Omega: When you first started teaching, you've said you were afraid to speak from your heart. How did that change for you?
Elena: That fear resulted from the fact that I wasn’t being honest about the life I was leading. I was teaching yoga, and breathing, and sitting, and wasn’t always practicing. It was painful to teach the work so well and not be practicing myself.
Omega: Why do you think so many people hide their true selves?
Elena: We think we have to be or act a certain way. We’re still pleasing our parents, our peers, and our teachers. In my experience, the more I let my true self come to the center and lead from there, the easier it is for me to see the clear path toward ease and prosperity, emotionally as well as materially. I had to let go of all the numbing masks I was wearing for most of my life, which was a long process.
Omega: How can learning to find space in the body during yoga practice help us expand our view of ourselves?
Elena: Each time I come to that mat, I breathe more deeply. I’m accruing time in contact with a more vast viewpoint. From that perspective, I can see aspects of myself that I hadn’t previously seen with a compassion and a steadiness that I'm learning day by day.
Omega: You’ve talked about the divide you experienced between who you were as a yoga teacher and who you were in your home life. What lessons can you share with others about integrating all parts of life?
Elena: The first order of business for me was to come to terms with my addictions. That was the cause of much of the divide. I would show up for class and do a superb job, then go home and behave differently; less attentively, less caring, lacking compassion for myself or my family. When I let go of my addictions I was able to see how much the substances (mostly tobacco and marijuana) were impacting my emotional stability and reliability.
Omega: How can people expand their capacity for kindness through yoga?
Elena: Focus on kindness toward yourself while in practice. Amassing time in that state of mind will cause that kindness to emanate from you toward all beings in your sphere.
Omega: One of your first yoga teachers was Rod Stryker. What did you learn from him?
Elena: How to listen and respect the subtlest practices.
Omega: How is teaching your classes in New York City different than teaching large-scale experiences of yoga in places like Central Park and the Eiffel Tower?
Elena: I don't see a real difference other than the scope. I study, practice, and, to some extent, plan my classes in the same way whether it’s a studio class or a larger setting. The scope, however, does lend itself to a sensation of deep, lasting resonance.
Omega: What happens on days when you feel resistance to meditating?
Elena: Resistance happens every day, and my practice happens every day in some form. The days when I don't practice in the morning, I make sure it happens later in the day. “There is no mental activity around your sadhana,” according to my teacher, Paramatma Siri Sadhana. Remembering that helps a great deal.
Omega: When do you feel most aligned with yourself?
Elena: Around 7:00 a.m., at home, finishing up my morning practice, putting the kettle on, and heading in to wake up my boys.
© 2017 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies