Written by: Christina Calabria
Audrey Stephens, founder and owner of Free Spirits Yoga, LLC at 337 Martin Luther King Blvd (www.FreeSpiritsYoga.com) was my first interview for MISSION: Beautiful Downtown Divas. I met Audrey at Bin 33 this past year. She would come in with a group of great looking guys and had such a Zen aura about her…always smiling…almost like she had a secret to share. I instantly felt a connection with her and hoped to get to know her better. She certainly kept some fabulous company! As summer approached she informed me of the opening of her yoga studio, something she had been working on for years and was finally coming into fruition. How fortuitous as I was searching for a new place to take yoga classes since my schedule no longer suited that of my long time yoga teacher. I signed up for classes and a friendship blossomed.
When you enter Audrey’s studio on Southside it has a very calm, serene feel. It is the first studio I have been in that does not have mirrors. It is the first yoga class where I have been encouraged to close my eyes during practice and really go within. You feel very much a part of the class but there is no sense of competition or comparing yourself to others. Everyone is at their own level and her style of teaching shows you numerous ways to approach poses. It certainly creates an environment of inclusiveness and security. No one is pushed beyond their boundaries, and safety is always first. About once a month Audrey offers a three hour intensive class on Sundays which has been by far one of the most intense, incredibly releasing classes I have ever been through. Classes are offered throughout the week including other forms of yoga, drumming workshops and gratitude circles. She is always open to speaking to all types of teachers who are looking for a studio to share their talents.
Audrey, also known as Spirit Talks with her Native American circles, as well as Surya Om in her yoga circles, has developed a blended form of yoga she calls Shamanic Vinyasa Flow. It integrates the breathing techniques, chants and physical forms of yoga with Native American teachings, prayers, drumming and visualizations. Her sister Artemis was her first shamanic teacher who introduced her to journeying (altered state of consciousness) to help heal herself and others. It was a powerful time in her life where learning was rapid and led her to other forms of healing. Six years of yoga training with her guru gave her the physical building blocks which have led her to her passion today of offering a safe haven for students to join her in her own form of yoga to facilitate healing in their lives. “My life is my teaching,” continues Audrey, “I always want my students to be able to come to me about anything.” She does not consider herself a guru, however, but rather as a fellow student who helps guide everyone through their own healing. Audrey teaches students how to go within, for she believes true healing comes from the inside out, not the outside in. “My whole purpose is service to others so they can find their true selves. It has been nice to have students so receptive to the Native American side of my teaching. Strict yoga classes can be very austere; too much…shamanism makes it more approachable, more comfortable and authentic.”
One of the most beautiful things about Audrey is her sense of self. “I judge sometimes and I have to work with that,” she told me, “I am a totally flawed human being. You can’t recognize anything in someone else that you don’t see in yourself…you have to own both of these. Anything you see, positive or negative are nothing more than a reflection.” She is on her path in order to learn how to control the mind, purify the body and find her true self, all for the purpose of healing self and others. I asked her how it felt when she witnessed students making progress in their practice. She responded, “I don’t look at results too closely, it has nothing to do with the teacher. When you see others making progress it’s best not to get too caught up in the fruits.” Audrey claims she certainly had times in her life of feeling insecure. Practicing unconditional love and sharing her love of yoga and shamanism with students has brought her to the present day of confidence and self-love. “Spirit makes us all unique and perfect,” she said.
So what is in store for Audrey for the future? She envisions the studio growing into a yoga center/salon/massage therapy/healing arts/metaphysical/local products center. Already her forte has expanded into shamanic healing sessions, which are one on one. The feedback from her students has been positive and reinforcing that she is on her true path. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than a self-actualized woman who wants nothing more than to share her talents and skills for the benefit of the whole. Om
Please visit her website for information and to sign up for yoga classes, meditation, drumming and more. New class opportunities are being added all the time. www.FreeSpiritsYoga.com