Mary Solomon, Stevi Self Offer Safe Refuge at Southern Star Yoga Center

"You may come in thinking, 'I just want to get in shape,' but you end up staying with it because you feel so good from the inside out."

Mary Solomon, co-owner of Southern Star Yoga
Mary Solomon, co-owner of Southern Star Yoga, took up yoga after practicing meditation for years. Photo by Juliette St. Romain

Ole Miss student Leigh Fredrickson describes herself as a calm person, but she recently started becoming anxious every day, which affected her sleep.

Fredrickson decided to try yoga again, something she had practiced off and on since fifth grade, and began taking classes at Southern Star Yoga Center in Oxford.

“Yoga has helped me to be present in the moment, focus in on my breath, and if I start feeling panicked, to take a step back from any situation, breathe in and out, and be still,” Fredrickson said.

“I have recently taken up hot yoga, which is extremely cleansing and therapeutic,” she added. “It is the pause that I need during my day if I start to feel stressed or overwhelmed.”

Southern Star Yoga interior
Southern Star serves as a safe and peaceful haven for its yoga students. Photo by Juliette St. Romain

Southern Star Yoga is a sanctuary and refuge for many college students like Leigh, who want to escape the everyday pressures of college.

Yogi is a term used by those who practice yoga daily. The word yoga means “to unite,” which is what many yogis do at Southern Star Yoga, located next to Snack Bar on North Lamar Boulevard.

Co-owner Mary Solomon opened Southern Star in 2008 with her business partner, Stevi Self. Their goal was to create a safe haven for Oxford residents and students.

Nine years ago, both women were teaching at gyms in Oxford and wanted to create a place strictly for yoga.

Solomon came to yoga through meditation, a practice she took up at a young age. “I knew about yoga, but there really weren’t any yoga studios 20 years ago,” she said. “But there were a few people around teaching at churches or YMCAS. So I was taking it, and I decided to become a teacher after I had my third child, because I wanted to be doing it every day.”

Photo courtesy of Southern Star Yoga
Photo courtesy of Southern Star Yoga

“If you want to come try yoga, try it for yourself,” Solomon advises. “It is good to come with [a group of friends], but when you come to a class, we try to foster non-competition. So, in a lot of poses, you will close your eyes to feel what is happening in your body.”

Solomon said they want everyone who comes to Southern Star to experience the healing power of yoga outside of a traditional gym atmosphere. Many college students feel stressed daily, so yoga serves as an escape and a safe place where the individual can be worry-free for a while.

Many individuals take up yoga with the intention of getting fit and in shape. Solomon states, “The muscles will get strong and long, because you are stretching and strengthening at the same time, but that’s really a byproduct of it. That’s not the goal.

“You may come in thinking, ‘I just want to get in shape,’ but you end up staying with it because you feel so good from the inside out. It can become a lifestyle, because you start learning to pay attention to your breath and be more mindful of what you’re doing and how you feel when you practice mindfully for an hour.

Photo by Juliette St. Romain

“Even if it’s a strong class and you’re sweating and struggling, we try to create a sense of well-being by the end. So you’ll come back, because you want that again.”

Solomon said yoga affects your everyday life, and this makes you more mindful about the choices you make. “What else am I doing that I can do a little better in my own life to create this good feeling?” she said, using diet as an example. “Am I treating my body like a temple, or am I treating it like a trash can?”

Solomon said yoga is a perfect way to operate from the ground up. “Whatever reason you come, all of the benefits of yoga start to percolate into your life,” she said, “and you want to hang around people who are being mindful of how they operate in the world.

“Then you start to pay attention to … the friends [you’re] hanging out with. Are they aligned with the way I see the world and the way I want to take care of myself, my environment, and my community? We are all creatures on this Earth together.”


Juliette St. Romain is a journalism major at Ole Miss. Email her at jestrom@go.olemiss.edu.

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