DEL MAR — It’s 9:30 a.m. and Stacy McCarthy is standing on the asphalt behind Albertsons on Via de la Valle, clasping her hands together in the iconic namaste gesture. Dogs are barking, delivery trucks are bustling behind the grocery store and Interstate 5 roars just a few hundred yards away, but McCarthy is perfectly calm.
A group of 16 women and two men have formed a semicircle around McCarthy, one of North County’s most prolific yoga instructors, as she leads a warm-up routine. Moments later, the group sets out in silent meditation on the Lagoon Trail of the San Dieguito River Park, heading toward the beach, where they will practice yoga poses on the beach.
McCarthy organized this donation-based class as one of several fundraisers in advance of the Yoga for Hope event at Petco Park May 18. Yoga for Hope has raised more than $125,000 for cancer research, treatment and education at City of Hope in the past two years, said Ellie Levine, assistant director of development.
Organizers this year hope to raise another $100,000 for the City of Hope as up to 700 people gather on the outfield grass in Petco Park for a morning of yoga led by some of the biggest names in yoga in San Diego, including McCarthy.
Levine attributes much of Yoga for Hope’s success to McCarthy’s involvement.
“She’s been such a great advocate for the cause,” Levine said. “She thinks outside the box and does an amazing job fundraising for the event.”
McCarthy’s enormous web of social connections in the yoga world of San Diego has certainly helped. It is a network she has been developing since 1991, when she helped launch the original Frog’s Athletic Club in Solana Beach.
In 1992 McCarthy joined the vanguard of the yoga movement when she decided to bring yoga classes to the health club, an unconventional choice at the time. She recruited Dominic Corigliano to teach the first classes.
“In 1992 yoga was not anything like what yoga is now,” McCarthy said. “I could barely get anyone in the class. I was practically begging people to attend.”
By 1994 enrollment in the yoga sessions began to grow, and McCarthy began working her way up through management at Frog’s. She was promoted to chief operating officer in 1997. After a corporate merger and acquisition, McCarthy decided she had had enough of management.
“It was kind of a desk job, and that was not my personality at all,” McCarthy said. “It did not fit my nature.”
Practicing yoga with Corigliano helped McCarthy realize that yoga was her true passion. In 2000, she quit the management job at Frog’s and founded Yoga NamaStacy, the business she still runs today.
Her business is all about sharing yoga with others, whether through her “Yoga Body” instructional DVDs, leading wellness retreats, training other yoga teachers or just leading everyday practice.
Some of McCarthy’s students have been practicing with her weekly for almost 10 years. That loyalty is a testament to McCarthy’s ability to be consistent without boring her students with the same routine every week, said Mandy Burstein, who recently completed a 300-hour yoga teacher training program with McCarthy as her mentor.
Her success also reflects the personal connections and relationships McCarthy fosters with her students, Burstein said.
“You can tell that it’s more than just a class,” Burstein said. “It’s a community.”
And through the stories and experiences she relates from her own life, McCarthy brings a charismatic authenticity to the room that keeps people coming back, said Jessica Lamphere, another yoga teacher whom McCarthy mentored.
“She leads the lifestyle that she’s teaching and really embodies yoga,” Lamphere said. “She’s just a really warm, kind person who likes to give back to her community.”
Back on the trail in the San Dieguito River Park, McCarthy and her group for the day — a blur of pink, purple, turquoise, black and white — are on their way back from the beach.
They head to the bBar, a Del Mar juice bar McCarthy has invested in, where they will take a break to sample “superfood” salads and smoothies. The motto of the store is “Be Beaming,” and McCarthy certainly is.