We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Michelle Chua and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michelle, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
At the heart of Root 2 Rise Yoga is the purpose of inspiring and facilitating whole (mind, body and spirit) wellness and a shared space for community to thrive. Through community yoga classes, now mostly online, participants of diverse backgrounds, come together to share in healthy physical conditioning, mindfulness practices, conscious breathing techniques, meditation, spiritual wisdom teachings and soulful social connection. Online and physically distant classes in nature are mostly offered by donation, providing accessibility to all since 2010. Our international (Costa Rica and Bali) and California yoga retreats integrate arts, outdoor adventure and immersion in local traditional culture and nature, intending to bridge cultures through peaceful understanding while cultivating appreciation of the natural world. During COVID travel restrictions, we hosted our first online retreat on October 30, as an opportunity to dive deeper and practically into the wisdom teachings of yoga and mindfulness offering techniques to help ground into clarity, much needed in these times of great global change. For greater accessibility to those who cannot commit a full day, this offering has been translated into a 3-day (90 minutes each day) workshop series on December 3, 10 and 17. Other services Root 2 Rise Yoga offers are private yoga instruction, freedom flow Soul Movement community sessions, wellness workshops promoting a healthy, active and conscious lifestyle and more. Root 2 Rise Yoga continuously adapts its offerings to creatively and relevantly respond to the arising needs of the greater community, driven by the belief that by rooting into our inner source of peace and vitality, we empower our and each others’ rise in well being and awareness of our true interconnectedness as a planet.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
It’s wonderful how the universe creates opportunities that we sometimes initially perceive as hardships.  I’d like to share a personal back story through which I now see how the seeds for Root 2 Rise Yoga were planted and cultivated decades before it grew into fruition as a community-serving business.

Since a young child, the oldest of a total 5 siblings, I admired my teachers and aspired to inspire and empower others too. Completing my various related jobs leading to a California teaching credential and then sharing my passion as an elementary school teacher for over 5 years, I fearfully felt an inner calling to leave. To leap out of what became somewhat of a comfort zone-type of life in Los Angeles, and share my love of teaching across the globe in underserved communities, immersed in cultures I was drawn to through the arts, particularly dance and music, and felt an urge to learn from. After 1 month living in a small village in Ghana (West Africa) and teaching children of all ages, who were very much teaching ME life lessons, I landed for 13 months on a teaching fellowship volunteering in Costa Rica, a country I had hardly any knowledge of prior. My process of un-learning many engrained habits of thinking and doing brought much internal struggle the first few months in Costa Rica, until I truly began to let go and surrender to a greater unfolding, a huge teaching of yoga philosophy that my adopted personal daily physical practice was eliciting. I grew to adore this new temporary home, which drew me closer to the spiritual teachings of yoga through self-study, realizing that I wanted to share the inner freedom, physical empowerment and life connection that yoga brings. Upon my return to Los Angeles, I completed by yoga teacher training certification and gradually began sharing in others’ yoga journeys. I founded Root 2 Rise Yoga in 2010 and it’s grown from a donation-based yoga class and potluck in my mom’s backyard to now in 2020, 6-days weekly Zoom donation-based yoga classes, our upcoming workshop series in December and physically distant outdoor donation-based Yoga in Nature, after 6 years of yoga retreats in Costa Rica, Bali and different cities in California and monthly Hike + Yoga adventures. Looking back at my life in 2008 when I decided to take that life and career leap, I’m thankful that I trusted my inner guidance despite the terror I felt in leaving what I had known for so long. Whatever change, or aRISing branch, this life adventure brought, Root 2 Rise Yoga was birthed and evolved organically as I was led by the tools, or ROOTing principles, I’ve learned (and continue to learn): follow what I deeply love, nurture my spirit daily and consistently, be in my body even with discomfort and remember that my soul (like all of us) has a significant purpose here that I’m enacting. Rooting into the guidance within enables a rising beyond today’s perceived possibilities, despite the challenge that appears along the path.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Each day would include at least an hour immersion in local nature, such as beach hikes in Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Topanga and near Santa Barbara, in the forests within Angeles National Forest to waterfalls, Ojai, Griffith Park and surrounding trails. I’d share my favorite vegan restaurants in Los Angeles area, such Doomie’s NextMex, Sage Bistro, Flore Vegan, True Food Kitchen, Real Food Daily, Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre, Sun Café and Ve Station. We’d find local spots for Chinese foot or Thai massages. We’d visit and meditate at the Self-Realization Fellowship Shrine gardens. We’d appreciate the sunset at hidden city overlooks in our neighborhood. We might also visit the Leimhert Park drum circle and any other open outdoor gatherings that adhere to COVID physical distancing and include Afro, Latin and other invigorating music to dance to.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom, who has been supportive of my “nontraditional” life and career path; Our yoga community, who inspires me everyday to share my best and continue to grow as a teacher and student; My loving partner, Justin, who supports me through my creative processes and more; Authors who have awakened insight and transformation: Pema Chodron, Carolyn Myss, Michael Singer, Ekhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Don Miguel Ruiz, Anita Moorjani, Jack Kornfield, Marshall Rosenberg, Chogyam Trungpa and many more! Teachers who have shared their energy and guidance: Mother Earth, Costa Rica and the small town that taught me such transformational life lessons, Ghana and the village that welcomed me with so much humble richness, Kia Miller (who spurred me into daily meditation and ways to live my yoga, having trained with her), Ronald Alexander (who taught me about mindful leadership and facilitated hands-on experiences of the power of community meditation), Shunyamurti (who inspired a deeper understanding and practice of meditation during his satsangs in a Costa Rican ashram) Abraham-Hicks and most intimately, those who exchanged impactful life experiences at one time or another; There are MANY more to thank whose lives have inspired, or continue to inspire, me. Thank you, Life!

Website: www.Root2RiseYoga.org
Instagram: Instagram.com/Root2RiseYoga
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/Root2RiseYoga
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/root-2-rise-yoga-studio-city
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu6fbshnT1qPkf3mKxWNQg
Other: Email: Root2RiseYoga@gmail.com

Image Credits
Justin Hill Mei Li

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