Lisa Kelly describes herself, her husband, Curtis, and their two children, Case and Liv, as a military family that put down roots in Killeen.
Three years ago she decided that the Killeen community needed a yoga studio and that she would open and operate one. There was just one hitch — she’d never done yoga before.
“I kept hearing people say they missed not having a dedicated place to practice yoga,” she said. “I was an army nurse by trade and working very hard on Fort Hood. I didn’t have a yoga background or a business background, but I had a people background.”
After seriously thinking it over, Kelly called Curtis and said, “I think we should open a yoga studio.” She researched it, saw a lot of benefits, wrote a business plan and bought her first yoga mat the day she went to interview a potential instructor.
She said everyone who told her about yoga was such a believer in it, she thought, “OK, we have to make this happen.”
“I hadn’t even tried yoga until I hired my first teacher,” she said. “I, of course, started taking classes in my own studio and I fell in love with it. Then I completed my teacher training and I became certified as well.”
Live and Let Liv Yoga just celebrated its three-year anniversary. Since opening, Kelly has added a classroom to the studio and continues to increase the number and type of classes offered.
“They always say you shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone,” Kelly said. “But we didn’t have that choice in Killeen, we had to try to be everything to everyone because we were the hub of what anyone was going to experience, so we started offering everything: restorative yoga, vinyasa flow yoga, hot yoga, kids yoga and prenatal yoga. We wanted to give everyone some kind of exposure with the idea being there is some form of yoga for everyone.”
The studio also offers barre, Pilates and ballet-esque blend, along with guided meditation classes and yoga teacher training programs.
Kelly emphasized that regardless of a person’s age, gender, flexibility or strength, there is a type of yoga that will suit them.
“As a nurse and someone with a really big health background, it’s the only thing I’ve found that is literally for everybody,” said Kelly, who has been in the fitness and wellness community for a long time.
The Live and Let Liv yogis are encouraged to practice various styles of yoga depending on their needs and moods.
“Just like every day you wake up is different, each day you may need a different type of yoga,” Kelly said. “That’s what the studio does, it gives people options. One day you might want some type of intense yoga where you’re going to sweat and workout because you had a really rough day and want to release some toxins. Then maybe some days you don’t want to get off the mat and you just want to sniff essential oils and take a moment to quiet your mind, and that’s there, too.”
In a world where everyone is busy running around, taking an hour out of the day purely for one’s personal wellbeing is something a lot of people just don’t do anymore, Kelly said.
“Even if we go to the gym, it might be for us but not always entirely for us,” she said. “It’s because we want to look good on the beach or a wedding, where as a lot of people who take that time out for yoga are looking for something more — a better quality of life. Whether it looks better or not, they want to feel better on the inside.”
She said that’s what keeps a lot of people coming back to the studio.
“What draws them here is wanting a stronger core, wanting to be more flexible or wanting to manage stress,” she said. “But what keeps them coming back is realizing it just makes them happier and more self aware.”
Kelly hopes all of the lessons she has learned since opening her yoga studio will be conveyed to her daughter, the namesake of Live and Let Liv Yoga.
Liv was just eight months old when Kelly opened the studio. “She was born on June 21, which is the first day of summer and is also international yoga day,” Kelly said of her daughter. “She has grown up in the studio and watched it grow.”
Kelly said Liv does yoga and is a natural born yogi.
“She is this ball of energy and light everywhere she goes,” Kelly said. “She was part of the motivation behind the studio. When you have kids, you want to show them that they can make life better and that they should always leave a place better than they found it. Maybe a lot of that comes from being a woman and having a girl — you have to show her that you can leave your mark on the world no matter what anyone tells you.”
Recently, Liv went to school intentionally wearing one pink shoe and one purple shoe.
“Yoga is about being OK with who you are and where you are on your path,” Kelly said. “That’s one of the things I try to show Liv. If today your path tells you a pink shoe and a purple shoe is the way to go, then that is the way you go, regardless of what the world tells you is right or wrong. Just like with yoga, what is happening in your space on your mat is uniquely you and it belongs to nobody else but you.”
A place for everyone
Kelly said she feels a responsibility to the future women of the world and wants to teach Liv and other girls self acceptance and confidence to make their own decisions.
“I love my husband and my son, but they have more permission to do things,” Kelly said about naming the studio after Liv. “Yoga is a lot about finding permission to live your life, permission to not being perfect all the time. Liv is growing up in a world that is going to tell her that everything she does is right or wrong. I want her to have permission to make her own decisions, to have the confidence to wear a pink shoe and a purple shoe.”
Kelly believes that Case, who just turned 6, will also be positively influenced by the studio.
“He will understand that it’s normal for women to go out and do great things,” she said. “While his sister is the namesake, he is learning a different kind of view on women and becoming part of a future generation of men who just assume opening and running businesses is what women do.”
The clientele at Live and Let Liv Yoga is a mixed bag, which is exactly what makes the studio special, Kelly said. She said the mainstream community has sold yoga as a tall, slender woman’s sport, and “that’s just not what it is at all.”
“I think anyone who comes through our doors immediately realizes it’s not stereotypical in here,” she said. “Our instructors, much like our students, come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders, which makes it much more approachable to everyone.”
There are currently 13 instructors at the studio. Some teach one class a week and some lead multiple classes each week.
“I encourage them to teach in the style they enjoy,” Kelly said. “If they are unique and authentic in how they are teaching, it creates a unique and authentic experience for students.”
Owning a yoga business is challenging, stressful and unlike any other life Kelly said she could have imagined. She said it’s not for the faint of heart and it’s not for people who don’t have yoga in their life.
“Every business owner should have yoga in his or her life,” she said with a laugh. “The truth is, it is a daily challenge, but with great challenge comes great reward. There is something about knowing that at the end of every day, you somehow had a hand in making the place you live better. That is what makes it worth it.”
SALLY GRACE HOLTGRIEVE is a full-time freelance writer in Central Texas. A few of her favorite things include traveling, hiking, camping, reading, cats, classic rock music and cheese. As a kid, Sally Grace could never figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up — astronaut, Celtic dancer, entomologist, Egyptologist — everything was interesting and she couldn’t decide on just one world to immerse herself in and study, so she became a journalist. She learns new things every day.