Strength and Grace: Developing a Disciplined Practice by Louise Ellis – Ekaminhale
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Strength and Grace: Developing a Disciplined Practice by Louise Ellis


Strength and Grace - A Collection of Essays By Women Ashtanga Yoga Teachers

Ekaminhale is excited to announce the upcoming publication : Strength and Grace

Featuring essays by:

Kino MacGregor, Harmony Lichty, Louise Ellis, Krista Shirley, Fiona Stang, Lisa Schremp, Magnolia Zuniga, Pamela Luther, Zoe Ward, Laruga Glaser and more.

Over the coming weeks we'll be releasing excerpts from the upcoming book which will be available for free download on a TBD date. It will also be available in hardcopy form priced at the cost of the printing. This project was made possible by the volunteer work of the Alicia Beale and Derick Yu (Project Coordinators), Clint Griffiths and all the teachers involved.

In the first excerpt from Louise Ellis she shares what it takes to Develop a Disciplined Practice. In the full essay she writes on the practice, Ashtanga women, practicing during menses, menopause and pregnancy.

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Developing a Disciplined Practice by Louise Ellis

"Ashtanga, when practiced correctly and consistently, is the greatest teacher. " - Louise Ellis

In the beginning, I recommend that people adhere to very defined rules of the practice. During the first ten years it is important to practice daily, observe the rest days, and have a very competent teacher. During this time the body and nerves are strengthened and one becomes familiar with and objective about various mind states. We get some ability to observe in a non-judgmental way. It is the start of becoming a skillful rider, so to speak.

One may be able to see the recurring patterns and decide whether to act on aversion or attraction and other pairs of opposites which present themselves. For example, when I first started practicing, I often struggled with a lot of distractions. After some time I could just see the distraction energy for what it was and choose not to respond.

"I usually tell people that if you believe that something other than you makes the sun come up each day, then that constitutes a greater thing." - Louise Ellis
Practitioners of any stage need to closely monitor their motivation. For this an attitude of surrender and devotion is necessary. It doesn't matter how this is conceptualized, there just must be a reverence for something greater than yourself. I usually tell people that if you believe that something other than you makes the sun come up each day, then that constitutes a greater thing.
In my opinion at least 98 per cent of injuries are caused by subtle or overt ego motivation in practice. I have never been seriously injured in practice and I can say that to my knowledge, neither have my students. I have of course experienced soreness and once a sprained finger from doing nakrasana while composing a grocery list in my head. What to do during injury or illness depends entirely on the situation. Many times one can practice around an injury, sometimes not. I usually find that some practice will facilitate the healing process because of the circulation of blood and prana. The first time I went to Mysore I arrived with a severe ear infection and was shocked when Guruji said to just come practice anyway! I was completely recovered after two days. It was truly amazing! 
I know many practitioners who have left the practice having attained what would be considered a high level of asana only to realize it was not making them a better person or a more evolved person. The fault is in the emphasis and not the practice.
One of the huge misunderstandings of the Ashtanga practice is the extreme athleticism that has been the focus in recent years. I know many practitioners who have left the practice having attained what would be considered a high level of asana only to realize it was not making them a better person or a more evolved person. The fault is in the emphasis and not the practice. Of course, this realization takes years of practice to truly understand. This is why I support the idea that a teacher should have at least ten years at a minimum before teaching. Ashtanga teachers are sometimes criticized as being certified as practitioners, but I find it ludicrous to think that there is anything in the world one can teach without a solid practical knowledge of it, and so I stand firmly behind this standard. Ashtanga, when practiced correctly and consistently, is the greatest teacher.

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Louise Ellis is one of the few woman to have been certified by Sri K Pattabhi Jois to teach Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Having started out with the study of traditional hatha yoga, pranayama and philosophy under Swami Vishnudevanda in 1971, her background spans over 40 years of both practice and teaching in several diverse yoga systems.

American by birth she is currently based in Rishikesh, India where she offers an ongoing traditional Mysore program. Louise maintains a dedicated daily practice and travels extensively to share her love of this powerful and healing yoga tradition. Learn more by visiting Ashtangacenter.com

1 comment


  • Wambui Njuguna

    Awesome! Can’t wait to read it! :)


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