If a pair of strangers had not met on New Years Eve of 2009, Good Yoga would not exist in Greenpoint.
That night, Flannery Foster, 33, went to a party at the apartment of Ray Gonazales, 34. The apartment looked like a loft with white walls and a skylight illuminating the rooms. “ I joked with Ray that this place will make a good yoga center,” said Foster.
Earlier that evening the two had met at a concert. Foster liked that Gonzales is relaxed, tall and genuine. Gonzales liked the fact that Foster wasn’t shy and was wearing boots to her knees. After the concert, Foster went to the party at Gonzales place.
Three weeks later Foster moved in to Gonazales’s place with two goals: starting a yoga business and living together as a couple.
The decision to move in together was made on whim. Foster e-mailed Gonzales. Gonzales said that it made sense for him.
Now, some two and half years later after that meeting Good Yoga has become a hangout and yoga center on a quiet corner of Calyer Street.
Foster’s interest in having a yoga center as a business developed over several years. She had worked as a restaurant manager and actress. “I had been working 80 hours a week at times,” Foster said. “I didn’t want to wake up every morning and catch up the 7 a.m. train to Manhattan for work.” After 13 years of changing jobs and surviving in New York, she said she was worn out. On her 28th birthday, Foster asked herself: “ If I had never ending source of money, how will I spend my time?” She told herself, ‘I would be doing yoga, making art, and travelling.”
She had been introduced to yoga when she was 18 by a college professor at Boston University. She found it too slow, and did not like it. But, In her mid 20s, she realized that she was discontented with her life despite working as an actress and living in New York. During this time her father died. She started doing yoga again and read spiritual books to comfort herself. She hurt her back while working as a waitress. Yoga helped her decrease the pain, she said.
“I did further training in New York and then I went to Sri Lanka to teach yoga,” said Foster. She spent six months in Asia starting November of 2007. “I was learning about things that I could not find in pure form here,” she said. She spent time with gurus and Buddhist monks.
She returned to New York and started formulating plans to make money through yoga.
Meanwhile, Gonzales liked the idea of creating a yoga center as soon as Foster presented her plan to him.
Gonzales had come to New York in 2003 after graduating from Humboldt State University in California. As a student in college, he had tried different majors but ultimately graduated with a degree in studio art. He is laid back, confident and supportive of new ideas. He started a graphic design business with two of his cousins but the recession hit his business hard. In 2008 he shut it down.
On New Years Eve 2009, a mutual friend of the two texted them individually to come to a My Morning Jacket concert in Madison Square Garden. During the concert, Flannery and Gonzales were taking pictures of themselves together. “Your eye is dead,” Foster said to Gonzales after looking at a photo image. Gonzales confidently said that he has glaucoma in his left eye. “I was so embarrassed,” Foster said, “but he made me comfortable.”
They continued to see each other and decided quickly to launch a yoga business. Foster had been teaching yoga as a private tutor in New York City and was planning to start a yoga business. Gonzales liked the idea of a partnership because at a yoga center he would be able to use his graphic design skills developing and maintaining the website for their business.
It was challenging to start a business, said Foster. They had neither a business plan nor permission from their landlord to start a business at the apartment. Their landlord was in Barcelona. “It was horrible to feel that something might not go through,” said Foster. She had been asked by one of her students in France to come and teach yoga. From France the couple flew to Barcelona to get their landlord’s OK.
Upon their return to New York, they used their credit cards to invest in the business. Gonzales had to break his 401 K to get more money.
According to Gonzales, they spent approximately $3000 to fix the windows. Gonzales fixed the leaks, welded metal and put plastic bars into the windows to insulate the house. Foster started to invite people via word of mouth to teach yoga. Gonzales made the logo and the website to promote the business.
As number of students increased, Foster started to teach 25 classes per week because she could not afford to hire teacher. Foster said, “Overworking was a huge problem.” They started to delegate work to students who were not able to pay for yoga classes. Foster said, “We used yoga as a currency.” Also, according to Foster, there are a lot of yoga teachers in New York. Some yoga teachers start teaching for free until they started attracting more students. At Good Yoga, the teachers don’t get paid when they first start. “Our teachers who stay longer get $15 an hour and then $5 person up to $40 dollars,” said Foster. “ I look for quality, confidence in instructive styles and a strong technique assisting with their hands.”
When the students started to come in, Gonzales and Foster realized that there was no place for students to hang out. Gonzales rearranged part of the first floor into a lounge and created a sliding door so that students can enter the lounge area from the main door.
Now, Good Yoga has the feeling of a meditation center or ashram and is filled with the fragrance of incense. Yoga classes are conducted in various rooms and on the rooftop where you can view Manhattan’s skyline.
One of the yoga teachers is Leona Ross, 34. “Good Yoga has a sense of community that I haven’t really got at other centers,” she said. Leona teaches 3 yoga classes and one meditation class. She also takes training classes taught by other teachers.
The partners said they have struggled to pay bills until the last few months, subletting part of their apartment helped. Recently, the two were able to afford to donate 10 percent of their profits to Fistula Foundation, a non-profit committed to helping women who are injured during pregnancy, Foster said.
According to Google Maps, there are 10 yoga centers within a 1mile radius of Good Yoga. She found out that the 10 a.m. classes attract a lot of students and she changed her class time accordingly. Good Yoga charges $15 for introductory sessions. “There is a standard pricing for Yoga—some studios in the neighborhood charge higher,” said Foster.
Over the next few years, she and Gonzales would like to purchase the building that hosts the yoga center.