How Honest Soul Yoga + PenFed are supporting Military Kids
Story by Alexandria Lindstrom | Photography by JD Watkins
When Suzie Mills began teaching yoga in late 2012 in her basement, she likely didn’t imagine that seven years later she’d be successful enough to build a mini empire with three fully realized local studios. Her initial goal was simply to share the benefits she’d experienced in her own life as a practitioner of yoga with others, but her dedication and passion led to rapid growth, attracting others to take up their mats and follow the flow.
Mills is a former Air Force reservist and it was a deployment in Afghanistan that inspired her to open a business upon her return home. But she didn’t want to open just any business – she wanted it to be one that focused on health and wellness. Having experienced first hand the way yoga allowed her to reclaim a sense of wellbeing and enjoy physical movement in a way that counteracted the stresses of life in the reserves and wartime deployments, she enrolled in a yoga certification program with the intent to one day open a studio. And that day came in 2012, when she officially established Honest Soul Yoga.
We knew that every single dollar was going to make a significant impact in the lives of these kids who have deployed parents.
Its humble beginnings in her basement were short-lived, however, as Honest Soul soon moved to a brick-and-mortar studio in Alexandria in 2013. Three years later, fellow yogi and friend Julia Lopez joined Honest Soul to direct the brand and lead teacher development and became an official co-owner in 2018.
The reason for their success could be directly attributed to their passion and ability to build a community within the studios, as Mills and Lopez truly embody what their brand identity would imply: living life with honesty, integrity, soul, and intention. It’s part of their practice as followers of yoga, and the sense of wellbeing gained from that is one they strive to pass on to their students.
“At Honest Soul Yoga, you will be encouraged to move and challenge yourself, but also to witness your thoughts, manage your breathing, take stock of your feelings and sensations, and examine what it might be like to have a light and friendlier attitude towards yourself in the process. Because we empower our students to take personal responsibility for their effort and their mindset, our students work hard but don’t take themselves too seriously. As a result, many students tell us that they find they can move with more comfort and ease, have reduced their stress, are taking better care of their bodies, and are maintaining a healthy self-image much more easily,” said Lopez.
Seeing these benefits are what drives them, but their desire to help others extends beyond those who attend classes in their studios. Inspired by this desire, Honest Soul hosts an annual 24-hour Yogathon. This year’s recipient was Our Military Kids (OMK) and the PenFed-sponsored Yogathon raised nearly $13,000, which will fund dozens of grants for military kids.
“OMK felt like the perfect fit for this year’s Yogathon because they are a shining example that meaningful impact can be made with modest resources. Their average grant is $300, and each grant makes a huge difference. We love working with organizations that are not only incredible stewards of the donations they receive, but also help people directly. With OMK, we knew that every single dollar was going to make a significant impact in the lives of these kids who have deployed parents,” said Mills.
“Military personnel and their spouses sacrifice so much over the course of their service to our country, and so do their children. It’s especially difficult for reservist families who don’t have the same geographic access as other military families do to services provided on base, and the children may not live in an area where they have many friends with military parents,” Mills added. “OMK is special in the way that they recognize not only the financial need and lack of access for reservist families, but also the emotional need that kids of deployed reservists have. The grants they provide help the children feel seen and appreciated and gives them the opportunity to take part in their favorite activities. It’s an amazing thing on so many levels.”