By Harriet Hubbard
At Blue Osa, we are really fortunate to welcome Yogis and retreat leaders from all over, and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing several by Skype before they arrive. Many interviews turn into conversations, and my talk with Elise Joan was no different. Elise’s passion for all-over wellness and fitness has fueled an impressive career: her influence is boundless and inspiring. From TV to Musical Theater, Dance, Fitness, Yoga – Elise has reached so many people in so many ways.
Getting personal with Elise Joan Bliss
Harriet: I saw in your bio that before your career in fitness and theater you danced ballet.
EJ: Yes. When I was little I used to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with my mom, and I’d be dancing around in the basement. My mom put me into ballet because I was always running into things, she said. I started at three and danced all the way through high school and then with the VA Ballet, outside Washington.
H: Do you think that ballet laid the foundation for the life path that you followed?
EJ: Absolutely. With ballet, I could always express myself physically, through dance. Especially as a teenager, it was so important to be able to go into the studio and move. The combination of music and movement fed into my yoga and musical theater. I’ve never really known life without it.
H: I saw a quote by Rumi that you use and wondered if you’d comment on it: “Only from the heart can we touch the sky”.
EJ: I like to use quotes in my classes, and this is one I’ve used since early on. It’s about acting from the heart instead of doing what society or our parents tell us to do. I was in pre-med when I started college and it was expected I’d get a PhD or a medical or law degree. I realized early on that wasn’t my calling, and that I didn’t want to live a life of practicality. When I announced to my parents I was going to move to NY and pursue musical theater they were like “Uh, that’s not a real job…” But I had the self-awareness to know that I wouldn’t be a starving actress forever.
We all have the capacity to touch the sky, to really fly – is how I interpret that. But only if your feet are firmly planted, then you fly with your heart. My teaching is about helping people find what’s inside of them, because no matter what, we all have that potential inside.
H: Different Yoga teachers have different plans for their retreats. I saw that beyond yoga twice a day, you want to encourage outdoor experiences here in Costa Rica, jungle treks for example. Can you discuss your intention for that week?
EJ: I’ve led retreats in the Galapagos, and Africa – and we always get people out doing stuff beyond yoga classes. Surfing, or zip lining, for example. You can stay by the pool and read a book or dive deeply into yourself, which is cool…but I want to get people the opportunity to learn about themselves and be open to new experiences….to get out of their comfort zones and explore the natural terrain – push their edges, eliminate the limitations. Yoga off the mat, yes.
H: You’ve accomplished so much in your life; I’m wondering what your vision is 5-10 years from now?
EJ: I try to keep it fluid because my experience in life is that it’s uncertain. Plans are made to be broken but goals are always awesome. I just launched my new website, elisejoanfitness.com. It’s a membership site – we created brand new, innovative software that we have the patent for. My parents were both scientists, and they saw a void where scientists needed a way to get patents for their innovative work in science. They both went to law school in their 40’s so they could facilitate this. They taught me that it’s never too late to manifest your vision. I’m filling a void in the fitness industry. I want to be innovative in a way that I feel people in the world can benefit.
H: I ask everyone this question: Do you have a favorite asana?
EJ: Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen it in my pictures – it’s rock star pose. I love it. It’s a heart opener; it’s a backbend; it’s an exalted position. But it also turns your world upside down, and you shine form your heart center; it’s a vulnerable position. It also feels great in the body. There are so many metaphors.
H: Elise, I really appreciate your taking the time to talk. It’s been a real pleasure hearing your thoughts – Your commitment to helping others achieve their potential is such a gift and an inspiration. Thank you – we’re looking forward to seeing you at Blue Osa!