By Elka Haeckel
When I turn 23 I had my first episode of a panic attack and consequently, I’ve suffered severely from depression and anxiety. It was then that I found yoga. After years of treating my depression with medication as well with yoga and meditation, I was able to get out of the meds (supervised by a professional doctor) and decided to become a yoga teacher in 2003.
Yoga awoke me for my truth and my purpose in life which is serving others. It gave me a feeling of oneness and I was not feeling alone anymore. In 2005 after feeling stronger within, I’ve decided to take the risk and open my first yoga studio in Ocean Beach, San Diego, used to be called Namaste Yoga Center. The studio was growing so fast that I needed to move to a bigger space and in 2007 I moved to a bigger location.
I also became a health holistic practitioner specialized in Thai medical massage in 2008. The growing of the business was very organic. Things started moving naturally and my professional life was on the rise. However, on the other part, my personal life became out of balance.
In 2012, I went through a divorce and I’ve decided to sell my business to move back to my country and live with my family for a little while. I sold everything I had. I was literally living the practice of “letting go” and trusting that the universe is always taking care of me. It was not an easy thing for me to do. I loved the center I’ve created. It was a beautiful studio, where I put all my heart into it. But it was the time to take care of myself first.
I needed to let go of Namaste in order to be where I am today. I didn’t realize back then “why” things were happening, but today I see that everything I’ve been through in order to live my purpose was a blessing. I must thank my mother for inspiring me with her strength and perseverance to never give up and always believe in my dreams.
I am a Brazilian from the state of Bahia and I moved to the U.S in 1999 to study English and planning to go to college. My mom raised two children by herself after the death of my dad when I was 5. He was murder in Brazil at the age of 45. So yes, I came from a traumatic experience when I was a child but life only gives you the opportunity to grow and never feel pity. Me, my mom and my old sister never felt like victims but as survivals and powerful Goddesses warriors, especially coming from a country that is very ‘machismo” dominant.
In 2013 I sold Namaste Yoga Center and I was teaching all over U.S, Mexico, and Brazil. After four months of living in Brazil, I needed to come back to the U.S to get my citizenship, which was in process, and also because I was still leading yoga teacher training here (USA). When I got back to San Diego in 2014, I was surprised by my students and the community who didn’t let me go back to Brazil. My work kept me pulling back to San Diego.
In 2015, I was blessed to work with my soul sister and business partner Anna Fernandez who has always been by my side and always believed in my work. We’ve known each other for over a decade through yoga and she did a teacher training with me in 2013. In December of 2015, Elka Yoga & Wellness Center was born. Anna and I shared the same vision and values with the business. Even though Anna and I are very different personalities, we became the perfect business partners, Yin & Yang.
My vision with my work has always been about creating a community and I am so grateful for all the support I have in this community. My life has been dedicated to my work since then. I truly love what I do and teaching is healing for me. Yoga and meditation are becoming a new medication for the modern world. If we all take care of ourselves in a very mindful way, we are creating a ripple effect out into the world. It is a collective benefit because we are all connected, we are all one.
I never give up my dreams. I am proud to say that I started teaching yoga “by the bay” with no money and with the help of friends and family, and I was able to open my first center with only $10,000 investment. Today I live my purpose which is love and serving others. I always say “teaching is healing”
* Elka Haeckel is the co-owner of Elka Yoga and Wellness Center (EYWC), a fitness and yoga center as well an educational sanctuary, located in Point Loma, San Diego, California.