I started dancing when I was itty bitty.
Not quite a tutu kind of kid, although I had the build, I always struggled with conformity and gravitated towards improv and powerful, free expression.
In college, I minored in modern dance. Soon after, however, I stumbled into a bit of a cult, replacing the free-form dancing, surprisingly, with some very rigid methodologies.
Among some of the weirder "yoga psychology" manipulative stuff were other, helpful teachings; things that reminded me of the ways my grandmother used to start her days: gentle movement practices I now know as anti-rheumatics or the joint freeing series.
Another was the elusive Yoga Nidra, a precise and systematic guided rest practice with origins in the ancient meditation lineages interwoven with modern therapeutic self-hypnosis.
This practice captivated my imagination right from my first, innocent encounter with it and I allowed my curiosity to sweep me away, as I followed its trail all around the world.
I traveled to India and Nepal, through meditation centers and ashrams across Europe and North America, and even after giving up on the cult, I didn't give up on Nidra, as I sought out new, post-lineage yoga teachers in London and Chicago, who were decolonizing this powerful healing modality.
But before all of that and a solid decade before yoga became a full-time thing for me, I began my adult work life in the non-profit sector, in public health, running prevention education programming and getting into lobbying-level activism.
At age 26, I felt called to move back to my native Poland, to be closer to my then 94 year old Babcia (Granny).
Growing up had been unstable for me: eight schools in three states and in three different countries by the time I got to college in Ohio!
Heading back 'home' to Poland, freshly trained in delivering these new yoga tools I picked up seemed like the perfect way to find balance in my life.
I spent the years of my Saturn Return teaching English as a Second Language as well as yoga in Polish and English. I found work translating subtitles for sitcoms and movies as I made my way to writing for and eventually becoming managing editor of an English-language expat newspaper.
I felt like I was putting my B.A. in English and International Studies along with my minors in Modern Dance and Women’s Studies to good use.
Then, I manifested a fantasy I had planted in my rock-n-roll heart seven years prior, going to small but mighty shows at Cleveland dive bars. I dreamed that when I got to Poland, I’d find work with big stars coming through town for concerts.
So I absolutely rejoiced to get an offer in marketing for a major international music label. There even was a bit of riding around with famous artists, showing them bits of Warsaw!
But I spent most of those days learning how to structure an album launch and promo campaign, create buzz about new music, coordinate logistics, including makeup and hair, for media calls, television appearances, and public events all while tracking sales to inform marketing strategy.
I also kept on teaching my yoga and nidra classes and the more I studied consciousness, the more curious I became about the intersections of liberation and healing. The glitzy but shallow corporate world of commercial show business began to lose its appeal.
As humans, our common denominators are our bodies. When we don’t feel well in them, when they feel like burdens or betrayals, the whole world becomes a painful place.
I left the music industry and set off to the most magical massage school I could find, in a small town in the high desert just outside of Sedona, Arizona.
Soon minted as a new therapist, I still bounced around the world for a few years, including some months back in India, rounding out my holistic studies at an Ayurvedic clinic.
By 2014, fully licensed by the State Medical Board of Ohio, I launched my massage therapy practice in Cleveland, found fast success and went full-time within the year.
For the most part, I loved it. I was doing active preventative care for my community, in the least toxic environment I could create for myself and making very livable money.
But I didn’t quite realize how vulnerable my livelihood had become, serving folks in-person only.
There had been many moments, elbow-deep in jojoba oil, passively stretching someone’s shoulder or ankle when I would think that I ‘should write a newsletter’ or ‘make some recordings of my teaching work’ and build out my digital presence. But at the end of five or six massages in a day, week after week, I simply didn’t have the energetic bandwidth.
Then the pandemic abruptly shut down my business and with it, my livelihood. All I could do was turn online and try to figure things out. I felt behind on building a digital infrastructure for my business, but it was time to roll up my sleeves, not to protect them from the jojoba, but to show up online.
I had always been friendly with computers, so I showed up with my decades of life and work experience, self-employment and running a successful practice, the writer in me always saw the poetry of marketing and the dancer only grew to be designer and director along with an insatiable passionate for understanding our human body-minds and how they tick.
It was time to put everything together: health education + yoga + bodywork + writing + design + online events + marketing + service-based business + empowering the people I most dearly wish to empower: other women and gender minorities.
Heck! All minorities because I understand a few things here, as a queer, gender minority, immigrant small business owner myself.
And that’s how Olga Chwa Business + Wellness emerged.
Olga Chwa, E-RYT, LMT is a holistic coach, massage therapist and wellness educator who helps independent practitioners find the messaging and strategy they need to successfully show up online.
Olga Chwa Business + Wellness olgachwa.com