An Interview with Shoma Jha
Shoma is one of the kindest women I know—the owner of Centered Yoga + Worthington in Old Town Worthington.
Her studio is gorgeous, and the people she brings in and attracts are strikingly kind and peaceful people.
I am honored to know Shoma, and recommend getting to know her or experiencing classes at Centered!
KS: FIRST OFF, CONGRATS ON YOUR NEW STUDIO! IT'S BEEN A BLAST TO SEE YOU GROW AS AN ENTREPRENEUR AND OWNER.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING FOR YOU IN STARTING YOUR STUDIO?
SJ: Thank you Kelli! I’m so honored to have you as a part of the Centered team.
The most exciting aspect... It’s so difficult to choose! Gosh, from choosing the interior design of the studio itself, to creating a logo, to bringing people together. Teachers and clients, alike.
With teachers, I am thrilled to have an amazing group of instructors. Each has a unique perspective and energy; all create beautiful classes.
Also, it has been exciting to see who walks into the studio each day. If it is a new face, then I want to make this first experience a lasting one. If it is someone who has come back, it’s an amazing feeling to know that they came back!
Also, to witness students release tension and sense freedom in the body and mind is a beautiful thing.
KS: I AM ALWAYS INTERESTED IN BRIDGING GAPS BETWEEN VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR ACADEMIC BACKGROUND AND WHERE/WHAT YOU HAVE STUDIED?
SJ: My academic background couldn’t be more removed from yoga.
I studied at the University of Michigan. I have a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a master’s in environmental sciences with a focus on water quality through the School of Public Health.
I have worked several years in the public and private sector.
KS: CAN YOU SPEAK TO WORK/LIFE BALANCE, OR MAYBE TELL THE TALE OF WHAT LED YOU FROM ENGINEERING TO TEACHING YOGA?
SJ: To me the idea of work/life balance has always seemed ambiguous.
When I worked as an engineer, work was work and play was play.
Before having children, this model seemed to be just fine. After my second son was born, work responsibilities became enmeshed with family commitments and vice versa.
For me, this was a struggle.
It was a tough decision for me to be home with my children, and realize I was lucky to be able to do so.
It was while I was home that I discovered yoga through a Suzanne Deason video my mother brought to me.
Eventually, my curiosity led me to different studios.
When I was pregnant with my 3rd child in Rochester, New York, I found a prenatal yoga class. It was at this point I discovered the real power of yoga.
Yoga isn’t just a form of exercise, it creates clarity, reduces stress and so much more.
I was hooked. Upon moving to Columbus, I practiced yoga at many local studios.
Through the stressors of raising young children, yoga became a sanctuary for me.
Through the years, I learned so much about myself through yoga. It gave me the path to be honest with myself, to be compassionate to myself and ultimately feel amazingly alive.
I knew then that I had to bring yoga to others… leading me to the teacher training program at Yoga on High.
The journey has been incredible and I feel fortunate for my path.
KS: ANY SIMILARITIES OR UNIQUE INSIGHTS YOU HAVE ABOUT THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF ENGINEERING IN RELATION TO YOGA AND/OR RUNNING A BUSINESS?!
SJ: My engineering experience definitely enhances the ability to work with numbers and to be able to look at the business aspects of running a studio with confidence.
I also know through engineering that foundation is everything.
This idea is echoed through yoga. It is through a strong rooted foundation that we can rise.
This can be taken literally, pose by pose. Strong footing, strong core, and alignment create freedom to challenge the body and mind.
It can also be taken to the studio level, where without a strong foundation, we cannot succeed.
An instructor’s passion for and knowledge of yoga/movement, as well as compassion for the student is an essential foundational thread for a studio. I feel that our teachers each have this element.
KS: WHAT WAS IT ABOUT YOGA THAT YOU LOVED SO MUCH IN THE BEGINNING? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT IT NOW?
SJ: In the beginning, I was drawn to yoga for its physical benefits and the gift of new found energy.
Now, my love of yoga has expanded beyond measure.
Yoga remains a form of exercise and a source for energy.
Through the practice of yoga, I can always find peace, clarity, acceptance of myself, acceptance of the world, confidence to challenge myself, and discover all the miracles around us each moment.
KS: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE STYLES OF YOGA TO TEACH? WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR PRACTICE OR IN YOUR TEACHING?
SJ: I am most definitely drawn to vinyasa. The idea of moving with breath resonates with me.
Within the realm of vinyasa, a class can be highly energetic or more restorative. I feel that vinyasa is versatile and can accommodate any intention of one’s practice.
In my teaching, music is a major inspiration. Music creates vision to move.
Also, nature provides constant inspiration. The other day, a gorgeous weeping willow captivated my mind and sent it directly to yoga.
Often, it is the words of my kids that resonate with me and give me new ideas.
Without a doubt, practicing yoga with a variety of teachers and various teaching styles serves as constant inspiration.
KS: WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT MAKES YOUR STUDIO UNIQUE?
SJ: There are two unique features of Centered Yoga + Movement.
One is definitely the incorporation of movement.
After all, it is by deliberately moving our bodies that we build self awareness. Also, it is with breath that we build our connection to the present.
While breath and motion are essential elements of yoga, they aren’t foundational to yoga alone.
At Centered, we are offering a variety of classes where movement and breath are building blocks.
We offer many fusion classes where yoga is threaded with another movement form. This includes tai chi, barre and dance.
In each of these classes, yoga is the backbone.
Elements of tai chi, barre and dance are woven in; the result is a creative and and distinctive class.
Our fusion teachers are amazing! Additionally, nia is offered at the studio. Nia has a dance backbone with features of martial arts and breathwork woven in. For a more cardiovascular experience, nia is a perfect option. One should really try each class!
Our second unique feature is class offerings to the younger population.
I found yoga when I was nearly 30 years old. This practice can touch the lives of people at any age.
Why not bring it to youngsters? They can benefit from the fruits of yoga and movement like any adult...especially in this over-scheduled, over-gadgeted world.
At Centered, we offer weekly classes to different aged children appropriate to their developmental level. This includes elementary aged classes, tween classes and teen classes.
KS: WHAT DO YOU LOVE SO FAR ABOUT THE STUDIO? YOUR VISIONS FOR IT?
SJ: My great love of the studio is bringing in people to just be and express themselves. I want people to come as they are.
There is no prerequisite to yoga or movement. My visions for the studio are to expand the idea of movement and expand offerings to a wider spectrum.
We are a sitting society. We sit in the car and drive. We sit at our computers and work. We sit on our couches and socialize on our phones. It is movement that keeps us healthy.
It feels wonderful to see people move their bodies and build self awareness. Whether it is through dance, martial arts or yoga, the ways in which we move are boundless.
My vision is to bring more “movement” to Centered.
KS: ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE ABOUT CENTERED?!
SJ: If you haven’t visited Centered, yet, you must! We offer so much and have wonderful teachers!
This Saturday, May 13, 1-4pm, we are partnering with The pARTy Studio for a Mother’s Day Afternoon Retreat.
This is a wonderful opportunity for moms to take time out for themselves.
Start with a vinyasa yoga practice at Centered. Afterwards, make your way to The pARTy Studio (next door) and liberate the artist in you! You will be guided to paint a beautiful sunset canvas.
Additionally, we have several workshops coming your way.
The first is a Foundations Workshop lead by Colleen McFall on Saturday, May 20, 2-4pm. Colleen has unique perspective as she has taught yoga in Colorado and at various studios in Canada.
She will break down poses so one can fully understand alignment, modifications and breathwork involved many commonly practiced poses.
You will come away with more confidence in your practice.
Centered will be hosting summer camps for elementary aged school children. Camp will incorporate art, meditation, yoga outside in the trees, yoga, nia and some barre indoors.
As far as promotions go, stay tuned for summer specials!
KS: OUTSIDE OF YOGA, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATIONS OR JOYS IN LIFE?
SJ: Outside of yoga, my greatest loves are to read, play piano, and tutor young children.
I tutor elementary aged children in math; it is always exhilarating to witness a child’s “aha! moment”.
I love to find ways to make kids understand something that seems impossible to grasp.
Oh! And of course, there is nothing like a hot cup of tea! Anyone in my family would agree, tea makes me inexplicably happy.
My greatest inspirations are my children, for sure. I have 3 sons and a daughter. Two are in high school, one in middle and one in second grade.
It amazes me how different each are. They each have different and sound ways of thinking.
I will often go them for ideas and advice. I find it to be an invaluable practice.
I am so thankful to have four beautiful souls keeping me honest and inspiring me to be better.
KS: WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR GREATEST HEROES? WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO?
SJ: I don’t have to look very far to find my greatest heroes. My husband and my sister. They are my lucky stars.
Rakesh, my husband, has always dared to believe in what seems improbable or even impossible.
He is often heard saying “that’s easy” and will then proceed to explain how it can be done. I am always surprised by this ever-present can-do attitude.
In his eyes, whatever you set your mind to...can be achieved. I love this perspective and am fortunate to be around it all the time.
He knows to break it down and build up.
With his positive influence, I am able to believe in my foundation and reach for the sky. I am immensely grateful to him.
Debi, my younger sister, is also someone I look up to. I often ask myself “What would Debi do?”
She is compassionately honest. Debi may be the bravest person I know.
Whatever obstacle she faces, she marches forward without hesitation.
My younger sister has always been a source of strength and wisdom.
KS: FAVORITE BOOKS?
SJ: I love a good story and love to read. It’s difficult to choose especially since the list is always growing.
I love stories of unimaginable hardship and even more unimaginable perseverance.
Amongst my favorites are the following:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
KS: FAVORITE QUOTES?
SJ: There are three quotes that come to mind.
First is Mya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman”. This poem resonated with me through much of my early 20’s. The beautiful and empowering words to embrace one self translates into confidence and liberation. A poem I have read innumerable times.
Another is the following quote by Agassiz:
“Go to nature. Take the facts into your own hands. Look and see for yourself”.
This quote is engraved on Natural History museum at The University of Michigan. Whenever I gaze upon the words, I am struck with the wonder I feel.
I love the instruction to simply go, look and see.
It applies to anything we encounter in life. We need to first step forth, observe and then take it all in. Somehow, these words convey the idea of limitless possibility.
And lately, I love the following:
“Feel the feeling, but don’t become the emotion. Witness it. Allow it. Release it.”
Again, these words are an invitation to the universe and its infinite capacity.
We don’t need to be restricted by our thoughts and emotions. We can simply observe them for what they are and be so much more.
KS: MUSIC?! SONGS/ARTISTS YOU ADORE?
SJ: My go to’s for yoga are Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Coldplay, Trevor Hall, and Thievery Corporation.
My playlists can include literally anything...from Indian classical flute and sitar, Aaron Copland, A. R. Rahman, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Sting, India Arie, Neil Young to John Denver.
I am a lover of music and spend a lot of time creating playlists. Anything is fair game!
KS: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN COLUMBUS? WHAT PLACES DO YOU LOVE?
SJ: Places I love in Columbus? I’m now realizing that they mostly have to do with food!
North Star Cafe, Bibibop, Sassafrass, Brassica, The Whitney House, Dewey’s and Jeni’s are amongst my favorites.
Worthington Farmer’s Market is certainly a favorite.
The Franklin Park Conservatory is a gem.
I also love the path along the Olengtangy River.
KS: WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND RAISED? WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO WORTHINGTON?
KS: I was born in Raleigh, NC as my parents, immigrants from India, were students at NC State. I grew up in Michigan and landed in Columbus because of my husband’s work.
Columbus has been a great place to raise our family.
Specifically, Worthington offers a unique downtown experience. So many venues just walking distance from our home in Old Worthington.
I feel honored to create a sanctuary for people to be, to move and to explore right here in my hometown.