Ellen de Jonge
I do a tremendous amount of research before I travel to see if there is a possibility I might meet a yoga teacher that I would like to share with you. I also look for yoga studios the world over. I'm also constantly gathering research for my next book.
Just like my ongoing Yoga "Road Trips" I have certain rules and standards that I continue to implement and refine as yoga changes. With some of the teachers, I contact them first to ask if they would be open to meeting after the class I take in case they have a limited amount of time (like most people do). On the studios, though, I have a very strict policy on not letting them know I may be doing a story on them. The anonymity allows me to evaluate the studio and the teacher in a way that isn't altered. I have a growing awareness that social media is skewing our perceptions and I like to keep it simple and real. Integrity still matters.
With that, I did find an Ashtanga studio online while researching yoga festivals in the Tulum and Playa del Carmen area. I spent one of the two Ashtangapalooza days at #Yogaloft in Playa del Carmen, run by a yoga teacher I've wanted to meet for some time, Michael Gannon. The easy to find studio is warm and welcoming. With morning and evening daily classes, I settled into a morning routine. Michael's classes were steeped in traditions that I love and resonate with. If you're an Ashtanga lover, or simply want a great place to try while visiting, I highly recommend seeking it out. Michael has a new book which I'm sure will be warmly received.
A couple of days a week there is a Vinyasa class. I was incredibly impressed with the teacher, who is a funny, quirky, and yet at the same time stern, yet powerfully loving and wise teacher - Ellen de Jonge. I asked Ellen if she'd share a little about herself with you.
I'm honored and thrilled to introduce you to her..
SS: How did you get started on your yoga journey?
EDJ: I started my yoga journey 14 years ago here in Playa del Carmen. The reason I stepped for the first time on a yoga mat was kind of out of a suggestion from a good friend of mine. We all go through difficult times in our lives and 14 years ago I found myself in a rough spot. I heard it before; Yoga is good for body and mind, but my idea about yoga was sitting on a mat and talking to God. And that was something I had absolutely no desire in doing….. Anyway, I found myself going to that first class because I tried anything in that time of my life to get calm and get out of anxiety and panic attacks.
After that first class, seriously it only took one class, I was hooked. I felt something was lifted of my shoulders and right after that first class I asked the teacher what book I should start reading because I was interested to make this my own. If after one class I could already feel a shift, what would happen if I do a class every day? Very soon after that first class I found myself in a study (that is still going on today) and became a yoga teacher. My main reason and wish to start sharing this wonderful science at that time was to help people who had the same issues as me. Show them that there is an answer and that you can feel “normal” again.
Now many years later, many trainings are done, opened a studio and closed a studio, went to India, met the big guru’s, still I feel like a beginner on this endless, humble journey that we call yoga. I found after practicing with many big names and brilliant teachers my teacher is Rod Stryker and his knowledge is endless so I am listening…...
SS: What has yoga taught you about yourself?
EDJ: Before I stepped on my mat I was “just walking through life” now I am living. That is how I see it now. A huge change took place while doing my daily down dogs. Almost like you could see inside yourself and know what is going on. The clear mind, or a bit less clouded, gave me opportunity to see what is important. It is possible with practice to gain self-knowledge and all of a sudden see the real you.
SS: How do you use yoga to overcome obstacles?
EDJ: When I started yoga 14 years ago I was in a big challenge in my life….yoga took my hand and lead me through it. I didn’t think that much about it in those days but now looking back I know it is was a life saver. Then this happened; 2 years ago I heard the sentence from my doctor nobody wants to hear; "Ellen you have cancer." I found myself in a surgery of 7 hours to remove a big tumor and luckily now I am completely clean. Yes that is a celebration! But waiting for results are nerve recking and almost makes you crazy. If I look back on it now, during those months, I was breathing. After surgery I was sitting in the hospital just breathing. I remember that moment that the sun came through a window and I was sitting in a chair in the hospital, unable to move yet, but I was breathing with such awareness that it felt like a present. The steady yoga breath….did I use that? Did I made the choice to use it? It came naturally. So YES I breathe to overcome.
My daily sadhana strengthens me and I am using my mat practice many times to calm down, to refresh and let things go. SS: What has yoga taught you about life?
EDJ: My yoga study goes deep. That yoga is not asana is something that rang the bell very quickly and I was, and am, super interested in the mind stuff. Reading and studying scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita and the Sutras shines a complex but bright light on life and how we see it. Don’t get me wrong, I am a grounded Dutch woman and love to make jokes about a lot. I don’t walk around with crystals and oils. I eat French fries (with mayonnaise), work out with rap music and am on the computer sometimes way to long. BUT the gift I receive from Yoga I treasure and handle it with care. Life is change, life is there every moment, life is what I create.
Yoga taught me that.
And that is big.