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Meet Wendy Harp of Wela Yoga in Rancho Bernardo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wendy Harp.

Wendy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I worked as an Accountant for over a decade but felt as if something was missing in my life. I have always been an avid runner, marathoner, triathlete, and love fitness in general. I knew that one day, I would incorporate fitness on a larger scale in my life.

One day at work, a co-worker asked me to join her for hot yoga after work. I laughed and told her that “I am a triathlete and I don’t do yoga, ‘om shaka la la’.” She replied, “maybe you can’t handle yoga.” I agreed to join her so that I can prove to her that yoga was a joke.

Karma is a bitch and so was Bikram Yoga. It kicked my butt and I loved it. That first class was in July 2000. Fast forward 6 years later in September 2006, I decided to quit my accounting job and move to Los Angeles for three months to immerse myself in the Teacher Training program. After I became a certified Bikram Yoga teacher, I taught at several Bikram Yoga studios in San Diego.

In May 2009, my husband and I opened Bikram Yoga Rancho Bernardo, then eight years later, we officially changed our name to Wela Yoga, as we started to offer other yoga classes. Continuing education is important to me. I believe that a yoga teacher is always seeking knowledge from workshops, classes, and from other yoga teachers. Yoga education does not stop when you get your certification, it is just the beginning.

In 2016, I discovered a program called Inferno Hot Pilates. It is not a Pilates class, but a fitness class that uses the principles of Pilates and the principles of High-Intensity Interval Training to create long, lean muscles. I flew to Las Vegas for teacher training and am proud to say that I am the first certified Inferno Hot Pilates Instructor in San Diego County.

Last year was an impactful year. I embarked on a Vinyasa / Hatha Teacher Training to obtain my RYT-200, while simultaneously taking additional Yin Yoga teacher training with world-renowned Yin Yoga Master Teacher, Bernie Clark, in Vancouver, Canada, then finished the Summer with Yoga Nidra Teacher Training in La Jolla, CA.

In January 2018, I finished my Reiki studies and am now a Reiki Master. I am currently working on my 500HR RYT training and will be finished by December 2018. I am so grateful for and to all of my teachers, These courses have opened my heart and eyes to a whole new world of yoga. In hindsight, I feel as if my perspective on yoga was myopic and limited.

I am forever thankful to my friend who encouraged me to try yoga. Yoga is not a joke. It is such a gift. Yoga has given me balance in the classroom so that I may find balance outside the classroom.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
A little over a year after my husband and I opened the studio, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was deeply depressed and thought that this was my death sentence. I did not want to pursue surgery or treatments. I thought that this was the end for me. I am so grateful for having yoga in my life to help me cope because, without it, I would not have had the mindset to fight. Yoga helped me battle depression and helped me become emotionally and stronger. I had a lumpectomy in 2011 and still cancer free to this day! I credit my Bikram Yoga practice for my mental and physical well being.

Bikram Yoga is such a therapeutic form of exercise and I still believe in this method 100%. However, I feel that as we evolve as human beings and how society and the yoga community goes through constant metamorphosis; balance must be an essential part of yoga practice, For many years, I taught this method because I truly love it, but as the yoga community shifted and changed, I needed to change with it or I would not be a part of it.

Change is difficult to go through in any situation. As I opened my eyes and heart to other types of yoga, I discovered Yin Yoga in 2015. After 15 years of practicing Bikram Yoga, exclusively, I found this beautiful practice. After this discovery, it was a catalyst for trying other types of classes.

Exploring other classes was now fun, but running a 5,100 square foot “mom and pop” yoga studio has been a tremendous undertaking. We are a small company with a huge space. We cannot compete with the mega yoga studios and don’t even try. Being an authentic yogi with an authentic yoga studio is most important to me. I take pride in knowing every student’s name and getting to know them as people rather than customers.

Our studio name, Wela Yoga, is derived from Hawaiian origins. Ohana is a word in Hawaiian which mean family. When you are a part of our school, you are a part of our yoga ohana. We refer to our studio as a yoga school and not a studio. For me, it is always about learning. I think that when you are on the mat, discovery in some form or shape occurs.

Through yoga practice, you learn so much about your mind, body, breathing, emotions, and everything in between. Learning is constantly happening. Personally, as a teacher and a practitioner, I am constantly evolving, discovering how to cope, be strong, manage emotions and stress.

As a studio owner, there is a myriad of situations I face daily, both good and bad. It is hard work, but it is satisfying, especially when a student approaches me and tells me how I have made an impact and a difference in their life. It is absolutely mind-blowing when this happening. It is the best feeling in the world when you can enrich another person’s life.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Wela Yoga – what should we know?
Wela Yoga is a family owned yoga ‘school.’ We offer Hot Yoga, Yin Yoga, Fusion Yoga, and Inferno Hot Pilates. These styles complement one another beautifully. We started as a Bikram Yoga studio, so that is what we specialize in. All of our teachers are certified Bikram Yoga Instructors with 500 hours of training. We describe our vibe as compassionate, friendly, and caring. We give positive feedback.

Some may have heard about this style as being ‘militant.’ Not at our school! We will advise you about yoga etiquette prior to entering the classroom to keep the class flow as harmonious as possible. Every person is encouraged to adhere to Ahimsa and Satya as a foundation of their own practice. Be safe and be honest and just do the best that you can…. just for today.

We take pride in getting to know our students. The teachers will check you in at the front desk so that we get to meet you and to get to know you. As you enter the facility, we will greet you by name and with a smile!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I always thought that after I graduated from San Diego State University, that I would work as an Accountant all my life, but I had to follow my heart. I took a leap of faith, believed in myself, and followed my passion for yoga and fitness and opened a yoga studio. That was the most frightening thing that I have ever done. I could not have done it without my husband, Michael. We build the studio from scratch and put a lot of love, sweat, and tears into it.

Like any business, there are ups and downs, but with the love of yoga, the love from the yoga community, and with the love and support of my husband, this is and has been a rewarding journey. The practice of Yoga is what grounds me. The 8 Limbs of Yoga and the Reiki Principles are the most impactful philosophies that I live by. I do my best to let go and take one breath at a time.


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Image Credit:

Steve Gale

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