Women Working It is an outgoing High Ground Q&A series focused on women entrepreneurs and business owners in Memphis.
Libby Campo takes care of minds and bodies in Memphis. She operates her own yoga studio, Your Inner Yogi, and also works as a foster care court facilitator at Shelby County Juvenile Court. She began practicing yoga in 2007 and in spring of 2017, she opened her studio Downtown at 10 North Second Street. In addition to her professional life, she is a mother of three and moved to Memphis in 2005.
As part of a series on women-owned businesses, we met with Campo to learn more about her style of entrepreneurship.
High Ground News: What inspired you to start your own yoga studio?
Libby Camp: I didn’t come into it originally thinking that I wanted to be a yoga teacher or own a yoga studio: I have been practicing since 2007, but my practice was inconsistent. It was not until about four or five years ago that I realized that my practice was very personal. I wanted to commit to my practice, so I decided to do a 30-day yoga challenge. Every day I’d post a yoga pose and an inspirational quote on social media. I started getting attention and questions from friends and family.
I had interest in training to become a yoga teacher, but I kept making excuses — work, family, school. I was encouraged by the people close to me to sign up. I know what my practice is. It’s a spiritual practice that brings balance into my life among all the stress and chaos. But that may not be your practice, so I needed to learn more about yoga in general to help others discover their own practice.
Even during the training, I continued to doubt myself and tell myself that I probably won’t become a teacher — I could just share what I learned with a few friends. But I had a friend Crystal Rachel who was teaching a yoga class at a community center.
Your Inner Yogi started as a blog in 2014 in which I shared my perspective and my story. I began teaching with Crystal, and through that, I decided that I wanted to teach my own practice. I stopped working with Crystal and started teaching classes inside of Tops, an art gallery Downtown. But, after a while, I was no longer supposed to teach there due to an insurance agreement. After that, I began teaching at another art gallery. At that point, I felt that I truly do want to share this practice and reach more people; I knew the only way I could this was by establishing my own studio.
HGN: How do Your Inner Yogi’s policies of acceptance and openness shape the studio?
LC: I wanted a studio that was open and would allow people to feel free. I avoided teaching from a studio for a long time — gentleness comes with yoga, but, sometimes, when people are at a studio, they can feel very judged, and yoga should not be judgmental. I taught a woman who was obese. Although she was a wonderful student, she explained that yoga studios have turned her away for her physical appearance. I can’t imagine a yoga studio doing this here because I know of several great practices taught by wonderful instructors, but that’s not my place to determine that. If someone feels judged, then they feel judged, and they should not have to endure that while practicing yoga.
I learned that Your Inner Yogi was the first Black yoga studio in Memphis. Although this was not a surprise, I didn’t decide to do this to break barriers, it was just something that came with it. When I practice at other studios, I’m used to being one of the only Black women. People would often say ‘Black people do yoga?’ and through owning my studio, I have discovered an amazing community of yogis. I didn’t doubt that Memphis had a great yoga community, but the support that I have received from the African-American community is great, and I discovered that there is a substantial community of African-Americans who practice yoga.
HGN: What are some challenges you have faced?
LC: I think the greatest challenge is getting that message across. In the studio, it’s hard to fill the space. People see yoga as a workout, like a gym or pilates studio. In January, people want to get active, but when it gets cold again, nobody wants to come out. It may take two or three years to get a good flow going. We get a decent attendance for our workshops or special events, but our regular group classes are small. I want our space to say intimate, but we still want to reach people and teach them. If just one person comes to class, we will still teach that person. But it’s hard to get people to commit.
Another challenge has been using my voice. I’m a shy person, but I’m a do-er. If it’s a matter of fight or flight, I will always choose fight. I have to remain aware of this because it’s not natural for me. I have to learn to accept that I can’t always stay behind the scenes. For instance, if someone asks me to teach a class, my first thought is to give that opportunity to someone else and advocate for others’ talent and skill. I like putting those puzzle pieces together. It’s hard because I want to put other people in the center of attention, but over time, I’ve learned that sometimes people want you to do it, not someone else.
HGN: What have been some of your proudest moments?
LC: I get these feelings of joy when I see the joy come out of other people. Seeing people practice for the first time and watching them light up — they caught the yoga bug — or seeing my son’s face as he interacts with people from our community.
Seeing yoga have an impact, and people realizing that this is yoga. I find fulfillment in watching others find their fulfillment. If we all just slow down, take a couple of breaths, it can make a difference.
HGN: What makes Your Inner Yogi unique from other yoga studios?
LC: We’re a family. I’m not your inner yogi — I actually prefer to stay behind the scenes — but we truly try to make the most welcoming space possible. If you walk into the space, it automatically gives off a welcoming energy. We have teachers who truly want to be there and are eager to teach and share. We also have many regular students who want to be there, making it a space surrounded by support and an eagerness to learn; it’s a very personal space. Although an intimate community, we are surrounded by hotels, so we often have travelers come in for classes; it’s a very nice feeling to teach people from different places because we can spread our lessons further and share it with more people.
We try to put action in our words. We focus on better health and well-being, but we center on service. We service our teachers and do our best to support them through everything. We send them newsletters and tools that help them learn how to market themselves, which is something they can always have and can take with them wherever they go.
We pushed a lesson 15 minutes back so one of our students could avoid traffic; it wasn’t a very big deal, because we barely noticed a difference. Making changes like that to accommodate our community is a reminder that this is our space. It’s not Libby’s space.
We do community classes and yoga in the park. Recently, we were raising money for street dogs while bringing in the summer solstice.
Finding your inner yogi is not just about the workout and physical activity; it’s about incorporating yogi principles into your everyday life. I don’t practice yoga every day. Because of my schedule, I usually can only practice yoga twice a week, but every day I’m living my yoga, trying to be kind and mindful. We all have an inner yogi in us.
HGN: What made you choose Memphis?
LC: My husband accepted a job in Hernando, MS. My husband and I are both from cities, so it was a convenient choice. Memphis is home. I’m from New Jersey, and every other word that came out of my mouth was a slur. I’ve grown a lot. I didn’t like school. I cheated through high school then I dropped out and later got my GED. I didn’t take my education seriously until I came to Memphis; I went to Southwest then I transferred to the University of Memphis.
I had weaknesses in high school. I didn’t voice my issues, and nobody really helped me. It wasn’t until I started embracing my intellect, and that growth happened in Memphis. This city has had such an impact on my being. The love and support here is like nowhere else.