Ellie Gompert Burke is the co-founder of YoKid.org…Stretch Your Limits, a nonprofit that helps children from all socioeconomic backgrounds foster self-awareness through low- and no-cost instruction in yoga and meditation. Ellie is also a yoga instructor at Ellie Burke Yoga. I loved working with Ellie because of her down-to-earth approach and her way with words. Besides teaching yoga and running a nonprofit, Ellie has toddler twins. She embodies these words from Maya Angelou, “let nothing dim what shines from within.”
Q: As the co-founder of YoKid.org, what have you learned from running a non-profit? What keeps you going? What impact do you see from the incredible work that you tirelessly do?
EB: In order to run a nonprofit, you really have to believe in the mission and love the work. Although YoKid has been around for 8+ years, we are still very much in the start-up/growing phase with one full-time and one part-time staff doing everything that it takes to keep an organization up and running. As the Director of Teacher Training, I am somewhat removed from the day-to-day programs that we run. But I am fortunate to know, firsthand, about the impact of yoga and the benefits that it offers practitioners, so I never question the value of the work. We also get feedback regularly from students, parents, and teachers praising the work, which is helpful! We hear about kids connecting with themselves and with an inner stability and strength for the first time in their lives. We hear about kids developing tools to reduce stress and increase peace in their lives. We hear about kids feeling whole and complete and connected. All of that fuels our work.
Q: You’ve taught yoga for 11 years. What is it about yoga that keeps you so engaged? What do people need to know about this practice? What does yoga mean to you?
EB: You know, it’s interesting. Teaching has its ups and downs, its moments of deep engagement and passion and moments of ‘just-getting-by.’ I’ve recently sort of come out of a less-inspired period that was really influenced by my own questioning of the practice of yoga. I have been questioning why we do this practice, what it’s really about. Are teachers even teaching yoga any more? Are students practicing yoga or are we just making shapes with our bodies?
But, teaching, just like the practice itself (and just like life itself), requires that you keep showing up. Arrive right where you are and stay in the experience. So, even when I was feeling more skeptical and less convinced about yoga, I’d show up and see the powerful impact that the practice was having in the lives of my students. And I’d think to myself, there has to be something there. And now, of course and because it always does, yoga is impacting my life in new and profound ways. Yoga is experiencing your innate connection to life so, in essence, it never comes and goes or has ups and downs – only our minds do that. When I remember and experience this that I am re-inspired.
Q: Where do you find bliss?
EB: In the moments. If I really pause and just hover in the moment, I find that the bliss is right there. I know that sounds really simple and, perhaps a little cliché, but I really, really have found it to be true. Trying to get into the moment can be full of effort but when you arrive in the movement it is effortless, struggle-less, bliss.
Q: What is your message for the world? What do you wish you knew when you were younger?
EB: I would have loved to know that everything works out okay…even better than okay. That I would connect with amazing people, that I would be loved and accepted for who I am, that I would grow and learn more about myself than I ever thought possible and that I would be capable of doing anything I chose to do. All of that would have been really helpful to know and understand when was younger.
My message for the world is, be curious, allow life to move through you and around you, and when in doubt, connect more.