*This post is modified from it’s original publishing on October 24th, 2011.
It goes almost without saying that over the years, I have had lots of teachers, including the formidable ones who certified me long ago, but I was still hungry: wanting, needing, urning for a new wellspring of inspiration and information. I wanted someone who was going to push me to look at my ugly bits and hold me accountable for my insecurities.
Admittedly, I can be a skeptical, judgmental, and kind of fickle yogini (shh, don’t tell anyone; I’m working on it). I’ve often felt a little out of place in the more cannoized yoga lineages. Dogma turns me off and I’ve never been one to follow hard and fast rules. So it was that I had been steadily working my way through various traditions (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Dharma) and styles (PranaFlow, Anusara, Yin, Vinyasa Flow) and picking and choosing the teachings I liked best. In 2011, the journey had been 13 years in the running, and at that point I probably had a better idea of what I didn’t like than what I liked.
Anusara in particular was not a style that resonated with me. The language around hearts melting all over the place felt a little, I don’t know, gooey. Historically, I stayed away from the Shinny Happy People, and I wasn’t the first person to think that the Anusara bunch might be drinking the Kool-Aid. Still, when I first became aware of Elena Brower, she seemed different…a little less effervescent, more honest, less airbrushed, more real. I’d known for a while what a big deal she had become in New York City yoga circles, so when I began to see her listed on the instructor line-up for Yoga Journal Conferences, and teaching at large-scale events like Wanderlust and Burning Man, I thought hmmm, maybe I should be paying attention. I started doing a little digging.
I stumbled on a video of Elena giving a talk she called “The Freedom of Discipleship” at Wanderlust in 2010 on YouTube… and she lost me.
I wasn’t into it. In fact, I had such a negative reaction to the topic of discipleship, I immediately crossed her off my short list. In the beginning of her talk she spoke about being a skeptic, - okay, check, I can hang with that – but then went on to talk about the process of becoming John Friend’s disciple – no dice. I’ve never offered myself up to a singular satguru, except maybe my son. I can work with the term student, but disciple feels really scary. Anyway, I didn’t want to hear that kneeling-at-the-teacher’s-feet dogma. So I gave up on her.
And yet… a week later my November 2011 issue of Yoga Journal showed up, with Elena on the cover.
Somehow Elena turned into an itch I needed to scratch. So it was that during my first ever 60-day Yoga Challenge, I decided it was time to practice with her. The classes on YogaGlo, the much lauded virtual yoga studio, gave me the chance I was looking for. I had originally signed up for the Glo just because Kathryn Budig is on their staff. As it turned out, Elena was too.
From the first moment I practiced with her online I was hooked.
It was the fall of 2011, and I had been on a long and exhausting search for my next teacher or mentor.
And then all of a sudden, one random Sunday afternoon, there she was; instructing me through the screen of my 14″ MacBook, in the middle of my own living room. Since then, she has become one of my most beloved influences.
Why the fascination? Why the draw? It could be because she’s not just a yoga teacher, but she’s also a mother, a writer, an artist and a designer. I think maybe it’s because she was a skeptic in the beginning, a non-believer, just like me. But mostly it’s because, for me anyway, her message rings true. Elena urges us to “welcome ourselves”. It’s sounds cheezy right? Yeah, I thought so too- however, listen a little closer to what she’s got going on, and it’s probably exactly what you need to hear. ‘Cause if you’re anything like me, full of self-doubt, aniexty around success and stability or uncertain that the path you’re on is the one for you, she’s going to help you feel supported.
Since then I have taken half a dozen classes with Elena at Vira Yoga: the studio she founded in New York (which sadly for me is closing it’s doors at the end of this summer), several large scale classes with her at Wanderlust, and I’ve taken her Life Coaching for Yoga Teachers tele courses via the Handel Group.
In March of 2013, just after I was first diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, I was lucky enough to be treated to a weekend immersion with Elena at Kripalu. During that weekend she was gracious enough to sit down with me privately several times and offered me coaching on coping with cancer. She wrote me little love notes and handed over her cell phone number. She frequently kept in touch during the first few months of chemotherapy, and would often tell me “you can do this”.
My point in illustrating all this? That even for “America’s most beloved yogi” she makes herself available to her students and to her clients. This is not always true for the yogic elite, the conference headliners or YJ cover models, but it is true of Elena. Indeed she has achieved incredible notoriety and financial success in a world over-saturated with yoga teachers competing to make $5 per head, studios on every city block and dime-a-dozen 200-hour yoga teacher trainings. But that hasn’t changed her.
During her classes, Elena invites you over and over again to soften into yourself. To create space to hold yourself tenderly. To cultivate elegance and truthfulness. Her practices tend to center around self-acceptance and love. When you leave the mat, you feel grounded yet more open than ever.
And cheesy as it all may sound, especially coming from a rocker girl covered in tattoos with a penchance for motorcycles and Doc Martins, when Elena instructs me to “Get over the self abnegation; (the) rejecting of (myself). ” and “To live in (my) body with total self-acceptance.” I want to do as she asks. I want to be accepting of my true self. For as she so conciscely says, “The Truth is where the abundance is”. And that my friends, is the what the whole journey, challenge, lifestyle and commitment are all about. Unveiling the truth.
When you study with her she will repeatedly tell you that as yogis “our mission on this planet is to spread love.” and most importantly, when she says it you believe her.
Art of Attention: Nantucket 2014
I am excited and honored to be bringing my friend and teacher to Nantucket this summer. Please, please, please don’t miss this chance to study with Elena right here, in the heart of Nantucket at the stunning Dreamland Film & Performing Arts Center. She will be available for you Friday evening, August 1st and Saturday, all day, August 2nd.
We have organized Elena’s time with us into 3 distinct but cohesive programs. You can sign up for one or all three!
OPEN: Open level practice & meditation for learning how to stay open internally when we want to close or protect ourselves, whether in asana or in relationships with others and ourselves. Expect a comprehensive hath a practice with an emphasis on mild, healing backbends. Friday 6:00pm-8:30pm $65
TRUST: Open level practice and life coaching for cultivating trust in our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our community. Expect a well-rounded practice of forward bends, hip openers and arm balances. Saturday 2:30-5:00pm $65
You can register for the entire weekend for only $200 here. We anticipate this event selling out, so be sure to secure your spot.
We know getting to and from Nantucket and looking for a place to stay can be challenging. To that end, we have several yogis in our community who are willing to host visiting students for a nominal donation or for free. To get in touch with a host yogi, please email Shannah, Director of The Yoga Room at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additionally here is a list of accommodations:
I hope you come share this very special practice with us.
TYR Manager & Workshop Producer