Michelle LaMarr is the owner of Soulfire Yoga, the only hot yoga studio on the Mendocino Coast. LaMarr has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education from Humboldt State University, and a minor in biology, and worked for a long time in education and outdoor education before starting her studio. When she and her husband moved back to Mendocino County a few years ago, she taught at Caspar Creek Charter before focusing on starting a family with her husband. Her daughter, Zeplyn was born, but during her prenatal time, she craved her hot yoga sessions. One day, in particular, gave rise to the birth of an idea as well – a hot yoga studio on the Coast — that was also accessible for moms by providing child care. She planned to wait until her daughter started school but as soon as her daughter was born, “everything changed, I wanted to model for her what it looks like to go for your dreams – even when it is a little bit big and scary. “ She knew she has to start sooner than later and with two teaching credentials under her belt and a serious yoga practice herself, she was well-equipped to make her dream a reality. We talked to Michelle, who was one of our 12 amazing competitors in Startup Mendocino, all about her new studio, open now in the Union Lumber Building in downtown Fort Bragg.

Why did you start Soulfire Yoga? 

I decided to start SoulFire when I was about two months postpartum, after doing my first hot yoga session at home since becoming super pregnant (I practiced some in the early stages of my pregnancy, but obviously it got harder as I got bigger). I remember laying on my bedroom floor, literally steaming, and noticing this profound shift that had taken over my whole body and mental state. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to share that feeling with my community. Hot yoga is such a niche thing, and if you’ve ever done it, you know there’s just no substitute. And I really believe it changes lives – it’s definitely changed mine. I wanted to bring it to our community, and I wanted to help support mothers who needed some time to take care of themselves. Many moms don’t have great support networks to watch their kiddos while they take some time to themselves. And every mom needs self-care. 

What have you found has been the biggest challenge in running Soulfire Yoga?

Time and resources. As a toddler mom, I’ve come to accept that multitasking with my daughter is not a thing, so the actual working hours I have in a day are limited to her mornings at daycare and after she goes to bed. Plus, even if I could multitask, I really like just spending the afternoons with her and watching her grow up. So that would be the biggest challenge, and the second would just be finding instructors. We currently have an incredible staff, but the nature of the industry is that they all work at least two jobs, if not more, so the times they’re available is limited. And, some teach such specialty classes that we have no substitutes if someone is sick. But, it’s just encouraged me to think outside of the box and come up with creative ways to use the space and offer new services. 

What has been the biggest reward?

Hands down the conversations with my students. Watching them come in frazzled and leave happy and peaceful and blissed out. Hearing about all of the ways the practice has changed their lives, and what it means to them. I’ll be sharing several of these on our Facebook page as we wind down the year. I’ve had people tell me about how they crawled into Hot Yoga recovering from a broken back, and after six weeks had a full recovery and range of motion, how the moving meditation helps them see the world with a softer perspective, with more compassion, how they’re so grateful the studio is here. I love hearing my student’s stories and watching their transformations. 

What role has West played in helping Soulfire Yoga succeed?

West has been with me since day one! Kevin my advisor in the Fort Bragg office, has been a great support, and some of the specialty advisors have been lifesavers. I would be so overwhelmed with all of the HR and payroll and accounting stuff if It weren’t for them, and the marketing support has been wonderful as well. The templates and the support they provided in the very beginning for helping tease out all of my ideas were super helpful too.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Mendocino County?

My husband and I love having date nights with a soak at Sweetwater and dinner at Luna, and the new coastal trail is a lifesaver for me – I take 30 minutes between dropping Zeplyn off at daycare and starting my day at the studio to run, skate, or bike along the ocean, and I feel so grateful for that time and that space every day. Besides that, we’re kind of hermits, we love being home with our dogs and our girl, enjoying the life we’re building! 

To find out when the next yoga class is at Soulfire, go to their website here.