I feel as though I say this during every interview, but I truly mean it: our ambassadors are OMazing!!!
Stephanie Smith is 1/3 of the Smith family that comes to Barefoot Yoga Shala. I was first introduced to her right after my return from India in a very funny and interesting way. While I had been away she and her husband, alongside her brother-in-law, had started attending the shala. I make it a part of my practice to connect with everyone as soon as I’m able in order to welcome them into our community.
Well, Stephanie’s brother-in-law is Steve and her husbands name is Craig. Having not met them in person, my first voicemail and email exchange found myself saying things like “Hi, it’s so nice to see you’ve come to the shala with your husband, or perhaps your sister? Umm… so it’s nice to see you’re coming and I look forward to meeting you!!”
Funny. Awkward. Totally perfect for our first interaction.
Stephanie, Craig and Steve are just beautiful souls inside and out, as you can CLEARLY see through Steph’s photoshoot. Her smile shines so brightly from within and it’s reflected in each of her photos.
She and her husband Craig are world travelers who met B.B. King (no biggie), among many other famous Jazz singers. You can learn more about her on their blog here!
Let’s dive in and get to know Stephanie a little better:
1) How long have you been practicing yoga?
I practiced briefly in college for P.E. credit. I liked it a lot, but I didn’t continue my practice when I transferred schools. That was 20 years ago now, and I only resumed my practice last November.
2) What drew you to the mat?
My brother-in-law started to practice, and I saw how much he was enjoying it. He suggested it to my husband Craig and myself, thinking that it would be good for us physically and mentally. Craig has MS, so we thought it would be good for his balance and strength. For me, it speaks to my longstanding love of dance and movement (I don’t enjoy traditional workouts, but this is more my speed), as well as a way to relieve stress.
3) Why do you practice at Barefoot?
We went to a few classes in Salem, but the location and timing weren’t convenient. We looked online for somewhere closer to home and decided to check out the Shala. Even though Jenny was on vacation in India when we first attended, we were immediately welcomed into the Barefoot family by the teachers and students. We were already hooked by the time Jenny returned from India, and when we met her, it was solidified. We love the physical space of the studio, but most of all we love the people. It’s a sanctuary and a judgment free zone, and we have made so many new friends. Yoga at BYS is empowering and energizing. It’s an inclusive community full of love!We had thought that if we were lucky, we could make it to two classes per week. But we enjoy it so much that we are currently attending five classes a week as well as occasional workshops.
4) You’re a world traveler, tell us about that!! How did you get started, and what keeps you going back for more?
Craig and I always liked to travel domestically, but in 2002 we decided to realize a lifelong dream to go to Machu Picchu in Peru. We had a fabulous local guide, and we have kept in contact for the past 13 years. We did a homestay with an indigenous family on Lake Titicaca, which was amazing. We realized that what we love most about travel is making personal connections and participating in cultural give-and-take. No matter how different cultures may seem at first, we are all humans with the same basic needs, hopes, and dreams. It really puts things into perspective. We have made so many great friends around the world that we often return to the same places to see them again. And of course, we also visit new places and view that as an opportunity to make new friends!
5) You have many beautiful Godchildren around the world. Can you tell us a little about them and how you’ve brought yoga to their world?
We are blessed to have Godchildren in Guatemala, Ecuador, and China. Since Craig and I don’t have kids of our own, these lovely families that we met during our travels have offered to share their children with us, and we are very grateful! Although we live far away, they are always in our hearts and in our thoughts. Our relationship with their families has enriched our lives immensely, and we visit them as often as possible.We traveled to visit out Godchildren in Ecuador over the 4th of July. They are 7, 5, and 3 years old (two girls and a boy). Craig and I wanted to continue our practice while we were there, and figured that it would be fun to teach the kids a few poses. They absolutely loved it! Despite the fact that I was giving instructions in English and a few Sanskrit words (and they speak their indigenous Kichwa dialect as well as Spanish – no English), they observed what we were doing and followed along. I was very impressed, and they were smiling and giggling the whole time. We practiced with them for over an hour. The youngest seemed to love downward dog, and after our initial practice, we noticed that she would slip into it during situations when she felt nervous or scared. It was cool to see her incorporate that into her behavior, taking yoga off the mat and using it as a real-world coping skill. (Coincidentally, her name is Shina Tayanta, which means Warrior Princess in Kichwa. Those of you who follow Jenny’s blog will remember that Warrior Princess is Jenny’s personal theme for 2015). We will definitely continue practicing with them on future visits!
6) What’s your favorite pose?
I actually find half pigeon to be very relaxing. But I am also really enjoying learning poses which are more challenging for me, such as headstand and wheel.
7) What do the words soul warrior or spirit junkie mean to you?
To be perfectly honest, when I started practicing last year, I hadn’t thought that I would really get into the spiritual aspect of practice. I was looking at it more for just relaxation and exercise. But I have totally flipped my perspective on that one! I am really seeing the impact of shifting my mindset to focus on the positive. Intention and manifestation are powerful, and I am really trying to distance myself from negativity and drama. Yoga really helps with that. We have been going through some life transitions lately, and it has really helped us to keep things in perspective and know that “we are exactly where we are supposed to be.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you Stephanie for representing Barefoot Yoga Shala this month. It was truly an honor to have you as an ambassador and also as a student.
Much love & light,