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April 9, 2018
#WomensWork Feature: Melanie Smith
Written by Kate Racculia
Melanie Smith is helping people find balance. Stillness. Strength. A natural seeker and believer in something greater than herself, she created Miss Melanie Yoga (MMY) after discovering a safe space for her own spirit in her yoga practice. Her career as a child welfare social worker left her depleted, unsure if she was actually helping or “placing band-aids over bad situations and moving on to the next.”
Still, it was a secure job. The risks for starting her own business were great, both personal and financial, and an internal dialog of self-doubt held her back. “‘Who am I to think I’m good enough to strike out on my own like this,’ for example,” she says. “That type of self-talk is the internal fight that will keep a person in an unhappy career or personal situation because we become programmed to feel more comfortable in our daily discomforts, rather than taking a risk to be or try something new.”
She founded MMY to focus on teaching yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, and mindfulness meditation; today, it has grown into a community of teachers leading stand-up paddleboard yoga year-round in lakes, rivers, and indoor pools. Smith is focused on supporting the growth of these women, as teachers and facilitators, giving them space for personal development. MMY is a mobile floating studio—literally—with retail paddleboards and related gear available online, and Smith has future hopes for a brick and mortar homebase someday, “not necessarily a studio, but a place to gather.”
Smith firmly believes that, as more people find yoga and meditation, the components of empathy, compassion, kindness, and nonviolent communication embodied in a yoga practice will change our society as a whole. It’s easy to get distracted—by life, details, the action stage of formulating a business plan or wanting to make a personal change—but with focus and strength, transformation is possible. “Just start where you are, with what you have,” she advises. “Make a plan but don’t be attached to the outcome of the plan. Believe in yourself and always be a student of whatever it is you are passionate about and offering to the world.”