Sjana Earp is the Woman. behind famed (we're talking 1.6M followers) Instagram account @sjanaelise. Apart from being one of the OG content creators, Sjana is an internationally recognised and accredited Yoga Teacher, photographer, model and author.
We talk to Sjana about how her journey with depression as a teen led her to yoga, our undeniable and unrivalled connection between the body, mind and soul and the significance of listening to and learning from your body.
Q1: In your own words, please tell us what you do and how it came to be...
I was really creative and active from a really early age - it's in my genes on both sides of my family. Brought up in a house where we had a section of our garage named “the craft room”, and an overall lifestyle where our parents encouraged us to be curious about our world and explore different ways of expression. We actually watched very little tv during my primary school years, especially for the long months of summer, as we were always at training for one of our sports, or outside, in the ocean, exploring, playing and creating.
My brothers were into making movies and editing on the computer. My oldest brother Josh had one of his surf movies featured in a local film festival when he was only 12 years old. I was given my first camera as a gift when I was seven years old. The camera gave me yet another way to express my creativity and the way I was looking at the world from the inside of me, not through anyone else’s lense. And I guess that is how it came to be I do what I do. I’m just simply an old soul, having a human experience and doing my best to learn and share what I can whilst making the most of it along the way.
I’m a 25 years young, Aussie girl, I’m an Internationally recognised and accredited Yoga Teacher, content creator, photographer and model, and author (my first book is being released later this year, so watch out for it). I am passionate about female empowerment, destigmatising and supporting mental health, and with learning everything I can about helping build the resilience of our planet through sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices. And I am extremely fortunate to be able work doing things that resonate with my values, passions and purpose.
Q2: We’re focusing on health and wellness this month and we know you’re obviously a big fan of yoga. Can you share with us what led you to this practice?
My struggle with depression was what ultimately lead me to the practice of yoga.
Growing up, I was always VERY sporty, as were my whole family! It was kind of part of our blood I think! We would eat, sleep and breathe for movement and sport! We THRIVED off knowing our bodies and our abilities so much. I did gymnastics, surf life saving, swimming, competitive American style cheerleading, cross country running, little athletics, netball and even tried aerobics, tennis and soccer at one point! I loved it.
When I became depressed at 15 I stopped a lot of the things and sports that I once loved. I withdrew from all of the things that made me feel so good.
I stopped my sports and then I moved interstate at age 18. A few months passed and I already saw and felt the difference in my mood and emotional balance, so decided to take up long distance running (training for half marathons) and “yoga” (or at least what I thought yoga was). I would see images on IG of women doing yoga, and became curious as to whether or not I could contort and bend my own body that way.
I was studying photojournalism at University at the time, so I would take my DSLR to the beach for sunrise most mornings, and attempt to re-create the poses I had seen on Instagram. Some I could successfully, master, and others needed a little more improvement.
So for the first few years of my personal yoga journey, I assumed yoga was only the physical postures. And after having a background in gymnastics, (I was always strong, but never terribly flexible, that part I had to work at!) I found it an easy transition in to the yoga postures. I began getting a reputation as a “yogi” and was getting offers and asked to teach retreats and events internationally. However, not knowing almost ANYTHING about yoga, I felt like a fraud in some ways. I was suffering from “imposter syndrome” – where I believed that who I was and my own capabilities were very different from the way everyone else saw me.
This gave me the urge and the final push I needed to book in to do my yoga teacher training at the beginning of 2016. I did it in Byron bay, Australia (I love Byron!) and it was here that my true journey with yoga finally begun. Once I saw and understood that yoga was so much more than just the poses, and I was able to begin integrating it in to my life, and lifestyle, my world truly blossomed and opened up.
I have been on the path of yoga growth, unlearning and re-learning ever since! Now it is a part of my life that I honestly don’t think I could live without!
Q3: How do you feel moving your body positively impacts work productivity and creativity?
There is an undeniable and unrivalled connection between the body, mind, soul and our overall wellbeing and energy. There are countless scientific studies, trials and personal experiences to validate that, and I am sure if you have ever done yoga or any kind of activity that interlaces all of these various aspects of the identified and assumed “self” you will also be able to corroborate this on some level.
To me personally, it is now so ingrained in my life, that yoga and movement seems as necessary to me as the air I breathe. I know, from experience, how healing and cathartic it feels to move my body, show up on my mat, surrender to Source and to the practice, to unfold without judgement, and become a catalyst for my own healing and therefore the betterment and healing of those around me and the planet.
It is the best way to begin a day, the best addition to any moment, and one of my favourite ways to not only connect to myself and enjoy the process of becoming myself, but also to connect to like-minded individuals and to truly feel, witness and comprehend the immense power of a collective and supportive environment.
The yoga community and the benefits of yoga exceed far beyond the self and what we experience on our mats. It is what we learn on our mats and can then take out with us in the rest of the world!
Q4: How do you feel proper nutrition positively impacts work productivity and creativity?
It is definitely integral to our over all wellbeing! There are four of five main aspects to our wellbeing that I believe as humans we thrive by prioritising. And these aspects are not only my own thoughts or ideas. These again, are proven through and through. Things like diet, hydration, sleep, movement/exercise, connection to other humans/ relationships, physical touch and intimacy, creativity and self-expression.
On a cellular level we are what we eat. We are literally absorbing and consuming not only the nutrients, but also the energy from the foods we eat. SO being aware, conscious and mindful of what we put in to our bodies will not only automatically set us up to feel good by reinforcing these good habits, but also solidify the habits to a point of it becoming our second nature. Once we know, and feel through repeated exposure how something good makes us FEEL good, we will continue to do it. It is working not only on a physical and biological level, but also a psychological level.
The foods we eat have also proven to affect the way we can move and perform in regards to activity and sports, so as someone who is very in tune with her body, I find a healthy, light, nutrient dense and diverse diet, eating mostly from the earth, plant based whole foods, and less from a packet, is one of the things that has aided me the greatest in putting me in the right head space, as well as assisting me in mastering some of the skills in my physical practice.
Q5: What are your top tips for ensuring you move and fuel your body each week?
I think there are two forms of knowledge. One, is intellectual or acquired knowledge through information or being told something by someone else. And the other, is the worldly knowledge and deep understanding from experience. So, I can tell you things like:
But in reality I believe that lasting and significant change in someone’s life, can only be cultivated through experience.
So my only tip for ensuring you move and fuel your body each week would be to start implementing the changes you wish to adopt in to your life. Start, and take notice of the way they are making you FEEL. Perhaps journal about it to ensure you can reflect and digest appropriately. If these new actions are having a positive and large enough impact or influence over your over-all wellbeing, happiness and health, you will be drawn back to repeating those same behaviours.
Q6: From your perspective, what does a healthy and balanced lifestyle look like to you?
Someone who understands, respects and HONOURS every part of themselves. As humans we are not straightforward beings. Nor are we two dimensional. We are very intricate, unique, multi-faceted and intrinsic beings.
There are SO many things we can do to help us achieve a more balanced lifestyle, but I think when it comes down to it, it isn’t about trying to “achieve” anything. It’s about the things that make you feel good, because you can. Because you are a being of liberation, freedom, abundance and choice. Because they are good for you, good for others, good for the environment and help you to have a more fulfilled, happy and wholesome life.
Q7: What steps did you take to create a business from your passion of yoga?
To be honest, I’m still in the process! I will have to let you know. Stay tuned… SO many good things coming!
Q8: You're very open with your audience about mental health. Do you find it important to share these experiences?
Yes! Not only for reducing the negative stigma around mental health, and for neutralising it within society so we can talk about it openly, and remove the shame and guilt around mental health, but also for healing on a personal level. I used social media as an outlet to share, vent, express vulnerably and connect; to show the human in the human. I truly believe this approach to life, with the intention of good, and action birthed from consciousness, we can begin to make small, but immense change when shared in the masses.
Q9: What does a typical day look like for you when you’re working (and when you’re not!). Do you have a routine that you stick to?
It changes EVERY day! It depends where I am in the world, who I’m with and what I need to do. I will say that I am a big advocate for a good morning routine, and that this helps set me up and prime me for a good day. And also, that although variety is the spice of life, I am also the list QUEEN haha! And I love structure and organisation just as much as spontaneity and variability!
Q10: What are you passionate about?
Yoga, happiness, connection, kindness and coming back to the self and Source.
Q11: What are your top 3 superpowers?
Making people smile (three times over haha!) Or at least, I like to think so! Or I’d like to believe so haha!
Q12: What advice would you impart on the next generation of women, and women in business?
SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER.
That as humans, and particularly as females is a superpower we all share!
Q13: One last thing... share with us a quirky fact about yourself! Something that people might not know about you?
I Love eating HOT coconut ice cream. I will buy vegan plant based ice cream, and more often than not, I will either eat it in the shower, or I will melt it before I eat it haha!