Teachasana is proud to present our exclusive interview with internationally known yoga teacher, Elena Brower. Elena is the co-owner of Virayoga in NYC and co-author of Art of Attention. Read on for Elena’s answers about how she became a teacher, what success means to her, and how teaching yoga has changed her life.
When did you decide to become a yoga teacher, and what events in your life lead to that decision?
I had been a textile and clothing designer, and when I fell out of love with my life in Northern Italy working for a big company, I came home and began a year of Art Education at The New School. During that time I took a class at Crunch gym with Cyndi Lee, who went on to open OM Yoga, and fell in love with the practice anew. I did her teacher training the very next year.
When you first began teaching what was your definition of a successful yoga teacher? Has that definition changed over time?
A great teacher is one who is present to the students. That will bring about the abundance that the word “successful” indicates – when I’m present and attentive to my students, more of them are interested in exploring class together.
Yoga teachers put in so much more effort than just the hour it takes to teach a class. What goes into the planning of a class for your students?
I used to plan plan plan and write everything down. Now I will look at a quote or a text or a current event and create movement and relevance based on that teaching. For festivals I often do a bit more, I’ll take notes or write thoughts down to tie sequences together. Always, though, I will teach with a notebook and a pen, as well as anything I’m reading currently, to put the inspiration directly in front of me during class. Oftentimes I’ll write things down AS I teach concepts or ideas that will work well for my YogaGlo classes or future events.
How has your teaching style changed over time?
I’ve become much mellower, much more sensitive to what’s needed in the room. Sometimes that means class is slower, oftentimes it’s just as intense but in a different, more subtle way.
What do you consider the most important way(s) in which you serve your students?
I listen, and I SEE them.
The benefits of being a yoga teacher are endless. I’m sure most (if not all!) yoga teachers out there would agree that this is a very rewarding job. What has been one of the most rewarding things for you as a teacher?
Two things: One, my son got to travel all over the planet from his infancy and has a keen sense of the world because of it. Two, I have had to learn how to value my time, and really ask for what I’m worth, which is a challenge in the yoga community, where the overarching belief is that it’s almost wrong for yoga teachers to be making money. I’ve learned through coaching and through dear friends who’ve taught me that when I value myself, and ask for what I’m worth, very abundant opportunities present themselves to me.
Along with the joys and the rewards of teaching yoga, come the challenges. What do you consider to be the biggest challenge you have faced as a yoga teacher?
Practicing at home. It took over a decade to develop a steady home practice, and it was only when I began studying Kundalini yoga that I found a regular time for myself.
Our yoga students can be our best teachers. What are a few of the lessons you have been taught by your students throughout the years?
*Judgments keep me from cultivating real understandings of my students.
*Always inquire. We never know what the situation is from looking at a person – the most profound moments of healing come from really SEEING the students who’ve come to class and acknowledging them.
What are the most profound ways in which being a yoga teacher has changed your life?
I’ve learned to take on other teachings and guidance as a result of what I’ve learned as a teacher of yoga. Exploring Handel Method coaching has altered my ways of relating to the world, as well as learning about quantum physics, several different traditions of yoga. And I’ve learned never to judge… unless I want to feel as though the whole world is judging me. When I allow judgments to cycle around in my mind, and allow my brain round out and complete those thoughts, invariably I feel like everyone is judging ME because that’s what I’m hosting inside of my own being. So the moment I sense a judgmental thought coming, especially in the context of a class, I take a deep breath and make room for the judgment to get smaller within my being, and dissipate.