If you live in Houston, it’s probably felt like summer since April. Nevertheless, the true summer solstice is Monday, June 20th, and we’re planning to celebrate it with a whole lotta sun salutations. 108 to be exact. Why 108, you ask?
I asked the same thing when I first heard this was considered a sacred number in yoga and that traditional mala necklaces have 108 beads. It turns out, there are an overwhelming number of interpretations, meanings, and explanations regarding the magic of the number 108. I’ve summarized just 3 of the ones that made the most sense to me, but this article in the Elephant Journal offers many more if you’re interested.
- The diameter of the Sun multiplied by 108 equals the distance between Sun and Earth, and the diameter of the Moon multiplied by 108 equals the distance between Earth and Moon. The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
- According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India, and there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.
- Each digit has a special meaning:
1 = God or higher Truth
0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice,
8 = infinity or eternity
Ok, so now that’s settled, let’s talk about what I’m most looking forward to as we celebrate the summer solstice next week: LIVE music from a lovely duo named The Storys.
Ellen is a student at Yogaleena who happened to befriend me on Facebook. One of her photos playing a violin caught my eye and I asked her about it next time I saw her at the studio. Turns out Ellen and her husband Drew are straight-up, ridiculously talented and passionate musicians…and I didn’t waste a second snagging them up to play for us at Yogaleena.
I asked the beautiful and inspiring Ellen a few questions last time I caught up with her so that I could share with fellow yogaleenis. Here’s what she had to say:
When did you start playing violin and why did you choose that instrument?
When I was 3 years old my parents started me on violin through the Suzuki Method; my dad has always been musical and wanted me to have the exposure, so he and my mom picked violin and somehow it stuck! Although, at my very first lesson, I became so shy in front of my teacher that my dad had to stand and do the lesson for me with my little violin while I hid behind his legs! 🙂
Who inspires you in your music? In your life?
The works of J.S. Bach have continued to inspire me as a classically trained violinist. In high school I would always start my day off playing Bach’s Unaccompanied Sonata in G Minor, “Adagio,” mvt. 1; it was (and still is) a centering meditation/prayer for me. I’m pretty sure that piece will remain with me until the day I die.
But the style that has always moved my Soul is fiddle music, particularly traditional Irish music. The playing of a particular Irish fiddler named Martin Hayes has been the most influential to my personal style throughout my life; listening to and learning from him has taught me the importance of “nuance” in one’s playing, and the incredible power of simplicity.
When did you know you wanted to make music your career?
Even though music was “chosen” for me, I know very deeply that it was always meant to be my life and livelihood. I have “perfect pitch,” which means that I can hear or see notes and know what they are without reference. Because of this, I quite literally hear music everywhere (which can be both fun and maddening at times). My romance with Music became a “committed and lifelong relationship” when I was 16; I left my home in the Tennessee farmland and moved to Massachusetts, where I began attending a boarding school called Walnut Hill School for the Arts. There I was able to study my craft at a more professional level with teachers from the New England Conservatory and Boston Symphony. This move is definitely what solidified my desire to pursue music as a career.
What are the best and most challenging aspects of being married to your musical partner?
As with all musical collaboration, the coolest part is the different material that each person brings to the table; my husband Drew and I could not have had more different musical upbringings. While I was studying classical music and swooning over Enya, Drew was rocking out to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and of course, John Denver (although we definitely shared John Denver–Rocky Mountain High!). 🙂
Because of our differences, I think we have created a nice blend of traditional and more modern tastes; this can be heard especially in our Celtic music, where my more traditional playing is complemented by a minimal, even Post-Rock, accompaniment on Drew’s guitar.
Sometimes the hardest thing for us is coming together to practice for a gig; we each have projects throughout the week that we’re involved in separately, and it can be hard to find the time to intentionally sit down and hash out tunes. Admittedly, most of our bickering has happened while practicing together, but it always gets sorted out in the end.
How do you unwind?
Listening to music, knitting, yoga, walking places with Drew (usually coffee shops- we live in Montrose so there are quite a few to chose from!), playing guitar, singing and writing songs, reading, and of course cuddling with my Maine Coon, Milo! 🙂
What do you miss the most about Nashville?
My parents live on a beautiful farm in Tennessee (“Wildwood Farm”) that I miss tremendously: the rolling hills, the silence, the clean air, working in the big garden, and the clear view of the stars at night. I also had quite a few students when we lived in Tennessee, and I miss them a lot; fortunately there is this amazing thing called “FaceTime,” and I have been able to continue teaching some of them despite the distance.
What do you love the most about Houston?
Moving to Houston has proved to be wonderful for a musical career! Both Drew and I have had amazing job opportunities that have allowed us to support ourselves through music, which is sometimes hard to come by as a musician!
I have really enjoyed getting more connected in the community here, musical and otherwise (including meeting Carolina and the awesome ladies at Yogaleena!), and have made some good friends in the process. 🙂
Living in Montrose has been amazing for me and Drew; we love the central location and being able to walk to a lot of the places we want to go to.
How long have you practiced yoga?
I have done yoga on and off over the years, but really started getting into it in college. One semester I enrolled in a yoga class that was specifically designed for musicians, applying the principles of yoga towards musicianship, practice, and connecting with the breath through experiences like performance anxiety. It was also in college that I began to not only practice the physical aspect of yoga but began to learn about the spirituality as well, giving it all a whole new depth for me; through meeting different people who were well-versed in Buddhist and Zen teachings, I came to love the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, and Ram Dass (to name a few).
What’s your favorite pose and why?
Standing Forward Fold (Rag Doll). This pose is so valuable to me as a musician and has helped me in many situations, whether it’s releasing tension in my back and neck after a long rehearsal, or breathing through any pre-performance jitters. When I was a sophomore in college I began having pretty intense anxiety attacks about everyday things and it was difficult for me to even get to class or rehearsals most days. Whenever I would feel this coming on I would hang out and breathe in Rag Doll pose until the overwhelming feelings began to subside.
What do you like most about summer?
I always enjoy feeling the sunshine on my skin, and getting outside to sweat it out 🙂 Here in Houston one of my favorite things about summer is seeing the little lizards that run across the sidewalks as you approach; you have to watch where you’re walking, but I think they’re cute! 🙂
Pretty awesome, right? Don’t wait, sign up now for this soulful and sweaty event as it’s filling up fast (it’s on our online schedule, regular class prices apply).
see you at the studio, namaste:)