Elle Fit #bendingtherules
Existing as an unwell, desolate law student was no way to live, but for ‘Elle Fit’ it was her normal, until she discovered the benefits of stretching. Now the social media queen of yoga is leading a wellness revolution, trading her books in for yoga mats and the power of Instagram.
Officially, she’s Eliza Landgren, but her 175,000 followers and devotees know her as Elle Fit; the lithe alter-ego that’s become her way of life and her livelihood.
The iconic photos for which she is ‘Insta-famous’ for capture Elle in seemingly impossible postures silhouetted upside down at Point Cartwright, anchored by a single foot on the sand at Noosa or stretching easily on a grassy knoll at Moffat Beach.
Although I’m very active and even take the occasional bikram yoga class, my flexibility and balance isn’t a strong point, so watching our photographer snap Elle as she contorts smoothly into an array of backbends, a scorpion pose and inversions leaves me slightly envious.
However, Elle, 24, is quick to assure that her yogi abilities follow two years of hard work, turning her life literally upside down in pursuit of wellbeing after a long battle with health issues.
Elle grew up in Cairns with her sister and parents, leading a very active, sporty childhood before moving to Brisbane for university in 2011.
I think I’ve created a very positive space, I’m happy to open up discussion but I’ve kept it happy and clean. It’s a nice online community.”
Choosing to study law and work as a secretary, “I don’t know what drew me to law but it was a nice challenge,” Elle grew disillusioned with the legal profession.
Sure, a 20-something-year-old rethinking their study choices is common. But Elle was suffering from much more than doubt.
It had started with anxiety as a child; then anxiety and auto-immune skin disorder psoriasis as a high school student; swine flu and a ravaged immune system during first-year university; a cervical cancer scare at age 20; a double dose of depression and anxiety; food intolerances; chronic fatigue; and back issues of sciatic pain and scoliosis.
By 2012 Elle was barely functioning and juggling a lifestyle of late night study sessions, junk food, nights out and academic commitments.
“Having chronic fatigue, anxiety and going through a bout of depression leads you to hit a point where you need to change things and that’s the point I reached,” Elle shares.
“The chronic fatigue was a slow and progressive thing that gets worse and worse. And the sciatic pain and scoliosis was crippling pain at 22 years old and I just couldn’t deal with it.”
In 2013, Elle started exploring alternative healing, stretching to help with her back pain and seeing a naturopath to help with her food intolerances (an eventual coeliac diagnosis).
“It’s not necessarily something you can fix with medicine, it has to be a lifestyle change,” she says.
“I started yoga but I didn’t have the money on a uni student budget to go to classes all the time so I started stretching at home,” says Elle.
Elle soon noticed the flow-on benefits and began to track her progress on Instagram by setting up @elle_fit in early 2013.
“At the start I was not very flexible, I was just trawling the internet and seeing yogis on Instagram and learning a little bit on my own,” she says.
“It was my online diary and just before I launched the brand I had 50,000 followers on Instagram so I already had a market and it just evolved naturally into a business.”
In April 2014, Elle Fit Active was launched, before Elle deferred her fourth-year law studies in late 2014 and moved to the Sunshine Coast to join her family.
She focused on her brand, launching posters and a trilogy of e-books; Get Bendy stretching guide, lower body guide Get Split, and the advanced Get Inverted, featuring herself photographed in the range of poses.
“It took lots of practice and falling,” she laughingly admits of the process. Elle’s passion for yoga deepened and she undertook yoga teaching studies.
“I’ve done the 200 hours of yoga teacher training, 90 hours of Acrovinyasa (an acrobatic style), a Chair Yoga course, an Assisting and Adjusting course and a Mindfulness course, so my year off from law has been busier than law,” she laughs.
With six subjects of her law degree to go, Elle says she will chip away at the subjects and finish her degree, but for now her focus is her business, and with the Sunshine Coast her virtual office, Elle’s soaking up the blissful lifestyle.
“I’m a lot happier here doing yoga, doing what I love and being able to help people,” she shares.
She’s a keen surfer, follows a gluten and dairy free diet, and practices yoga Asanas daily, while managing her back and fatigue issues.
“It’s something I always have to be conscious of. This year I’ve had low energy levels but I’ve been getting back on top of it. With the scoliosis and sciatic pain, I haven’t felt any spasms starting which has been a lifesaver,” she says.
Elle Fit Active now encompasses two Instagram accounts, a thriving website with more than 20,000 guides sold to date, including a pregnancy and postpartum stretching guide, inspiring blog posts, and an international following. Elle’s also collaborated with Running Bare, Billabong and Lorna Jane.
“I’ve created a very positive space, I’m happy to open up discussion but I’ve kept it happy and clean. It’s a nice online community … it’s a cool way for people to connect who have a common interest around the world regardless of what language you speak, what job you do,” Elle says.
What started as an online diary to track her health, has given Elle her vitality back and enabled her to change lives along the way, sharing the many benefits of yoga from mindfulness through the breathing and meditation, to the strength and recovery associated with stretching. Following our interview, I attempt some of Elle’s more basic poses at home and I’m pleasantly surprised at how relaxed I feel and how quickly I can master some of the stretches.
“I want everyone to know about stretching and how simple it can be, you don’t need to do fancy poses to get a benefit from it, even just super basic stretching gives you so much,” Elle says.
A yoga posture or pose.
A word used in yoga – ‘the light within me bows to the light within you’ or ‘I bow to you’.
A spiritual and physical discipline of breathing, meditation and bodily postures.