Today we’re introducing you to Ellen Gomory, one of the newest additions to the Green Yogi instructor team! Ellen teaches here at The Green Yogi Manhattan Beach on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 12pm. Let’s get to know her with a Q&A, shall we?
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Princeton, NJ about an hour outside of New York. Geographically speaking Princeton is about as far as you can get from LA, mostly consisting of flat farm land, woods and heavy winter snows. It was a great place to grow up – it is definitely a small town with a close knit community, but because of the university and its proximity to NYC there were always lots of interesting people hanging around town and fun cultural events. So, the best of both worlds… And whenever the boredom crept in NYC was a quick train ride away!
What are your hobbies?
Yoga!!! I definitely spend most of my time either teaching or practicing…But when I’m off the mat I love outdoor exercise – hiking, running, biking and swimming (in warm water!). I find a strong release and sense of freedom through movement and activity and have always been drawn to the physical. I also love to write – I studied creative writing in college and dreamed of being a writer growing up…Unfortunately I discovered that I am a much stronger reader than writer, so I now mostly write for my own pleasure. I love reading, mostly fiction but some non-fiction. My absolute favorite is Faulkner (I am slightly obsessed). I love narrative of all kinds, have to curb my Netflix watching and can binge endlessly on films. I also love cooking – I became vegetarian about 15 years ago to the chagrin of my family (especially my mother) and quickly had to learn how to cook some things for myself. Cooking has become a creative outlet for me and a chance to get grounded and centered around something supremely important – FOOD!
How did you get started with yoga?
I started with yoga when I dropped out of college for a couple years and was struggling with depression and lack of grounding. I was totally lost and directionless at school and came home to figure out my next step. Lucky for me Princeton had an amazing yoga studio and I began practicing regularly. Yoga began to build me back up both physically and mentally and for the first time in a long time I was feeling grounded, confident and strong. Yoga also gave me the courage and inspiration to travel. Because of yoga, I wound up backpacking through India and Southeast Asia for just over a year during which time my practice grew and I was able to complete more trainings. This trip and my practice were truly pivotal to rebuilding a sense of self and being able to connect to the world around me with a sense of gratitude and stability.
What pose was most challenging for you to learn?
It’s a bit cliche but I have to say handstand. I got a little taste of flight and became totally obsessed with the idea of getting into a handstand. I probably practiced for a solid year of getting in and falling out before I was able to hold the pose. This learning experience was truly humbling as it wasn’t until I learned to breathe within the pose that I was able to hold it. I knew I had the strength, the balance and an understanding of the alignment, but every time I would exhale I fell out. I still had not formed a relationship with my breath, and thought that muscling through was the way in. Once I was able to soften and work within the pose I was finally able to hold it, and now this is truly my happiest and most comfortable place to be. Handstand taught me how to breathe and changed my practice both on and off the mat. It also taught me the importance of commitment and dropping ego. I probably fell on my bum over a hundred times, usually in crowded classes, terrifying the people around me, before I was able to find balance. Falling on your face is a great practice, and swallowing your pride and embarrassment and getting right back up is even better! We all get knocked down by life at some point; abandoning that expectation of perfection and being able to meet life on life’s terms is a huge part of acceptance and of the practice for me.
What inspires you?
The ocean. Everything about the ocean is so beautiful and huge and soft and harsh and lovely and terrifying. It is deeply meditative but also fun and frisky and dark and dangerous. I can’t get enough of it and spend most of my free time in the sand. I also love art and museums (LACMA is good for some inspiration), being out in nature and seeing live music and dancing!
What are your classes like? What’s your teaching style?
My style is fun, playful and energetic. I like to play around with creative sequencing and different ways of moving around the mat so that the practice becomes an exercise for the mind as well as the body. I definitely love to flow and we spend a lot of time moving and dancing, and I try to find strong energizing music to match that spirit. We work a lot with mudras as a way to center and focus energy at the open and close of class and I always have a theme (often chakra based) for the class.
Do you have any inspiring stories or moments from your teaching or practice?
When I was backpacking in India I spent a few months in the Himalayas, mostly in Dharamasala. I realized that I was staying a short walk from the Himalayan Iyengar institute so I decided to sign up for a 2-week intensive training. I have never been a big fan of Iyengar so I figured it would be a good way to challenge myself and grow my practice. Halfway through the first 10 hour day I almost left. In 10 hours we worked with 3 poses. Each pose was held until every part of my body shook violently and I thought I would crawl out of my skin. The only thing that kept me from leaving (initially) was the fact that I had paid for the training and was on such a tight budget. Over the next few days however I started to soften in and appreciate the benefits of the practice. This is not to say I started to enjoy it; I can’t lie, it really never felt great in my body, however it did teach me a lot about why I was coming to yoga and the patterns of judgment in my mind. In my discomfort I lashed out mentally at the people around me, at my instructor and at myself. The more I resisted the more challenging the poses became and the more miserable I felt. It wasn’t until I surrendered; until I told myself that I wasn’t going to leave so I’d better chill out and figure out a way to find some kind of benefit that I could start to integrate and appreciate the practice. It was definitely an extremely challenging two weeks and I don’t know that I would want to repeat it, but it was a valuable learning experience that I try to apply every time I step onto the mat or into an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation.
What’s your favorite quote?
“You are the sky. Everything else– it’s just the weather.” -Pema Chodron