By Katie Bowler Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A Massachusetts entrepreneur is on a mission to help women love their bodies.
Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.
Earlier this month, "More to Love" yoga with Rachel Estapa won a grand prize $25,000 from MasterCard and Bank of America.
The "Grow your Biz" contest was catered toward new and growing businesses and entrepreneurs.
"More to Love," focused on body positivity and acceptance, is primarily centered on "larger bodies," as Estrapa says, featuring a range of yoga classes.
Self-acceptance When Estapa was just a young girl, she struggled with body image.
As a self-described "larger-bodied" woman, Estapa remembers feeling self-conscious, feeling like society was sending her a message: "You shouldn't be that way."
"A big chunk of my youth and adulthood was trying to change [how I looked]," she said. "There was success, fail, a lot of back and forth. It was very exhausting to keep of keep that up. In my earlyish 20s...I was like okay, alright, I have to figure something else out."
And in 2009, Estapa set out on a mission, a mission of positivity and body acceptance, of confidence.
She started practicing yoga, to be more in touch with herself, and felt like the exercise catapulted her acceptance of her own body. But, she noticed, she was always the largest body in the room.
"I slipped in and out of the back," she said. "And while the teachers were good, it wasn't really detailed to my body type or perspective of the poses and making things comfortable."
The more she practiced, the more she taught herself to feel better and before long, she was sharing her journey with readers on her blog, "More to Love." With a background in coaching, Estapa was confident she could share her newfound acceptance and positivity with others.
Incorporating yoga In 2015 she became a certified yoga instructor, ready to take everything she learned and apply it to a typically non-traditional class, one designed for different body types.
Based at the Somerville Arts at the Armory, Estapa hosts a range classes on Sundays, and said people travel from all over the area. She's even taught people from Texas, Ohio and Kansas.
"It's grown from this excitement of being part of something that is designed for people who are often left out," she said. "It' still yoga, it's not watered down. It's just a wider definition of how yoga can be to help people feel better in their bodies, long-term and short-term."
The classes teach students a sense of ownership, she continued, a sense of health and wellness based on individual experiences.
"You're not forcing yourself to be something society wants you to be," said Estapa.
This past October, Estapa saw a social media post about a "grow your business" contest from Mastercard, in partnership with Bank of America. On a whim she applied, thinking it was worth a short, and in early December she was awarded the grand prize of $25,000.
"It's amazing, it's a testament to this entrepreneurial spirit of just going for the opportunities when they're there," she said. "If you don't, you can't take advantage."
Estapa also leads retreats for people looking to learn more about body positivity, acceptance and yoga at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, the next being June 3.
Moving forward, Estapa is excited to use and build upon the partnerships with representatives from the local bank branches and take "More to Love" even further.
She dreams of widening the reach of her business, whether across the state, New England or even beyond.
"I'm now in the phase of really asking that question [of expansion]," she said. "I'm in interested in creating more More to Love curriculum, to teach other yoga professionals and other professional to compliment health and wellness."
To learn more about "More to Love," visit: https://www.moretolovewithrachel.com/.