March 15, 2009

Virayoga studio, chez Elena Brower, in New York City.


Elena Brower’s Virayoga studio in New York City.

review via Leah Beltran

Over the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to take a few classes at VIRAYOGA with Elena Brower (founder) and Zhenja Larosa in NYC, a cherished studio in the heart of SoHo offering Anusara Yoga™ to a vast number of teachers and students throughout the NY area.

Everything about VIRAYOGA and its community is calling me to return.I was blown away at the quality of classes, awed by the open minded, kind people that make up a culture of underlying kinship that fills the space.The manager Kiri was nothing but sugar and surprisingly, four complete strangers made my acquaintance by the end of my first class! Finally, someone bothers to introduce themself outside of a bar context!As we all know, the world is small: I fellow elephant journal contributor, Adi Carter, there to welcome me into my first YOGANERD experience!

YOGANERD is a class for all those yogis that love to get down to the get down and break it down!Workshop-style approach, teacher Zhenja Larosa leads a class whose sole purpose is to educate the student about the proper positioning and sensations that come from correct alignment. We began with the intention of grounding through the four points of the foot…and for the next hour and a half we continued with asanas that fostered that purpose.We stopped to discuss a couple of times and assist each other in poses.My partner was a yoga instructor, and worked for the Julliard Dance Department as a physical therapist.Zhenja never got off track and, despite the breaks, I still broke a sweat and found it challenging and insightful, this class rocked!The only downfall is it’s only offered once a week.Boo.

Any class with Elena Brower is incredible!I spoke with a friend soon after my first and described it as, “ a prayer to myself.”She is so present from the very moment she steps into the space and students engage her. Though her classes are packed with bodies, Elena will recognize a new face and make an introduction.She calls everyone by name and compliments that with a smile.Similar to Zhenja’s YOGANERD, we are given a point of reference in the body to remain our focus for the duration of class.Over the last few weeks, Elena has used our lower half and specifically the knees for subject matter.Guiding us through asanas that show the differences between inward and outward direction of energy, our sense of grounding in practice, and how our awareness and attention to these directions affect our life off the mat.

On a sentimental note, along with my sweat came a couple of tears!I’ve heard of grown men doing the same so I guess it’s not unheard of in this class.But pleeeease don’t interpret my soft spot the wrong way.Don’t forget your reading about my personal adventure.I can be mushy sometimes and Elena Brower is a New Yorker that has a gift for holding space.In no way is her class an open therapy session. It is genuine and unique with countless benefits!It was a breath of fresh air!

My first advice to everyone interested in attending any of Elena’s weekly classes is to arrive AT LEAST 20 minutes early if not earlier.To reserve your spot, you can book online and pay with a credit card or paypal.If your like me, you’ll show up 10 minutes before last call and stand in line wishing you had taken my first piece of advice.As a few of my fellow late comers and I were discussing on Saturday, the waiting might be half our personal practice anyway and in the end it’s worth every moment of pleasure.

In both Elena and Zhenja’s classes, transitions were clear. I never felt rushed. They both have an immense, intimate understanding of the body and can modify a description to suit the person or crowd they’re teaching.For beginners, I urge you take a basic level class before jumping into any open level or intermediate class.This will give you the foundations of alignment and knowledge necessary to keep your practice safe.Overall I felt everyone in my open level and YOGANERD classes knew what they were doing.At the same time, Elena, her assistant Sarah, and Zhenja all made adjustments to students when necessary or when something was misinterpreted. Sometimes with the help of a more advanced practitioner, we were shown what “correct” should look and feel like.

Elena Brower and VIRAYOGA’s staff are either certified Anusara Yoga™ teachers or Anusara™-inspired.You can find comprehensive information on this style of yoga founded by John Friend at www.anusara.com.

With a roster of 35 teachers, VIRAYOGA’S class schedule offers: basic, open, intermediate, advanced, restorative, YOGANERD, community, prenatal, teacher’s practice, mommy and me, and tyke itsy bitsy yoga…and ½ hour meditation on Wednesday mornings. www.virayoga.com/classschedule

VIRAYOGA HEALING ANNEX is just a door away from the main studio and offers private and semi-private yoga sessions, massage, reiki, Thai yoga massage, accupunture, pranic healing, mantra, Optimum Alignment: Therapeutics and Zero Balancing sessions. www.virayoga.com/annex-healers

Both VIRAYOGA and the HEALING ANNEX offer workshops and events monthly that bring in teachers from all over the world to share with the VIRA community!In March there’s Sanskrit, Mantra, and Meditation with Manorama (Vishuddha Chakra & Saraswati Ma), Intro to Pranic Healing with Mark and Elena, and An Introduction to Walking with Jonathan Fitzgordon.Details and more info are listed at www.virayoga.com/workshopevents.

All of that being said, it has taken me a minute to write my review for VIRAYOGA because I truly adore and want to support the space as much as I can.I want to be direct and clear in my affection for this gem.Showing up is the first step and the rest will unfold itself.Enjoy!

An old brilliant video by elefellini Alex King:


Or, if you prefer Vimeo:

Elena Brower in NYC from Waylon Lewis on Vimeo.

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