiful tree—once again with strangers who felt like family. The weekend continued to unfold into something magical and full of love. The human experience language was definitely speaking love and joy, allowing us a connection to the spirit rather than ego.
SIT WITH THE QUESTION
Throughout the weekend and once I returned back to Los Angeles, I kept thinking; what was the difference? What was the difference in the environment that LIB provided versus the one I’m in right now? And would a bubble machine help this moment? Would giving a stranger a high five help? Would jumping up and down to a dope music act help? Would a sound bath help? Asking myself questions allowed me to connect the dots. What all these things had in common was the human connection. A city like Los Angeles, which is my home, has millions of people but one can feel quite isolated. Connecting the dots, made me realize the common denominator in all of this.
DISCONNECT TO CONNECT
While attending LIB, you have no cell reception which I believe is what allows the human experience to take place. The festival creates a beautiful non-judgmental environment that allows you to pick and choose what you participate in—therefore allowing you to create your own adventure. Once a year, for a couple of days, Lake San Antonio transforms into its own world where you can dress as normal or as free and crazy as you wish. It serves as a reminder that if we take away the power to use our phones and create the right environment, we fully immerse ourselves into the experience, into the joy and gift of the present moment. It reminded me as I try to remind students that we are much more alike than we are separate. All around me I saw complete strangers having conversations without any preconceived notions of what the other person would be like. There was no phone to hide behind. No mask. No everyday comforts to run to. All that was left was the connection to the human experience. We all connected in our own way. Some through yoga, some through music, some through sound—and it was beautiful to see. As many of us experienced different ways to connect, there was no superiority. We all just co-existed without the need of the ego to rear its ugly little head.
SWITCH IN PERCEPTION
The reality is that the same people who went to the festival are the same people who returned home. However, often a switch in perception has been made. Each of us just has to identify what it was and how it can be applied in our daily lives. If we were happy and connected with strangers, had conversations, and stepped outside of our comfort zones, why can’t we recreate that for ourselves at home? One can argue the obvious; at home we are back to our daily grind and the mundane of daily routine; but I believe to a certain extent, we can. We can choose to try and integrate what brought us joy at the festival. We can pay more attention to our environment and create one that brings up peace, joy, love or whatever it is that would meet our current needs. We can make a conscious effort to disconnect from technology at certain times of the day—allowing us to immerse fully into what the moment has to offer. We can continue growing and trying new experiences. We can continue the human experience and realize it’s all love, not judgment and hate.
The choice is yours. What will you choose?
THE ANTIDOTE TO A STRESSFUL LIFE
Now that the foundation for Ellavate Yoga is in place, I want to introduce you to a concept from my little cranium called Journey with Ella. This is pretty much the idea behind the whole site–a virtual online studio that gives you a glimpse into the different ways I train my body, how and why.
Long ago before Lululemon was the norm in class, there was a dude named Paulie Zink who taught Taoist Yoga. He was also a master of martial arts and used his yoga practice as the base/foundation for his training. He would start with supine poses which he held for 5-10 minutes. Two hours later, Paulie would begin the Yang portion of his training. At this point in time, Taoist Yoga is what we know as Yin yoga today. However, not in its entirety. Only the part dealing with Yin principles.
Taoist Yoga | Father of Yin Yoga
Paul Grilley is the most well-known teacher in the Yin style. He met Paulie Zink in 1989 and trained with him for one year.
Yin allows my Vinyasa practice to be this beautiful fluid moving meditation because my body structure feels stronger and more supported on a foundational level.
Yin has allowed me more freedom in the body by gaining mobility and therefore has removed some of the fights I was putting up before due to the tight muscles and lack of awareness to my approach.
Holding Yin postures for so long has helped my proprioception of the bigger body structure.
Yoga has so many different limbs and approaches to the practice and in the United States, the physical vinyasa practice definitely dominates. Although there is nothing wrong with that, you still need a well-rounded approach if you want to give your body longevity.
This is also where I see so many unnecessary injuries as the body is not being supported on a structural foundational level. What I’m talking about here are the connective tissues, joints, tendons. This is where most injuries occur; shoulders, wrists, ankles, and spine. These are all joints and connective tissues. It’s pretty easy in a public class to move through a fast pace Yang practice without alignment and a good understanding of how these poses affect the body.
In martial artists, many exercises focus on stressing the joints and bones in a similar style to Yin. When I started training with the Olympic Team in Romania, mobility training took place before strength. This not only helps to prevent injuries later on but should they occur, the body heals much faster.
Personally, Yin helps me to go from 100 to zero pretty quickly. It calms me down by stimulating by the parasympathetic system so I can relax. For a type A personality like myself, it is very hard to sit still, let alone relax into the moment. It changes my perception when I’m dealing with a frustrating issue by slowing down my thoughts. This allows me to go in the space between my thoughts where I am the observer. In this space, I can remember to respond instead of reacting. To be more receptive and be willing to receive instead of putting up a fight. To process life as it is and to realize there is beauty in accepting what is. It also helps me notice how easy it is to steal my peace when I’m dealing with a tough pose and how quickly I want to react and get out of an uncomfortable moment.
How often do we have the same reaction to life? In this sense, this has been the best and most honest life training I could receive. An honest look at my somewhat ridiculous thoughts, fears and patterns of behavior that hinder and stop me from reaching my limitless potential. An opportunity to see what part I play in all of this and take responsibility. A change to embrace all of me so that I may grow and put all my effort towards what I’m doing rather than working against myself as I often do.
So much of my identity is wrapped up in a handstand and I receive so much joy, peace, and calmness from that pose so of course I love teaching and sharing the process with my students. However, I always say that I feel most at service teaching Yin. I see students often come in still on a work call. Some of their facial expression gives away their mood. Living in Los Angeles and dealing with a tough, fast-paced, expensive city a lot of us are stressed and overworked.
To see how their face, body and energy changes in that hour is pure magic and a sacred gift for me to experience.
If you know anything about my past, you know it was turbulent and my adoptive father often reminded me that I should be in a mental hospital but my passion has always saved me. I am passionate about sharing the practice of Yin especially to type A yogis.
It is my biggest wish for myself to be at peace and it is a privilege if I can assist someone else to find a bit of peace through the practice of Yin.
What does Yin Yoga mean to you? Let me know in the comments.