For Rochelle Schieck, movement has always been a way of expressing herself. Raised as a dancer, she committed her childhood to its practice, dancing anywhere between 30 and 40 hours a week. “Dance was my passion, my catharsis…it was really my life,” she reflected. As she headed into her college years, she struggled with the idea of having to give up dance for a more academic pursuit, but decided to follow her passion, which earned her a dance scholarship to the University of Arizona in Tuscon. While there, she found a way to make movement the center of her collegiate learning, delving into studies of its mental, physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. “It was interesting, because I was making decisions based on what felt good, what I wanted to study, and it ended up being the basis for a business I would create 10 years later.”
Fast-forward to present day and Rochelle has dedicated herself to helping women remember that they are wild, wise and free through Qoya. In the most basic sense, Qoya is a movement system for women. In practice, Qoya is a shift in consciousness through movement that evolves the way women have been taught to move their bodies. Deeply inspired by the study of the divine feminine, sensuality, and other womanly arts, Rochelle combined her experience as a personal trainer, certified massage therapist, shamanic energy healer and her degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts with knowledge gained from a decade of world travels as a student and teacher to create the movement system that takes its name from the Quechan word for queen.
Drawn from the wisdom of yoga, creative expression in dance, and the pleasure found in sensual movement, Qoya’s focus is to help women enjoy and revel in their feminine bodies. Qoya classes have a basic structure made of 13 different components, the first of which many participants don’t see. “I set sacred space with candles, sage, prayers and intentions before every class. That’s the first part,” said Rochelle. This leads to the sharing of the theme of the class, which varies from class to class, and with each instructor. “Every Qoya class is different. I’ve never taught two the same and that’s because it’s about showing up in present time. I also give Qoya teachers freedom to express what they are amazing at and share it with those in their classes to create a space for women to open up and dance in their own truths.” Combining the traditional benefits of fitness—including strength, flexibility, balance, endurance and agility training—with a unique empowering approach, Qoya is an hour-long journey that includes focused breathing, stretching, hip circling, dancing, sharing with others and shaking.
In Qoya classes, Rochelle sees herself as a guide for the women in her class, helping them navigate their bodies to uncover the wisdom within. “For me, Qoya is a map to truth, it’s a guide to understanding how you access and feel the physical sensations of your essence,” she explained. “Qoya helps build our vocabulary and capacity to express ourselves through our bodies.”
Continued Rochelle, “If you think about how your body moves all day long, it’s very rigid. We follow these social norms of linear movement. And with Qoya, women can experience how good it feels to get out of this linear constraint and just do a hip circle! And I find when people really dance, they connect to the physical sensation of truth and start to uncover the non-verbal wisdom that’s always been inside of them.”
Qoya classes are held across the country in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Brooklyn and Minneapolis. In the last five years, Rochelle has trained more than 150 women to be Qoya teachers, led 20 retreats on six continents across the globe and created an online resource for those who want to practice Qoya at home.
“I just know from my own experience and from leading other people that there is so much wisdom in the body. As soon as the dancing starts, people come up with creative projects, topics to their next book, answers to personal problems that they were having a hard time resolving,” recounted Rochelle. “I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘that Qoya class was more valuable than 20 years of therapy. I reconciled more of my life in that dancing exercise than I have in $20,000 worth of sessions with my therapist.’ It’s a reconnection to the body and the truth inside and that, right there, is the whole point of Qoya.”
Rochelle formulates special playlists for her Qoya classes to help inspire and encourage movement. She has shared her latest playlist with us for your listening pleasure.
Regular Qoya classes are offered in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Austin and more. Click here to find a Qoya Class near you.
Written by Rachel Maniago
Photos by Jodi Jones