Seattle Yoga News is on a mission to find and highlight all of the hidden, and maybe not so hidden, gems in our yoga community and beyond. We want you to learn about their experiences and perspectives, but also a bit more about their personalities, so we have a few fun questions for them. This week’s spotlight is turned towards Adrienne Rabena.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOGA?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Even as a child in Indiana, I craved authenticity, connection, and spirituality. I was one of those kids who went everywhere barefoot and had crazy wild hair and made mud pies and climbed trees all day.
In my 20s, I thought I might be a politician or begin a social business. I worked for nonprofits, and I worked for Obama, and I studied economics. I traveled abroad and contemplated how to make the world “better.” Everywhere I turned, I had unanswered questions. I wondered why people in the US thought they were “civilized” and other peaceful countries weren’t. I wondered why my boyfriend at the time wanted to throw away ten years of his life working 20 hours a day on Wallstreet to become a millionaire. Having studied economic systems and government, and having spent most of my childhood on food stamps, I wondered how people could genuinely argue that government intervention for poor people was somehow harmful? Without this intervention, I would’ve starved.
The questions I had were really about waking up. I was fascinated by people from foreign countries, especially old destitute people. They seemed to know more than anyone else about life. I had a deep drive to awaken and reveal the meaning of life at a foundational level. This sent me on a windy path that eventually led me to yoga.
When it comes to teaching yoga and leading a yoga teacher training program, I think it’s in my blood. My mother was a dancer, an actress, a musician, and a fitness instructor. My grandparents are teachers, and I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, wellness leaders, and spiritual community builders. My great grandfather founded a University. My father founded a church. It feels like I’m living a life that is uniquely me, but when I look at my family history, it’s not surprising that I’m here — in a meaningful, spiritual, athletic, profession that emphasizes the art of teaching, self-study, and entrepreneurship.
While I can’t say that it was easy to become a full-time yoga instructor, it was incredibly challenging; I am privileged by my skin color, body type, and cisgender. I had a disposable income because it was relatively easy for me to get a corporate job.
I never questioned IF I would be welcome and accepted in yoga studios, you know? Most people in studios looked just like me. My best friends and lovers in high school were black and Latino, and I don’t know if they would’ve had it as easy coming into the yoga industry eight years ago. The smartest, most talented people I knew at my high school were people of color, and I witnessed the trouble they had at landing high paying jobs after high school.
What I’m saying is that, yes, of course, it took a lot of skill and determination and hard work to “make it” in this yoga field, but also, the odds skew to my advantage. I can balloon my story as if I’m special or make my experience sound like it was magical and unique, OR I can share my story in a broad context and tell more of the truth… I’m lucky.
With all that said, I’m honored and blessed to be here, enjoying the opportunity of yoga practice, leadership, and recognition as a yoga instructor. I am humbled.

WHAT KIND OF TRAININGS HAVE YOU PURSUED?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

My first yoga teacher training was superficial, but it was a great place to start for someone who knew nothing about yoga. I learned poses. We flirted a little bit with Americanized yoga philosophy (read: culturally appropriated yoga sutras). We had a physical therapist talk through anatomy, and we retained nothing— ha! But, I learned how to teach, and that was indeed the greatest gift.
I didn’t gain the spirituality I was seeking, so I kept studying.
I took immersions with Baron Baptiste, Seane Corn, and Jason Crandell. They are all excellent instructors, but I still didn’t quite get what I was seeking. I took classes regularly with Meghan Currie and Tiffany Cruickshank and a handful of other wildly popular teachers, and while I started to get close to what I was looking for, my learning was still very posture and sequence focused.
Then, one day, my husband and I committed to a 500-hour teacher training with Embodied Flow, led by Tara Judelle and Scott Lyons. My husband had practiced with Tara for years. This training woke us up. It continues to wake us up three years later! It reinvigorated my desire to lead, and it gave me the tools to formulate healing, transformational experiences for my students. It revealed my shadow and dramatically changed my course in the yoga world. It fulfilled me spiritually, and I finally felt like I discovered the real yoga.
Before Embodied Flow, I was teaching poses and teaching them well. After the training, I was teaching YOGA. The poses went from the focus of my classes to the conduits of the philosophical message I was relaying. This message isn’t one I created; it is one that’s been here since the yogis revealed it.
My husband and I study yoga philosophy daily. Our favorite scholars and teachers are Hareesh Wallis, Sally Kempton, Anodea Judith, and Seth Powell.

WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU ALWAYS GIVE YOUR STUDENTS?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Do what you want and practice what feels healing for you. Right now, and always.
Some practitioners are surprised by how liberal my teaching has become. Rather than tell people what to do and how to do it, I try my best to empower students to show up for themselves and take ownership of their experiences.
The Shiva Sutra says, “When she remembers that she is free, she obtains the entire universe.” We are free, and more often than not, we forget. We feel trapped by the things we’ve chosen for ourselves, and this shows up in yoga when the students think they must follow what the teacher says. This shows up when the student expects the teacher to direct them. I call myself a “facilitator” now, not a teacher. I guide people towards an experience, but they have to choose to go into the experience themselves.
I hope my students follow my cues only when it feels authentic to them. Otherwise, I encourage them to experience the class uniquely, differently, entirely as themselves, and I love when I look around the room, and everyone is doing something slightly different.

COULD YOU HELP US UNDERSTAND WHAT IS A “CREATIVE AND INTELLIGENT VINYASA FLOW” CLASS?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Yes! We call our offering Spirit Flow™, which is a musical, meaningful, creative, and intelligent vinyasa flow. In my sequencing workshops, we break down each one of these words in depth. For the sake of brevity, let’s say that our classes are fluid, rhythmic, potent, and meaningful.
The fluidity comes from a rich understanding of anatomy, both physical and energetic, as well as an intuitive, somatic-healing style of movement. We curate a layered class for students to feel and experience the most transformative lessons shared by our lineages yoga scriptures. Our classes are vessels for yoga philosophy.

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT ONE CAN EXPECT WHEN VISITING THE BOHEMIAN STUDIOS & WHAT MAKES THEM DIFFERENT FROM OTHER STUDIOS IN SEATTLE?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Bohemian is a hidden gem in Seattle. Everyone who enters for the first time stands in awe, stares at the art and the plants, and then talks about how good the energy feels in the studio.
It’s simply heavenly. Natural light is abundant. There are soft textures and plants. There’s lots of color and self-expression in our studios.
Most yoga studios feel sterile. Virtually all of them have white walls and wood floors and one plant, and maybe a statue. Bohemian is like a living work of art. It feels like you’re in a peaceful living room. Corporate studios cannot be as wild and dynamic as we are! It feels like you’re practicing in a sacred space, and it is sacred — two Native Americans blessed our Phinney space!
What makes us different is our offerings and our instructors. We are the only locally created barre method and yoga method. We let barre be our workout so that yoga can be yoga. I think too many studios try to turn yoga into a workout, and it detracts from the healing potential of yoga classes. So, we decided to keep our yoga super integral and very high quality. Our instructors are incredible!
Many yoga studios utilize the same instructors as each other. It’s like every studio in the city is offering the same thing, just in a different box, under a different logo, and in a different part of the town. They all have the same teachers just shuffled around differently. Not at Bohemian.
We wanted to create something unique and cohesive. So, we decided to use just instructors who are trained by The Craft of Teaching Yoga. Students experience depth and consistency in our classes, and they experience styles and formats that they will not experience elsewhere in the city.
We also believe that healing and health are much more than working out. We offer art and music parties throughout the year. We do political activist workshops, too. We fiercely support all body types, and so we do things like the Summer Soul Food Challenge, which is the opposite of a cleanse or “pushing” yourself to achieve a goal. Our offerings are all about filling up your soul.
Our tag line is Strong Body, Free Spirit. We believe that our bodies are vessels to live our life to its fullest, and we believe filling up our souls is just as important as strengthening our muscles and bones.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT YOU HAVE FACED AS A YOGA TEACHER & STUDIO OWNER?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Being a leader, in any capacity, is difficult. It means you have to make decisions, and not everyone will agree with those decisions. You have to disappoint people, and some people take disappointment poorly. Some people are very destructive and dramatic when you choose to say no or fire them.
Being a leader means you are competing with other leaders, whether you want to or not, and sometimes people are slimy in how they compete for students or money or recognition. The rules are blurry in the wellness industry, and it makes things like stealing of intellectual property and slander challenging to police.
Being a leader means that things are never what they seem, and often you can’t tell anyone what you’re going through (besides your husband), and you just got to stay steady, weather the storm, and nurture your intention to heal your community. You’ve got to show up loving and resilient because you have an entire team, and a vast body of students, looking up to you.

WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO YOGA TEACHERS CONSIDERING OPENING A YOGA STUDIO?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

I could write an entire book of advice for people who want to open a yoga studio. Maybe one day, I will!
Here’s what I’ll say: don’t open a studio based on desire alone, know what you’re doing. Most studios fail within three years. Make sure your instructors and partners are people you deeply trust. Be prepared to lose friends during your bumpy start. And always, always, ALWAYS get a lawyer involved. Sign contracts, and make sure you have a clear exit strategy outlined in the agreement, especially if you have business partners.

WHAT YOGA RELATED BOOKS HAVE MOST INFLUENCED YOU?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

                                       Tantra Illuminated by Hareesh Wallis . I read it almost every day!

Tantra Illuminated by Hareesh Wallis

WHAT IS ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

I created a barre method, and I’m in the top 10 most popular coaches on Alo Moves! I’m literally the only one that’s NOT famous in the top ten, ha!

CAN YOU SHARE WITH US SOME OF YOUR WELLNESS & SELF-CARE PRACTICES?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Every morning, we start our day with fresh veggie/fruit juice. Yes, it’s expensive and timely to press your own juice, but we consider it our health insurance.
Also, yoga doesn’t mean postures. We practice yoga every day — meditation, philosophy study, conversation, and time outdoors.
We believe in returning to the source of wisdom. Every month, we spend days in nature, observing, contemplating existence, and discussing yoga philosophy. When we do this, we return to our students with rich learning and insights.

WHO IS THE YOGI WE SHOULD FEATURE NEXT AND WHY?

Adrienne-Rabena

Adrienne Rabena:

Okay, you’re going to say this is cheating, but there’s a male, POC yoga instructor in Seattle who is the most yogic person I’ve ever met. His classes are amazing and strong, and his voice is like velvet. He shares enlightening philosophy. His playlists are dope. He plays sound bowls and the tongue drum in his classes, too. I think he’s a hidden gem: Eric Rabena.
He doesn’t show off on social media much, but I think the world should know about him. He’s incredible.

Adrienne Rabena’s Bio: She is a Seattle entrepreneur and yoga & fitness thought leader. She is the founder, co-owner, and lead facilitator of The Craft of Teaching Yoga and Bohemian Studios. Adrienne is also a top coach for Alo Moves. She’s been featured on Women on The Rise, For Women Who Roar, King5’s New Day, and Fearless in Training.


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