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In the hustle and bustle of New York City, Elena Brower is an oasis of peace, clarity, and restoration. She has worn many hats over the years as Mama and Founder of Virayoga Studio, author of the highly celebrated book The Art of Attention and executive producer of ON MEDITATION, a series of enlightening, inspirational short films that explore the reality of meditation. Despite this extensive list of heavy hitting projects, or perhaps because of them, Elena has cultivated a practice that emphasizes realistic reverence and gratitude for even the smallest interactions present in our lived experience. Her direction and techniques have resonated with many in the yoga world, cementing her as a leader in her own right. We are honored to include Elena in the KiraGrace community and have the opportunity to share with you the following interview:
KiraGrace: You define yoga as living wholly unified. You explain that your home life was entirely different than the life you taught and lived on your mat - and you sought to unify the divide between the two. What led you to identify these contradictions, and what steps did you take to begin integrating them together?
Elena Brower: Time on my mat showed me how disjointed my behavior was. In practice, I was so elegant and connected - while so often in my personal interactions, I was reactive and ashamed. The yoga showed me that divide, and then I found coaching and meditation to bridge it.
KG: Your teaching style expresses that yoga is not just a study for the body – it is a review of our methods of living and thinking. Is it fair to say that your teaching cultivates mindful intention- not just in regards to our bodies, but of the attitudes that inform our relationship with ourselves and others? What is the benefit of this kind of practice?
EB: The benefit is that we get to be proud of our responsiveness no matter what happens. And if we mess up, we know how to apologize and get clear.
KG: You discuss the idea of being “in hiding”. Can you elaborate on this concept; explain how it affects our lived experience? Why do we have a tendency to hide?
EB: We think it's helpful and/or better to hide parts of ourselves we deem unworthy, shameful or "bad." That secret gets lodged in our cells and the body begins to fight itself in the most subtle ways. Yoga helps to both unearth and physiologically release that tendency. Handel Group coaching and my Vedic meditation practice have helped me intellectually and emotionally dissolve those hidden aspects of my life and get me clear.
KG: You are passionate about strengthening the capacity to create space within our own heads in order to live in spacious awareness - what does it mean to live spaciously aware and why is that necessary?
EB: It's a matter of staying open even when I want to close. When I feel insecure, weakened, afraid, frustrated, I practice staying open inside so I can see solutions and possibilities as they appear.
KG: You consider yourself first and foremost a “mama”. What does being a mother mean to you and what has this role taught you?
EB: Being a mama has taught me how to take care of myself, so my son has an example of calm equanimity.
KG: What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced recently and how did you endure and overcome it?
EB: Watching my Mama get very ill and come out of it was something so hard but so special. She's my hero, as is my Dad who slept in her hospital room on a chair every night so she wouldn't be alone. Then now, two years later, seeing my own bloodwork and realizing that I have to start getting very serious about the time and love I share with my body. Major inflammation, sugar imbalance (too much green juice and shakes and not enough good protein to balance it out). Luckily it's been caught early enough, and I'm on a mission.
KG: You radiate with strength and serenity, which to us translates into a timeless beauty that is very uniquely you. What would your top three beauty tips for women be?
EB: Smile often, sleep a lot, eat your dark greens, and drink a TON of water. 4!
KG: Everything about you is incredibly compelling, even your tattoos! Can you tell us more about them?
EB: 1. 13 dots on my sacrum; my lucky number.
2. "jonah" on my inner ankle; my baby.
3. OM on my right wrist; the first and last mantra.
4. "grace" bracelet on my left wrist; my reminder.
KG: What is your favorite KiraGrace item and why!?
EB: Loving the new Romance T-back Tank... so perfect and right for my body. But I love it all.
Mama, founder of VIRAYOGA, and co-author of Art of Attention, Elena has taught yoga for 17+ years. After graduating from Cornell University in 1992 with a design degree, she worked as a textile and apparel designer for 6 years, and has been teaching and studying with master yoga teachers since 1998. Influenced by several traditions, Elena offers yoga as a way to approach our world with realistic reverence and gratitude. Her classes are a masterful, candid blend of artful alignment and attention cues for your body, mind and heart.