We caught up with our friend and Jackson Ward neighbor Ashley Williams, founder and co-owner of bare Soul Yoga located in Saadia's Juicebox at
402 1/2 N 2nd St. Ashley continues to gain notoriety with her focus on community outreach through yoga and speaking engagements. We've been fortunate to partner with bare Soul Yoga to host our Intro to Kids Yoga classes. If you've made it out to any of them, you've probably seen Ashley there, checking people in or chatting with parents.
How were you introduced to yoga?
The practice of yoga began in 2013 during a time of loss and transition for me. My aunt passed away from cancer, which led me into a space of grief and depression. In addition, I was in a midst of transition with work and relationship, and I experienced overwhelming anxiety. I found myself traveling to yoga a few times a week, and each time, I left feeling a little lighter than when I walked in. Yoga offered me the space to move, breath and be still in the emotions that I was experiencing. My practice on the mat began to show up in my every day life off of the mat, as I reminded myself to pause, breath and relax in moments of stress, anxiety or overwhelming feelings. I began to integrate the tools of yoga into my workspace, which was a mental and behavioral health office, and noticed the benefits with consistent practice. In 2014, I received my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher certification at Glenmore Yoga, and in 2017 I received a Masters of Science in Yoga Therapy and 500 Hour Yoga Teacher certification at Maryland University of Integrative Health. My yoga journey has led me on a path that I never would have imagined, and I am grateful for the practice, the people and the work that I am blessed to do in the RVA community and beyond.
What's one piece of advice you know now, that you would have given yourself before starting your business?
My biggest piece of advice is speak up and ask for what you want. As a business owner, it is important to know your vision and be able to express it to others, so they can support you in manifesting it. When I first started, I also thought that I could do most of everything on my own, and quickly learned the importance of community and collaboration, and leaning into receiving help. The second piece of advice is don't worry; I am a bit of a perfectionist, which involves planning and strategic implementing. However, I've learned that there's beauty in releasing the plan and letting things take their natural course.
What's your definition of success?
Success is the moment when you feel the freedom to be exactly who you are in all spaces, and you are able to do what you desire and 'truly' love to change your community. My definition of success has derived not from the accumulation of materialistic possessions, but the feeling of joy that I experience during the ebbs and flows of figuring it out, even during the challenges.
Spring (we think) is here. Where's your favorite outside spot in RVA to chill?
The RVA outdoor scene can be so many different things-vibrant, relaxing, educational, fun, and chill. My favorite outdoor chill spot is Texas Beach. I absolutely love grabbing some beverages, jumping in a raft and floating down the James River. My second favorite thing to do is to find a cafe patio like Crossroads in the Southside, and sit there with my latest book. It's a good mix of all of my favorite things-people, coffee, craft beer and sun.