A Los Osos woman with a background in psychology and movement therapy has won a 250-word essay contest to become the new owner of a popular yoga studio in Morro Bay.
Silvia Suarez will take over the Holistic Movement Center on Jan. 1 after beating dozens of essay contestants both locally and from around the world.
The contest, designed by outgoing owner Valentina Petrova, required a $108 entry free with the winner chosen based on the essay.
Although she has never taught yoga, Suarez said she has taken classes at the center and will use her background working with refugees to help people deal with stress.
In her essay, Suarez wrote that yoga can be a means for people craving to “recover health, happiness and balance” but who don’t know where to start.
“I firmly believe that this society can be better, more just, and respectful of others, and of the environment,” Suarez said. “Under this light, I envision HMC being a center for healing, wellness and empowerment.”
Petrova created the unusual contest to give someone with vision the chance to take over the center she has owned for 13 years.
She said she was seeking an aspiring yoga studio owner who could be “the best, most creative visionary to continue nourishing and inspiring the community.”
Three others had the chance to take over the studio but either declined or forfeited their chance, resulting in the opportunity for Suarez, Petrova said.
The estimated value of the business is $65,000. The company includes leased space and a fluctuating client base of about 200 people. Suarez will take over the $1,250 monthly lease for the studio at 845 Napa Ave. and will receive transitional training from Petrova.
Suarez said she’s worked with internal refugees in her native Colombia, using movement as a way to release tensions and overcome fears after they were displaced from their homes.
Suarez, who attended college in Colombia, also previously lived and studied in Switzerland before moving to Los Osos about five years ago.
Suarez said that when people live in fear, as did refugees she worked with, their bodies become tight.
By using movements that imitate nature — such as the falling leaves of a tree or the liftoff of a bird into the sky — people can relieve stresses and rid themselves of fears, Suarez said.
“Movement of the body can facilitate the healing process, emotionally, spiritually and physically,” she said.
Suarez said she and her husband, Daniel Hack, operate an environmental consulting firm. Hack has taught yoga before and will support her in various aspects of the operation.
They envision expanding the center to host beach cleanups, to create art out of used plastic bags and for other community-related gatherings.
Suarez also plans to reach out to institutions that work with overweight people and those undergoing cancer treatments to offer discounted yoga rates.
“We live in a fast-paced society, and I think people are craving relaxation and connection with others,” Suarez said. “Yoga offers that.”
Suarez said she has been studying how to teach yoga at the Mount Madonna Center in Watsonville leading up to the transition at the start of the new year. Petrova will guide her through the early phases of ownership and continue to teach some classes as she transitions into a new career in psychology and social justice.
“I’m so thankful, especially to Val, but also the community for this opportunity,” Suarez said. “I’ve received a lot of best wishes and support.”