KILLEEN — Being flexible enough to touch your toes isn’t the point of yoga, and Lisa Kelly wants everyone to know it’s OK if you can’t.
She can’t do that, either, and she owns a yoga studio.
When she first opened up Live and Let Liv Yoga at 3803 Levy Lane in Killeen, her goal was to introduce the practice to an area otherwise unfamiliar with it.
Kelly is a veteran, and her husband is an active-duty soldier. Part of the initiative has been to draw both active-duty soldiers and veterans to classes. Every first Thursday of the month, the studio offers Yoga for Warriors, a free class designed for service members and veterans.
Part of it is geared at relieving pain from injuries received during service, but a large portion focuses on a connection to the present and leaving anxiety behind. That can lead to better sleep, something many veterans long for, Kelly said.
“I find that a lot of men, once they come to yoga and get past that stereotype, they fall in love,” she said.
When she decided to host a free community yoga class Saturday morning, her goal was to prove that anyone — regardless of shape, size, gender or athletic ability — can be a yogi.
As a result, the free event known as Killeen Does Yoga drew 250 people to the Killeen Civic Center on Saturday morning to simultaneously engage in downward dog and warrior poses. When instructor Erica Peasler asked who was about to take part in his or her first yoga class, about 25 hands went up. That’s just what Kelly wanted to see.
“This class is not about our studio,” she said. “A lot of people think about yoga and think about a tall, thin, white woman bending backward on a mat, like you’d see on a magazine cover. You look around, and everyone here is shaped differently. We’re breaking that stereotype.”
Kelly tries to bridge that gap between the military and yoga. She makes the studio available for free physical training events and does outreach with Fort Hood.
She said that Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center has hired yoga practitioners recently and the Army has begun to incorporate some yoga into basic training.
Cameron Weaver, a veteran, grew up in Alabama. He learned about Kelly’s studio through Team Red, White and Blue, a group focused on enriching veterans’ lives through physical activity.
Weaver, who started practicing yoga about two months ago, said it has benefited him a lot so far.
“I think there’s benefits to yoga for everyone, especially guys like me who are veterans and have injuries from time in service,” he said. “Back pain, knee pain, neck pain. It’s helped relieve a lot of that, and it’s also really a mood enhancer. It calms me down a lot. You feel very relaxed after you get done with it.”
Kelly, from Southern California, said when she came to Killeen in 2012, yoga was not as well-known locally as it is today.
When she went to sign the building lease, she was asked if it was a “religious thing.” Now, she’s just trying to convince people to give it a shot.
“It has nothing to do with how strong you are, it has nothing to do with how flexible you are, it has everything to do with being willing to try something new,” Kelly said. “We have all these preconceived ideas about how yoga is or what other people think you’re going to look like, but the truth of the matter is that nobody on the mat next to you cares about what they look like. They’re focused on themselves.”
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