Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Chua.
Michelle, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Since my first yoga class in 2001, my personal yoga journey deepened years later when I turned to yoga to recover from an immobilizing dance injury. Through a more consistent yoga practice and being forced to really slow down, I realized there was more to yoga than physical benefits. When I left my career as a schoolteacher and traveled abroad as a volunteer teacher, my yoga practice grew as a daily necessity for sanity and well-being, and it hit me that my calling as a teacher was to share the deeply transformational practice of Yoga.
In 2010, after completing my first yoga teacher training, I founded Root 2 Rise Yoga, inviting friends and their friends for donation-based yoga classes in my mom’s backyard. Often followed by a potluck, our community grew and I began sharing yoga in other spaces in nature, my favorite place to practice and feel connected to my inner nature of peace, which lives in the core of each of us, according to yoga philosophy. In 2014, I organized our first international retreat in Costa Rica, where I had spent over a year volunteering and realizing my passion to share yoga. We now have had numerous retreats there, as well as Bali, California and in June 2023, Peru.
I continue deepening my study of yoga through everyday practice and trainings, such as additional Yoga Teacher Training certification in Yoga Psychology and workshops in mindful leadership, guiding yoga hikes, facilitating intuitive dance movement journeys, trauma-informed yoga and more. My offerings are also informed by my love for dance, other creative arts, nature immersion, plant-based food and holding space for diverse individuals to connect meaningfully.
I continue to offer donation-based yoga classes in nature, believing in the power of community, connecting with nature and the need to make yoga accessible to diverse people. I also offer weekly Zoom yoga classes, private yoga sessions, yoga at the workplace, yoga and mindfulness workshops and customized wellness retreats for private groups.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a community-centered business has had its challenges, especially during the first few years when I just returned home from volunteering abroad without an income. I had withdrawn my retirement early as a schoolteacher to support my living abroad and moved back into my mom’s house as I tried to survive as a new yoga teacher. I often taught for free in exchange for “exposure” and eventually realized that I had to earn a living for my services. For a while, I was entangled in the limiting belief that I should sacrifice financial well-being as a yoga facilitator that supports spiritual practices. I soon learned that this is not sustainable, quickly breeds resentment and inhibits me from sharing what I love in the best way I can. Worrying about how to survive while teaching others to care for their well-being is misaligned and does not last. I continue to learn that money is a means of energy exchange, and balance is necessary for mutual (that is, my and those whom I serve) well-being.
It’s funny that during my low moments of wanting to give up because of self-doubt and financial struggle, I asked the Universe if this was really my calling. I only want to do the work that my inner being is aligned to—what I feel is my purpose and contributes to harmony in this world. Always, a new opportunity would surface, like a university hired me to teach multiple weekly yoga classes or several new private clients signed a contract for regular sessions. I strongly felt supported and inspired to keep going, learning, growing, sharing and doing it with love and creativity.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I believe that nature is medicine, and we are nature. I guide yoga and hiking and yoga/meditation in nature where I believe we can truly connect to pure life energy. The name Root 2 Rise Yoga nudges us to root into Mother Earth and our inner nature, which is pure love and vitality, to rise individually and collectively in well-being and consciousness. As we authentically care for ourselves, we are able to genuinely care for others, including our planet.
I see yoga as tools for inner peace, and practicing them, especially meditation, regularly as a community breeds outer peace. Yoga cultivates self-awareness and intentionality in our relationships—with ourselves and others. With this in mind, I continue to offer over 5 weekly classes that are donation-based, on Zoom and in nature, believing that whatever our income level, we can support each other’s continued practice. I welcome other forms of energy exchange, too, like bartering services we both need.
I also love organizing and facilitating yoga retreats, in which we can immerse in the practices of the 8 Limbs of Yoga (from the Yoga Sutras) and enjoy nature, healthy lifestyle habits, local culture, meaningful conversations, authentic connection, mindful play and different forms of creative expression together.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
My mom, Edna, has been a huge support, despite her initial concerns of my veering away from a traditionally perceived “stable” 9-5 job with insurance benefits and the works. Yet, she knows I’m doing what I love and feel called to share through my own journey. I appreciate the consistent community that has shown up every week on Zoom since the pandemic hit and still now. All our Zoom Yoga classes make up much of our growing free YouTube (over 900) yoga class recordings that anyone can practice with from around the world. I thank them for their support and for inspiring me to keep growing, learning and bringing more to the table. I appreciate Ashley, my Yoga Psychology teacher trainer, who generously filled me with self-healing resources and thus, helped build my confidence and skills to share more meditation and neuroscience-informed practices with our community. I appreciate the community that shows up each week and monthly to our outdoor yoga sessions connecting with nature together. I appreciate my partner, Justin, who is also my teacher in applying my yoga “off the mat” while sharing his support and love. I appreciate my sister, Melissa, another teacher on my path, who humbly shares her support in quiet ways. I appreciate Mother Earth for the grounding and wisdom she offers through her presence and example when I simply pause to be with her and listen. Thank you to all of you who have supported Root 2 Rise Yoga in any way, like helping to spread the word about my offerings. And I appreciate all the teachers I bump into on this life journey, who help me continue awakening and seeing myself and life more clearly.
- 4x Weekly Zoom Yoga by donation
- Weekly Yoga in Nature in Studio City by donation
- Monthly Hike/Nature Walk + Yoga throughout LA by donation
- Retreats: CA in December 2022 & Peru (Machu Picchu, plus) June 2023, Check rates at: Root2RiseYoga.org/Retreats
- Intuitive Dance “Soul Movement” + Yoga PLAY-shops in Hollywood & near Temecula – $20 & up at Root2RiseYoga.org/Soul-
- Debunk the Myths: Accessible Yoga + Vegan Nutrition Workshop on November 5 (3-5pm) in Studio City, Sliding Scale Price at Root2RiseYoga.org/Workshop
- “Inner Peace, Outer Harmony” Wellness Retreat on December 3-6 (4-day or 1-day) near Temecula, CA – Prices vary (Early Bird discount thru 11/1/22) at Root2RiseYoga.org/PEACE
- “Release & Renew in Peru” Nature, Culture & Yoga Retreat on June 8-17, 2023 – Prices vary (Early Bird discount thru 1/3/23) at Root2RiseYoga.org/Peru2023
- Website: Root2RiseYoga.org
- Instagram: https://www.Instagram.com/Root2RiseYoga
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/root2riseyoga
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu6fbshnT1qPkf3mKxWNQg
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/root-2-rise-yoga-la-2
- Other: https://www.Instagram.com/LAYogainNature
Justin G. Hill (both solo photos)