We met Cheyenne Ellis of Make Movements back in 2018, when she gratuitously agreed to model for our first campaign. Since then, Cheyenne has become a close friend and muse of the brand, with her young enterpise blossoming alongside Lekha. With Make Movements, she offers her wellness expertise to the corporate world. She develops daily solutions to increase productivity, happiness, and relieve stress within the workplace by practicing daily movements and mindfulness. We've been in awe of the impact she has made on the local community in New Orleans, working individuals across fields from health care workers to engineers.
During COVID, Cheyenne has been sending beautiful meditations and yoga practices each day - along with excellent playlists - but it's her clever jokes and creative writing that really makes it a must-read each day. Even in crisis, she continues to spread her warmth, and continues to inspire us. We loved chatting with one of our Lekha muses amidst the pandemic - scroll for more and to see Cheyenne in some of our newest arrivals, shot from afar by Augusta Sagnelli.
We've been religiously making moves with you each morning via your newsletter. Any particular process to your daily video? Or do you create the class based on mood, environment, and the moment?
cheyenne: These daily movement videos and emails started as an experiment, as a way to push myself to create digital content, and begin to share my writing. My intent was to offer valuable tools to help augment the stress of this time. To be honest, at the start I just signed up most of my friends, family, and people I had emails for, many without even asking their permission first, oops! Now I have people signing up from around the world, people I’ve never heard of or don’t know.
Being mindful of what people are going through has influenced the daily videos. For example, lots of people who are new to WFH don’t have an ergonomic workstation setup at their homes, causing extra strain on their hips, shoulders, neck and wrists. Many working parents are now full-time school teachers, yet still taking care of a household and still expected to do their full-time job, that’s a lot of pressure, and exhausting, so short videos, 6, 10, 15 minutes might be all they are able to do each day versus a full 60minute class.
We are living through history right now, so I try to offer a positive perspective as we all move through this shift. Life is pretty serious right now, I find it valuable to make our movements fun, keep them accessible, and inject a little humor every now and then.
We truly believe in your focus on small, daily movements to combat life's stressors, and their impact on the body. Has your mission, and "make movements" impacted or shifted your individual conceptions since you started it?
cheyenne: We are a very young company, formally launched in January 2019. We teach mindfulness in the workplace, using techniques of movement and meditation, as tools to reduce workplace burnout and enhance resiliency. These tools were important pre-Covid crisis, but are paramount now, given all that we are living through, to ensure resiliency for the individual and the collective.
We were pretty stressed out as a society before, but now we are now all experiencing great amounts of stress, so the need to self-regulate is actually more important. Self-regulation refers to the action of discharging the stress and tension that build up, that layer and if not addressed metastasize within our body, and our body remembers everything. The good news is you already possess the key ingredients needed to self-regulate: your physical body, (to make movements), and your breath.
Prior to Covid, we worked closely with our local hospital system, Ochsner Hospital, but remained agnostic to industry, working with software programmers, architects, nuclear engineers, and hair stylists.
Make Movements has recently pivoted to focus on providing our services to those employing workers on the front line, including health care providers, banks and hospitality groups. An exhaustive strain on our health care workers has grown since COVID, and we have actually grown our involvement with Ochsner to offer a Mindfulness Crisis Relief Hotline. We continue to make movements to move ourselves and our community forward.
We love that send off of yours "make movements to keep moving forward" - it feels like the perfect cap on any of our small movement sessions with you. Any mantras that you live by?
cheyenne: Thank you, thank you, thank you
I intertwine phrases a lot, but this is my new favorite go to. To simply say thank you three times in the morning, then throughout the day, and before closing my eyes at night is powerful. You should try it.
Will give it a shot! We've been consciously trying to practice gratitude each day - for our health, our loved ones, and for the ability to BE. Anything you've found underrated lately?
cheyenne: Perspective. Yes, there is a great amount of collective suffering, financial hardship, unknown and fear right now. But a lot of us still have access to wifi (allowing us to stay physically distant but socially connected), clean water, electricity, we can still shop at Whole Foods and purchase fresh flowers from an organic farm. Yes, this crisis has likely changed and uprooted everything, but to help navigate this great shift, let’s not trivialize perspective.
Where are you currently finding inspiration?
cheyenne: GagaPeople - Movement Lab out of Tel Aviv, daily global movement sessions, using poetic intriguing language that has already influenced my teaching. My talented friend Maya Alexis, a choreographer, introduced me to this group.
Seane Corn, yoga and spiritual teacher, her talks and classes are infused with her fierce Jersey accent and her fiery social justice angle
Tara Brach, meditation teacher in DC
Springtime in New Orleans, everyone’s teacher!
Anything you've been reading, watching, cooking, listening to that you want to share with us?!
cheyenne: I’m using this time to ensure Make Movements remains a resource bank of accurate information. Reading lots of yoga books, books on the psychology and trauma of stress, meditation theories, podcasts on neuroscience of stress, resiliency. Two great books are Our Body Keeps the Score, Waking the Tiger - NOT to be confused with Tiger King.
Out of Africa is my fun book of the moment. The author is Danish, where I lived prior to New Orleans, and I’m planning a trip to the East African coast...someday. And yes, I’m cooking lots of noodles.
Any good or bad habits you've started to form?
cheyenne: The phrase FOMO now means something totally different today. Everyone is missing out. I’d like to experiment with sourdough starters, and watch a ton of Netflix, but I’ve been really busy actually. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to not only share, but turn up the volume of Make Movements at a time like this.
Agreed. Finding time to practice mindfulness is difficult but so necessary. I'll admit though, I just began to experiment with sourdough starter! What about anything in your home that's provided an unexpected source of joy?
cheyenne: My landlord sold my building at the start of this- lucky the new owner is allowing me to stay through the summer, though it was very uncertain for a bit. Having a home that is my own, that I love and feel myself and safe in - and not having to move in the midst of a global pandemic brings me a great sense of joy.
Do you have a go-to stay at home outfit?
When I’m not in stretchy clothes, I’m usually in jean cutoffs, my Make Movements tees, or my Lekha tambo top.
Obviously love hearing that (and tamboo has been a quarantine go-to). You've been a part of the brand from the very beginning - thoughts on your lekha pieces from seasons past and present?
cheyenne: I feel the support of Trish, the drive of her tenacity to build a brand, that despite the noise and pomposity that exists in the fashion industry, she genuinely remains true to Lekha’s ethos of supporting women. In turn, I feel I am supporting the women artists around the world who work as the supplies, or in the factories that partner with Lekha. And of course, I feel stylish!
We approach clothing from a place of comfort - we always hope that lekha wraps our community with warmth and tenderness, thereby being able to go forth and spread that internalized peace with others. In this time it can be difficult to find a balance between personal wellness and being there both emotionally and financially for others. What has been your approach to this?
cheyenne: We’re all grappling with a sense of grief and anxiety that comes from the lack of control we’re going through. We can’t control what’s happening, the pace and spread of the virus, the ramifications on the economy, and we can’t control the timeline.
We are all experiencing this in our own way, some are experiencing it harder than others, and some are also repressing or numbing their feelings. Strangely enough, this moment has brought wellness to the forefront of many conversations about the value and quality of our public health. We know that being well, to live our best lives doesn’t necessarily mean working 60 hours a week at a stressful job just so we can buy a new Lexus every two years. Being well involves something deeper.
This crisis has provided an opportunity, and an experiment, for us to pause, to slow down, and examine what that sense of balance really means and looks like within each of us.