This beautiful soul, now Michelle Cassidy, is the founder and operator of the Essence of Living Yoga & Pilates studio and also the International teacher training Academy on the Gold Coast. She inspires so many through her positive outlook on life, healthy lifestyle and friendly, free spirited nature; a true angel walking amongst us.
“Beauty radiates from your heart, blossoms in your smile, dances in your eyes, illuminates in your energy, inspires the lives of many.” ~ Michelle Merrifield
Soul Sister Circle chats to Michelle about her yoga journey, her thriving business Essence of Living, family and what is in store for the future.
SSC: So lets begin with a little bit about you, who is Michelle? Tell us a typical day in your life and what’s one thing that gets you up in the morning?
Michelle: My favorite way to start the day, is to wake just before the morning light, and sit in stillness, doing my morning meditation practice. After that, I love to walk my two furry friends, Shanti and Shiva, along the beach or through the park, followed by a dip in the ocean. My favorite times of day are dawn and dusk; I absolutely love the light and energy of those soft times of day.
SSC: Your yoga journey although is started quite young, your confidence lacked as you felt you weren’t as flexible as others and it took you a bit longer to really believe in yourself and that this could be your career. What advice do you have for people starting out yoga and how to find the confidence in themselves to do it?
Michelle: I love the saying; “You don’t get French lessons if you can speak French already!” The same can be said for yoga. I think the key is to learn not to compare yourself to others. For me, I learned from a young age to accept where I was and accept yoga as a personal journey. I had a great teacher, who acknowledged that I was very frustrated and growing disheartened, who made me realize that the students with the least amount of natural ability in the asana have the greatest transformation, developing a stronger character internally. This is so, because yoga, as we know it in the West, is extremely externally driven. Yoga tests your ego, and it is easy to become inflated or deflated if your attached to it.
SSC: You are so lucky to have so many amazing people supporting you throughout your life, a wonderful family and husband wanting you to pursue your passion. How has this helped shape your future? And what does family mean to you?
Michelle: I definitely feel very blessed to have two parents that have always encouraged me to do what I love as a career, above anything else. Neither of my parents had careers they loved, nor did they want my sister and I to fall into the same trap. My dad always said, that when you do what you love you will work harder, longer and smarter than anyone else, because you’re both interested and passionate about what you’re doing. He said that work wouldn’t feel like work, and that eventually one becomes financially rewarded for their enthusiasm. Even an inspired gardener who loves their work will eventually be the best in the neighborhood and will soon be in high demand and able to charge more. My father made me realize that it is possible to do what you love and get paid for it. That was the best advice I was ever given.
SSC: Who do you look up to, or is your role model and why?
Michelle: Inspiration comes from many places. I find many people inspiring, both living and past. I think the key is to be open to the divine inspiration that is ever present. We have a choice, everyday, of how to see the world and what we focus on. I like to take the time to notice the small things I see in nature, in food, in friends, in family, and in strangers. My husband would have to be one of my biggest sources of inspiration; it is like being married to Tony Robbins, which can be very intense.
SSC: When life gets busy and times are stressful, how do re ground yourself and what things do you do to relax and unwind to find that balance again?
Michelle: For me, I need to understand the stressful situation before I can relax. I need an action plan, so as to overcome or move through whatever is causing the drama. I usually call my sister, husband and key advisors, depending on the situation, for advice, and share with them my plan of action. Once I have them on side with my approach, everything seems easier, and I simply have to do the work to overcome whatever has presented itself. We all know that the waves don’t stop rolling in, and therefore there is no point avoiding them. I have learnt to ride the waves, and it takes a lot now to really rustle my feathers.
SSC: Essence of Living is such a successful and wonderful company that you have created, where did the name come from, how did it start and what has it been like helping so many others on their own journey?
Michelle: From a young age, I was very committed to my discipline in the sporting arena. When I first started attending Pilates Fusion classes, I told my teacher that I could teach for her, if ever required. At that time, I had an Advanced Diploma in Fitness and was running regular boot camp groups in the local parks before and after university, where I was completing a business degree, majoring in Marketing. Knowing my character and commitment, she offered me a job the next day, in her yoga studio, as a Pilates teacher. The classes quickly filled, and my teacher kept giving me more classes and unpopular time slots, until I filled them. Her situation changed with her landlord and she asked me if I would like to open a Yoga and Pilates studio with her. I was 22 years old and felt like the luckiest girl in the world; without any hesitation, I said yes, and knew I could figure the logistics out later.
We started the business with $6000 each, and simply knocked out a wall and polished the floorboards. She already had equipment from her studio, and I bought some secondhand props, as that’s all we could afford. We started with very humble beginnings and bare essentials, slowly adding equipment as we grew. I did not have any money, so I sold my car but didn’t tell the bank, and used the sale proceeds as my original capital, continuing to pay off the car loan.
Essence of Living was inspired by the book title Essence of Yoga and my ex-business partner’s original business, called Living Yoga. Originally, I started the business as a Pilates teacher, and my partner was the yoga teacher. I did not believe in my physical ability to teach yoga, however, within a couple of months, I was thrown into yoga teaching and the rest is history. I had to work very hard in order to develop my practice, as I am not naturally flexible and do not have the skeletal structure to support super bendy movements. I am, however, strong and sturdy, and that has supported me both on and off the mat.
My business partner decided to sell me her half of the business after a couple of years in trading together, and I have now been running it myself since 2006.
SSC: What is the best advice or words of wisdom you have received in your life? And how have you used it over this time to inspire you?
Michelle: Nothing lasts forever, both good and bad. Whatever you are going through, either enjoy it, or embrace the lessons. I think of this teaching nearly everyday.
SSC: What does the future hold for Michelle Cassidy and Essence of Living?
Michelle: I hope to have a family of my own soon, and for Essence of Living, my dream is to buy and build my own lifestyle center in the heart of my hometown. This is a very expensive and expansive dream, but I want to create a space that will be cost effective and easily accessible for others to enjoy and benefit from.
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