Another portrait of a very dear friend and yoga student at the Shala: Mysore Yoga Paris own Parisian-Texan-Yogini-Cowgirl-Chef Ellise Pierce. Always radiant, always making me laugh out loud in the shala(!!), always inspiring and always cooking something new…! xox k
Name: Ellise Pierce
Age: Most days I feel about 35.
Occupation: Writer, chef, and author of the cookbook, “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” (Running Press)
When and how did you start practicing yoga? It’s hard for me now to remember not practicing yoga, but I think it was about 13 years ago. I went to Los Angeles to do a story on the then exploding yoga trend in the U.S., and took a class by Erich Schiffman so I could write about the experience. I had been cycling about 30 miles a day back in Dallas, and had recently fallen (again – I was always crashing from going too fast) and my right arm was badly injured and bandaged. But I felt like I was in great shape and I was strong…until I took that class. What I saw was something that my daily – and exhausting – cycling had never given me. Everyone in that class seemed so calm, and so at peace, and with a different sort of strength…it seemed softer, and the energy in the room was one of acceptance, not competition. I wanted all of this, too. So I started practicing yoga every day back in Dallas. I never got back on my bike.
What’s your relationship with the Shala at Mysore Yoga Paris? It’s part of the magic here. The shala is both the physical place that I go to when I’m in Paris and where I go in my mind when I’m not here and needing to feel calm. Just imagining this wide open space, with the Tibetan bowls, the wisps of incense, and the sun coming up through the window next to where I usually have my yoga mat, brings me a sense of peace. Instantly.
How has yoga changed you? On a purely practical level, yoga gave me a kind of focus that I never had before in my writing, which I noticed almost immediately, after about a month of practice. On a deeper level, my practice has complimented and accentuated my own spiritual beliefs…in particular, the concepts of being in the present moment, of non-attachment, and acceptance. And because the practice itself is so much about opening one’s heart, I’ve learned through my years of practice that this is really the point of it all…of yoga, of life, of everything. That hearts can open, then break, and heal just fine. Somewhere along the way, I started dedicating each day’s practice to something or someone that I’m grateful for, and this seemingly small thing has had a powerful effect on my relationships – especially those with whom I’ve had conflict. Being grateful for those that make your life difficult may sound like a crazy idea, and at first, it really was more of an experiment to try and work with uncomfortable emotions such as anger and resentment, but this alone has profoundly changed how I see difficulties and challenges…instead of frustrations, I now see them as tools to learn something about myself. And hopefully to grow. Which circles back to acceptance…of myself, where I am, right at that particular moment.
What inspires you to keep practicing? The way that I feel when I miss a day. At this point, yoga is so integrated into my life that if I don’t practice, I feel off. Yoga keeps all of the stuff – mental, emotional, and physical – from backing up like all of that icky junk you find in a clogged sink, and turning into problems. I would no more stop practicing yoga than I would suddenly stop brushing my teeth. Yoga’s what keeps me going each day. Well, that and coffee.
Does practice influence your work as a writer/chef/cookbook writer? The word, practice, is something that resonates with me, a perfectionist in recovery, and applies to everything that I take on. For example, writing isn’t something that you just sit down and do. You have drafts. You scratch things out. You edit. You practice. It’s the same with cooking and testing recipes. Making something new takes practice. And often lots of mistakes. Almost nothing is the way that you want it to be the first time. Right now, I’m practicing the art of making croissants, and I’ve not figured it out yet. But even when I do, this doesn’t mean that I’ll have perfect croissants every time I sit down to make them. I’ll do my best – I’ll practice – and hopefully, they’ll turn out okay. It’s the same with yoga. Some days, I absolutely nail pincha; other days, I fall right over. I try as much as I can to not be attached to either outcome, and let the asanas that day just be, and not judge them. This is not an easy thing to do. But this idea of yoga – and life – as being a practice as opposed to being something that we’ve got to get right, and right now—really takes the pressure off, if we’ll only just allow for it.
Describe your practice in 3 words: challenging, calming, centering.
Where do you go to find peace in Paris? Besides the Mysore Yoga Paris Shala, I find peace at Parc St. Cloud, where I go every day with my Australian Shepherd, Rose for an hour or two.