It is no wonder that Elise Miller stands at the head of class with a presence radiating youthful vitality: she has been practicing yoga for over thirty years, completed yoga videos/DVDs such as Intermediate Yoga and Yoga for Scoliosis, an area she has specialized in over the years due to her own diagnosis of scoliosis at age sixteen.
In 1974, Elise met B.K.S. Iyengar in Tilden Park in Berkeley, and it ignited a lifetime of dedicated Iyengar yoga practice. When Elise describes this defining time of her life, she explains being “struck by the level of dedication to the science of yoga, the art, oozing out of every cell of his being.” She describes the experience of seeing someone so passionate and so enthusiastic about something that totally transformed him. (Iyengar had many health challenges.) It was coming from his heart. He quite literally “woke her up.”
She goes on to tell of her experience with Mr. Iyengar in Estes Park a few years back, and tears fill her eyes as she describes his response to the students gathered to see him. She has observed his life, seen him living with such strong dedication to teaching, really wanting to give, and now experiencing a phase of his life where his approach has softened. Elise has learned tremendous lessons seeing how pure he is with his students.
Before Elise mentions it, you can feel the fullness of her life off the mat as well. I took one look at her shiny red convertible and immediately knew that this woman does not put limitations upon herself. She is truly living life! Her interests range from swimming, to downhill skiing to travel, which she gets plenty of with her ongoing retreats. Elise has been drawn to a small town just north of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, known as Troncones. This is becoming Elise’s second home. Instead of running all over the place, Elise is setting up a place where students and travelers can visit her. She has been teaching down there with friend Zoreh Afsar, and falling in love with the beauty.
With all of this activity in her life, there is another side of Elise that is much more subdued and quiet. She loves being home, and being centered. It is a simple side that enjoys teaching basic yoga classes and working with her private clientele. At this point in her life she is finding that “these two sides are coming together in balance.” It is evident she enjoys observing this transition. “My extremes are being brought into a centered place.”
For Elise, the practice of yoga is about discovering herself on so many levels. “I started to become really good friends with myself when I began practicing yoga, and being really good to myself. Loving myself.” This is echoed in her teaching, where she creates an environment of calm and safety, where students can nurture themselves.
As a founding director of the California Yoga Center in Mountain View, with a new branch in Palo Alto, her private clients, yoga retreats, building a home in Mexico and DVD releases, Elise has a lot to juggle. Yet sitting down to talk with me, she is fully present and flowing with the abundance of life right now, living deliberately and joyfully.
Everything is coming into a place of balance for her. She explains to her students that there is a place in the body that controls balance, which can wither with age. So, the more you practice balancing postures, the more balanced you will be. Elise is testament to this, and demonstrates to the next generation of yoga students the fruits of the practice.
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