Rowena obtained her yoga teacher certification in 2014 (RYT-210 hr) with Rusty Wells at Urban Flow in San Francisco, CA where she had been practicing yoga since moving to SF in 2011. Rusty teaches a unique brand of devotional vinyasa, called Bhakti Flow, in the SF Bay area and leads teacher trainings, retreats and workshops around the world. His public classes are filled with music, sweat, stillness, and energy that will open your heart and leave you in a state of content. To check out his teachings from the comfort of your own home, visit YogaMyLove. One of Rowena's most memorable lessons from Rusty was learning the effect that saying "it's all good" has on others and self. "It's not all good. But it'll be okay."
Rowena was excited to have Jason Crandell as her instructor during training for anatomy, alignment, and injury prevention. His mastery of technical communication speaks to her biomedical engineering background and personal experience with physical therapy. For a glimpse of his teachings, check out his interviews on the podcast, YogaLand with Andrea Ferretti. One of the major lessons Rowena learned from Jason was what constitutes a weak chatturanga anatomically, and how it introduces risk of shoulder and back injury. Her chatturanga has improved since and remains a work in progress. As a result of her lessons with Jason, the steps towards gaining strength and alignment towards full chatturanga is a highlight in Rowena's public classes. As Jason would say, "Progress makes progress."
Wah is a world-renowned musician and artist. You may have heard her music playing before -- Rowena was already listening to her music for years without realizing who she was. Suddenly, the woman behind the voice and sound was her instructor at training! If you are lucky, you may find Wah offering her music live during yoga practice in SF. From Wah, Rowena learned breathing, sound and thought exercises for studying the relationship with self and others. Some of Rowena's memorable lessons from Wah include:
"If you are self-loathing, do service to others and in that way, you can grow the relationships with self."
"Some people have a hard time relating to god. So fine. Relate to the self -- how do your closets look? Go home, take everything out, and put back the things you use."
Rowena and Neil share the teacher, Rusty Wells. Before teacher training, she knew Neil over the years as the talented drum player at Rusty's weekend morning classes. During training, Neil was one of the teaching assistants in the Bhakti Flow Teacher Training team. Half desi, Rowena has found it helpful to study with Neil as she continues to explore her own beliefs, indian culture, and western yoga. If you share an appreciation for the art of music, particularly indian classical music, and live drumming to guide flow of breath and movement, check out Neil's classes.
Catherine was Rowena's yoga teacher at Yoga Flow in Pittsburgh, PA where Rowena discovered yoga during recovery from chronic pain and inflammation. What made Catherine a great teacher was her ability to provide clear verbal cues, zero mysticism, and physical assists which were not about the vanity of a pose, but about finding breath and relieving strain. After Catherine and Rowena moved from Pittsburgh, they lost touch but found each other years later thanks to the rise of social media giant: Instagram. One of the most meaningful readings Catherine gave during a class that led to my first yoga book purchase and study was:
"For many of us, our yoga teacher fulfills the role of steadfast advocate as we take risks and try new behaviors on the mat. In time, however, we must begin to be able to do this for ourselves. We must learn to trust that if we fall out of a balancing posture, rest during a vigorous class, or take a day off when we are tired, we will not lose our own respect or affection. Many of us expect more of ourselves than we would ever ask of anyone else. We simply cannot live up to our potential unless we are willing to live boldly and take adaptive risks...We must know that at the end of the day there will be a home to return to, where we will be loved for our hearts as well as our deeds. We must be steadfast in our love and respect for ourselves, both when we soar and when we stumble."
- R. Gates & K. Kenison, Meditations from the Mat
On a snowy, depressing Pittsburgh day in 2010, Rowena trudged home from grad school worrying that she may never be pain/inflammation free or graduate with a PhD. From the corner of her eye, she noticed a sign that read, "Free Yoga for 1 Month" with an arrow pointing to around the corner. Her physical therapist and multiple doctors had been nudging her to give yoga another chance. It was this gift from Yoga Flow Shadyside that allowed Rowena to try again.
Dominique Ponko is a teacher at and the owner of Yoga Flow in Pittsburgh, PA where Rowena truly discovered yoga. Dominque's school of yoga is one with little mysticism, teaches all the modifications for each pose at every class, and leaves most philosophy and theology out of asana practice -- which in hindsight, helped Rowena focus on the flow of body and mind. Moreover, this studio welcomed students, diversity, and her recycled college rags as yoga gear. Not once during her time at Yoga Flow did Rowena know about her teacher's struggle with brain cancer. Rowena learned about Dominique's story as she was getting ready to move to SF, while reading a feature in a small local magazine. One of the biggest lessons Rowena learned from Dominique was how humility and selflessness makes a great business owner and yoga teacher.