Baldwin Park resident Rosa Mu teaches donation-based yoga classes weekly on Lake Baldwin to bring the community together and support The Lifeboat Project.
When Baldwin Park resident Rosa Mu began practicing yoga 15 years ago, she did it for the mental and physical benefits she reaped from it.
Mu still enjoys yoga for what it gives to her, but now, she also uses yoga to give back to others.
Born in Germany, Mu’s love of yoga began when she was 11 years old; her mom took her to a yoga class instructed by an older Indian man. She remembers being intrigued by both his calmness and the flow of yoga.
Mu has moved around quite a bit since then, but whenever she moves, it’s always one of her top priorities to find a new yoga studio right away. It helps her to build a new home wherever she goes.
Since then, she has earned her certification to become a yoga instructor so she can share her knowledge and the gift of yoga with others.
“Last year, I decided to finally also become a teacher because of what I had experienced and what yoga gave to me,” Mu says. “I didn’t do it in the beginning to teach — I did it for myself — but I began to enjoy the teaching part of it. I started with just doing it for my friends, so we’d go down here on one of the gazebos and do a class. At some point people started join in, so it became a community thing.”
GOING WITH THE FLOW
Becoming a certified yoga instructor is no easy feat, either. Mu completed her certification with 200 hours of education at Full Circle Yoga in Winter Park. This education requires the instructor to learn about both the physical and philosophical aspects of yoga.
Today, Mu and her friends — as well as many community members — typically meet at 7 p.m. Mondays at Harbor Park at Lake Baldwin for a time of practicing flow yoga on the lake’s gazebo. Her classes welcome all levels and center on finding the balance between challenging yourself and being safe while practicing. She calls it Flow Yoga Baldwin.
“The yoga I do is flow yoga,” she says. “It’s an easy yoga flow based on Hatha yoga practice. … It’s open for beginners, so everyone can join, and that’s important for me. You don’t need to be flexible; you just need to start going, and we can get there at some point. I give different options for people, both to someone new and someone advanced, what they can do out of a pose. What’s, for me, really important is that they’re safe.
“I give them adjustments and tell them what to do in a pose to make sure no one hurts themselves,” she says. “It’s not a competition. It’s you and your body and your mindset need to come together and do this. It’s not about, ‘What does the person next to you do?’ It’s about what you want to get out of it.”
EVERYONE IS INVITED
What’s more, Mu’s yoga classes are donation-based. Aside from giving back to the community in the form of teaching others yoga, she knew she wanted to do more to have an impact outside of the community. The donations she collects are given to The Lifeboat Project, which offers care for all survivors of human trafficking. The Lifeboat Project’s services include counseling, health care, life skills, educational support, vocational and career training, housing assistance and job placement/internship programs for victims of human trafficking.
“I chose them because I met them at another event,” Mu says. “I’m also part of the sailing club, so once a year, we do an event for (The Lifeboat Project) to collect money. I met them and heard the story they told and even one of the survivors telling her story. It just got me really deep, and I wanted to do more for them. For me, it’s the personal connection. It’s that I met them, that I know what they’re doing, that I feel it’s good what they’re doing and it’s supporting someone else’s life — that’s why I chose them.”
Building personal connections and knowing she has a direct impact on someone else’s life is the driving factor behind Mu continuing to share her knowledge and educate others. For example, many people are under the misconception that yoga is all about stretching and flexibility, she says.
“For me, to be honest, yoga is not just stretching,” she says. “It’s also a lot of strengthening. You never use just one muscle. It’s your whole body. Your core is more than just your abdominal muscles. It’s a lot of stability that you give your body besides the flexibility. That’s why I love providing this to other people.”
Mu also has a day job and said this one hour per week of teaching yoga classes both fulfills her and gives her an outlet for the stress and challenges that day-to-day life can bring with it. She sees those she teaches come to class and let go of the weights they’re carrying, too, and it makes everything that much more worth it. Being out on the gazebo, feeling the fresh breeze and seeing the sunset adds another dimension to practicing yoga and makes for an almost ethereal experience.
“It’s a win-win,” she says. “I love teaching. I really love giving and telling others what I know and I love to see that they like it. On top of that, we can give together to someone else and support their life. I think it’s really important for us as a community to try to integrate and give whatever you can toward others. Everyone should feel invited, and everyone can join.”