AWESOME HUMANS: Kathy Smith, Yoga Off East

Awesome Humans is a series highlighting those around us who make our communities better, our dreams bigger, and our happiness greater. 

Intro to Kathy

Kathy Smith is the founder of Yoga Off East, Happy + Hale Durham’ s sister studio. Yoga Off East is first and foremost a neighborhood yoga studio, offering vinyasa-inspired yoga classes 7-days a week.

Photo Credit:  Bethany and Dan Photography

Photo Credit: Bethany and Dan Photography


The Interview

How did you get here?

My career path has always been rooted in athletics – years before owning Yoga Off East, I was a college tennis coach. My husband’s job as the coach of the Duke’s men’s tennis team brought me to Durham. My experience with yoga up to that point had always been as a competitive athlete or coach. Yoga taught me to stay out of my own way by having more awareness of the myriad of thoughts going through my mind on the tennis court, and eventually that translated into almost every aspect of life.

Moving to NC gave me time to dive into yoga for myself for the first time as a top priority. Even though I wasn’t a yoga teacher at the time, I had a crazy vision to open a studio near campus and serve the Duke community through yoga. One thing led to another: I got certified as a yoga teacher, built relationships in the wellness community, and Yoga Off East became a reality after a mentor and fellow yoga teacher introduced me to Happy + Hale.

My vision from the start was to create a sanctuary in the bustling area of Ninth Street where our neighbors and community-at-large can come to reset and build a ritual of yoga into their weekly routine. I’d love for Yoga Off East to be in the service of supporting our teachers and our students to be clear that they have a special gift to share, and for the practice of yoga to be a support in the sharing of those gifts in the world.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A pro tennis player when I was little, then a veterinarian, then a magazine editor/writer. Truthfully, though, I have always been drawn to the idea of being a small business owner.

If you had theme music, what would it be?

Typical yoga flow stuff. Probably something electronic downtempo, pop, or alternative.

What’s your superpower?

My superpower is that I don't get caught up in drama. I don’t operate well in that space so I try to avoid it. One of my favorite quotes is by Virginia Woolf: “I am rooted, but I flow.”

How do you stay inspired?

My own practice of yoga keeps me inspired, especially meditation and challenging vinyasa classes. I am also inspired by reading and writing. If all else fails, I recharge by taking my dog, Sage, on a walk alone.

What do you feel most proud of?

My family – my husband, two kids, and our dog…and beyond that my extended family including 4 nephews and 11 nieces!

 What does the local community mean to you?

Yoga is evolving, and so is my relationship with the local community. If I didn’t feel a deep connection to Durham, Yoga Off East would not exist. This is the city where we live, work, and now are raising children, and it’s important to me to share a space with the community where I can be a stand for others to show up and be their best self.

What is your “why?”

My why is because the world is wonderful and I believe we should rise up to it, be well, and do good.



Photo Credit: Bethany and Dan Photography

Photo Credit: Bethany and Dan Photography