New State of Consciousness

Ellen Baggs: Facebook age 29. Real age 12…

(Please read the following bearing in mind I am not an emotional person.)

Recently I embarked on ‘a travel journey’ as a 45 year old backpacker! Did you know insurance companies only do backpacker insurance up to 35 years? (And yes there is my first mental stumbling block!)

A younger friend suggested backpacking. Okay; I thought about it for a whole minute.

‘I’ll go with you….’

So of we went to Brazil, via New York and Atlanta. #cheapflight


Rio is a massive city of 9 million people of which 1.9 million live in favelas (slums).  Huge expensive apartment blocks and hotels back on the favelas that cover most of Rio and other cities of Brazil.  The opposites of this place are extreme.  Did I really need to expose myself to all this?  I had forgotten how scared, how intimidated and overwhelmed I could be.


I just wasn’t prepared mentally for the culture shock!  We hit Copacabana beach, (cried) jewellery off, carrying hardly any monies (whatever happened to travellers cheques?) and old clothes on.

This put my ‘I only have one bar and 0.5 of a meg on my internet’ life into perspective. (By the way the internet connection was soooo much better all over Brazil, even in the remote areas, than where I live in Ireland.) #justsayin.

First two days in Brazil: non stop rain and fifteen degrees, just like the West coast of Ireland.  Boom!

img_0769I didn’t realise how big Brazil actually was. What looks like a thumb and a finger distance away on the map is actually a 24 hour bus journey in real hours.  Internal flights became a must-have luxury, to spontaneously see what we wanted.  Salvador, the slaves, (cried) the multi-culture society, again the vast favelas that stretch from the airport to where we were staying… four days in and still in shock.  We stayed in very cheap Airbnbs which was great, but because of the language barrier (we didn’t know Portuguese) we decided to stay in guest houses/hostels for the latter part of the trip, which proved to be much more sociable.


img_0252he rain started to follow us again so instead of going further north we went back to Rio and to the stunningly beautiful island of Ilha Grande. No transport, no bank machines and about four street lights.  It was perfect and amazingly super fast broadband.  The days that followed were made up of speed boat tours, snorkelling, trekking through jungle (with real life monkeys screeching from the tree tops, half wild dogs, and melodic crickets), and of course, idealistic beaches.  Lopes Mendes beach (cried), my died-and-gone-to-beach-heaven beach where the sand was as fine as dust and actually crunched like virgin snow when you walked on it.






Then on to Paraty; this national historic site has amazing colonial buildings, rich on history, the Slave trade (cried), with gigantic cobblestone streets set on the waters edge.  No vehicles were allowed into the town.  Met a couple of very nice French guys reassuring me that my social skills (even in French) were not completely dead.  Social skill point to myself!  Who as it happens were going to the same destination as ourselves, Iguacu Falls.  We also became locals in the local Samba Forro (type of dance) bar.  Boom number 2 social skill!


Drove back to Rio via Angra dos Reis, where an English tourist was shot the day before, the family had taken a wrong turn into the favelas whilst trying to look for a place to buy water.

img_0634Took a two hour plane journey to Iguacu Falls; one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  An expansive (to say the least) waterfall stretching across two countries. We went to the dramatic Argentina side the first day and then what felt like the more subdued Brazilian side the following day, getting right up close and nearly into the Falls themselves. Then, flew back to Rio and spent the last part of the holiday in Ipanema which was totally different and more upmarket that Copacabana.




img_0818Rio: Went up in two James Bond cable cars (Dr No.) to Sugar Loaf mountain where we saw Christ the Redeemer (cried), Rio, the mountains, the bays and the favelas start to light up as we watched the sun set.

  • Saw amazing 4 meter surf on Ipanema beach.
  • Went to a Samba Forro class and then on to a club till 3am (5 hours past my bed time).
  • Went up Christ the Redeemer (cried) and saw him in all his majesty (with free wifi at the top)…
  • Went on a favela tour (cried), where the monies from the tour go to the peeps of the favelas. Words cannot describe how they live and we went to the middle part of the favelas where they live in open sewers..(I cried a bit more).
  • One of the absolute highlights for me being a 2 Fast 2 Furious fan (don’t dis the franchise) was seeing the actual favela where they filmed 2 Fast 2 Furious 5!!

The people of Brazil are so friendly, smiley, warm people it is hard not to fall in love with the place. I felt like they really opened me up and let me in.

Then, a two day journey back from Copacabana beach to Rio GIG airport, to Atlanta, to JFK to Shannon.






In summary; I don’t know quite where I am at. My brain and eyes are in Brazil/Atlanta/New York and my body is in Mountshannon.  I feel a sense of personal growth  – the realisation that I am not a complete fuck-up and I am able to actually get from A to B. I do have actual social skills despite living in a rural place and ‘staying in’.

I am able to emotional connect with my body and feelings #cry.

My brain is still not with my body,  but I think I am liking my new state ofconsciousness/unconsciousness.

P.S yoga classes start next week, let’s see where we all end up…




Bitchmittens Ellen



Notes from the Ed. 

Ellen’s Yoga classes recommence this week. If you’d like to check out her classes you can find her on




Yoga HeadstandYoga may be an ancient practice, but it’s never been so popular. As an industry, it was valued at $27 billion back in 2013, a figure that has skyrocketed in the intervening years. Sting digs it. Gwyneth Paltrow blogs about it, Lady Gaga tweets about it and Russell Brand says it helped him cope with addiction. I’ve dabbled in Ashtanga, dipped into Hatha, done a week or two of Vinyasa in India, and endured a few Bikram sessions. And for the past five years, I’ve been hooked on Iyengar. And I’m STILL a beginner. Here’s my personal take on the top five.



Today’s yoga is slightly contradictory. A four-thousand-year-old philosophy has been high-jacked by the ‘bums and tums’ brigade.  In its raw form, it connects the mind, the spirit and the body. It aids sleep, balance, core strength and stress.  But with popularity comes consumerism, profit and of course, confusion. What’s the ‘best’ yoga? And can I be a real Yogi if I’m also looking to get rid of bingo wings while toting the latest organic mat made of tree sap? I love this clip – called ‘If Ghandi took a Yoga Class’. It kind of summarises how far commerical yoga has gone from its philosophical roots.


Isn’t it the same as pilates?

That’s a great question to bug the crap out of both Pilates and Yoga teachers alike!

Yoga gets lumped in with Pilates, which couldn’t be more different. The latter was developed by an asthmatic German named Joseph, the son of gymnast and a naturopath, who died in 1967. Pilates focuses on conditioning the body – and is highly effective at doing just that.  However, the physical ‘body’ bit of yoga is just one of eight steps or ‘limbs’ that goes to make up the entire yoga ‘tree’.  The other steps are more esoteric, but really it’s their hidden benefits that most of us crazy bitches really benefit from.

I’ve boiled them down for you, (slightly paraphrasing from the original Sanskrit obvs);

  1. practice asanas
  2. do good
  3. be good
  4. just breathe
  5. calm the hell down
  6. be aware
  7. meditate
  8. totes enlightenment


Apparently all seven steps combine to the final eighth step, ‘Samhadi’ which sounds like a fusion restaurant, but actually means something like peace, enlightenment or a state of ecstasy.  When Elizabeth Gilbert took a year to find herself in the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ the pray part was in India, through yoga. Luckily for the plot, she had one final transcendental moment before she pushed off to Bali for a bit of romantic back-bending.  Some have said she was high on Italian carbs, so it doesn’t count.


There are lots of reasons to love yoga.

  • It’s more dignified than sweating it out in a spin class.
  • A good class is like a double hit of valium.
  • The clothes are comfy.
  • You don’t need a lot of equipment or space.
  • It’s great for your sex life, blood pressure, abdominals and stress.
  • If you’re rubbish at home practice you can pick up video tutorials for free online.


After a decade on the mat (and off the mat in physio) I have learned one important truth.

Beware the bad teacher.

A bad teacher, or even an inexperienced good teacher can turn even a simple pose into a serious injury.  A good teacher is very safety conscious and can spot your old injuries just from how you hold yourself. A good teacher can and will adapt a pose to all levels of ability in the room. And a really good teacher won’t bat an eyelid when you fart, fall over or cry for no reason.




Yoga is a bit like wine. Once you get a taste, you learn relatively quickly what kinds you like, and what you don’t. There are a number of different types of practice, and it’s useful to know what they lean towards before you sign up.  Some of the most popular types of yoga on offer are;  Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram and Iyengar.  Each type has their devotees and most are based on the same series of traditional poses, or asanas.  There are dozens of other kinds of yoga, ranging from the playful, dance-like, meditative, sexual, restorative or even the American style ‘Power’ yoga, which is yoga without any of that hippie rubbish, and lots more brawn. Oh – and hammock yoga, which is really fun and deserves a whole other article (No pressure Suzie!)


Each type has its own feel. The earliest (according to Google) is Ashtanga. In a typical class, expect active poses, lunges, sun salutations and frequent downward facing dog. It’s a good, solid all-rounder class that also covers breath-work, meditation and more.

Good for: types who want both the physical and emotional benefits of yoga.



I found Hatha to be more meditative, with a lot of time spent on special breathing during the work. This includes humming like a bee, holding your nose, chanting, lying on the floor while being ‘kind’ to your body, as well as the usual standing, seated and back bending poses.

Good for: stressed heads, demented career types and homicidal stay-at-home mums.



Vinyasa uses synchronised breathing with sun salutations, done in cycles. You’ll sweat if you’re doing it right. Classes seem to be filled with sexy au pairs, forty-something triathlon dads and panicked looking normal folk wondering why the hell they’re doing plank pose instead of lying flat and listening to the sound of their own breathing.

Good for: stamina and tone.


Bikram has had a lot of press lately for various reasons. Top-line, think yoga in a sauna. Many love the slightly trippy feeling of working out at high temperatures. Fans are fanatical, devotees evangelical and doctors very sceptical.  In heat the body does go that bit further –giving a deeper stretch. With the unavoidable sweating, fans say they can feel toxins leaving their body. Though it’s not toxins, technically – it’s just urine pooling on the shared mats. The Bikram I tried had only standing poses, and no inversions, which I love because they make great party tricks at the office Christmas party.

Good for: extreme detoxers. Don’t be surprised if you faint or puke.



Rope YogaIyengar feels to me like the most instructional yoga, where the teacher literally coaxes you into the correct alignment. Cheat your way to the perfect pose with helpful props like belts, blocks, ropes, bricks and chairs.  You could find yourself wrapped backwards around a chair, or hanging upsidedown like Batman. The props make it especially good for beginners, as a safe and simple way to learn the ‘shape’ of the correct poses without risk of injury. Be prepared for occasional chanting and breathwork. Don’t be surprised when you find out your teacher is at least two decades older than she looks. Do be prepared for the granny beside you to kick your ass.

Good for: Flexibility, balance, core strength, injuries, restorative.


So which one is the right one for you?


If there is one simple truth I can find – it’s that everyone is different, and each to their own. Really the best class happens when you have the right teacher.  If you find a teacher you like, it doesn’t matter if they teach it naked, farting the alphabet in Sanskrit or if they do it in Lululemon pants sucking down a kelp smoothie.  If they get you, and you get them, that’s all it takes. Then yoga goes from being a ‘crap it’s Tuesday, I’d rather drink wine’ to ‘hurrah! It’s Tuesday – I’ll drive through riots and floods to get there’.  And suddenly, you’re finding balance and – somehow, joy, while smugly enjoying how toned your upper arms are.

Yoga Teacher Lisa

All the best.


#Bitchmittens Emily


PS The teacher who finally got me to connect with my practice (including the farting/crying/groaning/laughing) was an amazing teacher called Lisa Bedford, a qualified neuromuscular physical therapist and Iyengar Yoga teacher. Her classes are run in various yoga centres around Ireland and you can find her on Facebook HERE. 


PPS Still reading? Sheesh. OK – so if you’re still not sure what Yoga is Right for you…

Life: Can You Hear Me Now?

Ellen gets some life instuction – and passes it on 🙂

I went for an narly dude surf a few weeks ago in Lahinch. The skies were clear blue, the sun was out, the water was 14 degrees. It was like a beautiful Irish summers day in October! The waves were huge and “fluffy” (man term = “foamy”). So I ended up as always do in the “junior surf” rather than on the reef/inner Cornish/ outer Cornish/inner/outer beach. The aforementioned are all places I should probably be, after surfing for a few years now. Apparently – “You really need to be pushing youerself”. Anyways I love “fluffy surf” and you don’t get lovely foam or bubbles at “pushing yourself reef”.

I also tend to surf near one of the local surf schools (through no fault of my own; I like to go left). Ben Surf Clinic has great instructors.  They’ll give out tips when one is in the water and believe you me I need as many tips/instructions as I can get #greedyinstructions. I love a good instruction! One of Ben’s lovely instructors was watching me and gave me some advice. He told me how to control my weight distribution on the board and how to pick up speed after one has made the turn (to the left of course)!

I tried it out next wave. I moved my weight to the back of the board to turn, then moved my front foot 45 degrees, bent my knees more, opened up my front hip and put my weight back on my front foot (where my body would have been when paddling), which made the board pick up speed due to weight distribution and wave momentum! How amazing is that!

I couldn’t believe it was so simple.

How could I not have “heard” that instruction before in all my years surfing?

It’s the same with yoga, and yoga teaching. I went to an amazing workshop recently at the East Clare Yoga Centre. Where I “heard” two separate instructions that made so much sense re: bones and pubis (love a good pubis instruction). Why had I not “heard” these instructions before either? It got me thinking (I know, steady on!). As in life sometimes one is not able/ready to hear something. Wether there is too much other stuff going on inside ones head or whether you just don’t make the connection or”get it”.

Similar personal examples apply too, you know that someone has been given a “life” instruction. And you know that they are not able to follow it yet. You have to allow them to follow/hear the instruction in their own time. After all it only took me four years for the surf instruction, six years for the yoga instruction and when I die probs for the “life instruction” to sink in.


My best,


#Bitchmittens Ellen

Yoga made me

A Class Act

Going to class is about more than learning. It’s about connecting with people, something that an online classes just can’t give you.

Yoga MicraI was driven to write this article after I read an online article about yoga teaching and how hard it is. It went into the horrible scenario of injured yoga teachers who had to carry on teaching. It talked about the lack of qualifications  among many yoga teachers, and it also talked about the competitiveness of studios verses dedicated yoga schools. The article also implied that a lot of persons have switched to on-line yoga.

I firmly believe people should attend a class with a qualified instructor. In fact, this is applicable for almost all sports, for example with my other love – surfing. The real reason I attended my first ever surf lesson was to meet other people. AKA hot men. Well I didn’t meet any! But… I made some great friends, and I still have them four years later.  

The same goes for yoga classes.

Mental health issues are at the forefront of today’s society. However, studies have shown that mixing with other people can really impact the effects of depression. Exercise is also great for over all wellness, and the feel good hormones that get released after exercise can make a big difference to those coping with depression.

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine!  (Source: WebMD) 

I walked into my regular weekly yoga class recently, and thought to myself “how many years have I been coming here?”

I asked a good friend of mine when I got onto my mat. She said  – it had been from so before she had her first born child; probably six years!

She also said “and now look at you; you are a yoga teacher!”

Then we spoke about all the things we were able to do now that we couldn’t do when we first started yoga; reverse park etc lolz. I was thinking to myself that it’s crazy to do the same thing for six years!!!

I then rationalise the process as a whole. I love Iyengar yoga, I learn something new, mostly every class that I wasn’t able to “hear” in previous classes (instructions take along time to reach some muscles). I love my teacher in a gushy not normal way, she (and other Iyengar teachers and willing helpful volunteers from my yoga class and circle of friends and family) helped me through my teacher training. I like the other people in the class, many who have been doing the class for the same amount of years as myself. We are like a ” yoga family”. We have a shared experience/passion. We are connected to each other (whether we like it or not!). We go on yoga holidays together! We are – as a group of individuals  – a little bit crazy, bonkers, quiet, reflective, flexible, questioning, non-questioning. individuals.

The things I like most are that it makes me feel better and we laugh! I reach a quite place in my yoga practice in my mind through the “asanas”. I am at one with my body, mind and I am in the present.

We are all human beings, and interactions with others is what life is all about. (As well as being kind, friendly, caring and getting your “Ching Chong on”) What I am trying to say is anyone can do online yoga, and go through the motions in front of a screen.  But you will probably feel more rewarded by being brave and going to a real class, either by yourself or with friends.

“Just Do it” as the people at Nike say. 

My advice? Look for a qualified instructor, enjoy yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously! Always approach a lesson as a beginner, try not to work from the ego. Listen to your body. And remember falling off your mat (or your surf board) is just as fun as doing “it” properly.


BitchMittens Ellen


Postcards from the Ed:

Ellen Baggs is a qualified Iyengar Yoga teacher. She teaches class in the Engine Room, Portumna, and in the Culture Centre Tulla. She also runs dedicated Yoga classes for GAA players. (Yo-GAA!)

Like her Facebook page for motivation, advice and general bonkers Ellen-ness over at

Take the Yoga Quiz!

What’s Your Yoga?

Question 1: You’re mostly looking to:

A:   Lose weight
B:   De-stress
C:   Exercise without injury


Question 2: You like spending time in:
A:   A hot room with no windows
B:  The gym
C:  Rustic retreats
Question 3: You like to exercise while wearing:
A:  Very little
B:  Stella McCartney Sportswear
C:  Pyjamas

Question 4: If someone breaks wind in class you:

A:  Were too busy sweating to hear
B:  Pull a face muscle trying not to laugh
C:  OMG it was you
Question 5: After class you:
A:   Go for wheatgrass shots
B:   Go home, and say no to wine
C:   Help the teacher put the mats away, and talk about amazing the Shavasana was

Mostly As:

Try Bikram or Vinyasa Flow

You like action, energy and the physicality of a good practice. You also want to look awesome and feel great.

Mostly Bs:

Try Ashtanga or Hatha

You like the idea of yoga, but you could take or leave the lentils and the sanskrit. But actually, you might find it grows on you 🙂

Mostly Cs:

Hatha or Iyengar

I don’t even know why you are taking this quiz, as you clearly already know more about yoga than the person writing it.


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