Interview with Rozel Gonzales

Dynamic, Passionate, Open

Where are you from and/or where do you live?

I am Canadian, born and raised in Montréal, Québec, where we speak English and French. My parents, however, come from the Philippines.

How did yoga come into your life and what has that journey been like for you?

Yoga became part of my life when I was a student at McGill University. I had a lot on my plate, trying to stay fit, my studies, and work. I figured if I became a fitness and yoga teacher, it was a way for me to achieve a better balance in my life. In the first 10 years, I taught in the gym environment. I taught power yoga style classes, purely focusing on the physicality of the practice. I would cue my students to breathe in and out, but I actually did not really know how to breathe. As the years progressed, I started to yearn for more. I wanted to be a “real” yoga teacher and so I decided to enroll in a traditional teacher training. I had already started taking these new Ashtanga classes with “this guy” named Mark Darby who started renting out space above the local natural food store close to my home in Montreal. Little did I know at the time that Mark Darby was one of Pattabhi Jois’ original students. Mark and his son Shakara became my teachers for many years, my original teachers. Over the years I continue to learn more, traveling each year to learn from teachers like Manju Jois, Jody Manley, and Kino MacGregor. It has been an amazing journey that I am super passionate about. I love to connect with like-minded people and it is an honor to be able to share with others and learn from my students at the same time.

How has yoga changed and what do you feel it creates in your daily life?

The catalyst for change for me was when my firstborn son got sick in 2010. He was 5 years old at the time when he was diagnosed with leukemia. It was such a difficult time for our entire family. Yoga is what kept me sane. The community that I had built around yoga and fitness supported me so much through this time. This year my son celebrates 10 years of remission and we are so grateful. Yoga for me today is a way to help others. I use it as a tool to connect with others and to help them shine. I often say I teach Yoga Off the Mat. My goal is to give you a strong body and mind to help you deal with the journey of life… Sure, I can teach you how to stand on your head, but it’s just the by-product of what I am really trying to do.

What is yoga to you?

Yoga is my joy. I feel grounded, strong and open after I practice. My mind feels clear and I enjoy the journey of always learning. Yoga is my friend. It is always there when I need it.

What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice, in teaching and within the yoga community?

Covid-19 has been a challenge. As the owner of a health and wellness centre, I have had to adapt by being, flexible, creative and innovative. Fortunately, we have an amazing team and we have been able to remain viable and strong through virtual and hybrid options. We have an amazing community that continues to support us through this challenge and our innovation is helping us to remain leaders in our community.

Why do you practice?

I practice because one day… I want to be a wise old woman. In my mind I am calm, content, happily sitting in colorful tights and legwarmers, levitating in padmasana with lots of grandchildren around me.

Why do you teach?

I teach because I love it. I love meeting people, connecting and getting to know the stories of my students. My students keep me motivated to keep learning.

Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

The Examined Life, Bram Levinson (my friend from Montreal)
Yoga Mind, Suzan Colon
The Gift of Imperfection, Brene Brown

Through your own personal journey, what do you feel is your path and offering to the community- local and global?

I think I offer an approachable way to learn yoga and Ashtanga in particular. I am strong, but far from perfect. My backbend needs lots of work…and the intermediate series is still very challenging for me… but I think that is a good thing. Imperfection makes you more authentic and approachable, in my opinion.
Have you ever had a yoga teacher that you were shy to drink coffee next to? That has happened to me…I promise you, you can drink coffee next to me. Fun fact… one of my students recently said to me. I was so happy when one day I saw you eating a chicken sandwich. Yes, I eat chicken and I do not hide it. People say I am really good at explaining things. I think it is because I was a gymnastics coach for a very long time and my years in the corporate environment allowed me to hone my communication skills. I think its a good combination. I have spent lots of time studying the philosophy of yoga so each class is sprinkled with a positive message from the scriptures, deepening your practice.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

Find a teacher that you can connect with. I recommend you research the lineage of your teacher. Find a teacher that will teach more than the postures, a teacher knowledgeable on the philosophy, the breath work and meditation. It will enrich your practice so much more.

Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

My current project is basically making sure that my health and wellness studio Energie EnCorps, based in Montreal continues to remain steady as we wait for Covid to pass. I have fantastic team of over 30 teachers, therapists and administrative staff that are like family to me. I need to guide this ship through this storm…

What’s your favorite meal at a restaurant?

I love Indian food and lots of spices. I think I was Indian in another life.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

Palak Paneer, a vegetarian indian dish

What do you like to do for fun that’s non-yoga related?

I also teach ZUMBA! For real!

Who is your greatest inspiration?

I have 3 boys… Luka, Jona and Kai. But my eldest son Luka, who is the cancer survivor is my greatest inspiration. He was just so brave. What is most inspirational is how he has been able to bounce out of that experience with no regrets and still so much passion for life.

If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring with you?

My family, my yoga mat and my ukulele

What’s your favorite TV series?

Right now I am rewatching the 24 series on Netflix!

What’s your favorite quote/affirmation/mantra?

Little by little, a little becomes a lot…

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By Rozel Gonzales

Rozel Gonzales is a passionate yoga teacher, speaker and entrepreneur from Montreal, Canada. Following her son’s battle with cancer in 2010, Rozel left a successful corporate career to follow her dream and open the Energie EnCorps Wellness Centre. The centre is an expression of gratitude for her son’s remission and a platform to promote balanced and healthy living in body and mind. Rozel pours her heart and soul into uplifting others, teaching others to live in the present moment and to take the philosophy of yoga OFF THE MAT and into the world. Rozel has been teaching yoga and fitness since 1997. An Ashtanga trained teacher, she is the lead trainer for the Energie EnCorps Yoga Teacher Training program. Rozel continuously attends workshops and training around the world to update her skills and to build upon the foundations taught to her by her teachers Mark Darby and Manju Jois.