Okra & Gumbo owner Hal Smith shares his passions with Lisa Moore of Natural Awakenings Magazine.
Hal Smith is somewhat of a renaissance man. Relocating to Charlotte in 2011, he brought with him a distinguished background in retail and private equity as well as a desire to expand his long-term interests in sports and natural living. Drawn to Chi Running, an efficient, injury-free way to run that promotes overall health and wellness, he devoted a year of training to become a certified instructor. In addition, he is a USA Track and Field coach, a 200-hour yoga instructor, a CrossFit L1 trainer and a triggerpoint/myofascial release instructor.
Last year, he became co-owner of Gumbo, a store that supports a healthy lifestyle, community, fitness and fun. Gumbo is next door to the Okra yoga studio in Plaza Midwood and Okra’s owner, Alisha Roskind, is Smith’s partner in Gumbo. The store carries fitness gear, yoga mats, candles, food, jewelry and more. The pair carefully selects products that are created by producers that deeply care about their craft, their impact and their customer.
Natural Awakenings spoke with Smith about his varied interests and his new business venture.
You have had an extensive background in the retail/corporate realm and a big interest in sports all your life; what prompted you to begin to focus more intently on natural health modalities?
My interest in natural health and fitness was sparked by my desire to be able to fulfill all of the demands of both my personal and work life, while keeping healthy and fit at the same time.
You have a certification in Chi Running and teach this method. What are some of the mistakes that runners make in terms of their training and how can Chi Running help?
I was drawn to learn more about Chi Running when I read Danny Dreyer’s book Chi Running. I started using the principles of alignment and relaxation with a focus on cooperating with natural forces. Most runners do not cooperate with gravity and allow it to help them. In addition, many runners are misaligned and too tense throughout their bodies which increases the chance of injury. When you can move your body with the assistance of gravity while also eliminating heel striking, it makes your running experience incredibly more efficient and enjoyable.
Drawing from your athletic background, do you feel the cultivation of subtle energy, or chi, is important in any sport?
Another major benefit of Chi Running and Walking is the awareness it helps develop of how natural energy is maximized throughout your body. As you learn to be mindful of how you are moving through space, you have more energy available as it is not dissipated through stress and tension. This is valuable not only in athletic activity, but also in everyday living.
As a yoga practitioner and teacher, how have the vast mind/body skills of yoga enhanced your life personally and professionally?
Chi Running and Walking are based on the principles of tai chi, which focus on cooperation with natural forces. This approach blends well with the practice of yoga, which also utilizes natural motion and poses that support and balance the body. Yoga can be particularly helpful for runners in reducing any tightness or muscle soreness.
At your newest venture, Gumbo, you build relationships with your products and people behind them to ensure that they deeply care about their craft, their impact and their customer. Why is this important to you?
We are careful to only select products and suppliers that we believe in, and that will help our customers improve their health and their enjoyment of life. Our staff are enthusiastic users of our products and can confidently recommend what would best serve each customer. It is critically important to us that our customers trust that we will only give them what we truly believe will help them, and that both we and our suppliers stand behind every single product.
What kinds of offerings does Gumbo have and how will the store serve the health-conscious community?
At Gumbo The Store we offer the best selection of quality products to help support your naturally healthy lifestyle including zero drop flexible footwear, activewear, yoga showroom, organic beauty, deep tissue rollers, locally crafted aromatherapy candles and jewelry, alkaline water pitchers and filters, organic energy bars, etc. At both Okra and Gumbo we look forward to helping our community live healthier and happier.
Gumbo The Store is located at 1916 Commonwealth Avenue. For more information, call 704-999-6630 or visit GumboTheStore.com.
Source: Natural Awakenings