Sjana Elise Earp prefers hugs over handshakes. The minute you meet her, she’ll give you a big squeeze and light up the whole room like sunshine (seriously!). Happiness seems to follow the Australian yogi wherever she goes, and her daily practice plays a big part in that. Before she found yoga, Sjana battled depression and anxiety for years, which she later bravely opened up about on social media in the hopes of helping others who suffered from mental illness. Now a world traveler, she continues to inspire in so many ways, spreading yoga wherever she goes. Sjana shared her story with us, plus her advice for new yogis, best tips for self-care and go-to songs for yoga.

Tell us about your journey to yoga! When and how did you get into it?

My yoga journey began five years ago, when I was about 18. I had suffered from bad depression and anxiety for a few years and moved interstate to go to university. I had quit all my team sports and passions over the last two years and missed the freedom of self-expression through movement. I took up long distance running and found yoga poses on Instagram. I started trying to contort my body into these positions, and, over the years, my yoga progress continued. I was self-taught like this for the first two to three years, then, in 2016, I did my 200hr YTTC in Byron Bay, Australia, and fell in love with what yoga truly is. I had no idea it was more than just the postures! This is where my journey to yoga truly began. I like to think that yoga found me at a time in my life when I needed it most. And because of yoga, I have been able to fully heal and relearn to love and nurture my body, mind and soul collectively.

How has yoga affected your mental health? Your day-to-day life?

Yoga is a constant in my life. It is one thing I will always come back to in times of need, as it has proved time and time again to be humbling, grounding and one of my biggest teachers in this life. The practice of yoga is so personal and evokes such internal inquisition that it has guided me through my own struggles, both on and off the mat! I’m not saying yoga cures all ills, anxieties and depression, but it was certainly a pivotal aspect in my personal journey to self-love and acceptance.

You’re a world traveler! How do you find time to tune in and keep up with your practice when you’re constantly on the move?

You don’t always find time—you make it. You know what your priorities are, and you can create and design your life around them. For me, yoga is such a priority that I don’t even necessarily designate certain times for it. I do it when it calls to me. This is usually daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Sometimes I find myself getting anxious or stressed or overwhelmed, and as soon as I take even just five or ten minutes to listen to my breath, quiet the mind and move my body, I instantly feel better! Practicing in new places, with new people, new studios and in different climates just adds to the practice!

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a pretty open book! I guess that I am addicted to herbal teas and I like to eat my ice cream (plant-based/vegan, of course) in the shower!

What’s your favorite asana and why?

This changes constantly! I’m a sucker for any inversion, but I also love hip and heart-openers. However, I have found it is often the poses we resist that are the ones we need the most. So, I suppose I am learning to adore frog!

What are you focusing on right now in your yoga journey? Any upcoming projects/plans/trips to share?

You’ll have to stay tuned to find out (wink wink)!

Top tips for self-care?

There are so many I want to share, but we don’t have time to write an entire book, so I guess I’ll keep it simple and say A, B, C!

A. Acceptance. Try to be open to and accepting of what life throws your way. Understand that everything happens for a reason, and, if nothing else, it’s all a learning experience. Accept the things you cannot change, and change the things you cannot accept.
B. Breathe. It’s so simple, yet so important. Our breath is such a powerful tool for controlling our own realities. Connect, listen and learn from your body’s natural intelligence. It will tell you important information if you are willing to listen.
C. Compassion. Treat every living being the way you wish to be treated. Doing good feels good, and I honestly believe kindness is so underrated. We need to share it more often! Caring for others is inadvertently caring for yourself.

What advice do you have for people just getting started with yoga?

Patience! Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make progress! Be kind to yourself, be gentle. Treat yourself as if you were taking care of a baby. Respect, nourishment, love. This is so important when it comes to taking up anything new. Often as a society we look at how far we have to go as opposed to how far we have come. We see potential as intimidating instead of exciting. Take your time, indulge in the journey and truly appreciate every single bump and hurdle along the way.
There is no finish line in yoga, but there is the opportunity for infinite growth. How far you progress is up to you. P.s. Yoga is SO much more than the poses. You’ll see!

Because we love a good yoga playlist… what songs are you practicing to right now??

My favorite musician to flow to is actually my boyfriend! He plays guitar and sings, and I close my eyes and let his music move me! Here are some others…

Need more Sjana vibes in your life? Follow the yogi on Instagram @sjanaelise!