August Teachers Corner – Elle Randall on Yoga, letting go and being a bit of a “pack-rat”

Elle Randall 1) How did you start practicing Yoga? Tell us about your early yoga experiences I started practicing Yoga when I was in college. My Yoga teacher was Kris Carr from ‘CrazySexyCancer.’ It was a required course in my curriculum that happened every Friday morning at 9am. In the beginning, like every other college student, I was a bit resistant to the practice and would’ve rather spent my time sleeping in. But Kris brought a very deep personal passion to the practice, that I soon found myself diving deeper into it, and not just the asana part of the practice, but all of it. She would talk about the sutras and yoga philosophy and find ways to relate it to college life. I found that it really calmed me down, and allowed me to turn my attention inward. 2) When was the moment you knew that Yoga was different or special – more than just another “exercise” or way to be physical ? I was taking an advanced class with a teacher named Jai Sugrim in a tiny room at Yoga Vida Union Square, and we were twisting and opening into every type of advanced variation you could imagine. In the midst of the deep breathing and sweating, I felt an incredible energy rush over me, as if I was going to war with myself on my mat. There were a lot of things happening internally and mentally, and it wasn’t until I learned about the Chakras, that I knew that it was just all these energy wheels awakening and turning.  3) What is your favorite and least favorite pose, and why?  My favorite pose is downward facing dog. It completely sets me up for my practice and my day, by stretching me out, activating my legs, and engaging my arms. I keep a mat next to my bed for the sole purpose of rolling into a downward facing dog in the morning! My least favorite pose is forearm stand, only because it scares me. The first time I attempted it, I fell and landed on a wooden block, so ever since then, there’s always a tiny amount of fear attached to it. But I’m working on getting over it. 4) What practices do you use to feel more peaceful, present and content?   I try to build up a morning and evening ‘check in’ routine. The first thing I do when I wake up is to think of something that I’m grateful for, and visualize how I want my day to go. I try to start my day with some kind of workout (yoga, spinning, etc) and a morning meditation. I’ve found that this really sets me up for the day. Then in the evenings, before I go to bed, I write down five things that I’m grateful for in my gratitude journal plus an extra one on a piece of paper that I put into my gratitude jar. I find that beginning and ending my day on a thankful note really makes me a happier and more mindful person. 5) What Yama or Niyama do your find most helpful in your daily life, and why ?  (Yamas are “observances” that are recommended for relating to the outside world, and Niyamas are observances for dealing with internal struggles)  Definitely ‘Aparigraha’ (non-attachment/non-hoarding)! The practice of ‘Letting Go’ is something I have to constantly work at. I’m a bit of a pack rat, and tend to hold onto physical things for various reasons which transitions into holding onto emotional and mental things. So I find that when I remind myself to practice ‘Aparigraha’ everyday, I’m able to move on and move forward both in this physical journey as well as in my spiritual journey. 6) What are three things that you feel would be helpful  to “let go” of right now.  I definitely need to let go of fear, both on the mat and off the mat. I need to let go the many thoughts and insecurities that soar through my mind, and just love and live life as it happens. And I need to let go of old clothes that I’ve been holding onto for much too long! 7) What are you attached to in your yoga practice and how are you working on that?  I’m attached to poses and styles that come easy to me, and I think I need to let go of that mindset and try to broaden and deepen my practice. For example, I teach a vinyasa flow style and it’s also the style I love practicing, but sometimes I become too attached to the flow or music being played in the class, so now I’m playing with practicing in silence, a slower flow, and holding poses longer.