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Iris Cohen

new york city

by the red flower STAFF

    upon first meeting iris, her innate warmth and passion for life was instantly felt. it seems a natural fit to convene within the calming interior of the red flower boutique, since she's been making regular pilgrimages to the store from her home in scarsdale, ny for years now. as the owner of be true yoga studio, a mother and writer, she's carved out a beautiful life for herself, and brings a sense of creativity to the everyday.

i sat down with iris to listen and mostly learn from her wealth of life experiences -from realizing what being a "yogi" really means, and the importance of embracing the messiness of life.

red flower: you first discovered yoga through a friend 12 years ago, what made you pursue it further?

iris cohen: for one, it was much more challenging then i thought it would be. at the time i was a runner and a dancer, but it really wasn't about the physical aspect, it was about the spiritual. i was so calm afterwards, even though the postures were challenging. it was like a sanctuary, a place for me to find peace. i had three young kids and it really taught me patience. how can you say no to that?

red flower: you formerly worked as a business journalist for ad age and ad week, what lessons from your previous career have you carried over into your new role as a yoga teacher?

iris: i find that yoga is very creative, and as a journalist i covered creative industries like advertising and the magazine industry. i found i could bring that same joy for creativity to the yoga business. you think there's a certain type who's a yogi, or a certain type who's really driven in business, but in the end we're all the same. what i found when opening the yoga studio -- it forced me to use another side of my brain. and that is yoga, being aware and mindful, they interrelate.

red flower: what is the greatest challenge you've ever faced, personally and professionally?

iris: definitely raising children. i always thought it was going to be some kind of creative, career mission, but the mission of raising a conscious, aware, and loving human being is the most creative work you can do and the most important work.

red flower: what surprised you the most, when becoming a parent?

iris: that my kids could be so unlike me in so many ways, especially with three boys. i always had this idea that if you nurture them in a certain way, say if you read them books all day -- they'll be readers, and that's not necessarily the case. you should accept who they are and then they find their way. just recognizing that you don't have as much control and to be okay with that.

red flower: in a time of resolutions for the new year, what's a bad habit you ready to give up?

iris: i study something called the "handel method", and instead of resolutions, we call them promises -- that we make to ourselves. one of my promises, that has always been a challenge, is to be on-time. it's recognizing whether these things just hurt yourself or someone else also. when i came to realize that it's disrespectful to the other person to be late and keep them waiting, then I thought, that's the reason i have to keep this promise.

red flower: your job is to teach and guide others, who teaches you?

iris: back again to my family, i learn from my parents, my children, my husband, and in the yoga world, i learn from my teacher, elena brower of vira yoga. i still write, so i still read a lot, i'm constantly learning from whatever books come my way.

red flower: any good recommendations?

iris: anything by joan didion still. i also just read katie roiphe's book, "in praise of messy lives," and it was very intriguing to me, because as a yogi , you're pretty disciplined and trying to keep things clean. she was positing, what's wrong with some wine and sleeping in, and being a little bit more messy? she spent a lot of time talking about joan didion, as one of the people who inspired her. most writers still look to joan didion as that person who got them started, motivated and inspired them, and i definitely was, as i was starting out in my writing career. another person i read a lot, who i actually do retreats with, is dani shapiro. she's a memoirist and we do writing and yoga retreats together.

red flower: your yoga studio is an interesting space and eco-friendly business, what does sustainability mean to you?

iris: surrounding yourself with beauty and the things that are closest to nature, whether it's what we ingest or what we're surrounded with -- that's what i wanted to recreate. just like when you walk into red flower, you get this beautiful sensory feeling and it's uplifting.

red flower: your studio features a lot of local artists and music plays a role in your classes as well- as a lover of music and the arts, what's a recent favorite discovery of yours?

iris: i've been playing chris martin's acoustic sets from the 12-12-12 sandy relief concert and that's gone over really big. and my favorite film of the year, "searching for sugar man", featured the musician rodriguez and a 30 year-old song has been getting a lot of airplay in my studio. in terms of artists, we try to support those who are local and we sell directly in the studio.

red flower: you seek to foster a community at your yoga space; do you also consider red flower a community, and are you part of it?

iris: yes, absolutely. i felt connected to it immediately. i wouldn't say i'm a big cosmetic/beauty buff at all, but i felt this strong connection. i met yael and we both come from a middle-eastern background, so i was drawn to that whole earthy quality to it [red flower]. when i first started using the candles in my studio, i had a lot of comments and it would bring people in, so it became a little community. that's how we started selling the candles, and the french lavender scent became associated with the studio.

red flower: what's your favorite red flower product for winter that you would recommend?

iris: i love the cardamom amber oil in the hammam line. it's so warming, i'm wearing it today actually. it keeps you warm in the winter.

red flower: what are you most looking forward to in 2013, any goals?

iris: right now we're doing a cleanse and a detox at the studio.i like it because it kick starts the year and brings the whole community together, to make promises and reboot. it's always very inspiring, and even life changing for some people. again it's about what you're bringing in: the foods you ingest, and through yoga ' the thoughts that you think to yourself. i'm just trying to bring healing to more people.

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