If you’ve ever stumbled across one of those awe-inspiring yoga poses on Instagram that you immediately screen shot and save as #fitspo, there’s a good chance it’s Eliza Landgren… aka Elle Fit. While her technique is flawless and her flexibility is seriously next level, most would assume she was born bendy, but this could not be further from the truth. After being diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 14, managing pain became part of her daily routine, but by the time she turned 22, the pain was so bad that some days her sciatic spasms would leave her completely bed ridden. With nothing to lose and a pain free and happy life to gain, she turned to stretching and yoga to combat her pain – and much to her surprise noticed a difference almost immediately… and she never looked back. Today, Elle is a proud yoga teacher with an Instagram following of over 175 thousand sporty sisters whom she inspires daily, and she’s even developed her very own e-Guide, Get Bendy to help her beautiful fans on their Active Living journey!
Have you always lived an active life?
Since I could crawl I’ve been climbing things and turning myself upside down so I’d say yes (lots of concussions along the way). When I was younger it was mainly swimming and running. At the moment it’s yoga, gym, surfing and walking our dog Klaus.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with scoliosis?
When I was 14 I had a huge growth spurt, about 11cm in one year. The first indication something was out was when my swimming coach noticed how uneven the muscles on my back were whilst training.
Did you know anything about scoliosis?
I had no idea what scoliosis was before being diagnosed. I had a lot of physiotherapy work but wasn’t very diligent with my home exercises (quite tedious!). If I continued with these exercises I’m sure it wouldn’t have worsened but I may not have ended up doing what I love now!
How did you manage the pain?
Before starting stretching I didn’t know how to manage my pain at all – other than pain killers which concerned me. I knew this was not a long term option. Resting was the only way I knew how to relieve ongoing spasms.
At what point in your journey did you discover the benefits of stretching?
By the time I was 22 my back pain had increased dramatically. I would get intermittent relief from Bowen Therapy and Remedial massage along with physio, however the sciatic spasms were getting out of hand. There were days where I couldn’t get off the couch. I guess at this point I knew I had to try something different otherwise I was going to have crippling back pain for the rest of my life.
Why do you think it had such a significant impact on your recovery/life?
Honestly I started to get addicted to being pain free, a very nice feeling and something I hadn’t experienced in many years. I soon realised how important and simple it was to look after myself and my scoliosis. Setting flexibility goals motivated me to keep going and lead me to start learning more about yoga postures. This was a turning point in my life as I began to notice the many benefits of taking time to connect with my body and also mind. Stretching helped me with anxiety and also bouts of depression – something I did not expect at all. It was also a wonderful way to move whilst dealing with chronic fatigue.
At what point did you realise you wanted to make a career out of it?
I started tracking my progress on my @elle_fit Instagram account in 2013 and had never planned to make a career out of it, let alone gain the following that I have. I had a lot of people asking how I managed my back pain and improved my flexibility so I decided to create a website and this is when the Get Bendy stretching eBook was born. My decision to create an eBook was to give people around the world access to the benefits of stretching. Instagram has been a wonderful platform to connect with so many people. My passion for this new business and lifestyle resulted in me deferring my Law degree in 2015 so I could complete yoga teacher training and a few related courses.
Does your scoliosis still affect you? Is it something that’s likely to affect for the rest of your life?
If I don’t keep up regular stretching my scoliosis loves to remind me what back pain is like. As soon as my hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and lower back tighten up, it throws things out of whack. However two and a half years of stretching and yoga has helped my core stability and flexibility so maintenance isn’t as demanding as it used to be.
What are your top 3 stretches to alleviate pain?
To maintain a happy back, I love stretching my hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors. The following three stretches are my got to stretches when my lower back needs some relief. These stretches and plenty of other variations are found in Get Split, my comprehensive lower body stretching guide.
Begin in low lunge. Shift weight back and straighten front leg. Bend forward from hips. Lengthen spine forward and relax upper body down over front leg. Repeat on other side.
Begin on hands and knees. Bring one knee forward and place next to inside of hand. Extend other leg back and lower hips to floor. Flex foot to protect knee. Keep hips squared. Repeat on other side.
Hip flexor and quadricep stretch
Begin in low lunge with back knee on floor. Gently pull back ankle towards torso. Repeat on other side.