Believe it or not, West Coast Sweat has been serving the community since 2002! (Way before any of you thought you would actually purchase your groceries online.) This month is special for the studio because it marks the third anniversary of Rosa Chacon Lauper as the new studio owner. This week, I interviewed the woman behind the studio’s exciting transformation (and the woman who’s usually the one doing the interviewing)!
M: We see you all around the studio, teaching classes, behind the front desk, and sweating it out with us in class. I’m so excited to finally be the one interviewing you. Okay, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, tell us about your childhood?
R: I grew up in Lennox, California. Typically, I’m shocked when anyone knows where that is. (It’s a tiny city right underneath the LAX flight path.) I’m one of 8 children (5 sisters and 2 brothers). I’d actually never even heard of yoga until I was in college!
M: Wow you have a huge family. What about college?
R: I think I went to every community college in CA. I went to Grossmont, El Camino, and Santa Monica College before transferring to the University of Utah where I graduated with degrees in Economics and Political Science. I also played collegiate Rugby.
M: Rosa, I am blown away that you were a rugby player! That is such an intense contact sport. Well, there’s one thing I learned today! Okay, tell me more about your rugby career and then how yoga came into the picture.
R: My college rugby years were some of the best of my life. My team was my family and we looked after each other on and off the pitch (rugby field). I remember how good it felt to play competitive sports. What drew me to the sport is that it required me to be in top physical condition and it’s also a very intelligent sport as it’s continuous play. Rugby, as you know, is an intense contact sport, and learning the art of tackling took some time for me to finally “get.” It wasn’t something I was inclined to do. In tackling, you’re taught to run at full speed toward your opponent. If you don’t commit and end up hesitating, 99% of the time you could get injured. There’s power when you’re set in your decision, commit, and execute. It’s a strong metaphor for me even today. I become aware when I am holding back. Often, it’s a shift in my energy to re-focus forward and commit.
M: When did yoga come into the picture?
R: Let’s just say I had my fair share of broken bones, knee injuries, and concussions during my rugby career. I was introduced to yoga in college as a means to focus on flexibility. I did not hear about Bikram Yoga until a few years later, at which time I had no desire to try it. Fast forward to 2008, I was a corporate-stress mess and I had some deep emotional trauma going on as well. My good friend finally talked me into going to my first class in Manhattan Beach. My whole body was in freak out mode, I couldn’t breathe, and I thought for sure I would die if I didn’t leave the class. I didn’t like it really, but something about what happened to me changed me and I knew I had to come back. I went back again and again, each time forcing myself, literally. I think I walked out of the room the first 5-8 times. I’m such a type-A person that it was so hard for me to sit still for 90 minutes. I kept thinking about everything I had to do. Every class, I would stare at the clock for a long time: I was just so obsessed with how much time was left. Eventually, I would learn to make space for my practice, so I let go of even looking at the clock.
M: That’s a surprising gift to receive from yoga, but a good one. It’s amazing how we all go through some type of an adjustment period when we first start practicing. It seems like everyone has to overcome a few obstacles and shift their perspective, whether it’s the heat, not having enough time, a limiting belief, or something else completely.
R: Yeah, I also had a terrible habit of being late to class (and late to my life really). One time, someone at the front desk would not let me into class and told me, “the class doesn’t wait for you.” I was so mad and offended but eventually I learned to take accountability. It really helped me learn the value of discipline and the gift of being on time.
M: You were having so many big shifts and changes because of your practice, when did you consider going to Teacher Training?
R: I had hustled and worked hard to accomplish a lot professionally, yet the more I got connected to myself spiritually and through my practice, I realized I was so unfulfilled. Eventually, I did the unthinkable and quit my job with the intention of taking a year off. The work I did in the yoga room awakened my body to a lot of things that I had to do outside of class. But seriously, it was a dream. My husband also took a year off and we traveled, got back to nature (where my heart is), got back to ourselves and each other. I then remember, one day, after class, a flyer for Spring 2011 Teacher Training catching my eye, and I just knew, instinctively, that I was going to do teacher training. I was lucky I had nine weeks off to go away and immerse myself in the training.
M: That is amazing. Yoga is such a great way to process anything that comes up in our lives. It sounds like your husband has always been a great support system. After the training, did you know you wanted to own a studio?
R: Yes, he is a great support and does a lot of karma yoga for the studio behind the scenes.
I really wanted to hold space for other people to have a similar transformational experience and I had a mustard seed of faith that it was possible to create this alongside a thriving business. When the studio opportunity came up, I knew the magic that existed in this space, and I just had to take a risk and move through all of the fears that come up with being a first-time business owner. It makes me so happy to know how yoga is affecting the lives of our students and how they feel connected to our diverse group of teachers and to each other. I feel so blessed to be a part of this sacred space where our students can go one pose closer to the wholeness that they are. That makes it all worth it. Seeing this community come together and thrive is so heartwarming.
M: Oh, that was beautiful. We are so lucky to have you as a studio owner, teacher, and friend. I’m so grateful for all the time and energy you’ve put into this place. Thank you for being so uplifting and for energetically keeping a high vibration for the studio and all us yogis! Okay, one last question before you go . . . what is your not-so-favorite posture?
R: Where do I start? I have several not-favorite postures. The first few years of practicing I hated triangle pose with a passion. My legs would just shake and I would look for every reason to sit it out. I just hated it so much. My mentor-teacher suggested that I take a few classes and choose only that posture to go 100% on. Today, it’s one of my favorite postures, and I feel such powerful energy when I practice it.
Now, after having a child (tight hips) and a knee surgery, standing head to knee is very challenging in a different body. My frustration is in knowing how well I used to practice it while gently reminding myself to practice what I can to the best of my ability. After all, the posture isn’t the goal, the body is. I keep the focus on that, using what I can. And that’s the journey of becoming in the posture.