Southern Star Yoga Center

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story by Ginna Parsons

portraits by Lindsay Pace

For years, Stevi Self and Mary Solomon taught yoga classes at different gyms in Oxford. Eventually, they started doing workshops together.

“And then one day, Stevi was like, ‘Oxford needs a yoga studio,'” Solomon said. “We found this spot, and it was doable, and we’ve been here 13 years.”

That spot is Southern Star Yoga Center on North Lamar in the Midtown Shopping Center. It’s open 365 days a year.

“Having a place that’s just a yoga studio — it’s different than a gym, where there’s no peace element,” said Solomon, who has been a certified yoga instructor since 2005.

Self, 46, said from the beginning, the women’s goal was to have classes for every level of fitness. They offer gentle yoga, beginner classes, hot yoga and advanced classes.

“A beginner class assumes you don’t know anything about yoga,” Self said. “In a stronger class, for people who have been doing yoga for a while, you might do deep backbends or inversions. We wanted to make sure we had something for everyone, to make it accessible to everybody.”

They also offer yoga therapy, for people with special needs, and ayurveda, a sister science of yoga.

“Yoga is the practice of body movement and breath,” Self said. “Acroyoga involves diet and lifestyle.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Star Yoga was offering about 40 classes a week, taught by Self, Solomon and another 16 to 18 teachers.

“Now, we’re down to about 25 classes a week,” said Self, who has been a certified yoga instructor since 1998. 

“Before COVID, we offered meditation classes, but when we had to do that over ZOOM, it just wasn’t the same,” said Solomon, 54. “But one good thing about ZOOM is that we had students from all over the country, from all over the world, taking our classes.”

January, February and March are the busiest times of year for the studio, Solomon said. 

“The first couple of months, people are trying to keep their New Year’s resolutions, and they’re not exercising outside,” she said. “And then in March, we see a little swell in numbers, maybe because spring break is coming, and folks are going to be baring more skin.”

The studio offers several membership packages for classes. There are monthly rates, yearly rates and drop-in rates, or passes that can be purchased for five or 10 classes. All the classes are also offered online.

“When someone calls us about classes, we just tell them to wear something comfortable,” Solomon said. “You want something you can move around in.”

The studio provides yoga mats, bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps — everything needed for a class — though most people bring their own gear because of COVID, she said.

The studio is one of the only ones in the state that has advanced-level teacher training, Self said. It’s also one of the only ones to offer acroyoga.

“Acroyoga is a partner practice of mutual support, communication and trust,” Self said. “Yoga is more about connecting to yourself. Acroyoga takes your personal practice and makes it a community practice.”

Solomon said one reason people enjoy yoga is because it’s a good stress-reliever.

“If you’re looking great, but your mind isn’t feeling great, yoga can help take care of that,” she said. “It’s self-care we all need.”

Self said while there are lots of different types of yoga, she and Solomon have tried to keep the longstanding traditions of yoga intact, even as they teach in a modern world.

“We want to keep them a part of our practice,” she said.

Solomon said all the teachers at Southern Star Yoga are well-educated, and the longstanding traditions of yoga are important to them, too.

“It’s our job to remind them of the bigger picture of yoga — the connection to higher self, whatever they see that as,” she said.