Friday, August 29, 2014

Ask the Locals: Melissa Carroll, yoga poet

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 5:57 PM

  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Melissa Carroll is something of a renaissance woman. She’s a freelance writer, published poet, college instructor and highly sought-after yoga teacher. She sometimes sings backup for local musicians and emcees Rock the Park concerts in Tampa.

A 30-year-old West Tampa resident, she teaches yoga at Yoga Loft Tampa and Yoga Downtown Tampa. Each week she guides hundreds of Tampa yogis, including the Lycra-clad crowd that shows up every Sunday for yoga at Curtis Hixon Park.

A New Jersey native, she moved to Tampa 11 years ago to study creative writing at the University of Tampa. She fell in love with holistic healing after receiving a free Reiki session at a spa where she worked as a receptionist.

Now a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and certified Reiki III practitioner, Carroll divides her time between writing and stretching. She’s the author of the poetry book The Karma Machine and a creative writing teacher at the University of Tampa.

This fall she’ll publish an anthology of yoga stories –– Going Om: Real-Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat. The collection includes essays by renowned memoirists, including Cheryl Strayed (Wild), Neal Pollack (Stretch: The Making of a Yoga Dude), Suzanne Morrison (Yoga Bitch) and Dinty W. Moore (The Accidental Buddhist).

Where she secretly does yoga: Davis Islands Beach. “It’s my little Zen spot. I almost don’t want this secret to get out. It’s never crowded. It’s always quiet. To me the water is instantly peaceful so it’s easy to drop into practice.”

Where she goes to hear poetry: The University of South Florida during National Poetry Month (April). “They bring in some of the most brilliant poetic minds. This year it was Li-Young Lee. A few years ago they got Robert Pinsky –– a U.S. Poet Laureate. Each year the headliner is a different rock star poet.”

Where she goes to get off the grid: The Lotus Pond. “It’s a beautiful, rustic, pastoral retreat in North Tampa. I instantly relax every time I step out of my car.”

Where she’d love to bump into a ghost: Haslam’s Book Store. “Isn’t it Jack Kerouac who haunts Haslam’s? At some point books fly off the shelves and everyone says, ‘Oh, that’s just Jack.’ I suppose if you’re going to have a ghost, Jack Kerouac is a pretty good one to have.”

Where she eats with friends: Mermaid Tavern and Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe. “Both places are so laidback. The drinks at the Mermaid are great and Ella's has the best, most enormous veggie burger. It’s mammoth and it has onion rings on it.”

Where she slips away with a journal: Kaleisia Tea. “It’s a really chill atmosphere. They have a little room set off to the side with Japanese shoji-style doors so you can sit Zen-style and write. They also offer an hour-long guided tea meditation.”

Who she’s proud to call her friend: Mitzi Gordon. “She organized the Fuck Yeah balloon for the Gasparilla Music Festival. When the Flaming Lips were here, the lead singer said it would be cool if someone could figure out how to float a giant balloon over the crowd that said Fuck Yeah Tampa and Mitzi totally made it happen.”

Where she throws down a tent: Ginnie Springs. “At night the springs take on this glowing color because they’re so clear.”

Where her UT students go to drink: SoHo. “I think they’re still hanging out at MacDinton’s, which is where I hung out when I was in my early 20s and obnoxious.”

Where she dances like nobody’s watching: The Hub and New World Brewery. “These are two of my favorite places to see shows. The venue is small. You can dance up close to the band and it doesn’t matter if you’re in sweatpants or a prom dress. Nobody cares.”

Where she goes for takeout: Miguel’s Mexican Seafood & Grill. “They give you more tortilla chps than a human being could possibly want. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but once you step inside it’s this remarkably swanky place with tons of tequila and really good food.”

Where she goes for a strange night out: St. Petersburg Nights. “They sell pierogies and vodka and you sort of feel like you’re at an awkward Russian wedding."

Where she gets her best nutrition: Sweetwater Organic Farm. “From November to May that’s where I go to eat all my organic happy locally grown veggies. They have really cool vendors and singer/songwriters playing. It’s an incredible place.”

Where she feels at home: Gigi’s Italian Restaurant on St. Pete Beach. “Gigi’s gets all these imported pastas and Italian candies. Everyone is loud and friendly and one of the best beaches in the world is right across the street.”

Where she hangs with tourists: The Dolphin Inn. “It’s super cheap and it has this classic tacky Florida décor. When we stayed there last year for Memorial Day they didn’t complain about us being noisy or crazy. We had a big old raucous time.”

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