Based on podcast by Shane Krider and Rachel Krider
Ever thought yoga was for the weak? Ella Cojocaru will change your mind! I found yoga, and subsequently Ella, when I was looking for an alternative workout for my slightly damaged body. Not only did yoga challenge me, it reversed my joint damage and had so many physical benefits I wouldn’t have fathomed. The real clincher for me was the spiritual and psychological benefits. Yoga keeps you present, fully aware, and clears the monkey chatter from the mind. I hold yoga instructors in high regard, and Ella is one of the best teachers on the planet.
Ella’s rise to success is an inspirational story that truly shows you can overcome adversity and tragedy to find a renewed passion and drive no matter what you’ve endured.
Born in Romania, like every girl her age, Ella Cojocaru was inspired by watching her countryman Olympic medalist gymnast, Nadia Comăneci, on television. She recalls transforming her family’s apartment into a makeshift gymnasium using furniture and cushions for apparatus. Growing up in a communist country role models were hard to come by, so she found hers and set her sights on gymnastics.
“Gymnastics took me to another place, a fantasy in my head. I would visualize my life in the US. I saw gymnastics as something I loved but also a way I could escape Romania.”
Growing up in a communist country had its hardships for a young child, but this was just the beginning of the adversity young Ella had to endure. Following her dreams, Ella was recruited at kindergarten to participate in the Olympic gymnastics program. It was a regimented and harsh training that continually tested the recruits. If you did not pass, you did not continue on. It was black and white. There was no doing gymnastics for fun.
“You eat, lived, and breathed gymnastics. They were not concerned about your education, family, friends, you were a government-owned machine. The ethics were very different from the US. We learned from fear.”
“You see these images on the TV today of the US Olympic coach hugging and kissing their team mates, like a father figure. There’s so much love and kindness there. It was not like that for us.”
Ella was abused from a young age by her coach, who would respond to an error by kicking the girls so hard, they’d fly back into the foam pit. It was a regular occurrence. It was the norm. And when you grow up with that all around, you get used to it. But it left its psychological and physical scars on the young aspiring gymnast.
“My body is so messed up from breaking everything and placing it badly back together. He coached through fear and abuse…I lost my love for gymnastics during this training.”
Ella shares the struggle of her counter-intention of wanting to strive for the recognition and status of being an Olympic champion, while also longing to quit gymnastics and escape to the US, escape her coach, and create a better life for herself.
She started to break bones on purpose, anything to become useless to her coach. She was basically government owned so could never quit. They would just come and collect you. So she started to sabotage her body.
Finally, she ended up in America, mostly by accident but had escaped her communist country and started a new life as a young girl, with a lot of baggage that comes with years of abuse. But even at that young age, Ella did not allow herself to fall into a victim role. She was determined to find herself, move forward and become something far away from her Romanian gymnast life. She admits to be lost for a while, looking for a new identity, but always keeping her sense of humor and positive mindset.
“Yoga found me at a time I really needed it. Yoga is still healing me, it is continually showing my weaknesses, imbalances, what I need to fix. I eat, breathe, sleep yoga. It is not a part of my life. It is my whole life! This is my path and I know that and it’s urgency for me to continue to go and learn.”
Ella’s perspective on her life journey, her path from tragedy to triumph is truly inspiring. To suffer from such a young age has given her the perspective to look at people with more compassion and given her the ability to help all kinds of people because of the lens her experiences have given her.
Ella has found her success through her love and passion for yoga, it has changed her body, spirit and mind, and led to being one of the most talented and prosperous yoga instructors in LA. Ella ensures she offers more than just a physically challenging class, she gives a piece of herself each lesson to try and help her community, her students to grow.
“You have to be willing to grow. Breathe through it. Stop focusing on the drama. Just relax into it and evolve.”
What a wonderful mantra. Find your purpose, your voice, listen and follow it. And if you fall off your path, then stop and listen again. And remember…
“What are you going to do when life throws you a curve ball? Drop into child’s pose? It’s not an option!”
Love it. If you’d like to find out more about Ella and her classes please head to www.ellavateyoga.com. Or follow this legendary yogi on Instagram @ellavateyoga.