Deemed by YD as the maven of mass yoga, Elena Brower is a busy lady. Increasingly popular in the NY yoga world and beyond, Elena, who resigned her Anusara certificate last fall (pre-scandal break) has only been growing and expanding more in her yogipreneurship through various avenues of media, teaching events, a life coaching program and now a bigger studio and new book, all of which she talks about in this candid interview. Thanks to YogaCityNYC for the republish. Read on.
Virayoga owner Elena Brower is arguably New York’s biggest yoga celebrity. Two years ago, she brought nearly 10,000 New Yorkers to Central Park to “Om” before the rains set in to hamper what was billed as the World’s Biggest Yoga Class. In October, she got 3,000 Parisians to wear white as they did their poses in front of the Eiffel Tower.
She frequently travels to Los Angeles to film her popular YogaGlo sessions, and is a regular on the Wanderlust and Yoga Journal Conference circuit. She also writes for the Huffington Post and PositivelyPositive, and pens her own blog, The Art of Attention.
Recently she’s expanded her studio – though it is no longer an Anusara shop. She publically left the Anusara lineage and distanced herself from her long-time teacher John Friend. She’s forged an important partnership with the Handel Group, a life coaching company, whom she credits with recharging her life, her integrity and teachings.
YogaCity NYC Publisher and Founder Brette Popper caught up with this multi-tasking powerhouse at her apartment after she’d just returned from a weekend of teaching at Kripalu.
Brette Popper: With everything else going on, I hear you are also writing a book.
Elena Brower: Yes, it’s called the ‘Art of Attention.’ We’ve transcribed my YogaGlo classes, photographing my co-author and book designer Erica Jago and me in various settings: Burning Man, Parrot Cay, New York rooftops.
Each chapter has a theme with a title like Reduce Tension, Find Forgiveness, Exploring Your Highest Possibilities, Let Go of Blame. We’ve done it all ourselves: found our printer, picked our paper, a non-fibrous paper made of minerals called Terraskin. We’re financing it on Kickstarter and we’ll get community support in order to donate thousands of copies to women’s shelters and schools globally, where women might not otherwise be able to see or learn about the practice.
BP: How will you sell it and when will it be available?
EB: We’ll sell it online and in studios globally, and it will be available later this year. German publisher Kamphausen has opted to translate too, and I’m exploring other languages to translate as well. Yogaglo is so global now so it will be relevant in many places. The world is getting smaller…
BP: I am amazed at how you are able to adapt to new technologies and opportunities, whether it’s the way you’re doing this book, YogaGlo, or the blog. Why is it so easy for you to do this?
EB: My practice allows me to back away and listen. So I can take time to investigate and work with the people and causes that catch my attention. Travel often lets me slow down enough to do this, to really consider how I want to work, to write about what’s current and true for me.
BP: You’ve just expanded Virayoga…
EB: The street space became available just as the landscape was shifting in the Anusara community. This gives us another space to invite other traditions. Friends like Leslie Kaminoff and Jane Fryer andRodney and Colleen will be visiting to teach. The space is facing Broadway with two sunny windows, and it enables us to have more teachings and give more people the chance to work.
BP: You’ve very publically left the Anusara fold. Do you think you handled that well?
EB: I have no regrets. Given the tools that I had at each interval, I feel fine about how everything landed.
BP: You still have Anusara teachers on your schedule?
EB: Yes, we support everybody. This new multi-traditional approach feels like what I’ve always wanted to do.
BP: Who’s inspiring you right now?
BP: Very California.
EB: I learned how to teach in California. I love it there. Lots of soul family. I like to go away and come back; everyone gets a recharge. I learn when I leave and everything shifts.
BP: Is there an Elena Brower yoga style coming?
EB: I’m most interested in getting people to simply tell the truth. That is what we need most of all. I have no interest in starting my own “style;” I am interested in combining my work with the Handel Group and creating new context versus a new style.
BP: Let’s talk about the Handel Group.
EB: Handel work felt like turning on a light in some of my darkest ways of relating to people closest to me. My family, my teaching, my relationships have all blossomed with this work.
BP: It is coaching, right. Isn’t it like therapy?
EB: Handel work is distinctly about action. It helps you make your dreams come true, stop talking bad about yourself and others, and gets you proud of who you are. We can all be making our dreams come true instead of spending so much time doubting ourselves. Now I get to have a real relationship and dialogue with my parents that I never had before, which has profoundly shifted my relationship with my son and his Dad. My boyfriend and I get to create our love every single day, consciously. It feels like a big honor to be close to this work.
BP: How long have you been working with them?
EB: 2 ½ years. And I’m just starting to scratch the surface with myself and my family. I’m telling the truth about everything.
BP: How does it work with your yoga and your teaching?
EB: In yoga I saw aspects of myself that were not working. On the mat by ourselves we become more aware of the darkness. But there was no way to mitigate what I was seeing, and the yoga became problematic. How do we stay in the face of a deep internal divide with no tools for how to have a more nurturing conversation with ourselves? Coaching brought those tools.
In my teaching for the past couple of weeks I have been trying to find equanimity in the body. I talk to my students about cultivating equanimity. That’s a muscle we need to exercise.
How to confront a family member when the relationship has not been working. How do we get through that? How do we stay in our hearts when talking to our family instead of going to angry or resentful? That’s what I am exploring and teaching as I go. This way our bodies and minds can enjoy more space and less contraction.
BP: You spend a lot of time doing charity work and events. How does that fit into your life?
EB: With the Handel Group I’m working on my relationship to money. Ascertaining the healthy balance between giving of my time, and making sure I have enough earning time to feel comfortable and abundant. I’m working on having the confidence to ask for what I’m worth and what I need, being aware of what is there and how much I have, and comfortable – or not being afraid – to spend money to make it.
BP: What else are you working on?
EB: GIVE scent – a delicious blend of oils. A percentage of each bottle sold goes to Women for Women International. We’re selling it online, yoga studios, spas and shops nationwide. (Click here for more info) I’m also working on a film series entitled On Meditation to demystify meditation and bring a more global consciousness to the necessity and healing of the practice. And one other book with Dana Ravich entitled Aspire: To Be which offers a real look at food choices, practices and lifestyle for a conscious world.
BP: What is your meditation practice like?
EB: I meditate at least 11 minutes a day. I find the time. Anywhere. It makes me a much better person – especially how I’m being with my kid.
BP: What do think draws people to you?
EB: I have a deep interest in serving as many people as I can. Most people are uncomfortable with honesty and I want to get them comfortable with it. I want as many people as possible to pay attention to small details and to increase the level of attention they pay to their family, food, home, connectivity. Attention really helps and heals. I think it also relates to the fact that I’m happy, and I like my work. I sleep 6 hours and wake up excited to work more. I love my job and maybe that’s what people are drawn to. I hear the most incredible feedback about healing families and friendships – what I’m doing seems to be helping.
Elena then picks up a deck of Spirit Animal cards that belong to her 5 ½ year old son Jonah.
BP: What animal are you?
EB: I want to be like the honeybee: “Let compassion and forgiveness be your top priority in this situation.”
I find her choice entirely appropriate. She has flown about during our entire interview, picking up toys, taking vitamins, giving me gifts, showing me layouts for the new book. She is, indeed, a busy pollinator.
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