Qoya: One of My Favorite Discoveries, Ladies!

Qoya: One of My Favorite Discoveries, Ladies!


Doctor Neha: Welcome to Talk RX with Doctor Neha. This week I have a special guest Rochelle, and we are filming in Costa Rica at Rochelle’s Qoya retreat. I asked Rochelle to come here and have a conversation about Qoya because it’s had such a huge impact for me personally, helping me get in my body and enjoy my body. For those of you who have been following me for a while, you know that I’m a physician and so I’m in my head and work with people on what’s wrong with their body and help fixing that physically. I also moved into helping people in the mental and emotional realm. But what I didn’t do was get into my own body to enjoy it. That is something that you, Rochelle, have helped me with, so welcome.

Rochelle: Honored to be here with you and so inspired by you, so thank you.

Doctor Neha: Thank you. Could you please tell everyone what Qoya is and how you started this?

Rochelle: Yes, Qoya is based on a simple idea: Through movement, we remember. We remember our essence is wise, wild and free. On a surface level, wise, wild, and free also draw reference to the movement forms that we practice in Qoya. Wise calls on the wisdom traditions of yoga. Wild calls on the creative authentic expression of dance. Less performance dance and more like you’re folding laundry and there’s music playing. You weren’t planning on having a dance party—then all of a sudden you were. It’s that authentic expression where the music comes in and without choreographing or strategizing, your body is inspired to move. That’s the ideal place we’re looking for when we talk about dance.

Then free is about expanding your capacity to actually enjoy being in your body. That’s based on the idea that what you look for is often what you see. It’s not to devalue the challenges and the healing journeys that we go on in the body and how uncomfortable it can be. But it is to have a space in Qoya where you consider, “Is there anything I could do right now to make this feel a little bit better? When I find something that actually feels good, can I expand my capacity to linger there?” Just like you do a bicep curl to get your biceps stronger, a lot of things take practice. Many of us aren’t wired in a way to stay with the positive feelings in the body.

It’s also a practice of self-honor, because in Qoya there’s no way you can do it wrong. The way you know you’re doing it right is that it feels good, honest and true. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t keep doing it. That’s pretty oppositional to the antiquated idea of “No pain, no gain.” At the same time I’m not saying that there’s not incredible value in training for Ironmans or this or that. That’s beautiful. That’s just not what Qoya is.

Qoya developed as I was sitting in a women’s circle. One woman raised her hand and said, “Everyone is telling me I need to get out of my head and into my body.” She was a successful lawyer in New York City and she just said, “I honestly don’t even know what that means.” She said, “For me, if it’s fitness, I’ve already tried. Gym is torture; yoga is boring. I can never get in the right level dance class. I tried pole dancing, and I hurt my back.” She tried all these different things and was never getting in her body. She didn’t even know what that meant.

What I heard is she really wanted this experience of the Self, that infinite eternal spark, finding home in the ever-changing landscape of the body. Those moments when you feel like your mental perception, your emotional experience, and your spiritual awareness all come into the present moment through sensations in the body. It’s not about burning calories. It’s not about toning my thighs. Those happen just from movement. You get those byproducts, but the reason you go to show up however you are and leave feeling more like yourself.

Doctor Neha: I love that.

Rochelle: You get that experience of actually feeling yourself.

Doctor Neha: Feeling more authentic.

Rochelle: Yes, exactly.

Doctor Neha: You know what I would say about this? I really mastered left-brain activities with all of my education and medical career. Then it was a big leap to get from my brain to my heart. I spent a lot of time learning about emotions and communication and trying to figure out how to bridge this gap. Then when I met you, it was like you said, “OK, great I’m glad your head and your heart are connected; now, let’s drop into your body and your being.” I would have to say that while it’s not about strengthening your thighs and burning calories and all that, those are side effects. The goal is to be authentically you and feel comfortable in your own skin. It’s not torturous because I don’t have to focus on those other things.

The coolest thing is not only do you get a community of women who are not judging and comparing and competing, but you also get a better sense of yourself within the room. For the first time, in this retreat, I noticed that I did not notice what was happening in the room. I had a sense of it and of what everyone else was doing, but this time I felt myself dropping in and not being concerned about other. I had the freedom to know where I end and others begin and stay out of their way, so I don’t bump into them, but I wasn’t concerned about others. It was a wonderful moment of feeling authentic.

Rochelle: I love the work that you do and I’ve learned a lot from you, especially the different stages of listening. One of the things that I often say is, “We practice this in conversation. How can I be really authentic and honest?” Now in Qoya we start to practice that authenticity through the expression and movement of the body. A lot of times if you look at a child and how authentic they are, there’s so much changing. It’s very nonlinear. If you look at an adult, it can be literally feeling so much but potentially having no animations or expressions with the body and almost being locked. Here is a safe space to actually explore, and sometimes I’ll even give the prompt, such as “What does it feel like to dance with the theme of forgiveness? Share that with your partner.”

Now as we go into the free dance, dance that feeling and find that authentic expression through the body. That bridge from the head to the heart is at the baseline Qoya. It is really all about feeling. You can’t actually do that through the head. At some point to feel, you have to feel.

Doctor Neha: That’s right. You can’t think about how you feel; you actually have to feel it.

Rochelle: Most people are constantly overriding so many of the signals that they get from their body. I love what you offer in terms of health and healing and being a doctor. You’re really encouraging people to have those honest and deeper conversations because the goal is not to maintain a lifestyle where you negate all of your body’s systems. It’s to create a lifestyle where your body is in harmony with your lifestyle. A lot of people think or act as if “It’s inconvenient to listen to my body or I can’t even imagine a possibility where I could honor my body and do what I need to do in my life.” That’s really the front lines of holding that vision for ourselves and our lives that we don’t have to negate how we feel and go against ourselves all the time.

Doctor Neha: It’s an and.

Rochelle: Yes exactly.

Doctor Neha: It’s an and. If someone watching this would want to join a Qoya retreat or find you, how would they do that?

Rochelle: The easiest way is to go to Qoya.love. We have a lot of free resources. There’s a free “10 days to love Qoya” where you get an email every day with a simple five-minute video. Take these bite-size pieces and integrate them into your life. There are also a dozen or so 15- to 20-minute movement rituals of things like letting go of what doesn’t serve you or finding your courage. That’s a great way to try it in the safety of your own living room. You can also find class locations. Then there are hundreds of Qoya teachers all over and dozens of retreats every year to beautiful places. A full range of weekends and weeks in the U.S. and around the world. A big part of Qoya is trusting the physical sensation of truth in your body, especially if you feel that call to a particular video or to a particular retreat. Listen to that feeling, that calling. Often people come to a class and say, “I don’t really know, but I knew.”

Doctor Neha: I would tell you it is the most fun work I’ve ever done. It feels to me, more like play. If you’re interested, definitely go to Qoya.love. She is an incredible, incredible teacher. Thank you.

Rochelle: Thank you, Neha.