“Ego is an imposter, imposing on the real you, making you think you are something that you’re not.” – Oprah
On the bathroom walls of Forward-Fold where I teach and film my online classes, reads: “Your ego is not your amigo.”
I have no idea what student wrote this on the wall as when the studio opened, the owner Matt, allowed peeps to write whatever they wanted. I often use this phrase in class and life. The ego is an imposter and a real son-of- a-bitch. It will haunt us forever so we better teach it its place and build a better relationship with it.
There’s no winning with the ego. No escaping it. So, start by noticing how much, how often, and in what areas the ego is running your life. I spend most of my time teaching and observing other people’s patterns of behavior and these are things you will often hear me say about the ego:
“The ego is strong tonight. What about the heart? Where’s the heart guys? Who are you making all this effort for? Not me, I hope.”
We have to expand our awareness, create a longer, bigger and stronger bridge so we can hit pause for a second and observe ourselves. Are my thoughts true? Am I really feeling hurt that I didn’t get asked to be in the naked Alo Yoga book? Is this something that I align with and desire, or is this my ego talking? Am I a shit teacher because I can’t do Scorpion pose? Who do I think I am for trying to teach yoga and create an online platform? Before we know it, the ego becomes fully in charge as we make ourselves small shrinking into all of our fears and insecurities. All of this drama is being created by the greatest magician alive, the EGO!
Time to wake up to your life and challenge your thoughts, especially the ones driven by FEAR. The first time I did this, it went a little something like this:
Ego: You can’t sell online classes. No one will ever buy them. Who do you think you are?
Me: I know who I am. I’m Ella and you shut up. I’ve been working on this all of my life. I have faith in myself so you shut it down Ego.
Ego: I don’t know what to say……you’ve never questioned me before. Fine than. I will shut up for now but I’m watching you because I know your fear and anxiety will return.
Me: Get out of here Ego. I won’t allow you to walk around in my head any longer.
I see you Ego. I see you and will continue to challenge you, while moving forward, my dear fake friend! I will no longer let you be the mastermind of my life. I will not take what you say to be obsolete. I know the ego will always scream. The heart will always whisper. So the question is, have you noticed your ego? What do YOU plan to do about it?
On my flight back from Norway, I watched Doctor Strange for the third time. Every time I watch this film, something new sticks out for me.
Mordo: “I wanted the power to defeat my enemies and you gave me the power to defeat my demons.”
The Ancient One: “We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them.”
(Doctor Strange. Dir. Scott Derrickson. Marvel Studios, 2016. Film.)
For those of you who don’t know my story, watch “Not So Namaste” on my site and you will get a glimpse into my upbringing. I have a lot of demons and I would be foolish to think they will simply go away, but I will be damned if I allow them to run my life. As I’ve started my journey with plant medicine, and combine that with my ongoing yoga practice, I feel like I have enough tools to battle them.
The biggest tool is awareness. Awareness gives me the ability to pause and reflect instead of going straight to reacting. It gives me the gift to live out of intent more and more, and not simply out of habit. I am able to notice when I’m anxious and in my head, and to choose my breath.
This gives me the power to choose, the power to trust my path instead of my fears, the power to choose me.
The longer we live, the more we realize life is not simply black and white. We collect a lot of baggage along the way but the power to choose yourself over your demons is always there.
Identify your demons. Get to know them. Give them a good kick in the ass and send them on their merry way.
Choose YOU instead. Over and over, rise up above your demons and choose you. Believe you’re worth it.
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!
As 2017 is coming to an end, I have been reflecting on how this year went and asking myself the same questions I ask my students in class. What do I still need to let go of? I noticed, as I’ve been sitting with this question, I’ve also been cleaning out my closet and the house in general. Physically and mentally, I want to be lighter so I ask you: what can you let go of and leave behind?
Where can I be more efficient in my life?
Sitting with this question has made me realize that I still need to find a better balance in my schedule in order for efficiency to occur. I’m trying to figure this one out still. What about you?
If I am to look at my whole life with a focus on 2017, what is the lesson that keeps showing up for me? If I had to choose one word it would be FEAR. Not so much in the way of being fearful to take chances. I take plenty of those and often explore life outside of my comfort zone but in a way that fear still runs my life in a very anxious way. I do the work and plant the seeds yes, but often I start to overthink about the worse case scenarios and ruin the beautiful journey of my hard work. I need to trust the process, trust my choices and patiently wait for the planted seeds to grow to fruition.
I’m deciding not to make any New Year’s resolutions but instead, to remove FEAR and choose TRUST. I know it’s impossible for fear to fully be removed, but I definitely don’t have to give it so much veto power in my life. What would you remove from your life that would allow you to move forward in a more graceful efficient way?
This is the mantra I am choosing to work with in case anyone else might find it helpful:
recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still your suggestions will NEVER be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat and you’re allowed to have a voice but you are not allowed to have a VOTE. You’re not allowed to touch the ROAD MAPS. You’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. You’re not allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
THE BREATH OF LIFE
“The deeper we exhale, the greater is our capacity to inhale new, fresh air.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Two years ago, I spent most of my year traveling and teaching yoga. I started to notice that as soon as I returned and stepped back into LAX, the energy of Los Angeles was one of anxiety and chaos mixed with some anger. It is an overpopulated city where a fight over a parking space or allowing someone in your lane on the freeway results in one person hammering on their horn for 10 minutes while the other throws up the middle finger and relentlessly honks back. The city as a whole needs to exhale.
We all need to exhale before we end up being the crazy person going loco in a public place and unraveling in front of everyone. Be honest, we have all been there at least once. As a human being, you can only hold on and hold on for so long. But if there is no letting go process in place, the body and the mind will eventually do a forced reboot. For me, this happened last Tuesday, and I learned an important lesson that day.
The opposite of exhalation would be inhalation. As much as exhales are for “letting go” inhales are about allowing yourself to “receive” while trusting and letting your life unfold. We can receive and draw in energy from the earth, from our environment. Our inhalation allows us to empty the thinking mind so we can live in the present moment, instead of spiraling with thoughts of past and present. The trick is to find the balance of both–inhales and exhales. Letting go and receiving, so we can flow freely through any obstacles placed in our day and lives. In reality, you’re one step ahead if you have just the awareness, which then allows you to fully practice these concepts.
I realized that I needed to give up control for wanting things to be a certain way and just accept the present moment exactly how it is without the desire to change it. The bigger lesson was in understanding that I need to allow myself to “receive.” I’m good at being of service but I have a very much “I’ve-got-this” attitude. The truth is, I don’t always “got this.” I’m going to work on allowing myself to ask for help when needed and to allow myself to receive from my community as I continue to be of service and give.
As you take time to reflect on this, what do you need more of in your life? If it is the need to “let go,” do you have a process for this work to take place? You must not only acknowledge the need but also take action to do something about it. If you need to “receive,” then investigate where from and how you go about creating this?
“Don’t run away from heavy emotions: Honor the anger, give pain the space it needs to breathe. This is how we let go.” Young Pueblo