Mindset

How a Yogi Turned Her Passion into a Career

Tracy Dungo is living the dream: She turned her passion into a career – complete with a West Soho office in New York City. After working for big brands like Ralph Lauren and People Magazine, she realized she “didn’t want to be her boss,” and, on her husband’s suggestion, she decided to pick up a hobby – which actually turned into many hobbies. “I took a bunch of classes – from Coding for Chicks to a photography class to screen printing to jewelry making,” she says. It was the jewelry making that stuck.

“I’ve always loved jewelry but the actual process of making it, to me, was addicting,” she says. Then, because she’d taken the photography class, she was able to take elevated shots of the products she was making and – thanks to that Coding for Chicks class – she built her own website. For a year, her jewelry company Kalaki Riot was a side hustle, but then she grew it to a point where she decided to go all in and quit her “day job.”

How a Yogi Turned Her Passion into a Career

The gist of her brand is the “urban island lifestyle,” says Tracy. “I started Kalaki Riot because I noticed that, especially in New York City, everyone seems to be so cranky when they come back from vacation,” she says. She sees her jewelry as a wearable reminder to “pull a little bit from that vacation bliss,” calm down, and “go to your happy place” even if you’re trapped on a packed NYC subway. Tracy’s preferred term for happy places: Urban Islands. “What is the one thing or place that helps you calibrate instantly and realize that everything is going to be ok?” The answer(s) to that question are your own personal Urban Islands.

Now Tracy’s days consist of visiting midtown jewelry vendors, attending photo shoots, working on editorial content for her website, and you know, making jewelry! But before any of this happens, she makes time for a workout – usually yoga or a run. Read on for how Tracy’s passion for fitness and wellness helped her to become a successful entrepreneur – and how you, too, can get inspired to make your own magic.

Start every day the same way.

How a Yogi Turned Her Passion into a Career

Before anything else happens, Tracy meditates for five to ten minutes. “Meditation was really a big challenge for me – It still kind of is,” she admits, blaming “scattered thoughts.” Still, with the help of the Calm app, she does it every morning as soon as she wakes up. “It grounds me a little bit and then I’m ready to start my day.”

Then, get your workout done!

“I work out first thing after meditating because I know that if I start checking emails I’ll get stuck in the spiral – and if I save my workout for the end of the day I am more likely to cop out,” she says. Plus, an AM sweat session arms her with the energy she needs to start the rest of her day and get to work.

Get inspired by other women doing “really cool things.”

Tracy’s first experience with yoga was at I.AM.YOU, a studio founded by Lauren Imparato, a California native with a Wall Street background who left her high power job to open a yoga studio. Tracy was inspired. “It might have been not only my first brush with yoga but also my first brush with a woman doing really cool things – taking that entrepreneurial route despite the normal career path that you think you have to take once you graduate,” she says. “I’m always constantly inspired by other women doing cool things,” says Tracy.

Be open to something “different” when it comes to fitness.

While yoga is still a passion for Tracy, she now mixes things up with hiphop yoga classes. “It’s definitely different,” says Tracy of the classes she takes at Y7. Basically, it’s a heated flow to a great playlist of hip-hop jams in a candle-lit room. “Y7 is what pushed my interest in yoga to that next level,” she says.

Netflix & yoga.

How a Yogi Turned Her Passion into a Career

“What helped me move along faster in my own practice was doing it while I was watching Netflix,” says Tracy, who practices everything from headstands to arm balances to crow pose in her own living room. “When you go to a class there isn’t enough time for the instructor to watch every single student – We’re only working on that move for a few seconds,” she says. “What’s really great is you can literally YouTube anything and there’s so many different tricks to how you can do things,” she says. “Then, you can think of your class as the big recital – You work on your own and practice, but then the yoga class comes around and your friends are like, “Where did that come from?”

Do it for the runner’s high.

Tracy is also a one-time marathoner and eyeing a spring half marathon. But, she notes, it’s not as if she thinks every minute pounding the pavement is so much fun. “I don’t know if anyone actually loves running itself, but how it makes you feel – especially after – makes it worth it,” she says. “You’re on that runner’s high.” Tracy ran the Chicago marathon a few years back and now prefers the half marathon. “I think that half marathons are a great distance because you can’t just pull it out of nowhere, but it doesn’t require a huge lifestyle change to do it,” she notes. (Though, she also hints she’s considering running another full marathon!)

Prioritize your health.

How a Yogi Turned Her Passion into a Career

“Being an entrepreneur, it’s just so easy to forget how to take care of yourself,” warns Tracy. But she knows how important it is to fit in exercise – if only for 30 minutes a day. “Just getting the blood moving so it’s not stagnant and getting those endorphins running keeps me focused,” she says, “There are days when I won’t even have time to get coffee in the morning, but if I work out it’s enough to get me through the entire morning until the next break.” But also key is dialing in on your nutrition. “Now that my days aren’t as structured, occasionally I’d realize I’d forgotten to eat lunch and I would feel like crap,” she says. Keep healthy snacks on hand during superbusy days.

Sweatwork.

Instead of always meeting people in a conference room or for happy hour, Tracy looks for opportunities to sweat and network simultaneously. “I’ll meet people and I’ll find out they run and suggest we run together and talk more about business,” she says. She also makes a point of setting up regular Soul Cycle and yoga dates with some of her entrepreneurial friends.

Be humbled

How a Yogi Turned Her Passion into a Career

Challenge yourself with different fitness activities you don’t do all the time. For Tracy, she’ll head 45 minutes out of New York City to hike. “You can spend four hours just hiking and a lot of the hikes have rock scrambles where you’re actually bouldering over rocks, which can be really, really intense,” she says. Since it’s an entirely different thing from running on a flat, paved road – what Tracy is used to – it’s humbling.

Get geared up

“I have this terrible habit of rewarding myself with gear,” Tracy admits. But that’s not such a bad thing. “When I have gear that I love and am all about, it’s definitely motivating,” says Tracy. “If it makes you feel the best that you can feel, as well as gets you to work out, then that’s a good thing,” she says. “I love adidas because of the lifestyle branding – It makes you feel like you’re part of a community, which I think is awesome. You know that there’s high quality and style when you buy it.” The single most important piece of gear in Tracy’s opinion: Good running sneakers.