Sjana Elise Earp is most well known for her large Instagram following and gravity defying yoga poses. But what most people don’t realize is that she is also recovering from depression. We had the opportunity to speak with Sjana to learn about how yoga has impacted her life and what motivates her to keep moving forward.
Conscious Connection: When did you first get into yoga and how has your life changed because of it?
Sjana Earp: I’d tried yoga a few times before, but it has only been a huge part of my life for a few years now. It is now such an integral and important part of me that I can’t actually remember what life was like without it! I found yoga (or rather, yoga found me) at the perfect time in my life. In retrospect it was definitely an inevitable stroke of fate rather than a coincidence. I had been struggling for a few years with severe depression and anxiety, and I believe Yoga came into my life as a “gift from the Universe” and a second chance that was just meant to be.
Through Yoga I have been able to completely transform my life; everything from my daily routine to my mentality, perspective and spirituality. It has taught me patience, balance, determination, persistence, kindness, compassion, self-love and even shown me some incredible coping strategies for dealing with anxiety, fear and stress to help me combat my depression. It has re-sparked my intense love for life, allowed me to see the world in vibrant colours, and now it has even begun to open doors for me to share the benefits of yoga with others – and I hope it could have the same kind of positive influence in other people’s lives as it has had on mine.
Conscious Connection: Tell us about how your struggles growing up helped you to be a more positive person now.
Sjana Earp: I think having gone through such dark and heavy lows, has allowed me to truly appreciate the highs, and even the average, with all new eyes… I used to go to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake. I now wake up thankful for my breath and existence. I wake up full of hope, enthusiasm and excitement! That never ever would have happened a few years ago.
It put a lot of things in to perspective too. It made me question myself and evaluate my choices to a point where I was actually able to recognize the parts of myself that I didn’t like, and it was here that I found the motivation to change in to a better version of myself. And someone I was proud to be.
I’m not saying that to be able to find true happiness or self-love and acceptance that you have to go through something like depression, because I don’t think there is any specific formula and no “right” or “wrong” way to go about finding yourself. I honestly believe that self-growth and development is a constant and infinite challenge and as humans, we are actually MEANT to be continuously changing and growing (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, socially etc). But for me, I did find my light in the darkness. And I KNOW that anyone suffering and doesn’t think there is any other way out, and feels trapped and isolated, feels alone and heavy or feels like they will never remember what happiness feels like and spends every moment thinking about non-existence, CAN AND WILL be able to free themselves from that consuming feeling, and feel the sunshine once again. I hope this is even just a little comforting for those who need to hear it. Because if that is you, I pinky promise you it is not the end of the world and that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. And I know this, not just because I have been through it myself, but because the thoughts, feelings and emotions you are currently experiencing, are the worst things a human could ever feel. You wake up every day wishing you hadn’t, and hating your own breath. Yet you somehow get through each day regardless of all the ruminating and harmful thoughts and feelings… and intrinsically that makes you so much stronger and more courageous than you could ever comprehend.
Conscious Connection: Talk about your social media following — how did you create such a large and passionate audience?
Sjana Earp: I am always a little stumped by this question to be honest! I never set out with a goal of achieving a certain number of followers. For me it kind of all happened organically. I found the kind of content that people seemed to like and relate or react best to, (thankfully it was also something I was loving doing) and then continued creating that. This is how I found yoga too. I started taking images of my yoga postures and practice as I developed and it grew into what it is today. I think it’s also very important to listen to your audience. To interact, and read their thoughts and comments and take into consideration what they want to see more of etc.
Of course, creating beautiful imagery/content is more likely to provide positive engagement and feedback. However I think it is more than that. I think passion is what truly matters. And if you are truly passionate about something, then that translates through your content and your audience can feel that too. Similarly with being REAL and transparent; showing life as it is – for all it’s amazing moments, and the not-so amazing times too. That’s why I love having so many different media platforms. Instagram is more image based, and the content created is usually a little more mediated and choreographed, whereas snapchat shows the raw beauty and mess, and YouTube gives me the platform to talk through my own experiences.
Conscious Connection: How have you taken your social media fame and used it for the greater good?
Sjana Earp: I think, or at least hope, that being transparent and opening up about serious issues like depression and mental health I will be able to help remove the negative stigma attached to those issues. They’re real issues, that have real effects, on real people. And not just some people, but lots! And I think it’s about time we began discussing these issues and making it more socially acceptable to either have them, learn about them or to seek help for them. I know that so many people with mental health disorders feel alone and feel as if no one else will be able to understand. But mental health disorders are actually incredibly prevalent. So being a source of information and support is exactly what is needed I believe. I’m not the only one either. There are many people out there doing similar things and breaking down the barriers society has created. Which I think is fantastic!
Some may say that sharing my own personal battle in such a public forum is attention seeking, and they’re completely entitled to that opinion. However my only reason for sharing such personal information is in the hopes of helping others. I think it is completely worth it if I am able to help even just ONE other person.
I want to be a “big sister” figure for people, young girls especially, to go to when in need. I want to be able to inspire others to change around their own lives, and to be the best version of themselves they can possibly be.
I am also involved in a few charity organizations, and I hope to continue doing this as well as increasing the amount of charities I can support! There are so many great charities and causes out there needing support and love, and I know it is impossible to become a part of all of them, but I will endeavor to do what I can as an individual to make our world a better place for everyone.
Conscious Connection: Any particular causes or brands you’re passionate about? How can our readers get involved?
Sjana Earp: I’m a huge supporter of The Black Dog Institute – diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health and mood disorders. I love everything this organization stands for and supports – their byline is “because everyone deserves peace of mind”, which I think is incredibly true and important! For information to help yourself or others, go to http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/ and http://www.biteback.org.au/mental-fitness/ to find out more.
I am a regular blood donor with the Red Cross Blood Service and I urge everyone who can to do the same! One blood donation can save 3 lives! You can read more at www.donateblood.com.au
I volunteered with an organization called Thrive Africa in Ghana last year. For a month I went over and travelled throughout Ghana with the organization, for two weeks we were building libraries for school children and providing them with resources and books to fill it with. And the other two weeks we were building farms and planting crops for the carers of orphaned children. A lot of the children in Ghana are orphans due to the high rates of HIV and Aids, and often carers will have around fifteen children in their sole care. So it was so helpful for them, to have us do that work for them. This provided them not only with their own crops, but also food in which they could harvest and sell for income. It was definitely a life changing experience and I definitely recommend it to anyone who has ever wanted to do something like that.
When it comes to the science of conservation and sustainability of our beautiful Earth, I admit, I am relatively clueless, but immensely curious. My own personal commitment is to explore this area more, asking questions as I go, finding out as much as I can, so that I may inspire and influence others to become more aware and engaged in protecting our world for generations to come. I already support The Ocean Elders, an organization dedicated to the conversation and care of our marine life and oceans across the globe. I grew up by the ocean and spent a lot of time in, on and under the salty water, so the care of the ocean and all of its beautiful creatures is of extreme importance to me. This involves everything from ensuring you leave the beach and ocean the same way or better than you found it (picking up any rubbish that could potentially pollute the waterways or hurt and animals), not using products that have microbeads (tiny plastic beads that claim to “exfoliate”, however these little beads do not actually biodegrade so become stranded in our oceans and waterways, polluting the water and some fish and marine life are actually consuming it thinking it is edible. This is also having a drastic impact on the marine life. Thankfully these microbeads have recently been banned in Australian products, but being aware of them is very important!). I attended their annual Charity Ball, “The Ocean Gala” in San Francisco last year where over $600K was raised in support of conservation and protection of the world’s oceans and wildlife.
Breast Cancer is something very close to my heart and has affected the lives of very close friends. Unfortunately breast cancer affects 1 in 4 women and this means that it could directly affect you or someone who you love throughout your life. I personally have seen the effects this cancer can have on both individuals and families, and want there to be a cure to stop it hurting any more people. Head to http://www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au/ and you can either donate, volunteer, fundraise or even just learn more and help spread awareness of the terrible disease. It’s time to beat boob cancer! I am also a proud ambassador for Pink Hope.
Pink hope is a preventative health organization working with women of all ages, to help every individual reduce their risk, assess their situation, seek support and medical assistance and support women (and men) who have breast or ovarian cancer. To be involved you can donate, volunteer, help fundraise, attend the events, raise awareness on social media or even just simply support other women by making a pinky promise to ensure that your friends are okay, keeping on top of their health and having regular check ups etc. Pink Hope is an organization designed to be kind of like a Big Sister. Women looking out for each other – spreading Pink Hope! Most importantly, you can go to the site http://pinkhope.org.au/ to do the online screen to assess your own risks and start looking after your own health right now.
Conscious Connection: The tagline on your website is SMYLE – secrets to make your life exceptional. What are your best pieces of advice to make life exceptional?
Kindness. The least anyone ever deserves (ever! yes, even your worst enemies!) is common courtesy, respect and a friendly smile.
Smile. Simple as that…
Wake up and see a sunrise.
Exercise – I know you hear it all the time but exercise honestly is such a great way to give yourself that “natural high”.
Drink plenty of water. Hydration is key to maintaining good health, hydration and giving your body what is deserves.
Eat the rainbow! Seriously, stock the fridge with as many fresh fruits and veggies of a variety of brilliant colors and then nourish your body with all of the goodness. Not only will you feel more energized, but your mind will thank you too.
Stay passionate. Ask yourself, “What is it that I am most passionate about?” “What brings me joy?”. Then do these things! Allow yourself the pleasure of doing what you love, as this is where you will find a lot of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Allow yourself to indulge occasionally. I don’t mean to say that you should go and eat six large muffins, 9 wraps, a packet of Oreos and an entire carton of sorbet. But it is definitely okay to give yourself a little treat here and there. You deserve it after all!
Help someone else. Giving your own time and energy to support or help someone/something else can be surprisingly beneficial to your own happiness. Give it a go. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture by any means. Even just something simple and as small as a “how have you been?” or a “Can I help you with that?” can really make someone’s day!
Prioritize. Know what you have to get done. And do it! You’ll find an odd sense of reward and achievement in ticking things off your list and finally doing those jobs you’ve been meaning to do for a while.
Call an old friend or someone you haven’t seen in a while. Have a conversation about them and see if there is anything you can help them with. If nothing else, they will appreciate the thoughtful gesture and your friendly voice.
Find the small things in life to be thankful for… a sunset, a baby’s smile, fresh sheets, a home-cooked meal, a familiar smell, sand in your toes or the sun on your skin. Soon you’ll realize that these little things are actually the biggest.
Live mindfully. Too often we are regretful about the past, or fearful of the future. But it is rare that we are able to stop and be fully present in the current moment. Whether this means closing your eyes and taking a few breaths, lighting a candle and admiring the flicker or scent, practicing five minutes of meditation, eating slowly and truly enjoying the foods texture/taste or even doing a little coloring in or writing. There are many many ways to be mindful, try a few and see what works best for you.
Be grateful for what you are given. And especially that which you are not… for it is here where true happiness can be found.