Featuring an exclusive essay from internationally renowned Yoga personality and teacher Elena Brower. In this intimate piece, Elena reflects on the redemptive power of movement to effect radical change and the infinite potential embodied in every one of us.
Four years ago I believed I could never live without my vices…
Formed over long periods of belief and practice, our habits can seem compelling and downright convincing. Four years ago I believed I could never live without my vices – I wasn’t funny enough, cool enough or accessible enough without smoking. Smoking made me real. Smoking made me believable.
For me, in my journey to the end of addiction and into recovery, I never had a deep, dark bottom – I just had a memorable year where I simply couldn’t keep my word to myself. Day after day, I’d go up to my roof and smoke every morning, wasting time, energy and creative space. Tired of my own lack of integrity, disconnected from my body, no idea how to stop, I saw it all in the mirror one day. Bags under my eyes, grey skin, sad smile. And because I was so dearly out of integrity with myself, I couldn’t connect to anyone else.
These daily rituals helped me realise that we each have our own voice, our own struggle and we ALL hold the power to transform.
For my first 40 days in recovery, I’d sit with Gabrielle Bernstein’s book ‘May Cause Miracles’ each morning and create a piece of art. Gabby was quietly in the wings, rooting for me, which definitely helped – as days, then weeks, then months progressed, I could see myself looking happier, feeling younger, more spacious, less constricted. I was getting free.
These days, certain simple rituals keep me grounded and learning. The general shape of my day is pretty basic and supremely nourishing for me. Spend morning time moving, meditating, and loving my child and my man before they leave the house. Much of the morning is spent empowering my team around the world, writing, or creating art. These daily rituals helped me realise that we each have our own voice, our own struggle and we ALL hold the power to transform. When we release our self-imposed limitations, we uncover our highest vision.
We create these physical shapes to help us to remember, lighten, become more tender, more stable and more steady.
Whether you’re in recovery or not, physical practice helps move negativity through your body and keeps a clear current moving through you so nothing can hold you back without your choice. Practice keeps the mind quiet, which makes the body scientifically more capable to perform its finest natural act of self-healing.
In each yoga posture, the aim is to create an awareness of both interior and exterior, in order to tap into the most spacious, patient knowing within you. Every time you practice asana (postures) with intention, you’re healing generations of haste, fear, tension, and disconnection. The work you do on your mat ripples throughout time, creating a healing movement for your entire lineage. How?
Instead of continuing to perpetuate doubt, fear, insecurity, misalignment, and misunderstanding through stagnation and lack of movement, we create these physical shapes to help us to remember, lighten, become more tender, more stable and more steady. My favourite postures are laterals, twists, backbends, plough pose, and I practice Padmasana (Lotus) daily in my sitting meditation.
Yoga practice moves resonant current through the body, allowing negativity to pass more efficiently to make way for more positive forces. When we don’t move enough, our bodies hold those negative impressions more surely, and reactive emotions such as fear and anxiety can take hold of our systems. When we move our bodies consistently, that negativity can move through us more readily.
I was always listening, learning and simmering with the idea that I would someday be a voice for the recovery movement.
We are all born empowered and strong. From this strength, a deep, tender softness continuously emanates from those who are in the process of learning and growing daily. Sometimes I choose to develop my strength through studentship, which also translates to my leadership. Empowering others is my simplest and most profound form of self-empowerment.
Several people played key roles; Tommy Rosen, Gabby Bernstein, my friend DJ Pierce. I was always listening, learning and simmering with the idea that I would someday be a voice for the recovery movement – once I could get myself together. From my experience first as a parent, then as a teacher of yoga and meditation, then as a partner, and now as a leader of a global team of teachers, every time I empower someone else, I’m elevated and in a space of growth and refinement. We all have a voice and a choice to use that voice for good.
As women, our greatest responsibility is to keep learning, to share wisdom generously, and to serve whenever and wherever we can. From my mother, I learned that I don’t have to stay in something unless my heart is in it. She also taught me that my family is my priority, my health is my wealth, and those strong friendships are my everything. My parents and grandparents taught me to love and respect ALL, to learn from and revere my teachers, and value my education. These lessons are still informing my choices every day.
Our greatest responsibility is to keep learning, to share wisdom generously, and to serve whenever and wherever we can.
Teacher and author, Elena Brower has studied yoga, meditation, and healing with master teachers since 1997, teaching since 1999. Her groundbreaking yoga workbook Art of Attention has been translated into six languages, and her second book Practice You is now a bestseller, being incorporated into teaching curricula worldwide, with students and teachers of all ages. She’s the founder of Teach.yoga, a virtual home for teachers, and her meditation coursework and film, On Meditation, are devoted to cultivating meditation as our most natural daily habit. Elena has contributed to Yoga Journal, Yoga International, Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Well and Good NYC, Positively Positive, and more.
Photography by Pete Longworth