Featuring images from soon-to-be released book Art of Attention by Elena Brower and Erica Jago.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Being Yoga Conference at Omega. It was a heart-opening experience.
The weekend began on a Friday evening. Various teachers were invited to speak on the topic of “Yoga Stories.” Elena Brower was one of the teachers who shared a story. She spoke about a major issue in her life: her impatience towards her son, Jonah.
As a mother to two daughters, age nine and seven, I could relate to Elena. I, too, have felt frustrated at my daughters when they didn’t get ready for school in time or didn’t listen to me the first time I asked them to do something. As a yoga teacher, I had high expectations of myself. I should be calm at all times.
Turns out I’m not the only yoga teacher who has experienced the same thing.
JH: When did you become aware that you had a short temper? Was it present before the birth of your son?
EB: I have always had a short fuse both internally and externally, and always battled myself because of it. Doing a lot of work this year to move what I now see to be ancient grief I’ve been storing in my body.
JH: How did you feel about sharing this at Omega? Were you scared, nervous, anxious? I felt you were very brave in opening yourself up. Did you also hold back? Did you want to say more or say less?
EB: I’m always nervous before I speak or teach, and I don’t think that will ever change. We were granted eight minutes. I think I used six. I didn’t want to say more than the space called for, and what I said felt like just enough.
JH: What tools do/did you use to get a hold on your anger or impatience? I read about your work with The Handel Group. I would love for you to expand on your work with them. Did yoga help or did it not help much? Do you feel you are a calmer mother now?
EB: The Handel Method teaches us how to dream: how to have a vision for any area of our lives and live into it. So my dream is that I am a calm, serene Mama to my kid, and I was nowhere near that dream when I wrote that two years ago. I used promises and consequences to get a handle on my temper, and I talked endlessly about it to my son, then four, now almost six. He now has an emotional intelligence and capacity for conversation that surprises me all the time. He is highly aware of my effort to transform this in my life, and we help one another all the time to be communicative and clear.
JH: Do you feel that, since you are a yoga teacher, you should be calm all the time or you should know how to quickly calm down?
EB: Ha! Everyone should.
JH: Could you elaborate on specific instances when your behavior towards your son bothered you? For example, did you yell too loudly when your son took too long to get dressed? Was there a specific event that made you stop and want to take immediate action to help solve this issue?
EB: What I’ve found is that I’m most short-tempered when I’m feeling pressure, always self-inflicted, to accomplish too much at once. I lose focus, then get mad at him for losing focus. Classic. Yelling is my specialty, but I’ve also been physical, like picking him up too strongly or setting him down too vigorously on a handful of occasions for which I’ve always apologized. He and I discuss it all and now those instances of yelling and physicality have disappeared. We kept it out in the open and kept re-patterning the shame we both felt until the energy got much calmer, even when things are moving fast.
JH: What tips or advice would you give mothers, regardless if they practice yoga or not, on how to keep calm while raising children?
EB: Keep talking about your effort to be a great mama. Talk about your struggle in a way that will serve them in real life when they’re older. Be honest about your relationship to your own parents; don’t pretend it’s great and lie about it. Tell them what’s really up and then make an effort to be better for your own family of origin, and keep your kids apprised. Stay in clear communication. Let them help you, and then they’ll let you help them.
JH: Is there anything else you would like to share with the yoga community?
EB: My book, Art of Attention, is almost to print (all images featured in this interview are peeks at the book, which will be ). My co-author Erica Jago and I have crowd-funded the first limited edition printing of 3,000 copies. We have pre-sold about 1,000 books, and for each one pre-ordered, we give one to a teacher or teacher in training, with Africa Yoga Project, Lineage Project or Akasha Project. It’s a gorgeous work of art, with five chapters that depict practices already available with me on Glo. Each contains relevant emotional themes as well as careful, clear instruction on the architecture of the poses. At the end of each chapter we’ve included workbook pages to spark creativity and self-designed sequences, themes and ideas for classes. Erica and I are extremely proud of this project and we intend for it to inspire and serve.