After practicing yoga and living on the Upper East Side for many years, Erin and Jeri Fogel felt like something was missing—a yoga community in their neighborhood.
So mother Jeri and daughter Erin, 29, teamed up with yoga teachers Molly Lehman and Meg Carlough to open up their own yoga center that just so happens to be in the same building where Jeri lives.
Their family and friend-run yoga center, House of Jai, on 1st Avenue between 75th and 76th, is meant to feel like a stereotypical Italian family where everyone is family and there is lots of love and warmth to go around. The center is expected to open in late April.
There are so many yoga studios in New York City. Why open your own?
JERI: When I first started practicing yoga, I couldn’t become still in savasana (final resting pose), because my mind is constantly turning, and didn’t know what to do. Since I am a numbers person, I counted—how many people were in the class, how much they paid, how many classes were given per week, etc. I started calculating how much money a studio makes because I just couldn’t sit still. By the time I was done counting, I figured we could make a killing at it. I’m in real estate now, but I don’t want to do it for the rest of my life. This yoga studio is part of my retirement plan. I want to be the mamalina of the place.
ERIN: She’s everybody’s mother!
JERI: I also wanted to find a way to help my daughter do her acting without having to worry about finances. Erin had this bustling yoga community on the Upper East Side—they would all travel together to go to different classes and teachers in New York, and she realized there was this yoga community on the Upper East Side that had no home base.
What made you start practicing yoga in the first place?
ERIN: People saw a lot of potential in me, but I had a lot of body pain, was very hunched, and had no confidence. Someone in the [acting] industry recommended yoga to me. I hated my first class, but I kept going. Within six months of practicing, people started noticing changes, and I felt dramatic improvements. All of my acting success now is due to yoga.
JERI: I’ve had lower back pain since my thirties and I’d tried all the exercise fads. After flying down to Florida for my father’s birthday and not being able to move when I got off the plane, Erin gave me a yoga private lesson [with another instructor] for my birthday. I felt nauseous throughout it, but realized how desperately I needed to do this. And just after a month of private sessions once a week, I felt better.
Jai looks like it will be more of a wellness center than just a place to practice. Why did you take things in that direction?
ERIN: All the additional offerings of nutrition counseling and bodywork came about because we all practice these other things. Molly [Lehman], the director of Vinyasa, who is also one of our health counselors, does acupuncture all the time. My mom and I get reiki massages. Our director of special programs, Meg Carlough, loves singing, so we have chanting and musical-based classes. These are all things we wanted to have and the ample space made it possible. Another exciting addition is that Andrea Beaman of Top Chef fame is going to be a nutrition counselor at Jai twice a week!
You have a lot of yoga styles on the class schedule. Who exactly are you targeting for House of Jai?
JERI: We are targeting everyone. We have everybody in mind. If anybody’s left out, we will fix it. We have all kinds of yoga—Vinyasa, Iyengar, Mysore, Strala, Kula, Prenatal, Dharma, Kirtan. There are sorts of classes, too—prenatal, meditation, kids teens. There’s even broga—yoga for the bros. On Friday nights, there will be live music and classes for singles and couples.
What’s the feeling you want House of Jai to have?
ERIN: It will be edgy, but wholesome. We believe in the family and letting the freak flag fly.
So where did the name “House of Jai” come from?
ERIN: I live alone in a walk-up on the Upper East Side and for security reasons I didn’t want my name on the doorbell, so I chose “Jai” for the nameplate. When I threw parties at my place I would call them House of Jai parties. “Jai” means victory or success.
You’re just a week or so away from the opening. What will the space look like when it’s done?
ERIN: It’s bi-level, with almost 4,000 square feet and clean and beautiful! We have two large bamboo-floor studios; one can be divided in two with etched-glass walls. There are two bodywork/counseling rooms, plus locker rooms (no showers), and a boutique, with Splits59 clothing for women and Zobha for men. There’s going to be a state of the art sound system, Sonos, and acoustic ceilings—music is so important to me.
Last but not least, your drop-in rate is $25 per class. What do students get for that price?
ERIN: A Manduka mat and a towel. And there’s also a filtered water fountain, so you can fill up your own water bottle instead of having to buy water.
House of Jai is slated to open April 29; 1456 First Ave, between 76th and 75th Sts., Upper East Side, www.houseofjai.com