We’re always inspired by passionate people who practice what they preach. Master of the mat, Elena Brower, embraces a mind-body-soul mentality we could all benefit from, both in and out of the studio (this afternoon in her kitchen is proof enough). We love the following interview from Our Body Book contributor, Amanda Kriebel; Having chatted with Elena ourselves several times before, we were inspired to learn more about her personal and professional journeys, and how the two are intertwined. Read on to understand why…
Elena Brower has been teaching masterfully crafted yoga and meditation classes since 1998, which now has expanded to her book “Art of Attention,” online courses, and a website dedicated to yoga teachers. She sprinkles seeds of spiritual awakening all over the world to invite a deeper discovery of the connection between the body, mind, and heart. We caught up with her while she is in the midst of writing her next book, “Practice You.” Read on for sparkles of inspiration from Elena…
Elena, what was your life like before yoga? And how were you introduced to yoga?
I was a textile designer, a clothing designer, living in Italy and NYC. I was learning how to teach art to children. I was careless with my body and longing for a deeper connection.
I’d actually been introduced to yoga at Cornell, as one of my PE classes, although it was mixed with martial arts. Then again in 1994 in NYC at YogaZone, with Yogiraj Alan Finger, who showed me how yoga could have a true impact on my physiology.
Your classes are skillful, eloquent and intelligent. How do you design your sequences?
I let go, often. I study, I take notes, I plan, and then I let go. That willingness to go off the plan and outside the lines I’ve drawn is everything to me.
What advice would you give to beginners?
Start anywhere, anytime, with any length of time. Suss out a few teachers to try and find one that lights you up.
How does the practice of yoga mad meditation help you in life off the mat?
I keep it simple, I make sure I move, sit and listen daily, and that is helping me be a steady presence for my kid. I make sure to go to talks, shows, see art, so I can stay inspired. I am learning to keep things super organized and easy for myself. I plan ahead. I take my family on trips that make us happy, and keep us connected. These are all results of my years of yoga. Ritual, steadiness, inspiration, organization, simplicity, happiness – are all signs of a good practice. On social media, you are open and vulnerable about your sobriety journey. Tell us more about your experience with this.
It became apparent to me when I was trying to stop that I was embarrassed about my addictions, and I cared about what others thought, for better or for worse. So I chose to be public about it, and that helped. The public nature of my journey has catapulted me into the realm of service, and now I’m informally “sponsoring” several women across the globe – and that’s turned out to be the best part. Their daily check-ins help me stay in my heart, and remember who I am. They think they’re getting the gift of the assist – but I’m receiving the best gift of all.
If you could give your past-self advice, what would it be?
You don’t need to smoke ever again. Your body is a precious vessel.
What do you love most about your body right now and why?
I am super glad to report that there are several things that I love about this body right now. I’ve been running and practicing regularly, so it’s all in order… If I had to choose one thing – it’s my belly. It’s real, it’s not super flat, but now that I’m running again there’s a nice tone to it. If I had to choose one thing that I am loving about my entire being, it’s my attitude. I feel steady and easy, consistently, and I attribute that to twice daily meditations. That second sitting makes all the difference.
What does longevity mean to you?
I think longevity is endurance, and my capacity to endure comes from my ability to stay calm. I have a few teachers at this time, and they’re all teaching me how to be soft and calm in one way or another. Nevine Michaan and Abbie Galvin of Katonah Yoga in New York teaches me architecture and action for longevity; making space in my body, inhabiting my joints and thoughtfully strengthening to become more buoyant and serene internally and attitudinally. Yogarupa Rod Stryker teaches me pranayama for longevity; how to honor the Divine Mother as the force that moves through me, as the source of every moment of triumph, through attending to my breathing. I’m at my most quiet and calm after studying with him. Hari Kaur Khalsa teaches me Kundalini Yoga for longevity; she reminds me how to have fun in my practice, to make peace with my moods, and to honor all the work I do for my family as my practice too. Her very presence is a calming balm to my soul. Each one of them is helping me stay soft and endure any context with ease.
In Art of Attention you mention that “attention is what allows us to see ourselves, and see within ourselves, in order to learn how we can elegantly approach anything, everything.” We love this mind body message and look forward to more of it in your upcoming book, Practice You. What other projects are in the works?
There is a quiet book project going on, called “Your Elegant Divorce,” that promises to have a huge and beneficent impact. A dear college friend Gabrielle Hartley and I are creating a road map for cultivating elegance and ease throughout even the most complex divorces, and we know it’s going to help millions of families.
Tell us about Teach Yoga – the online global community of information and inspiration created by the teachers for the teachers.
This project created itself. My collaborator, Michelle Martello, saw a big need for a virtual home that includes all traditions and styles, written by teachers, for teachers. It’s been a delight to create free content for teachers worldwide, on several topics, and our weekly email is now being opened in over 75 countries worldwide.
Any words of advice for readers?
Stay close to yourself, honor the past, and remember that collaboration is good medicine for the future. Meet new people, listen well, learn from everyone, be grateful – and don’t forget to meditate.