The little Brooklyn yoga studio that could

Opening day at the new Goodyoga in Greenpoint. (Photo: Goodyoga)
Opening day at the new Goodyoga in Greenpoint. (Photo: Goodyoga)
Opening day at the new Goodyoga in Greenpoint. (Photo: Goodyoga)

At Goodyoga Greenpoint, there’s no front desk for purchasing packages or lockers for securing belongings. Students arrive for class like they’re walking into a friend’s house, chattily hanging coats and greeting their host, owner Flannery Foster, who circles the room in sweats, laughing loudly at herself as she creates tongue twisters to remember the names of newbies.

Nothing about the space says “business,” and yet Foster and her partner (in romance and commerce) Raymond Gonzales are now operating what might be New York’s most successful homegrown yoga empire, with a respected teacher training program, two bustling Brooklyn studios, classes at the Wythe Hotel, and a Williamsburg studio opening this fall.

And despite major hiccups along the way—like the loss of two spaces and a major in-studio flood—Foster says she’s essentially created a thriving community by accepting one happy accident after another (a fact that’s easier to believe once you’ve met her).

“It’s complex running a business, and especially a yoga business, because yoga means many things to many people,” she says. “We definitely wouldn’t have done it if we knew what we were getting into, but we’ve been very lucky.”

Flannery Foster (Photo: Goodyoga)
Goodyoga’s Flannery Foster (Photo: Wes Driver for Goodyoga)

The “Bed and Yoga” beginnings

Goodyoga’s first studio opened in what had been Gonzales’ apartment in 2009. When everyone in the building moved out at the same time, the couple took over the entire space and began running it as a kind of off-the-radar “Bed and Yoga” establishment, renting rooms on “We figured we could finance the yoga studio there by renting out rooms,” Foster says.

It worked, and it soon became a sort of ashram, where Foster built a local community mixed with travelers passing through and began to train teachers in her gentle, inclusive style.

When life hands you lemons…

In 2013, a real estate issue meant they’d have to leave the building, and suddenly, they needed somewhere to go. “The momentum was largely because our original space was threatened,” she says. They found a new studio in Greenpoint, took over a space in Clinton Hill, opened a studio in Bushwick, and started offering classes at the Wythe. Things were looking up.

Then, in early 2014, they were forced to close the Clinton Hill studio due to electrical issues that made it impossible to heat the space. A week later, a pipe burst in the new Greenpoint studio, flooding the entire studio. Foster took all of this in stride, embracing the opportunity to remodel in Greenpoint (“these new floors are so nice!”) and beginning to search for space in Williamsburg.

Goodyoga at The Wythe Hotel, with sun shining in as students gaze across the river at the Manhattan skyline. (Photo: Goodyoga)
At The Wythe Hotel. (Photo: Goodyoga)

The sincere secret to success

In the end, Foster says, she’s stayed focused on offering the best “product,” which includes quality instruction (all of her teachers are at least 500-hour certified) and spaces that feel welcoming and inclusive and contribute to students’ overall happiness, whether that means they stay in child’s pose through an entire class or want to fly through their Mysore sun salutations.

It’s a conceit I felt acutely in all of her studios, and her teachers seem to carry her caring-teacher, fast-friend sensibility. “Do you ever go to places that feel like if you didn’t show up, no one would notice?” she asks me, tellingly at one point.

She means yoga studios, but it occurs to me that the question gets at a feeling that many New Yorkers encounter all of the time, as they push through crowds, invisible. Which may have something to do with her success. “I’ve learned at heart, everything really comes down to learning everybody’s names and having a genuine, sincere interest in people,” she says. “Is that yoga?” —Lisa Elaine Held

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