Focus On: Jennifer Ellinghaus
The Focus On series is all about sharing the diversity of meditation journeys and experiences. An opportunity to come together and share stories, practices and insights .. to listen and learn from each other.
I met Jennifer at a Website Development Workshop! Who would have thought .. you never expect to meet one of your community at these things! I just happened to arrive a little late and took the seat next to Jennifer .. and then at morning tea break we had a chat .. something about the need for a good coffee and how the machine might work 🙂
After the workshop we stood on the cold Melbourne sidewalk and introduced ourselves properly .. she was a yoga teacher, a Melbournian, a traveller and an AUTHOR! I knew then and there, that I wanted to know more about Jennifer’s book .. and asked her a few email’s later to share her thoughts in our Focus On series.
Since then, Jennifer has begun writing another book (still a secret) and is making plans to travel to Antarctica (one of her big life dreams). She is an inspiration!
Name: Jennifer J (Jenny) Ellinghaus
Special Interest: Yoga (including pranayama/breathing exercises and meditation) and travel
Contact: Facebook /yogafortravellers
Jenny is the author of Yoga for Travellers a how to guide for anyone wanting to practise yoga on the road, both on and off the mat. It includes yoga theory, suggested sequences, meditation practices, travel tips and advice about how to incorporate yoga into your daily life. Like taking your yoga teacher with you in a pocket-sized book.
Jenny is a seasoned yoga teacher and international traveller, whose positive and compassionate wisdom comes through on every page. This is the only travel yoga book you will ever need and you can keep in contact and learn more about Jenny’s current travel adventures on her Facebook page, and purchase her book Yoga for Travellers on Amazon or the Book Depository
*LOOK OUT BELOW THE INTERVIEW TO SEE HOW YOU CAN WIN A COPY OF JENNY’S BOOK*
Tell us about your Special Interest
Yoga and travel are my two main passions. My passion for yoga began while on holiday in Thailand many years ago, when I attended a workshop on establishing a ‘home practice’. I first started my ‘home’ practice many years ago on holiday in Morocco. I had read somewhere that it is better to practise for a short time each day than for an extended period once a week. So I decided that if I couldn’t practise yoga for 15 minutes each day when on holiday, when could I? I took up the challenge and have never stopped. Yoga has been my constant. It has allowed me to enjoy the freedom of travel and living away from home while staying centred and grounded.
How long have you been practicing, or working in this area?
I have been teaching yoga for nearly ten years (eek!) and practising for a few more. I have taught in workplaces, yoga studios and gyms and have been lucky enough to get a couple of magical gigs in the south of Turkey (stunning beach) and Guatemala (with a view of volcanoes). I particularly enjoy teaching in workplaces and at holiday destinations, because all sorts of people who might not usually try yoga come along – a lovely opportunity to ignite yoga’s spark in people (or at least try to!).
How did you ‘find’ meditation, and how long have you been practicing meditation?
I found meditation through my yoga teaching diploma via one of my favourite teachers. My classmates and I were set the challenge to meditate for just ten minutes each day during our summer break and report back on our experience. It took me a while to find yoga – I resisted all of my friends telling me I would love it, thinking it would be a bit too hippy-dippy for me – so meditation was another big step. I just didn’t see what the big deal was – until I established a regular practice. I learned that yoga is meditation – that the asana (postures) are fun and good for you and have enormous benefits, but nothing is as challenging and rewarding as sitting in stillness. For me meditation is about familiarising myself with stillness – tapping into it if you like – so that I can access it more easily whenever I need it, so that I know it is always there, regardless of whatever is going on in my life or my head.
Do you have a regular practice – daily, weekly, other?
I practise yoga six out of seven days and almost always finish with a seated meditation. Establishing this habit took a fair bit of determination at first, but now it is as customary as brushing my teeth – I wouldn’t think to skip it.
What inspires you to keep meditating .. returning to your practice?
The days when I meditate are, quite simply, better days. Sitting still is not something that comes naturally to me. People assume that if you teach yoga you are some ‘super chilled nothing bothers me’ kind of person. That’s not the case for me. Meditation is my therapy, my daily practise of mental hygiene. It keeps me grounded and centrered and reminds me of what is important.
If you’re reading this you’re already thinking about it, if not dabbling into it. You already know or suspect it will have a positive impact on your life. The question should be why not meditate? Why wouldn’t you take a small portion of your day to be still and quiet, to allow all the crap to bubble up to the surface rather than push it down, to digest your experiences, thoughts and feelings? Even if all you do is observe your busy mind, you are allowing it to be busy in a safe forum without judgment.
Do you have a particular technique(s) that you have found most suitable for you?
When in doubt come back to your breath – just as you would with your yoga practice. I particularly like visualisations such as inhaling through the crown of the head and exhaling into the heart centre, inhaling from the heart centre and exhaling out through the crown of the head. Then you can add emotions or affirmations such as inhaling love and exhaling to plant it in your heart centre, inhaling doubt/negativity and so on and exhaling it out through the crown of your head.
And then there’s the metta bhavana – possibly my favourite of favourites – which basically involves sending love and best wishes to everyone – even people you’re not so keen on. (see my book recommendation below). If you have never tried this one please, please do. It is stunningly transformational.
7. AM or PM? .. Chair, cushion, stool?
If you are keen to establish a regular meditation or yoga practice I highly recommend going for the morning. It is quite simply easier to ‘create’ time in the morning – in the evening it’s all too easy to be convinced to stay back at work, go for a drink or a movie, cook and so on. Set your alarm for just five minutes earlier than usual as a start – your practice will soon grow.
There are tons of products on the market but I think you can improvise. At home I tend to sit on a block or cushion, while I’m travelling a book makes a good meditation seat. And then there’s the best meditation seat of all – sand! At the beach you can build your dream meditation stool for free!
Have you a dedicated space for your practice?
I do now and feel very lucky to have a spare room (aka yoga studio) where I can practise and teach, but I have practised just about everywhere you can imagine over the years – that’s where the idea for Yoga for Travelers came about. You really don’t need a lot of space, but it can be nice to add some ritual to your practice, perhaps lighting a candle or some incense. This might help you get into the ‘mood’.
Have you attended a meditation retreat?
Not exactly, but I have spent quite a bit of time in Ashrams. I would very much like to do a silent retreat longer than a few days, and the 10 day Vipassana. One day!
10. Any favourite books/CDs/Resources that you might share with others?
My favourite meditation book without a doubt is Paramananda’s Change Your Mind. It is so down-to-earth. Even if you think meditation is a load of old rubbish you will enjoy this book.
Rod Stryker’s series of meditation CDS are great as well.
And then I’ve heard that Yoga for Travellers is a good read 😉 It has 21 suggested yoga sequences for various conditions, moods and even spaces available. Each sequence ends with a different, simple meditation practice.
Any thoughts you might share with those who are new to meditation?
Make a start and stick with it. Take a course, read a book, do whatever you need to do, but establishing a regular meditation practice is never going to be something that you regret. You already know that, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
A few random things about you?
• When I left high school I studied to become a dentist for two years.
• I’m allergic to pineapple
• I lived in the UK for a long time as an adult and studied my yoga teaching diploma there – London is my second home.
COMPETITION : Comment below on (a) the most unusual place you have practiced yoga or meditation OR (b) a travel tip for taking your yoga or meditation practice on the road.
[the winner of the book will be chosen through a random draw – picked from a hat – from those who share a comment below]