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story.lead_photo.caption Brittany Carder, Amber Samuelson and Venus Lillis, co-owners of Thrive Yoga, pose for a photo in the yoga studio's lobby. Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Texas — When good friends come together on a vision they all share, they thrive.

That's the case with three yoga instructors who pooled their unique talents and passionate commitment to making yoga accessible to all with a new studio that opened this past fall. It's Thrive Yoga.

Brittany Carder, Venus Lillis and Amber Samuelson have come together to thrive with each other and their students. Former teachers at another studio, they realized they wanted to establish a bigger role in the yoga community here, Carder says.

"We created a vision for a new studio and when the opportunity to make it happen came around we took it," she said. To that end, they opened Oct. 5, and they've almost reached 100 members already. They strive to work on mental health, too, and classes are designed to manage their students' stress and anxiety.

At Thrive, they focus on transformative wellness in a variety of ways with more than 30 classes a week, plus workshops.

"We hoped to be successful and have been really humbled by how people have embraced us and supported us. We believe that yoga should be accessible to everyone, that all body types can do yoga, that self-acceptance and self-care are so important," Carder said.

Thrive Yoga studio opened in October and offers about 30 classes a week, plus workshops.
Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer/Texarkana Gazette.

At the thriveyogatxk.com website, they express their vision this way: "Thrive Yoga brings wellness to the Texarkana community through intentional and high quality yoga experiences. We utilize breath, heat, focus, stability, and mindful movement to encourage vulnerability, peace, and connection."

That may sound like a lot to wrap up into practicing yoga, but they see tangible, practical benefits to yoga and their way to approach it.

"I think something a little bit different about ours is we like to keep our yoga very approachable and very functional fitness," Samuelson said. "Everything we do in a class is going to help you in your daily life." That may be bringing the groceries in or sleeping, or just our general work.

"Everything that we do is going to enhance your life, and you're supposed to leave every class feeling better, and we try to make sure we do that," Samuelson said, noting the approachable aspect is that everyone will feel welcome on the yoga mat at Thrive.

"We're not going to throw something at you that's advanced. We're going to give you the opportunity to approach it many different ways," she said. If there's a goal or pose, they'll help you get there — any one of the 11 teachers at Thrive.

Literally it's for everyone — that's the message central to their philosophy. They offer many classes that are different from each other with a wide range of instructors, women and men from their 20s on up to their 50s. They aim to have teachers so students can find someone with whom to connect.

"I think a lot of people have a certain idea of what yoga is, but we want to kind of let people know that it can be whatever you need it to be," Carder said. "Whether you're looking for fitness or relaxation or meditation or help with stress or anxiety, it can work for you in any way that you need it to."

They also aim to avoid the yoga stereotypes. It's about the whole experience, reaching out to the membership needs.

"I think possibly what might set us aside from other kinds of studios is we're very focused on mentorship. We really try to develop close relationships with our members so that we can provide them with an experience that meets their needs and fit them with an experience that they're looking for," Lillis said.

They'll discuss with yoga students what their desires and expectations are.

"We hope to give them initially what they want and then have the ability to broaden their perspective, so that they can see that yoga can be balanced with a lot of different kinds that you can pull into your life," Lillis said.

The studio at Thrive Yoga is shown.
Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer/Texarkana Gazette.

Students may come for flexibility, but then they stay for the self-love, peace of mind and resiliency.

"It helps to improve your overall quality of life," Lillis said. The point of yoga, she believes, is to build that resiliency via the skills learned in class and brought forth into the world. And it all starts with a good stretch, she said.

Meditation and mindfulness is part of all this. Yoga quiets the mind so people tap into their own needs and intuition, Lillis said. "So you can make those changes that are necessary," she observed, adding, "You gently will start to take care of your body in the ways that you need to."

In power yoga, for example, holding poses for a long time brings the body to a calm state. "We always tell students that they're building equanimity and they're conditioning their nervous system," Lillis said. Life stressful? "You have the ability to calm down your own storm just being able to use your breath."

Carder points out she's trained on trauma sensitive yoga, which taught her that stress can cause illnesses. She said meditation can calm our minds but also make us healthier.

"Our bodies start to function better, and so that's one of my favorite things. I say it a lot in class. This is a moving mediation. We're focusing on our breath, we're focusing on the movement of our body," she said. "And when you do that, you can't be in your head. You can't have that running commentary in your head that's telling you all these things that you've been telling yourself or years and years that aren't very nice."

This, she said, is where her heart is for yoga. It started with meditation and her own healing journey.

"It's my favorite thing, besides being a mom," Carder said.

To Samuelson, yoga is about community. It's a place where you'll meet your best friend, she believes. After all, she met her best friends, Brittany and Venus, this way.

"I came to yoga for the community, and I think that's what really sets our studio apart. When you walk into our studio, it feels like the home, and you feel like you're having a family. You're going to be influenced. The people you're around are great people, and they're going to help influence you to get better and work harder and keep trying," Samuelson said.

A genuine love for teaching yoga and explaining it to students forged a common bond between the three of them. Their goals were aligned, said Lillis.

"We all found friends in one another, as well, and then we wanted to take that and create it and make it something bigger, a bigger community where we can all support each other in our practice," she said, noting yoga can be a vulnerable place to be.

It's an environment where you can 100% be yourself without judgment. People come together to focus on mindfulness and physical movement so they can be healthy together as a community, she believes.

"You are trusting people that you know or don't know in a class with some of the most intimate spaces that you have, which is that in your own mind," Lillis said.

But that trust and sense of community can bring rewards and breakthroughs, even moving beyond frustrations, they say. Members share tips and connections they've made in this community of wellness.

When students leave the yoga room, they give each other high fives to acknowledge these moments — "because they just did something they didn't know that they can do," Lillis said.

To learn more about Thrive Yoga and the classes offered, check out thriveyogatxk.com.

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