Eleanor L Wells, PhD, eRYT500 is a somatic educator, a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, body geographer, improvisational dancer and performance artist.
As a yoga teacher she works gently and deeply to help clients become more graceful, embodied, and comfortable in their skin. Her personal mission statement is: “To help people fall in love with life and the world.” To this end, her yoga is broadly writ. Defining yoga as embodied movement she gracefully weaves together classical Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa, QiGong, Resistance Stretching, Feldenkrais, Body Mind Centering, Contemplative Dance, Contact Improv, DanceAbility, Pilates and Functional Fitness. Her classes welcome all individuals regardless of fitness level, shape, or size. She is a master of adapting the yoga pose to the individual rather than forcing the individual to adapt to the pose.
Eleanor has a PhD in Geology from Stanford University. She taught Geology and Geography at the University of California, Berkeley and Vanderbilt University before deciding to leave academia and pursue other life passions. She is a certified Spiritual Director and studied in the Masters of Divinity program at Meadville Lombard Theological School. She is an eRYT500, the highest level of training and experience acknowledged by the Yoga Alliance. She co-owns and is the program manager of Live Well Studio where she also leads and coordinates the 200hr and 300hr Yoga Teacher Training programs. She has certifications in Pilates, DanceAbility, Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching and Trauma Releasing Exercise.
Eleanor grew up in Southern California in a crazy, abusive and loving, alcoholic family. As a young woman struggling to find a way in the world she had her own personal struggles with drugs and alcohol. In spite of external success, getting her PhD, a good job, and a loving husband, she found herself bereft and despairing and falling deeper into the rabbit hole of alcoholism. She gave up the fight in 1988 and has been blessed with sobriety ever since. Early in her recovery she found that while Alcoholics Anonymous helped her stay sober but that she was still dissociated from her body. Dissociation was an early coping skill she developed to deal with the physical abuse in her household by separating mind from body she could overcome the pain. The problem is, when you dissociate, you stop feeling either pleasure or pain, any sensation becomes intolerable. Drugs and alcohol were an easy way to overcome the separation experience pleasure in the body. Without the drugs and alcohol she was numb and confused. She now had untreated PTSD symptoms. Therapy helped, but still kept her in her head, something she was already good at. Yoga and dance became the entry point to learn to be in her body in a healthy way. For Eleanor, yoga was the means of integrating body, mind and spirit and becoming a whole human being; dance was the means of integrating with others, becoming part and parcel of humanity learning to set healthy boundaries and find pleasure interacting with others.
Eleanor first entered a yoga classroom driven by back pain in 1990. She had recently been diagnosed with spondylolithesis (broken spinal joints at the level of L4/L5). Her friend and chiropractor, Agi Ban, suggested she try yoga as means of strengthening the spine and abdomen. Building strength is the most common treatment for spondy, shy of surgery. Yoga and staying fit worked for about 10 years until she had two boys. During the second birth she heard and felt the spondy pop. 9 months after his birth L4 had slid anteriorly 3 cm precariously tipping off her spine. She was having nearly continuous severe back and leg pain, neuropathy in her feet, foot drop, and was feeling continuously depressed, lethargic and without energy. She’d work, go home and go to bed, rather a difficult scenario for a mom with two young boys. The orthopedist said her spine was sufficiently unstable that if she was in a car accident or took a bad fall it was liable to shear her spinal cord. The first thing to go would be bowel and bladder control and she could expect to end up in a paraplegic and wheelchair bound. With those possibilities looming, she agreed to back surgery. In 1997 the orthopedist fused L4/L5/S1 with titanium rods and screws and bone graft taken from her right hip. She was in a full body cast for 3 months. The doctor told her that she would be fully healed a year out from surgery. That was a really depressing moment, because she was still in a lot of pain and not moving anywhere near as well as she had hoped she would be. But it wasn’t true. She continued to heal for years. If you watch her move today, you’d never guess she had a fused spine.
Her story informs her yoga. As a result of these life traumas she has learned to care deeply for the body, hers and yours. Yoga in this light is not about achieving a pose. Yoga is transcending suffering. Yoga is learning to be at peace with the body you have; loving the body you have. To this end she adapts yoga to the individual. While highly trained in many movement modalities, she also works intuitively following what she sees in your body to help guide you to a practice best suited to your particular anatomy and history.
Dancing and practicing yoga since 1990 she has also accumulated a variety injuries over the years, most notably the cranky hip common to many yogis her age. It seems to be an overuse over-striving injury that gets better if rested and is easily irritated if overused. It’s another lesson in humility. And these lessons always spur further research. Learning to heal her hip and the accumulated aches of age and time she has taken certification courses in Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching and Trauma Releasing Exercise.