Eleonora Zampatti found yoga by accident and was hooked from the first class—little did she know the practice would change her life completely. As a survivor of domestic violence, she attributes yoga to giving her the courage to not only be herself, but love herself too. Now, as a yoga teacher at our Soho studio and the founder of Ode to the Moon, a nonprofit that brings healing through yoga and music to women who have experienced domestic abuse, Eleonora helps her students find similar peace and acceptance on the mat with inspiring flows that encourage self-love. Find out how yoga's helped her find beauty in imperfection, why flexibility in body and mind is so important and what songs she's flowing to, below!
How did you first get into yoga?
One day in NYC, after a fight with an ex-boyfriend, I walked past a yoga studio and wandered in to take a hot yoga class. I had never even heard of hot yoga, but what it did to me that day was incredible. I couldn’t touch my toes, but I still felt amazing. When I came out, my mind and body were totally drained, but I felt like I had created a space inside myself that I didn't even know existed. I started practicing like crazy, and just two months later I did my teacher training!
After years of doing everything I could to get in shape, I suddenly let go of that effort. Yoga transformed my body in a way that extremes like running never had. I used to be obsessed with my body and was doing everything I could to lose weight, which was a very aggressive way to approach fitness. Everything changed with yoga. I learned how beautiful and strong I am, and more then everything I learned to honor and respect myself for everything I am, imperfections included.
You’re well-versed in so many different types of movement—synchronized swimming, ballet, modern dance and, of course, yoga. How is yoga unique?
Yoga helped me discover that I am enough. Actually, I am more then enough. I always have been, but I never found the courage to admit it. Yoga taught me that vulnerability is allowed. That being broken is a gift. That being lost is just another way to find yourself.
What can students expect when they take a class with you at the new Alo studio in Soho??
A pretty thick Italian accent! Sorry, I had to say that. :) My classes are based on the idea that yoga is much more than just asanas. I try to encourage my students to accept their vulnerabilities because I feel that without weakness there can be no strength, and without acceptance there can be no healing. My vinyasa flows are challenging yet accessible and provide my students with the knowledge and courage necessary to carry their practice out of the yoga studio and into their daily lives.
What do you hope students take away from one of your classes?
I hope that through my suggestions and guidance, they can find a way to be inspired by who they are.
Tell us about your amazing nonprofit, Ode to the Moon!
Ode to the Moon uses yoga, art and music to bring awareness to domestic violence. We practice according to the moon cycles, which connects us to the cycle of darkness and light, life and death, strength and surrender. When you walk away from the nightmare that is domestic violence, most of the time you blame yourself for everything that happened to you and you are ashamed of who you are. Yoga taught me that you can change all this. You have to learn to accept the past, so you can embrace everything you are.
"I wanted to create an environment where we can raise our voices against violence, sing our song and say no to it and use our body to dance the symphony of life."
When I started letting go of the past, I decided to dedicate myself to helping those still living under the shadow of violence. I wanted to create a place where they can understand what it means to be vulnerable and where we can all practice together, free of judgment. I started adding acoustic live music to classes because music inspires connection, and when properly combined with movement and the breath, it allows us to get in touch with our emotions. I wanted to create an environment where we can raise our voices against violence, sing our song and say no to it and use our body to dance the symphony of life.
What are you working on in your practice right now?
In terms of asanas, my practice is actually getting lighter, but at the same time I seem to be getting stronger. This is something I’m learning from working with amazing teachers like Irene Pappas and Virgil Peyramaure. They taught me that you don’t need to work on having super-strength to get into something like a handstand. Instead, you need to be vulnerable, work on your flexibility and create space in your body. I’m learning that you need to be flexible in order to be strong.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out in their practice?
To be as intuitive as possible. Listen to what you really need while you are on your mat, and get inspired by yourself and those around you. Cherish each and every moment on the mat, especially the ones where everything seems to be going wrong. Those are the ones that will change you forever.
What was your last “yoga” moment outside of yoga?
This past weekend my boyfriend and I were driving to go get french fries, and a part of me was feeling so guilty about it, but then I looked at him smiling at me and I felt so safe. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be and could stop pretending to be somebody else. I felt like all the struggles I have been through were nothing more then opportunities to find the kind of love that will always bring me home to myself.