Rowan Silverberg, RYT Interview


Rowan Silverberg and Tuck

Finding a yoga teacher you truly connect with can be as powerful as the practice itself. I found this to be true when I started practicing with Rowan Silverberg, RYT a few years ago. I enjoy all my teachers and I am honored to learn something valuable from each of them, but I’ve really found I have a profound connection with Rowan, not only on a personal level, but a spiritual one, as well. She has a lightness of being and true happiness that is contagious! I’ve travelled around following her wherever she’s teaching, as many of you probably have so, I felt it fitting to share a little more about her with all of you! If you don’t know Rowan, or you live across the country or across the world, sit back, and enjoy learning about this spirited teacher!

Welcome to Luna Presence, Rowan.  I’m excited to share this interview with my students and readers, not only because you are a skilled and renowned yogini, but because you embody the meaning of what it means to be a traveler on the path of yoga.

Luna Presence: When would you say you began your yogic journey?

R:  In 1965, I found the book, Yoga for Americans, by Indra Devi, in my elementary school library and started copying the poses and doing the breathing exercises.  I was nine years old at the time.  I had a big family and I liked getting away from everybody to do my private yoga practice.  In a broader sense, I think I started even earlier, in the small, rural town in western Ohio where I lived until I was four.  I liked going outside, just smelling the grass and feeling the wind on my face, watching the horses in the field across from our house.  The whole world felt so fresh.  That’s what yoga is really about for me – the goodness of being really alive.

LP: Was there a defining moment for you when you realized that teaching yoga was what you wanted to do?

R:  I never really had a big plan to teach yoga.  Yoga was a part of my life since I was young, but I never thought about being a yoga teacher; yoga was kind of like my little secret.  When I was in high school, I wanted to be a gym teacher or an astrophysicist.  I think of yoga as the perfect combination of the two!  In the early eighties, I discovered Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.  I attended retreats and workshops there — first in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, and then in western Massachusetts.  After living at Kripalu from 1988 – 1989, I started teaching.  I came back to Cleveland in 1989, and there were only a handful of yoga teachers, so I thought it would be a good idea to get more yoga happening here in Cleveland.  I felt so moved to share all that I had learned in that truly transformative year.  I am amazed to see how much yoga has grown here in northeastern Ohio in the past 20 years.

When I returned from living at Kripalu, I knew that I wanted to teach yoga in the workplace.  I had, and continue to maintain, a strong desire to help people learn to integrate yogic principles into their lives and not just see yoga as an outlet for the tension they build up day-to-day.  In 1991, I started teaching yoga to the employees of Progressive Corporation; I taught up to 10 classes a week there until 2003.  Now I’m teaching the business staff of the Cleveland Indians; we meet twice a week.  It’s really fun and rewarding to work with a consistent group of people and watch their practice develop and deepen.

LP:  Of all the styles of yoga you have studied and experienced, why did you connect so closely with Anusara?

R:  The first time I practiced Anusara Yoga was in 1994, when I was strongly into an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice.  I was at a Yoga Journal Conference and I took a class with John Friend.  I wasn’t interested in studying Anusara much at that point, but I still felt a strong connection to John.  He has such a wonderful way of getting to the essence of the practice, which is physical, but so much more than physical.  I continued my Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, practicing the primary series almost every day, and started getting injured a lot.  I was a runner, and also very flexible, with no awareness of my core.  So sometimes I’d go into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and I wouldn’t be able to straighten up completely for weeks at a time.  It was really scary.  People who studied with me back then, about 8 – 10 years ago, know what I’m talking about!  I felt very humbled…..to go into a yoga class and say, “OK, everyone, let’s get started,” and I literally couldn’t stand up straight, or go into child pose and not know if I’d be able to get up.  But I was just honest about what was going on with my students, and kept trying to figure out what would help.  Ultimately, through  Anusara’s Universal Principles of Alignment, I was able to learn how to develop integration and core strength, and I haven’t experienced back pain for many years.

So I connected with Anusara because it really helped me to heal.  I have shared the things I’ve learned from that tradition with so many students and patients (I’m also a massage therapist) and I have to say, most of the time, they work.  It’s like magic!  The body really does have an optimal alignment where it is balanced, and if people move in the direction of that alignment, so many soft tissue and joint problems are fixed.  I see it all the time: neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, back pain, TMJ – people just get better when they learn to be in balanced alignment.

I also connected with Anusara because it takes the physical practice to a spiritual level in a very dynamic, meaningful way.  Anusara is basically about celebrating the goodness of being alive – here and now, in each and every moment. 

Yet I don’t like to “brand” the style of yoga I teach, because I have learned wonderful things from every kind of yoga I have studied.  I try to integrate all that learning into my classes.  I guess I am not a fundamentalist in any sense of the word.  I’m not out to convince anyone that they really “should” practice this or that type of yoga.  There are so many valuable approaches to yoga, and to life.  It’s like having a really full toolbox, and using the right tool for the job.  It feels natural to draw from a variety of traditions in my own practice, and in my teaching.  It’s ALL yoga.

LP: Many of your classes consist of multi-level students, including men and women, young and old. What do you find most gratifying about teaching this type of class, and what is the most challenging aspect of this type of class (for you or the student).

R:  Well, the thing I like about this type of class is that it really challenges me to pay attention and give people what they need; challenging the people that are ready for it and supporting people who are not ready with modifications.  And reminding people to practice at the level that is truly nourishing for them.  I feel so uplifted, teaching a roomful of people, diverse in age and capability, but ultimately joined by a common humanity.  I’m moved to witness everyone practicing in their own way – I think it’s liberating for everyone to get out of that “I’ve got to do the pose perfectly, just as I’ve seen it in a book” mentality.  Perfection changes from moment to moment, from person to person.

So the thing I love about teaching this kind of class is also what is most challenging.

For the students: I think it can be challenging for advanced students to work more methodically, to slow down and really feel all the little details and subtleties in the poses.  Sometimes people just want to do a big, sweaty, athletic practice.  And there are times when this is just the right thing.  There are also times when this can be habitual and numbing.  So slowing down a bit can make more room to feel and be aware of what is really going on.

For the newer students, I always remind them that this is not gymnastics, and to focus on the breath.  I see people really taking this advice.  It can be challenging mentally, though – to see more experienced students doing stuff you can’t do yet, and just be all right with it.

Nonetheless, I think everyone has a pretty good time!

LP: What is your best advice to a beginner who feels frustrated by their lack of flexibility (be it hamstrings, hips, etc.)

R:  I invite people to be patient and skillful in their practice.  I let them know I’ve taught people in wheelchairs, I’ve taught people in their 80’s – so it’s important to notice what they CAN do and not so much what they can’t do.

LP:  For my men students and readers out there who sometimes feel in the minority in classes, do you have any tips for them concerning their common tightness?

R:  Really everyone is in the same boat in yoga.  Everyone has challenges and everyone has strengths.  It’s just like life: it’s tempting to think, “Oh, that person has such an easy life.”  But to really stand in their shoes, you see it’s not as easy as it looked superficially.  Since the practice of yoga is fundamentally about consciousness — it’s not about doing this or that pose, it’s about the WAY you do the pose  (hopefully as an opening to something greater than yourself – God, the Divine, the great mystery of life, the goodness of being alive, the Source –whatever has deep meaning for you) then the physical form is not the most important thing. The practice of yoga is a way to enjoy what you are capable of physically and learn to go deeper in a skillful manner, without strain and without ego attachment.  Of course, habits come up, self-judgments come up, and then we can look at them, laugh at them, and let them go.  Those habits limit us much more than tight muscles!!

LP:  What is the best advice you were ever given as you advanced your personal practice?

R:  Wow, this is a difficult question.  I have had the opportunity to study with so many incredible teachers.  I have to say it was John Friend’s invitation to begin by opening to Grace – and remember that everything else follows from that opening.  It’s a good thing to remember at all times, not just when practicing asana!

LP: If a student was looking to read more about yoga, what resource would you recommend?

R:  There are so many great books about yoga.  I would have to base my choice of recommendations on that particular student, and what s/he would need at the time.  I love A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield. the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk from Vietnam, and  Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, by Chogyam Trungpa, a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism.  I tend to recommend books that are more about consciousness and less about the physical practice, because these writings get to the essence of what the physical practice is about.

I think Erich Schiffman’s writings on yoga are wonderful as well as his teacher’s, T..K.V. Desikachar, if you are looking for writings from a teacher of asana.

LP: Your classes are infused with humor. It’s not unusual to be holding down dog or half moon while giggling about your analogy of  how comfort poses are like macaroni and cheese and more challenging ones are hot and spicy. Or describing how we need to simmer in a pose. You have a unique way of taking real-life experiences and connecting them perfectly with the practice. I know your students love this about you. What pose is most spicy for you?

R:  Ha!  Because I am riding horses a lot lately, ANYTHING that stretches my hamstrings and inner thighs is incredibly intense.  I used to be able to go into Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose) without much of a warm-up; now that pose is really challenging for me.  But it’s really interesting to have a different experience from what I’m used to, I think it helps me teach these poses more effectively.  I’m definitely more compassionate to folks who have tight hamstrings.

Garudasana (Eagle Pose) has also been challenging the last few years because I injured my knee.  Ultimately, this pose has helped my knee to heal, and it’s almost back 100%,

LP: Where do you find your best source of inspiration?

R:  Truthfully, my best source of inspiration is Christ’s teaching to love God above all things, and love my neighbor as myself.   For me, that says it all.  If I can keep moving in that direction, letting go of actions and thoughts that keep me from really living this wisdom, I will feel that my life has been worthwhile.  All the other teachers who inspire me, like Jack Kornfield, Chogyam Trungpa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Meister Eckhart and other Christian mystics, support me in this basic and eternal task.

LP: What is your all-time favorite quote?

R:  I have so many!  Here are a few:

“Good judgment comes from experience.  And experience comes from bad judgment.” 
I don’t know who said this, and recently I read it in a fortune cookie.  It’s a great reminder to value all of our experiences, and learn from them. 

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.”  –George Bernard Shaw

Here’s one from one of my riding teachers from Maypine Farm, Andrea Stuehr.  I tend to pick things apart and figure out all the little details when I’m learning things.  Once I asked her about some of the subtleties of cantering and she said, “Just think of it like this: the horse is going fast and you’re going with it.” 

And, finally, from my Aikido teacher, Sensei Linda Vecchio, “If you pray, don’t worry, and if you worry, don’t pray.”

LP: What is something that would surprise people most about you?

R: This is hard to answer – I’m pretty much of a “what you see is what you get kind of person,” and I share about my personal life, my history, in my classes.  But here’s one thing you may find interesting, if not surprising.  I went to my first political demonstration when I was six years old.  I stood on the White House lawn in 1962 protesting the Vietnam war with my family, wearing a big sign that read “U.S. OUT OF HANOI NOW.”  This has a lot to do with the reason I practice and teach yoga – as an evolution of the peace movement.  I saw a lot of people working, fighting for peace but not being as peaceful as they could be internally.  So teaching yoga, helping people to be more connected to the source of peace, is one thing I can contribute to the movement.

And if that didn’t surprise you, maybe this will: I love mules and burros.  I spent a lot of time in my childhood on the back of a wonderful burro named Pancho.

LP: Thank you so very much Rowan, for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your thoughts with us.

R: Thanks for giving me this opportunity to reflect on some of my experiences with yoga, and offer them to your readers.  I had a great time answering your questions!

Rowan offers private yoga instruction and Reiki training at her home in Richmond Heights and co-teaches a yoga teacher training program at Namaste Yoga Studio in Sagamore Hills. In 2009, she will be offering workshops at Namaste Yoga Studio, Cleveland Yoga in Beachwood, Westside Yoga Studio in Lakewood, and the Yoga Room in Little Italy in 2009.  The location of her weekly classes in 2009 is yet to be determined.  For more information, or to contact Rowan, please call 440-263-7362.

To leave a comment, simply click on the comment button below.

Change In America

Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future – John F. Kennedy

Success


What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
– Pericles

I LOVE this quote! It’s powerful, humbling and so true! Think about how this quote makes you feel when you read it. Does it change your perspecitve on how you view your successes in life? What defines success for you? Does your feeling of success come from money, promotions or simply how you live your life?

A very good friend of mine asked me a VERY difficult question regarding success this week as we discussed the topic. Since I have been pondering my answer all week, I’d like to offer the same question to you. This question is from the book Five Wishes by Gay Hendricks click this link to get a worksheet with the question that might just change the way you feel about your life. I know that last sentence sounds like a cheesy advertisement, but it is enlightening. I’d simply write the question, but I think Mr. Hendricks’ wouldn’t appreciate me giving away his secret. It’s worth clicking on!

To send me a comment, click on the comment button under the line below. Let me know what you think of this exercise!

Skimming the Surface


Going Deeper

Think back to the first time you considered taking a yoga class. Can you remember your exact perception of what yoga was at the time? Did you think it was a class for only super flexible, fit people, or that it was a weird cultish thing hippies did in the 60’s, or maybe, you even thought it was a religion, or that in some way it would conflict with your own faith. Now, even if you are fairly new to the practice, you will smile at these perceptions with some wisdom, not the kind of wisdom that comes from reading yogic texts and philosophy and history, but the wisdom that comes organically from a practicing yogi/yogini. The connection begins in your first class, with the first breath. The mystery of yoga’s gifts is what keeps us coming back. Some of you are hungry to figure out the secrets, gobbling up yoga articles, meditation guides and philosophy books while others might be enjoying the ride, taking what comes to them through their classes and their teachers. It doesn’t matter how you’re taking it in, or how quickly, it’s your openness to the experience and your awareness of the layers that exist beneath the surface of your practice and your life.This week, enjoy taking your practice to another level. Dive down a little deeper into your yoga experience in whatever way that means to you – hold your poses longer and observe your thoughts, sit longer during your daily meditation, or crack open that yoga book you got for your birthday. There are more gifts waiting for you. Don’t you think it’s time to find out what they are! I do!

 

Everything is Going to be OK

I’ve had many troubles in my life, but the worst of them never came. 
– President James A. Garfield

Everything is going to be OK. Has anyone ever told you that and you immediately felt wrapped in comfort? Better yet, have you said this to yourself and actually believed it? It’s my belief that we don’t remind each other, or ourselves, enough of this. We’re all scared about something, and when these fears arise, we look for reassurance, it’s human instinct. I practiced this mantra for many years being a natural worry-wart, thinking I believed it, but still fearing the worst. I’ve come to find a real peace in this mantra. I still find myself worrying about things beyond my control, but I always bring it back to this little phrase and the deep sense of self that I have developed. I know I house the answers and I can choose to worry or comfort. I’ve chosen comfort. When we wait for other people to reassure us, we become more uneasy when we don’t receive the response we want and need. Like so many of the yogic principles prove, the answer already lies within us. We all feel better talking to a close friend about our concerns, and she may know us well enough to give us the reassurance we need, but sometimes she doesn’t. This is when it is important to go back to that place within us that knows we’re strong enough to handle whatever comes our way.

I encourage you to use your yoga practice this week to remind yourself of your strength, growth and determination. I’ve seen many of you, (my students) find confidence and joy in finding balance or mastering a pose after many weeks of hard work. Let this be your reminder of your inner strength to get through anything. It IS going to be OK. For all of you, even those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, find a challenging pose and begin to really focus on it this week. Take any concerns weighing heavy on your mind and throw it all into your practice! Don’t hold back! Everything is going to be OK! Let this be your mantra! And hey, try helping someone this week by offering out this simple phrase. It might be just the thing they needed to hear!

Don’t forget the strength of the human spirit!

 
 

 

   

Helping Orphans in Africa Through YOGA!


Big Yogis/Little Yogis in the Park! August 3, 2008

Thank you to EVERYONE who made The Big Yogi’s/Little Yogis event a success! It was a gorgeous, sunny morning in the park for a great cause! We chanted Om under a bright blue sky, sang songs and told stories and closed with a peaceful relaxation under a canopy of trees.

My heart is full. Seeing the love being shared by these parents and children, and friends sharing the experience with the kids in their lives, was beyond words, especially knowing that the donations are going to children who don’t have loving parents to care for them and keep them safe. The Home of Hope provides that love and care that the children so desperately need, and your donations will truly go a long, long way. Thank you all for coming, and I hope to see you again soon! Click HERE to see more photos.

If you were not able to attend, but would like to send a donation that will go directly to the Home of Hope click HERE. Check back soon for a letter from Hope Latiak, Peace Corp volunteer and Lakewood native working at the Home.

SHANTI, SHANTI, in me and you,
Peace, Peace in all we do!

To leave a note, click on the comment button below the line.

Welcome!

 

Welcome to Luna Presence Yoga!

I am thrilled to finally have my own little place on the web! Many of you have requested more information on all things yoga from where I’m teaching, to help with poses and adjustments. Some of you have simply wanted to know what music I was playing in class. This is your place to find those answers and more. I’m counting on you to send me feedback. Tell me what other information would be helpful to you so I can make this site one you will bookmark and visit often. I will post helpful hints to support your home practice, and hopefully, inspire you with some of my favorite quotes.

Be sure to check out my links and visit some of my favorite sites. 

Thanks again for visiting, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Namaste!
Julie

 

Supported by the past,
Seated in the present,
Open to what the future brings.
-Patricia Walden