Pandemic yoga at home

Photo courtesy of Mark Gutteridge
Ellena Gonzales meditates as she moves through different yoga poses and yoga breathing near the rim of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.

Beginnings promise fresh starts and we are all sorely in need of a fresh start in these times. 

In past years, at the onset of a new year, we might have made resolutions that we planned to stick to. Some worked, others didn’t. It’s not an uncommon tale.

However, this new year is different. A fresh beginning doesn’t look or feel the same as past years. Our need to begin anew is not just personal; it is connected to a larger narrative.

The problems we would like to resolve for ourselves are overshadowed by a much larger set of problems. A pandemic. A troubling election. Civil unrest. Loss of so many things that we took for granted.

So, a resolution for 2021 has to be something that can heal our bodies and our souls if it is going to really stick. 

With that in mind, many people are looking for a body-mind experience that provides structure and perspective to our days. Yoga might be an answer. Yoga is an ancient practice that has roots in Hinduism, Buddhism as well as other Eastern religious practices.

However, if you go to a yoga class in the 21st century, you are not likely to learn much about those faiths because most yoga classes are centered on exercise and mental focus rather than religion. 

In other words, it has transcended into mainstream American culture. You don’t have to be a Hindu to enjoy the benefits of yoga any more than you have to be a Hindu to be a vegetarian.

In a time when people are looking for ways to mitigate the stress and anxiety caused by the current health crisis, many have turned to alternative forms of exercise and mediation. The city of Page is lucky to host several yoga instructors. Among them is Ellena Gonzales who owns and operates elchica Yoga. 

Ellena’s journey to Page, Arizona, did not follow a straight line. Her career began with the National Park Service where she worked as a dispatcher at Mesa Verde National Park and at Zion National Park. 

It was at Zion NP that a friend suggested she apply for a teaching job in Page. Desert View Elementary School was looking for an art teacher and Gonzales fit the bill.  

Later, she moved over to Page Middle School.

“I taught art, Spanish and career exploration at the middle school for 20 years,” she said. “I loved working with those kids.”  

Currently, Gonzales teaches art, employment skills and personal finance at Tse Yaato High School as well as community yoga classes. 

Gonzales discovered yoga in high school. 

“I had a teacher who was looking for interesting physical education activities,” she said.  When yoga was offered, Gonzales and some other classmates enjoyed it. Since then, yoga has been central to her life. “It helps me focus,” she said. 

She took interest in the healing properties of yoga and after several years of practicing the art, she “decided to become an instructor.”   

It wasn’t long before she was hosting classes. She now has her own business with many local and remote clients.

“I love to hear how people have benefited from yoga. It’s awesome when people progress,” she said.  

Gonzales is a strong believer in the benefits of yoga.

“Yoga improves strength, flexibility and balance.” 

Components of these three focus areas are part of every, one-hour lesson. Even if you feel weak in one or more of these focus areas, “Yoga meets you where you are and every one of us is different, so we often use props like blocks, blankets or straps to help ease you into a pose.” 

“Many students have told me that when they first started in my class there were poses (that) they could not do and after being in the class for a while those poses become easier for them,” she added. “That is progress! The great thing about yoga is it is all about you and where you are now and letting you decide when you are ready for the next step but always having alternate poses available.”

Gonzales designs her sessions to meet all students’ ability levels. “This is a multi-level class and poses are shown with easier and harder versions. There is no competition in yoga – you be you!” 

Another benefit of taking a class with Gonzales is that she teaches breathing techniques.  These techniques called “pranayama” help people manage stress as well as support a better night’s sleep. It is widely believed to help with anxiety and depression as well.    Together, with yoga practice, Gonzales has seen people of all ages and lifestyles find focus and clarity in daily routines.

In a “normal world” setting, she hosts three yoga classes each week at a studio she shares with Kate Sease and Brit Gregory on Vista Avenue. But the pandemic and its ever-changing restrictions have forced Gonzales to look at alternative ways to bring yoga practice to her clientele. 

At the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic Gonzales started using the digital video platform Zoom to host live yoga classes to her dedicated clientele.

“It was a difficult learning curve for all of us, but it has actually turned out to be a great thing,” Gonzales said. 

Gonzales feels that the online platform gives people more freedom to participate on their own schedule.

She also provides opportunities for people to purchase taped classes that they can watch at their own convenience. 

“People have about two days to view a class before it is removed from Zoom,” she said.  The remote classes have allowed people from outside of the Page area to participate. 

“I have some students in Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Texas and even one in Pennsylvania,” she added.

If you have a computer and an internet connection, anyone can participate in yoga classes from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Those interested in learning more about elchica Yoga can contact Ellena Gonzales at [email protected] Her classes are offered as follows:

Tuesday yoga at 7:30 a.m. - sign in beginning at 7 a.m.

Thursday yoga at 5:30 p.m. - sign in beginning at 5 p.m.

Saturday yoga (depends on interest) at 8:30 a.m. - sign in beginning at 8 a.m.

 

The fee per class is $10, or you can buy a group of classes at a discounted rate, all of which is managed through a Venmo account.  A link will be sent to your email 30 minutes prior to the scheduled class which is as simple as “click and join.”

          

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