REGENERATION – Dreamscapes
Meet Elena Brower
By Lashaun Dale
A mama, student, teacher, speaker, author, coach and entrepreneur, Elena Brower has had her hands in a steady stream of creative, meaningful projects—from online yoga classes and a film series on meditation to collaborating on books and even an album—with no end in sight. Brower has taught yoga and meditation since 1999. Her first book “Art of Attention” (Sounds True, 2016) has now been translated into six languages and was loved for its contribution to the world of yoga but also acclaimed for its elevated design and especially for its groundbreaking use of Indiegogo, a crowdsourced platform that funded the first round of publication. She’s currently working on an offshoot of her best-selling book “Practice You: A Journal” (Sounds True, 2017) for teens called “Being You,” in addition to running her “Practice You” podcast featuring conversations with some of her most influential and inspiring friends and colleagues.
“The fun part is that from each project, something else is birthed, so I have to just keep my eyes open and stay receptive,” Brower says. She acknowledges that she has some ideas of where she’d like to be in five years, but perhaps more important, Brower is right where she wants to be now, and that feels good.
Brower has gotten comfortable with not knowing precisely what her path is. Her teaching and her personal practice reflect that acceptance, and she incorporates meditation to shine a light on her inner state, as well as strength training—something she never previously considered necessary.
Having graduated from Cornell University in 1992 with a design degree, Brower spent six years as a textile and clothing designer in New York City before taking her first yoga teacher training with Cyndi Lee, who had just opened Om Yoga on 14th Street. After five years in the fashion industry, Brower began to feel like she wasn’t fulfilling her truth, that she wasn’t actually helping anyone, so she made a career change.
Brower has studied with many leading lights in yoga and considers Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga, along with Abbie Galvin and Nevine Michaan, founder of Katonah Yoga, her three main influences. “I have so enjoyed mining the yoga world for the luminous teachings,” Brower says. She’s also a big fan of Hari Kaur Khalsa, a pre-eminent Kundalini yoga teacher in NYC.
Brower has also done extensive work with the Handel Group for the past 10 years, and she is incredibly grateful for what they have taught her, including how to communicate with those closest to her.
The present inquiry
Brower believes she has always been asking big questions and pursuing bigger answers.
“I reckon I … ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been such a student. It’s like all I can do to not study and not dig into a book every day,” she says. “I think that it’s true that I’ve always been asking the bigger questions. I remember being 7 or 5 and looking in the mirror, getting up on the counter in the bathroom when I was too small to get my full face in the mirror and just asking, ‘Who are you? Who is this? Who are you?’ And not really getting an answer until fairly recently 40 years later when my mom passed. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, these are still … these are now the real questions.’”
She goes on to share that what she has learned most is the power of presence. “What I have learned is that presence is a cultivation that evolves over time,” she explains. “We start with an idea. Presence becomes then practice, and then ultimately, it becomes a part of who we are. As we get older, as we put our attention on being present for the people in our lives, being present for ourselves is such a massive part of my practice and part of my teaching. And that leads and lends itself to how we show up for anything in our lives—our work, our bodies, our families, our partners, our friends.
“I had to learn in my 30s that I wasn’t actually a great friend, and I had to really practice. Presence is a part of that. Presence is a part of how I show up as a lover, as a girlfriend. Presence is a part of how I show up as a parent, as a mother. It’s a part of how we do everything, and it turns out to be how we do anything. Just your presence alone can shift things.”
Brower says now, she’s exploring for herself what the Yoga Sutras have to offer at a very deep level and says that will influence her teaching over the next couple of years. She also teaches a lot more meditation now, acknowledging that she did not understand the fullness and richness of meditation until the last 10 years.
“Rod Stryker is the one who [taught me] the importance of incorporating meditation into every experience of movement I have because without it, it’s just not complete. Any experience of movement that I do in the morning or in the afternoon, in the evening, anytime is just leading me inward,” Brower says. “And to not have the experience of sitting and sort of savoring and bathing in that at the end of a movement practice, you’re not really getting the full picture. So that is what I teach now; that is most definitely what I offer every time I teach. I make sure that we have some time to sit at the end.”
Brower loves creating experiences for people, whether that’s a yoga class, retreat or training, and now she teaches in way that allows students to have a truly inward journey—“a guided tour of one’s inward movement and mission,” she says.
As for her own practice, that’s evolved, as well, from one of physical prowess into one that prioritizes her inner experience. No longer called to attend classes, she loves spending time alone, listening.
“I love and relish the capacity that I have just to listen to my own body,” Brower says. “Now I am so glad and grateful to just have a real quiet practice where I get to listen to myself, listen to my body, see what’s needed, no rushing, no haste whatsoever. That to me is the best practice.”
Most recently, at the recommendation of her doctor, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, Brower has added strength training to her routine—something she now prioritizes along with sleep.
Practicing “muscle-centric medicine,” Lyon says that “muscle is the organ of longevity,” and the more Brower has strengthened, the better she’s felt. “I am a changed person,” she affirms. “Almost instantly, symptoms of menopause began to abate. Sleep got much better. I noticed my yoga practice was different, and the best part of all—my meditation practice is so much steadier.”
She views personal strength training as an absolute necessity as we age, noting it has beneficially impacted everything she does, including her mood and state of mind. Having ignored the advice until now, Brower is a firm believer that yogis also must be strength-training, and she dares anyone who doesn’t think they need to get stronger to give it a try for a month or two and see what the impact might be.
Along with working out, Brower has been incorporating some lean protein into her diet, namely fish, some meat and eggs. She loves eggs. “It seems to be really important for my makeup, my chemistry, to have that protein. If I don’t have it, I feel tired,” she says, admitting her vegan friends would disagree with her assessment. But in her own body, which is the only place she can look, she believes that the presence of a little bit of lean protein is really helpful. So she keeps it in her diet along with lots of veggies.
Lift and connect
Brower says consciousness is everything, and we can and should bring intention and attention to everything we do. She demonstrates this in everything she brings forward. Whether it’s a simple post on Instagram, her online community Teach.Yoga.com (which she created and hosts for teachers to share their voices and share their work) or the collection of collaborative content and conversations in her podcast “Practice You” (which is approaching 200,000 downloads in six months), she considers each an opportunity into raw and real inquiries that call for respect and offer explorations that can uplift our understandings and share stories and shout-outs that express and amplify the best and most beautiful aspects of the human spirit. This is how she believes we elevate humanity—by showing up, sharing stories and working together to sustain our well-being—for individuals and for the collective.
Brower explains that what she loves most is “creating experiences for people, so whether it’s a yoga class or a retreat or a training, I’m really after having a journey, a real guided tour of one’s inward movement and mission.” Her recent collaboration “Flow State” is the perfect example. It’s a musical creation that came to life organically at an immersive live yoga set on the playa of Burning Man with the artists from Above & Beyond—Paavo Siljamaki, Tony McGuinness and Jono Grant—who Brower describes as “the most brilliant and beautiful humans.” Together, they launched a collaboration of music, mantra, yoga and word—a 13-minute spoken word created by Brower. The “Flow State” album is available now and blends instrumental music with Brower’s spoken word. “It’s stunning. I’m really proud of it. I am a little bit bursting, actually,” she says. “I have so many things going on, but this is the one that really touches my heart. I get a little blush when I think of it. Sound is healing, it’s ancient. The use of sound for healing is not something new. It’s absolutely ancient, and we’re just remembering it.”
After years of dedicated practice and self-awareness, Brower no longer experiences stress in the same way, saying it doesn’t seem to take over her whole body anymore.
In moments of acute stress, she immediately turns to her breath (and essential oils)—taking a few full, deep breathes into her navel center. She may sit down to meditate or lie down and do yoga nidra to help her come back to herself.
“If I’m noticing that I might have a little bit of a conniption in the next five minutes, then I go ahead and do one of these easy strategies: I grab an oil, roll it on my arms, take a full, deep breath or three or five, lie down and everything is fine,” she says. “I can get a little perspective and see what I need to do, and it passes.”
Elena Brower, Essential Oils and doTERRA
A leader with doTERRA, Brower doesn’t go anywhere without her essential oils—they’ve become an integral part of her health and fitness routine, as well as an empowering business endeavor.
Presented with the opportunity to create an account with doTERRA (global multilevel marketing company that sells essential oils and related products) about six years ago, she had a full international teaching schedule and wasn’t initially interested in the business side of things. However, once she started using the oils, she began seeing very clear results. There was no denying they work. In time, she began to lean into her resistance.
What Brower realized is that she didn’t know enough, and as she started to learn more, Brower discovered that contrary to a pyramid scheme with the promise of future money, doTERRA was in the business of teaching and sharing a product that is actually beneficial for individuals, families and the environment.
“When you look at a plant, a leaf, a root, a bark, a heartwood, a petal of a plant, there are embedded in those structures of the plants little tiny sacs of essential oils that are helping that plant thrive in that environment. That’s what an essential oil is,” she says, explaining that our DNA is so similar to that of the plants that when it is properly distilled or extracted, essential oil serves a beneficial function, whether that’s generative, protective or supportive in some way.
“What was important to me when I started to understand the function of essential oils was that I was connected to a company that sources and tests every single liter of oil. I was interested in getting the highest quality,” Brower says. “What I came to is a company that actually not only does have the highest quality but also is in service all over the world. Everywhere we source these plants, they are helping, they are going in there, building infrastructure in wells and schools and hospitals. It is an unbelievable witnessing of a full mission in effect to serve. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
Brower now has a team of 32,000 people worldwide, several thousand of which are earning income they never thought possible. More important, their children are becoming well-versed in plants. “That to me is one of the best gifts, one of the best legacies to leave behind,” she says. “My mission is to make sure that we as a community can share this with as many families as possible, as many children are going off to university as possible with a working knowledge of oils and how they work for them. Something woke up in me and I saw this instead as a means of total empowerment for me, for so many and for the world.”
Learn more about Elena’s work with doTERRA here
Video and photo credit: Mark Kuroda, kurodastudios.com
Hair and makeup: Éva Roston