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My Path to Yoga by Shraddha Hilda Oropeza

01/18/2022 5:03 PM | Anonymous

Smile, breathe and go slowly.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple, direct guidance for meditation–for life, really–has shed light on the path from my introduction to yoga to the present.

That introduction came in 2000, a transitional year in my life for which I was seeking solace, peace, and meaning. In other words, I needed to breathe and go slowly. What began as a way to shift my energy and find solid ground has evolved into a holistic lifestyle.

I started practicing by watching Rodney Yee on VHS tapes in my living room. I moved through periods of Bikram and Iyengar practices in studios on both US coasts. Returning to Tucson, Arizona, where I grew up, I studied the Hatha yoga tradition in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda, earning my 200-hour certification to begin teaching in 2005, followed by a 100-hour mindfulness meditation training.

I found my yoga voice offering the Eight Limbs of Yoga at Mindful Yoga Studio in Tucson. I smiled, took a deep breath, and went slowly into entrepreneurship, opening Mindful Yoga just under 10 years ago as the only Latina-owned yoga refuge in Tucson.

Around the same time, I studied for and took the Buddhist precepts, adopting the Dharma name Shraddha, which in Sanskrit means deep trust and faith. Going from teaching at other studios to opening my own studio was, indeed, a leap of trust and faith.

The foundation of my yoga practice and teaching informs my studio and my teachers to offer a safe space for students to explore, heal, and transform their bodies and their lives. I guide students in a rhythm that allows them to move in harmony with their breath and to stay open to the moment. The focus is always on mindfully honoring the body and clearing the mind and heart for whatever comes along on the mat, and more important, off the mat.

As the Mindful Yoga Sangha grew over the years, so did my practice, my sense of confidence in my teaching ability, and a desire to expand into the larger realm of wellness. I undertook studying with teachers close to yoga’s origins, including Ganesh Mohan, a physician and Ayurvedic practitioner who directs Svastha Yoga Therapy and Teacher Training programs, and Saraswati Vasudevan, founder of YogaVahini training, therapy, and research center in Chennai, India. In 2016, I earned the 500-hour Healing Emphasis Yoga certification offered by Inner Vision Yoga in Phoenix, Arizona, and began specializing in yoga for cancer survivors, for first responders, for grieving, and for overall healing–physically, emotionally, and mentally.

As part of my goal of offering holistic health and wellness to the community, I earned certification with the Integrative Health & Lifestyle Program at the University of Arizona’s Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine and a certification in craniosacral therapy, both in 2019.

All the while, Mindful Yoga Studio grew, surpassing 1,000 yoga and wellness visits a month with more than 100 classes, workshops, and private sessions in 2019. We offered a yoga teacher training, attracting 12 yogis for the 200-hour certified program. My practice and my business were graced with great blessings.

Then came the pandemic…. Smile, breathe, and go slowly.

We closed Mindful Yoga’s physical space, and I found myself back where I started yoga–in my living room, this time offering classes live via Zoom. The generosity of friends offering first one vacant commercial space and then another allowed us to reopen for small classes of socially distanced yogis. At its peak, Mindful Yoga attracted up to two dozen students to a class. Now, we are limited to eight yogis in person while offering the classes live via Zoom for those who choose to practice at home.

The revelation is that smaller classes offer an intimacy that helps create a more individualized practice. By my observation, that has helped our students to deepen their practice in a time when they are grieving personal losses and an overall loss of normalcy in life. Yoga’s focus on transformation of inner self is at the root of processing grief, and my students and I are doing that processing one asana practice, one meditation, one moment at a time.

Smile, breathe, and go slowly.

Shraddha Hilda Oropeza founded Mindful Yoga Studio in 2012 to offer a safer space for students to explore, heal, and transform their bodies and their lives. She guides students in a rhythm that allows them to move in harmony with their breath and stay open to the moment. She has a 500-hour Healing Emphasis Yoga certification and is trained in Yoga for Cancer Survivors, Mindfulness Yoga & Meditation, Yin, Restorative, and Hatha Yoga. Shraddha has been teaching since 2005 and has more than 3,000 hours of teaching experience. She was born in Sonora, Mexico, and has lived most of her life in Tucson. She is bilingual and has a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Organizational Management. Shraddha is currently enrolled in the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine Wellness Coaching program. She is a certified craniosacral therapist.

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