The Basics of Yoga

We approached Elena Brower, the founder of Virayoga in NYC, for some advice, a few basic poses, and some tips on yoga videos.

As a teacher and student of Anusara yoga, I’m always increasing my physical fluency in order to reveal some sort of internal expansion, whether physical or otherwise. You can see it and feel it when you watch someone versed in Anusara; there is always a sense reaching farther and opening more, within the architecture of the pose. When I precisely articulate my body through the Universal Principles of Alignment, I experience more space in my joints, along with more strength in my muscles. Even more importantly, that spaciousness reverberates as patience in my mind, steadiness in my interactions (especially with my child!), and sweetness in my heart. I’m learning to give preference to love over fear, and to find gratitude for the craziest, wildest circumstances in my life. That is where the real abundance comes in, and the yoga on the mat becomes the yoga of living… and that’s what lights me up about this practice.

I also have some major help from the coaches at The Handel Group who are teaching me another level of TRUTH and integrity—that work has been a pivotal complement to my Anusara studies. The coaches give game-changing workshops and seminars online also, which have literally shifted the way I see what is possible in my life and my yoga.


For videos, I’d categorically recommend YogaGlo. It’s a genius, inexpensive way to get all sorts of quality yoga with excellent teachers in a gorgeous, sunlit space, right in your home. I’m a “yogaglo” teacher.

  • Pose 1

    Standing tall, inhale to raise your arms up high. Root your feet, relax your toes, send your thighs back in space. Keep your legs straight and lengthen your tailbone down, then breathe into the center of your chest and expand the space around and within your heart for a few breaths. Just to explore for yourself how the alignment of your legs works, relax your legs completely and try the breathing again. It’s less deep and more shallow when your legs aren’t engaged. You’ll see that it’s much more open interiorly when the legs are aligned and strong.

  • Pose 2

    Downdog is one of the most widely known poses. Start standing, then fold down over your legs and step to the back of your mat or space. Place your hands shoulder-width apart, and your feet hip-width apart. Make sure the weight on your inner and outer feet is evenly balanced, and your kneecaps are facing forward, then press your hands down to breathe all the way up into your heart and expand there, opening that space to usher in more gratitude with each breath. As you exhale, root back down from your heart to your hands, and lengthen up from your heart to your sitting bones. Lengthen your spine and enjoy your breathing for a few moments. If your arms get tired, root the tips of your fingers more clearly, and keeping your hands where they are, hug your forearms toward the middle of your mat.

  • Pose 3

    Downdog Split is a fun one, because you’ll see progress quickly with practice. From downdog, bring your feet to touch at the center of your mat, hug your arms toward the midline of your mat and raise one leg high. Keeping your arms and hands grounded, lengthen the leg as high as you can, and press your standing leg thigh back in space to stabilize. Breathe deeply; invite your breathing once again to surround, expand and infuse your heart with gratitude, and then send that quality of thankfulness back out through your limbs, your eyes, your breathing.

  • Pose 4

    To rinse and cleanse your interior space and organs, this pose is a great beginning to a delicious twist practice. From downdog split, place the high foot between your hands and turn your feet parallel. Walk your hands to the center between your feet, and come onto your fingertips. With your feet wide, make sure your toes are soft and your outer feet are grounded, and raise one arm to the sky into a twist. Keep your thighs moving back so your pelvis is stable, and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor between your feet. Twist from your navel, and breathe throughout your upper body, grounding your feet and legs, opening and clearing the internal space, in and around your organs and heart.

  • Pose 5

    Take a seat and rest your hands palms facing down on your thighs. Breathe for a few minutes and observe your thoughts, your visions, your heartbeat. Feel gratitude in your heart for all the good and then  be grateful for all the challenges; they are propelling you forward. Greet yourself with sweetness here.

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