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Meet Mary Michelle Chua of Root 2 Rise Yoga in Studio City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Michelle Chua.

Mary Michelle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Root 2 Rise Yoga started in 2010 as a community (donation-based) yoga class, which I referred to as “yoga tastings,” in my mother’s backyard followed by a potluck and social gathering. At first, the students were friends and family, but the word and interest soon spread to friends of friends and clients I taught at other venues as a guest teacher. Since childhood, and paired with my background as a former school teacher, I’ve always loved producing multi-cultural wellness-enriching community events. Adding this passion, I began creating short local yoga retreats, integrating experts to share knowledge and lead activities on holistic wellness, nutrition, yoga philosophy, meditation, world music and other art forms, such as dance. Having been immensely inspired to transition to a career in teaching yoga during my one-year volunteer English teaching service in Costa Rica back in 2009, I then added my love for travel and world culture and created our now 4th annual Costa Rica Yoga, Culture & Adventure Retreat, sharing my inspirations from this paradise. I believe yoga (which literally means “union”) is a lifestyle that is most beneficial to ourselves and others when naturally integrated with our various facets of living, spiced with what makes our hearts dance. It’s a means of living a full life, sharing our joys and passions in community, connecting with Mother Nature and feeling rooted so that we may rise (and inspire others to rise) in wellness and consciousness (of Self and the Universe).

Has it been a smooth road?
Obstacles have come in various forms. Especially in the first few years, finances were a struggle. I struggled for many years with limited resources to market or invest in venue rental, park permits, yoga materials and hiring experts to lead activities and share knowledge at events. Having transitioned from a regular full-time teacher to a volunteer teacher abroad to a yoga teacher and business owner, I had very little capital to begin with. It was challenging for a while to earn an income to sustain a living and survive as an independent healthy adult in Los Angeles. However, each time I considered quitting and doing something “more practical,” a spark of hope nudged me to persist in following my heart and try yet another creative way to make it through. So, I wore many hats–web designer, promoter, social media publicist, administrator, author, yoga teacher — and learned the ropes to create a business as the circumstances arose.

While teaching yoga itself is a spiritually rewarding practice, all that happens outside of it can be quite challenging–driving to multiple locations daily, effectively spreading the word about what you offer (amid the many yoga teachers joining the workforce), balancing being a business person and sustaining a living from what you love to share and ensuring that a self-practice is solid at the same time.  Also, every field, even yoga, seems to have its cliques.  As you may know, Los Angeles culture highly values image. And, long-standing cliques, be it yoga studios, teachers or students, may not even consider the unique intrinsic value you offer as a yoga business if you haven’t already been deemed “popular” by the masses.  And from outside the world of yoga, there’s a (thankfully changing) stigma about the inaccessibility of yoga poses or stereotypes of its “other-worldness,” when in fact, I feel it’s probably the most practical way to take care of yourself and be available to support others.

Thus, I’ve learned to just be myself regardless and keep my eye on the greater mission–root to rise, that is, connect within and help others to connect within to rise in wellness and loving consciousness of self and the greater community.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Root 2 Rise Yoga facilitates and promotes self-study, self-love, freedom of movement, body-acceptance, community spirit, appreciation for diversity, creative expression, healthy living, connection to and honoring of Mother Nature, living joyfully and practicing kind loving awareness in our words, thoughts and actions. Yoga and all the spices (arts, hiking, travel, cooking classes, drum circles, movement meditation, and social gatherings) are the means through which Root 2 Rise Yoga facilitates that. Our events–yoga classes, meditation workshops, private and online yoga sessions, community wellness events, workplace wellness yoga, and local and international yoga retreats–range in price from any donation amount to fixed rates at the most reasonable prices we can afford, to pay all our expenses, keep the business sustainable and to contribute to the communities in which we hold events. Thus, various socioeconomic levels and yoga abilities, including beginners, are welcome to join us.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Our city is a good place for businesses like ours that promote wellness and diversity.

Our city could be more welcoming to businesses like mine who strive to facilitate their clients’ connection to nature through retreats and hike + yoga community events. Parks require permits, which I purchase for these often donation-based events. However, some parks require an immense price for these permits, thus limiting accessibility for small independent businesses like ours.

For new business-owners, I recommend starting where you are, and just as yoga teaches flexibility, learn to adapt to what you’re working with. Be creative and genuine.

Contact Info:

Image credit for Mary’s photo under headline: Mei Li

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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