Dhawi Pienta may be small in stature, but at only 5’4”, she fills the room. New students--including grown men towering over 6 feet tall--joke that Dhawi can be intimidating with her no-nonsense approach to Ashtanga yoga.
But for @Dhawi, Ashtanga has been transformational; she simply desires to help others reach that same goal, and she takes her role as teacher seriously. Dhawi summarizes, “During my teacher trainings...and mentorship with Taylor Hunt, I did a lot of self-realization and acceptance...the practice has really changed me as a person, in ways I didn't know was possible."
Dhawi, whose full name is Dhewayani Virgita Edilestari, was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and she attended college at University of Toledo, where she met her husband, Dave Pienta. Dhawi moved back to Indonesia after graduation, and she and Dave continued their long distance courtship for 7 months. Dhawi reminisces, “[Dave] came to visit me, and we decided to get married within 3 days...it was a crazy, lovely Asian wedding at my mom’s house in Jakarta.”
Despite their whirlwind romance, Dhawi struggled with her adjustment to American culture and leaving her friends and family behind. She confesses, “It was a challenge for me to adapt to a new lifestyle living in the States. I went through some major emotional difficulties. At times, I was afraid to do anything out of my comfort zone. I felt out of place on so many occasions, and I didn’t have confidence to be who I was.”
“Ever since I started practicing Ashtanga, I feel like I really have no need to be somebody else," Dhawi says. "So I know the practice is powerful, and if it works for me, I know it can help others who are struggling with their own personal challenges--mentally, emotionally, physically, even spiritually.”
“This practice requires a tremendous amount of hard work, patience, and persistence,” summarizes Dhawi. “If you want to see...results that could possibly change your life, then that is the ultimate goal of yoga.”
Dhawi began Ashtanga Yoga Toledo (AYT) at Yogaja Yoga so that students can have a safe place to connect with one another, both in and outside of the studio.
Dhawi explains, “Having a sense of camaraderie in this community is one way for us to go through this practice--maybe the only way for some of us. We are beyond grateful for Margaret and Yogaja for the generous space and support that she provides for us to grow."
@Ashtanga Yoga Toledo started slowly, beginning with two days a week of Mysore--where students practice individually at their own pace and Dhawi provides one-on-one instruction--and one teacher-led primary class a week. More people began to show up at their mats at the crack of dawn, so Dhawi and Margaret decided to add more classes. Now AYT has a traditional Ashtanga program: 6 days a week of practice with one day of rest.
Dhawi expounds, “Traditionally in India, this practice is for household people who have family duties during the day, so they have to practice early. Similarly, some of us have to be at work in the morning, and we choose to start our day by practicing Ashtanga first thing in the morning. My teacher used to say something like, 'This practice will be the hardest thing you do that day, so everything else in life--work, school, family--seems easier to handle.'”
Ashtanga Yoga Toledo has grown over the last couple of years. They practice together, support one another, and even mingle during “chat and chai” or the occasional dinner. New students are always welcome.
“What’s so interesting about the Ashtanga community is that we are all going through the same struggles...regardless of what poses we are on," Dhawi discloses, "so what we practice on the mat is a mirror of what we face in the real world. There’s definitely a special bond between each student even though we barely see each other or speak during practice.”
If you are interested in checking out Ashtanga for yourself, come “dark and early” at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday for Mysore. Punctuality is not necessary as everyone practices at his/her own pace, and no experience is necessary; Dhawi comes around to instruct you on your next few poses. For teacher-led Ashtanga classes, Dhawi teaches full primary on Saturdays at 7:45 a.m. and half primary on Wednesdays at noon.
Dhawi completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT) in 2014 through It’s Yoga, followed by a 100-hr YTT in Jivamukti at Yogaja Yoga with Brent Divine. In 2016, she completed a year-long mentorship with Taylor Hunt, a Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga Teacher in Columbus, Ohio.