From a young age, Shikha Thapa knew she didn’t quite fit the cookie cutter lifestyle others had carved for her. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Nepal to Nepali parents, the 33-year-old entrepreneur knew she was meant to find a higher purpose and calling through her passion for healing, movement, and dance.
“I knew that I didn’t want to become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, but I knew that I wanted to live a fulfilling life and help people,” said Shikha, owner of Studio Sapphire, a boutique yoga and fitness studio in the San Gabriel Valley.
Shikha never imagined she’d pursue a career in health and fitness because she had always been targeted by bullies in school and internalized a slew of negative remarks made about her body by peers.
“I was always teased for being chubby, short and having a big butt, but I had this massive amount of confidence to speak in front of crowds, dance and perform on stage, become the leader of the class. But deep down, I had a low self-esteem, in terms of the way I looked because society projected beautiful to be something else,” said Shikha.
But as she grew older, she learned how to send those thoughts and criticisms away with love. She knew it wouldn’t deter her from dancing her heart out on the dance floor. She learned to eventually embrace her body and be grateful for the ability to dance.
Even today, learning to love herself is a work in progress. A personal fitness training coach and reiki healer, Shikha continues to practice self-care and self-love, both of which are continual learning processes for her. She loves helping her clients reach fitness and health goals that are not just temporary, but life-changing.
“It’s a constant work in progress that I put in for myself even today to be comfortable in my own body, accept myself and practice self-love. It has gotten easier over the years.”
After eating unhealthy for many years, Shikha decided to go vegan for ethical and personal reasons. Today, she has transformed her life and continues to encourage her friends and clients to consider going plant-based and reducing inflammatory foods in their diets along with incorporating yoga and exercise into their daily routines.
Shikha’s mission has evolved through her own physical and emotional transformation and fitness journey. She hopes to help inspire and heal women who have felt like they never truly fit the cookie cutter lifestyle or were ever discouraged or told they couldn’t do something or be their own boss.
“I think we are all bigger and better than who we think we are, and it’s a beautiful process to be able to help women uncover these possibilities and discover their true self,” said Shikha.
Forging her Own Path
Seven years ago, Shikha was in a very different place that forced her to look within herself to heal parts that weren’t healed before. Thapa remembers a time when she had been going to therapy sessions, trying to figure out her next move. She went through a period of depression, feeling like she had failed herself and didn’t quite know where to go or what to do.
She felt she was no longer thriving or passionate about the work she was doing. Frustrated after working six years in a corporate job, Shikha quit her job with nothing lined up, and her savings depleted.
“I pretty much got so tired of my corporate job, and one day, I decided that I wasn’t going to live a miserable life. I was starting to get depressed and going to therapy, and it didn’t help much because I knew that no matter what anyone said, nothing was going to change. I had to make the change, I had to create the change and take action,” said Shikha.
“I had nothing — just faith and trust in the higher power. All the stars got aligned, and that’s when Studio Sapphire was born.”
Thapa had the urge to fulfill her dream of being her own #girlboss after getting a message from her guardian angel in the form of a butterfly. In the dream, a yellow butterfly emerged and urged her to spread her wings and create a healing yoga, fitness, and dance space in the San Gabriel Valley, Studio Sapphire.
It was a strong call to action and a dream that soon became a reality. She named her studio Sapphire after her birthstone in September and the ruling planet Saturn. Today, Shikha’s studio has been around since February 2016 and continues to grow and be a much-needed space for fostering a sense of community and encouraging health and wellness.
“I was always a spiritual being but I never was aware and conscious of it until a few years back. I kept thinking of logo designs for Sapphire and tried everything possible. One night, I got frustrated and gave up on the logo. I went to bed and that same night, I received a confirmation of my path in my dream. It was guided by a beautiful butterfly. The butterfly has been with me ever since, guiding me and protecting me. I believe that the dream was my spiritual awakening process and the butterfly was my guiding angel.”
Shikha, a certified yoga instructor, has been practicing yoga since 2011 and teaching courses and private Reiki and yoga sessions at her studio, Studio Sapphire. When she originally started her yoga practice, she admits it wasn’t always love at first downward dog.
“I always thought it was boring and I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I can just get my stretch on and move on. That was my thought process.”
But her perspective started to shift and she began to have a deeper appreciation toward yoga for healing. In 2015, Shikha revisited yoga and meditation because she realized that her physical body was always in pain because of the intense workouts she did at the gym and also the strain caused by a stressful desk job where she didn’t move around much.
“I looked more and more into yoga to heal my pains and aches. The same year, I drowned in depression. I started seeing a therapist and was diagnosed with severe depression. It was then, I decided to dig deep into how I can meditate and bring peace to my heart and my life,” said Shikha, who shared that it was a rough start because she often fought with her thoughts and pushed back. “With God’s grace, I launched my studio the same year because I decided to change my life. I decided to win over depression by doing what I am passionate about, which was to teach health and wellness.”
The more she practiced yoga and meditation, the more she felt her heart shifting to a place of peace and abundance. She began reading about the law of attraction, and listened to podcasts about entrepreneurship and spirituality, and decided to launch her own women’s empowerment retreat in Joshua Tree.
“I felt aligned and I had my spiritual awakening moments. Even my business started to shift because my vision started to shift. It’s only been two years now but my life and my business have drastically changed for good, including my clients and friends.”
Shikha also uses her intuition to help others heal through her energy and reiki healing. “I teach spiritual alignment and yoga and my practices now feel liberating. I enjoy every bit of it because I serve to add value. I serve to heal. I serve God’s purpose.”
The Model Minority Myth and Breaking Free From Stereotypes
Shikha was born in Hong Kong to Nepali parents and raised in Nepal. She completed her early education in Nepal and moved alone to the United States to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2004. Since the age of 19, Thapa has worked at least 18 different jobs in retail, fast food, convenience stores, banks. She lived in Maryland and Kentucky, before realizing California was her forever home.
As she grew older, she appreciated the sacrifices her parents made in allowing her to receive the best education. “Without their hard work, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I think my dad will appreciate this because he worked so hard in the military for 25 years, away from home so we could have a better life.”
For Shikha, it took many years to feel connected to her family history and culture. “I wouldn’t have said this a few years back, but today, I see and feel that my connection to home is part of my spirituality more than anything. I respect and adore the culture that I grew up in.”
A big part of Shikha’s spirituality is influenced by the stories about gods and goddesses in Hinduism that were passed down by her grandparents. As a kid, she learned about the Bhagavad Gita and is grateful to her grandmother for sharing these stories and instilling in her a passion for being spiritually connected to others.
Shikha was always forced to be independent. As a first born, she felt like she had a lot of expectations to meet and milestones to reach. At the age of nine, Shikha attended a boarding school in Nepal since her dad was working in the military in Hong Kong. “I went to school, slept, ate, played, and lived within the school compound. We made sure that we followed all the rules. It was very challenging in the beginning because I missed my parents.”
Eventually, Shikha grew to enjoy boarding school life. “I got used to it and made everlasting friends who became family.
After high school, Shikha decided to pursue mass communications, but not everyone was pleased with her decision. “It was a total no-no in Nepali culture. I had family and neighbors who criticized me for not picking the traditional majors like science or math but only I knew that I was creative, I love literature and the art of media. So, I fought. I fought until I won.”
When she’s not running a business or teaching yoga, Shikha is very much passionate about dance and loves collaborating with friends and shooting videos with original choreography. She recently collaborated on a Bollywood choreography with dancer Hazuki Nabana and Kana Higashi in a remix version of the Bollywood song, “Pinga,” meshed with waacking choreography. The video has garnered over 18,000 views:
“I remember as a kid, I was told that I was too fat to dance on stage so I wouldn’t get selected to perform in school competitions. Of course, I am not one of those who easily gives up, so I continued to dance until I was finally given an opportunity to perform. Now, I dance and teach dance to inspire. It’s not about being a dancer, for me, it’s simply dancing to feel good.”
‘Shake it Off” With Shake it With Shikha
Shikha has been directing her focus on growing her YouTube channel and brand, “Shake it With Shikha.” She didn’t exactly choose the name, but the phrase somehow stuck with her because her former co-workers found out she danced and taught Zumba part-time, so they lovingly ended up calling her “Shake it With Shikha” instead of just “Shikha.”
“Gradually, the name grew because my mission became deeper. I realized that too many people are stressed and depressed in this world so my goal is to empower and heal as many hearts as I can by teaching how to shake it off.”
Her YouTube channel includes videos that document her journey in the health and fitness world as well as tutorials on breath work and how to do proper yoga postures for beginners. “I create videos to share my journey and my knowledge hoping that I can make a difference in at least one person’s life through movement, breath, and consciousness. It has been an incredible journey.”
Over the years, Shikha has taught Zumba, Bollywood, Hip-Hop, and various other dance fit genres. While dance has already been engraved in her heart and soul, she finds that teaching yoga and practicing healing modalities is her main passion and current path. She recently received her reiki healing certification last November and has helped countless clients tap into their power and inner light or helped them through a creative rut.
“I kept being told several times by several people that I have ‘healing hands’ and that I am a ‘healer.’”She never gave these comments much thought, but after completing her yoga teacher training, she decided to explore different holistic healing techniques and began getting more curious about the practice.
“One day, I decided to get a Reiki healing on myself and that’s when I was told by my healer that I am healer myself. It was a confirmation. Reiki was given to me as a gift and I couldn’t be more grateful, one of the best gifts I ever received.”
Some of her defining and life-changing moments would have to be launching her first business, Studio Sapphire, and attending Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery Class in Las Vegas in 2017 and successfully walking on fire the previous year.
“It was a significant moment for me because, in 4 days, I felt like I earned my cap and gown and completed my Master’s degree in Business, Finance, accounting, psychology, health, and humanity. I found my business family that I adore and every day we learn so much from one another. It was and will always be one of the highlights of my life.”
It wasn’t always about receiving a degree or getting a steady paycheck from a corporate job that made her happy. Shikha realized that happiness actually came from within. These moments of deep self-reflection helped her find her true purpose: serving others and helping others heal.
“These moments have been profound for me and very significant in every way. It has been a path and a roadmap to evolving with the law of nature, humanity, and love. These events signified growth and defined me as who I am today.”
-Written by Monica Luhar, Mornings with Moni
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