Q & A with Elena Brower Part I: On Anusara Yoga, Food, Inspiration, and More
Some people "have it" -- an indescribable presence and energy that can captivate an entire room. And Elena Brower definitely "has it." At her Saturday morning classes at Virayoga in SoHo, 70+ uber-conscious and successful New Yorkers positioned mat-to-mat are all listening and watching Elena's every word and movement.
Elena is one of the most famous and well-respected yoga instructors in the world today. She is a Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher and is the founder and co-owner of Virayoga in New York City. As a student of John Friend, Dr. Douglas Brooks, and Hugo Cory, she's been teaching 12+ years. Elena's been featured in the New York Times, Yoga Journal, FitYoga, and the series of Element Yoga Beginner DVDs. Elena is the Global Yoga Trainer for adidas, teaching the methodology of Anusara yoga to their instructors globally.
MindBodyGreen: When did you begin practicing yoga?
Elena Brower: In 1993 I took my first class, at the first Yoga Zone in NYC on 56th Street. Although at Cornell during freshman year, I took a kung fu class that had some yoga in it. Then I found Cyndi Lee in 1997 and I was hooked on her and OM Yoga.
MBG: How did you discover Anusara yoga? Why is it a fit for you? How would someone know if it’s the right fit for them?
EB: In 1999, after teaching OM Yoga for a couple of years, Cyndi had begun studying a bit with John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, and introduced us to his Universal Principles of Alignment. Another colleague of mine, Amy Ippoliti was beginning to study with him and she led me more strongly in his direction. In the summer of 2000 I headed up to Gurumayi's ashram in upstate New York and took my first class with John.
I wasn't sure it was a fit immediately, but the way he knew everyone's name and was so connected to everyone and their capacities was impressive to me. I was able to do yoga poses in ways I'd never experienced before. After a few more classes I realized I had some learning to do, and was hooked on the challenge of Anusara, as well as the obvious heart emphasis of the method.
To know if it's right for you, try a few different teachers. The underlying method is the same, but each teacher has a distinct voice and brings other understandings to the instruction.
MBG: Do you have any favorite yoga gear?
EB: adidas Yatra and adilibria lines. As the adidas global ambassador for yoga, I travel around the world teaching teachers wearing adidas. The fabrics have the perfect combination of stretch and support, the colors are delicious and tasteful, and the details on so many of the yoga pieces are super chic and fun.
Other lines I love:
MBG: What about a favorite yoga mat?
EB: Hands down, the Prana Revolution sticky mat
MBG: How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine? Favorite products?
EB: When I awake before my son, I do about 15 sacred minutes of practice. When I'm traveling I practice more; there's always press, many chances to do 10, 15 minutes of juicy practice in gorgeous settings to serve as B-roll for stories/interviews. That's also sacred time. And when I get to take a class for 90 minutes it's such a treat.
I love Pangea Organics -- the best lipbalm, toner, simple facial cleanser and scrub ever.
MBG: What is your approach to nutrition?
Eat what feels nourishing.
Research what you're putting into your body.
Enjoy what you love every now and again, fully enjoy it. (For me that would be VERY dark chocolate and/or Lombardi's pizza if I'm feeling frisky).
MBG: What's in your fridge? Any favorites?
EB: Always a big bunch of dark green kale, preferably lacinato/dinosaur kale, some steamed or boiled beets, some yummy mild goat or sheep cheese, steamed carrots or any other veggies I can find. I put all of that into a bowl with some quinoa, avocado, pumpkin seeds, splash of eden shake and some good olive oil and that's breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Or all three.
I also have a vase full of YogaEarth next to the fridge. Their BALANCE powder in a tiny glass of well-stirred water is how I begin every single day, so I get my probiotics (4 strains!) and digestive enzymes, ginger root, mineral complex, some brain nutrients, amino acids (major dose of protein!) and B vitamins... and tastes amazing. The VITALITY (greens, electrolytes, CoQ10, amalaki, cordyceps) I will take if I'm low on energy (sometimes I combine the two which is also very tasty). They're intended for any practice, before and after your workout or yoga, but I take them as my vitamins daily, plus some DHA, calcium, magnesium at night, and D especially in wintertime when I'm not in the sunshine enough.
MBG: What are you reading now?
EB: Right now I'm reading:
RAMTHA, The White Book by Ramtha
The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuk (I'm beginning to read up on Chinese medicine; that will be my next education)
The Doctrine of Awakening by Julius Evola
Magical Parent, Magical Child: The Art of Joyful Parenting by by Michael Mendizza and Joseph Chilton Pearce
The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson and and Reg Keeland was truly amazing. Taipei-JFK, done.
The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz -- Working for Novogratz's Acumen Fund is going to be a part of my future.
MBG: Any favorite books?
The Hero by Hugo Cory
The Actor by Hugo Cory.
Awakening the Spine by Vanda Scaravelli
Poised for Grace by Douglas Brooks
MBG: Who inspires you?
EB: My parents, my sister, my son Jonah, my closest girlfriends, and my fellow teachers serving the world through yoga such as Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Christina Nones, Amy Ippoliti, Sianna Sherman, Kathryn Budig, Ross Rayburn, Marc Holzman, Noah Maze... I could go on.
Also my fellow global trainers at adidas are blowing me away right now with their professionalism and grace:
Marta Formoso is a gifted dance teacher who rocks everywhere she goes.
Violet Zaki is a combat teacher who is so committed to excellence and precision.
Nick Anthony is insanely knowledgeable about fitness, nutrition and wellness.
I'm pretty lucky to be working so closely to such a fine group of teachers. Together we are literally spanning the globe training other teachers to be their best and offer their highest.
MBG: What does mind/body/green wellness mean to you?
EB: An evolving revolution that is compelling us to consider our smallest choices
to shift the hugest paradigms.
MBG: Please tell us about Virayoga and why we need to check it out?!
EB: Virayoga is home to hundreds of talented, reverent yogis who appreciate quality teaching and contribute their distinct presence to the studio every time they show up. The room vibrates with their consciousness so it's a privilege to teach there. We've been open for 8+ years and offer immersions, teacher training, unique workshops as well as our Healing Annex where you can receive massage, Reiki, Pranic Healing, private yoga, and meditation classes.
TOMORROW PART II - Elena's Favorite Things & Places in New York City
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