The Auspiciousness of it All

 

“Let your head dangle from your neck like a grape from the vine”

Those were some of the first words I heard in my very first real yoga class. I was seventeen years old and joined the gym because I took a hiatus from ballet. I had always wanted to give yoga a try because I grew up doing the Denise Austin version of yoga and got a yoga for kids book when I was nine. There was something about yoga that always peaked my interest.

Leslie Ann Ellingburg

Leslie Ann Ellingburg

When I stepped into my first real yoga class, it was not at all what I expected. It was slow--and I mean SLOOOWW. The music wasn’t fun and upbeat like Denise Austin’s. This music sounded like babbling brooks, soaring birds, and reed pipes. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. However, after class I found myself relaxed, limber, and I felt pretty good. I decided to give it another try. I took my orange yoga mat to every class from then until a pivotal moment in my fitness career and life.

My yoga mentor, Jennifer Chisam said to a group full of eager future yoga teachers on a Friday night in 2014. “Welcome to the first ever Mountain Yoga Teacher Training!”

The Life Crisis that stopped me in my tracks

yoga mat

It had been six years since that first yoga class where the teacher told me that my head was a grape hanging off my spine. I was beginning my journey to become a yoga teacher, and I was nervous, anxious, but most of all, excited.

I knew I was meant to teach yoga when I twenty years old, but my life never allowed for that reality until I was twenty-five, and a life crisis stopped me in my tracks.

I was struggling.

I was in the fledgling stage of recovery from an eating disorder, I was in between therapists, and I had a love/hate relationship with my medication.   

I was living in a small town that I hated because there was almost no one my age, and those who were had kids and didn’t understand why I would not want to have them.

I wasn’t in grad school like the rest of my friends, I had no direction in life, and I felt left behind. It wasn’t until my husband mentioned going to yoga school, that I took the plunge!

Pushing myself in ways I never knew I could

During my eight months of  teacher training I pushed myself in ways I never knew I could. As a lifelong dancer and athlete I thought I knew mental toughness, but taking on this thing called yoga proved to be a challenge.

Yoga was teaching me to get in touch with myself; to sit with these difficult emotions and most importantly to be still. I hated being still and silent (I still do!).

The quiet practices of Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra (Yoga Sleep, we will do it in class one day), Yin Yoga (yoga where postures are held without props for 3-5 minutes each), aggravated me.

I had spent years not connecting to myself because of my eating disorder, body dysmorphia (obsessive focus on one’s perceived flaw in appearance), and high performing, competitive nature.

The stillness I was longing for

But through these practices I found that stillness was what I was longing for. Isn’t it funny how sometimes the things we avoid most in life are the things that fulfill us when we surrender to them?

This softening up continued through my teacher training when I had a class from a teacher named Joe Taft. It was a very heart-led and emotional class inspired by the Anusara method--a branch of yoga that through the integration of yoga postures, alignment, and spiritual teachings one can “align with the divine”.

All day long he taught us to draw our awareness to the auspiciousness, the success or favorable moments of everyday life and the beauty that’s around us. Joe also emphasized living, moving, and creating with intention. Between this message, the music, his story telling, the choice of yoga postures, and his spirit, I almost cried in Savasana (resting pose). I had never felt this way before and that moment has continually influenced my life on and off the mat.

Those aha! Moments

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe you felt nervous, anxious, or excited in your first yoga or fitness class--or possibly you were like me and didn’t like it but something kept drawing you back.

Maybe there was a moment in your place of work or with your family that changed your life, and as a result, you chose a different path.

Maybe you were taking a walk, driving your car, or doing something, and you were hit with the pure beauty of living. This is something all of us have or will experience.

“Hi, my name is Leslie, and I’ll be your yoga teacher.”

I hope as we get to know one another that we can experience life on and off the mat together.

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I want to know when you have those aha! moments or moments that make you cry because something stirs your soul.  I want to help you find the yoga or fitness class that makes you feel connected, strong, limber; one that makes you a better version of you--and I may or  may not tell you to dangle your head like a grape from the vine.