Now a wellness coach and teacher of yoga and “Embodiment,” her course designed to help students move more comfortably inside their own bodies, Riki Rosenthal is far from where she began…and blossoming in her new yogic landscape.
Originally from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Rosenthal grew up in a space that lacked a sense of nurturing for movement and body love. Her ultra-orthodox upbringing focused more on learning about religion than health and wellness. So, while she went to gymnastics and liked dancing, she never felt truly connected internally or “enough.”
While she attended college, she worked as a nanny. And while she later gained her certification and practiced acupuncture, it wasn’t until she studied yoga at the Sacred Fig in Bali that she truly found her wellness home. Now, as the energy on her Instagram feed (@riki_wellness) explodes with positivity, focus on form, experimenting with different approaches and authenticity, she’s bursting with possibilities: offering her course, as well as in-person and online group classes and privates, and rolling out an endless stream of tips, recipes and nuggets of mindfulness options. Below, she gets real about her own struggles with confidence, owning her own gifts…and offering them to others, too.
SBS: What is your professional background? What jobs led you to your work in yoga and acupuncture?
RR: I knew I always wanted to work in wellness. It took me years to decide that I wanted to teach based on the limited belief that I couldn’t be a good teacher because I was afraid of public speaking.
I finally got to a place in my life where I realized that not becoming a movement teacher was a disservice to the world, and I need to get over my fears to really show up in an authentic way.
The reason I picked yoga specifically (even though at the time I was dee into the fitness weightlifting world!) was that I knew I needed a lot of healing from childhood. I needed to learn to move in a way that relaxed and regulated my nervous system, and the world of Equinox with quests for muscle perfection and intensity wasn’t it.
SBS: What style of teacher are you?
RR: I was thinking about this the other day: I feel like a mother teaching yoga. I can be pretty strict, I make my students work hard, but I also have a really soft approach. What I demand from students is to just show up with thei whole selves throughout class. Whether they are just sitting in a child’s pose or doing a headstand, I teach about embodying every pose to the fullest.
I also started as more of a power vinyasa teacher, and now through my own wellness journey, I’m learning to slow things down for myself and my students.
SBS: How has your COVID journey been? What were you doing before and how has it shifted, both professionally and personally?
RR: I got my training right before COVID lockdown in March, so I never had the opportunity to teach on real bodies for months. I started teaching on Zoom right away, so in a way, I got really comfortable teaching over the internet before anything else. I think this was actually kind of a blessing because I had to demo every class, and as somewhat who has dyslexia, teaching a class and demoing without having to mirror or correct students felt a bit easier for me.
I started teaching very small in-person classes in my home last month, and they are gong really well. It’s nice that I had the opportunity to build a little yoga studio in my living room, because most studios were still closed in NYC.
I also created a course call EMBODIMENT that I teach over Zoom. It’s an eight-week course, and it’s a systematic way to look at the body with movement and how a newbie of yoga can start to build a home practice. Each week we explore a different body part or muscular system and learn how to move better inside our own bodies.
I created this program because I noticed there was a huge gap between taking YouTube classes and students actually knowing how to properly do those classes in their home.
Lastly, I do have lots of online students over Zoom, which I don’t think would have been possible before COVID.
SBS: What is a key tip for practice during COVID quarantine?
RR: Practice every day! Don’t be obsessed with your practice being a certain way every day. Just show up for yourself on your mat and see what mood you’re in. I ask myself these questions: Do I need to sweat and pick up the pace? Or do I need to slow it down? I honor what my body decides I need, and then I go for it.
SBS: What's your own practice? How has it changed?
RR: It has become way more intentional. My practice is my time to deeply heal and feel real and present inside my body.
SBS: What advice would you give to clients doing yoga for the first time via virtual gatherings?
RR: Always go back to your breath. If you aren’t breathing, you aren’t doing it right.
SBS: What’s your approach to nutrition?
RR: I eat according to my cycle. I’m not so hungry the week before and during ovulation. I usually start my day with a smoothie and then eat a regular lunch and dinner.
The week after ovulation and bleed week I typically am hungrier and eat more carbs. I start my day with toast and snack more in general those two weeks. I noticed my mood is paramount if I want to show up for myself and my students/clients. I’m working really hard to deprogram myself from my diet-plagued 20’s and just eat food that feels nourishing.
The best, zaniest part of being Riki: I love to dance, so random dance parties in my house turn into erratic, no-hold-back, let’s-be-a-total-weirdo and move energy. This whole pandemic has really calmed me down a lot, though. I would say I used to be crazier and more outgoing. I used to love to party and be out all the time doing ridiculous shit meeting strangers etc. But I’ve become way more of a homebody lately.
Riki’s SBS Mantra: Be Brave!
Riki’s NYC Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: My own kitchen!
Splurge Restaurant: Terre, a natural wine bar
Fun Activity: Hiking in the Hudson Valley
Calming Activity: I am a bath queen!
Online Resources: glo.com
Books: The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van der Kolk; A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How It Can Transform Your Life by Eddie Stern
Yoga Studio: My living room :)