Now, with Ellie's passing, our circle feels broken. Ellie always reminded us that life is not static—everything changes, and part of our growth is learning to adapt to those changes. True words. But this is one change we were all unprepared for, and we're finding it hard to absorb.
We can begin to heal by remembering Ellie and her lessons. In that spirit, I have invited everyone in the Monday class to share thoughts and images that evoke those memories. Interspersed among these remembrances, in italics, are parts of Ellie's obituary from the Grand Rapids Press.
Thinking about Ellie, my extraordinary yoga teacher and friend. She fine-tuned us every time to do our own best yoga. Who would have thought she would have taught me to do a headstand when I was 50. She pushed us to do our best, and we grew and grew in our practice. It was very difficult to do a few poses this morning without breaking down completely but I absolutely know she would want me to continue and I will . . .
-- Kathy Misak
Ellie was a strong, spirited, creative, beautiful soul. . . as a child of the 60's, she followed her heart to the epicenter of culture, California, where she lived life to the fullest until the early 80's. Missing home and family, she returned to Michigan, where she met and married her husband, Michael Randazzo.
Life’s gifts. There are times when a gift comes into your life—into all our lives. A very special gift was meeting Ellie and becoming part of her yoga group. Ellie, you had such a kind, caring way about you. You shared your knowledge and also your wisdom as you guided us in the intentions for the day, for our practice and for our lives. Your example and encouragement was inspiring: to reach for the highest goals. My life has been changed, and I am grateful for the gift of knowing you and learning from you. I will miss you.
-- Eileen Kent
Ellie, your passing reminds me of that country song, "How can I miss you if you won't go away?" I'm so aware of how, even though we haven't seen each other or talked in a while, you're with me constantly. Every birthday sun salutation we've done together at a distance, every time I lift a glass of sparkling wine, every time I waver in a balancing posture or an awkward conversation, you're there buoying me up. When did the teacher without become the teacher within?
-- Debra Mason (former student, now living in Vermont)
Making yoga part of my everyday thoughts is a gift that Ellie shared with me. I struggle with selecting a focus or "intention" and she gave us examples of how to include our lesson on poses as an all-encompassing thought for moving through the day. I continue to find that focus difficult to maintain but think of how she made it seem so natural to incorporate yoga and daily life.
-- Ruth Hetherington
From over 10 years of being in Ellie's peaceful presence nearly weekly, I remember . . . Monday morning, garden flowers, birds, incense, Ellie, friends, yoga, shavasana, peace, love. We were so happy when she started teaching yoga to our husbands. I can find no words to describe the ache in my heart and how much Ellie will be missed.
-- Valerie Deur
Who says yoga has to be cool, or blue, quiet, soft or mauve?
The last time we had yoga class with Ellie, the Hydrangea bushes outside her studio towered, exploding white snowballs into the morning sun. And, the Bee Balm, stately, fragrant, on four foot stems, burst crimson, shaggy point stars.
Commanding authority, as sure as Ellie’s poses, the potency of her voice, the guidance in her touch. Like the mastery of her garden, cultivating the strongest from her students.
Her Warrior One pose unfolds, legs rooted in lunge. Heart open, her back arches in a crescent, arms extend toward the sky, bursting crimson stars and snowballs of white into the sun.
-- Sally C. Kane
Ellie delighted in her passion for friends, family, and animals.
For those of us she has left behind, we begin a journey through the valley where there are far too many shadows. But with each pose and stretch that we do from now on, we understand anew that Ellie has left a considerable legacy of health, memories, and fellowship. She has in so many ways "passed it on."
-- Nancy Waits
I sat and wrote many wonderful memories and thoughts of Ellie but I kept coming back to a very simple thought: To have known Ellie was to have been in the presence of the best of humanity.
-- Sandy VandenBerg
How to find words that describe someone who has lovingly, patiently, and persistently challenged us to be the best we can be . . . Ellie has made such an impact on my life. . . From the early days at the Fly By Nite Gallery, when we drummed and played music, as well as marketing our art, to our group of strong women who practice yoga with serenity and power, Ellie has been the catalyst to hold us all together. . . She leaves us with such a challenge to carry on and share what we can with others the spirit she instilled in us. . . with a heart overflowing with love.
-- Brenda Huckins Bonter
Ellie was one of the most creative, loving people I know and will be missed immensely.
-- Kendra McKimmy
She had many pursuits; some of her favorites included: handcrafting jewelry, teaching yoga and meditation, appreciating and making music, creating a sanctuary for the many animals she lovingly cared for, and what a talent she had for cooking.
I've known Ellie for many years through her gifts of animal acupressure and communication, essential oils, intuition and most recently my yoga teacher. Ellie's ability to read a person or animal's energy was invaluable. Her quiet demeanor would pack a powerful punch of information for healing and transformation. These last 2 years of being her yoga student were wonderful! I learned lessons every week on using all the senses to move the body with strength and mindfulness. Being confident in the power of the body's ability to move, I was able to do poses that I had never done before. Her encouraging support helped me build confidence in knowing my body's ability to move. Her legacy lives on in my heart. She is missed.
-- Sue Schneider
This poem was written by my friend, Jim Northrup. He and Ellie began to walk upon the Path of Souls within hours of each other. Perhaps they have become acquainted.
-- Marsha Reeves
End of the Beginning
Someone said we begin to die
the minute we're born.
Death is a part of life.
Who knows why the Creator
thins the herd.
Another old saying says
we must all be prepared
to give up those we love
or die first.
Take time to mourn.
Take time to remember.
Everything happens in cycles.
The pain you feel was once
balanced by someone's joy
when that baby was born.
The loss you feel today
will be replaced by good
Is there a message here? Yea,
treat others like this
is your last day above ground.
-- James Northrup 1943-2016
When Ellie demonstrated a new, particularly challenging pose, we would all exchange dubious glances. She wants us to do THAT?? If she noticed our expressions, she pretended not to, and in her most enthusiastic tone of voice said, "So let's give it a go!"
Somehow her zeal rallied us to try that impossible-looking thing, and maybe even succeed in doing it or something close to it. Now, Ellie, we're facing the enormous challenge of adjusting to life without you. We look at one another and wonder if we can do it. But for you, Ellie, we'll give it a go.
-- Nan Pokerwinski
In one's life journey, God brings people in and out of your life. The conversation started when Ellie entered my life with her unassuming presence, showing me how to connect my breath with movement. Through teaching me yoga she gave me the centering that I didn't even recognize that I needed. Breathe, set your intention and be still. She deepened not only my understanding of things in my life but also my level of gratitude. Many times, with my legs up the wall, waiting for fellow yogis to enter class, Ellie and I shared animated conversations which were just what I needed. She introduced me to a world that I was missing as we went to different yoga workshops over the years. She taught me how to honor my body, to minimize the inner critic, to detach from the things of this world and most of all to be present. Now that the conversation has ended, I will miss her greatly and her wise words; thank you Ellie for entering my life and making it richer, fuller and much calmer.
-- Karen Kuck
Ellie was a bright spot in my world. She contributed in so many positive ways to my health, attitude and general well-being. She was a very special lady and will be remembered for a long, long time.
-- Peggy Straathof
A whole new, healing meaning for doing Sun Salutes: "When your heart is broken, when your heart has cracks in it, it lets the light in, it lets the Sun in." ~ Ellen DeGeneres
Yoga With Ellie, A – Z. . .
Alignment and Awareness of Asanas – proper posture practiced even when in line at the grocery store!
Benefits of Breathing and Balance – Pranayama, Ujjayi and Boat all gently "go with the flow."
Consistence of Core work – from cat/cow and down-facing dog to headstands.
eXercise – eXecuting a workout for Body, Mind and Soul.
Yoga – a Union of a Sisterhood of Souls, who together will heal our broken Open Hearts.
Zest of Zen – the peaceful relaxed essence of our friend and teacher, Ellie.
She has taught us well…
Namaste and Thank You, Ellie
-- Diane Sack
Cards given to Monday yoga sisters by Diane, with the Ellen DeGeneres quote written inside.
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.