Meet Teacher Flannery Foster
In our hustle-bustle city , things happen fast. It seemed the same was true for Brooklyn-based Good Yoga; all of the sudden they had three studios in Greenpoint, Clinton Hill, and Bushwick. After talking to Flannery Foster who co-owns them, Carly Sachs found out that what made it seem so fast and effortlessly put together was the luck of finding the perfect partner (romantically and otherwise) who had the same clear intentions and conscious sense of the community for creating a studio. Then they went at it!
Carly Sachs: What brought you to NYC?
Flannery Foster: I dropped out of acting school in Boston in 1998, came for school and stayed.
CS: Where did you first start practicing?
FF: I was raised in Vermont with a lot of hippies. The teacher was a middle-aged woman and we were sitting a long time so I didn’t take to it. I was 18. In my twenties, my father passed away and so I started sitting at the Shambala Institute. Buddhism then brought me to yoga. There was a studio (Laughing Lotus) in the building where I worked in the music industry. I would trade CD’s for classes. For me, yoga as a physical practice was only interesting when it was paired with the philosophy. At the time I started seriously practicing I had been diagnosed with pituitary adenoma. The side effects of the drugs were worse than the symptoms and so I began to treat it with yoga.
CS: Tell me about your love story with Raymond Gonzales and how it blossomed into a business?
FF: We met on New Year’s Eve and then we moved in together at the end of January. His business and his partners’ businesses were failing and so we started talking and this business seemed to be the most obvious. We ended up renting all 3 units in our building and in July of 2009, we had our first class on the roof.
The business started by me saying, "hey I’ve got a rooftop, teacher friends come and teach here." It was all by donation. It took a lot of time but we wanted to create a community space where we could get to meet everyone in the neighborhood and because we have guest rooms, where people can stay, we meet people from around the world.
CS: You have Good Yoga in multiple locations? How did that happen?
FF: We didn’t want to be perceived as a corporate studio but since we rent our business space in Greenpoint, it is at risk and it always has been; and then we fell in love with a space in Bushwick. The day after we returned from a vacation, a former student said he had opened a space in Clinton Hill and he had to go back to Mexico to be with his family and so we opened that studio. If the Greenpoint studio has to close down, we have other spaces to keep serving the community.
CS: How is your studio different?
FF: Ray does all the graphic design and his wit and humor come through. I do the teaching, so we are a family business. I grew up in a liberal church and during Sunday school they’d take us to other religious places. For me it was about bringing people together. If you come to my class I want to know who you are. When we know each other’s names, we’re not as shy. I’m building friendships. I’m helping people find connections, jobs, apartments, friends, sometimes even romance.
CS: What is your personal practice like now? Are there certain poses, pranayamas, or meditations that are your go-to practices?
FF: Simple gazing at my third eye, the muscles around my eye hug my pituitary gland and then it releases seratonin. Ujjayi breath and mantra. The sound of my voice is louder than the other voices in my head and my physical practice is much slower with held poses for a long time to create stability in my joints, which is something I need to cultivate because of injury and illness.
CS: How do you balance living, working and loving in the same space with your partner?
FF: We haven’t found it yet. It is incredibly challenging. It’s just as challenging as going to work and then coming home to your partner. Every situation has it’s own challenges. We both like to work a lot so not working is a challenge. Communication is the best possible thing. Some people would argue that monogamy is not a natural state but in the context of yoga, it becomes a spiritual discipline. It’s a process of learning how to trust. Sometimes we have to tell each other things that make us bristle, but we know we have each other’s best interests in mind and trusting that we are here to help each other grow and change. We are a team. We have too many options these days and it’s easy to bail out and be with someone new. But then our old habits pop up and so you might as well work them out with one person.
“Right!” chimes in Ray from the background.
--Carly Sachs is a yogi and poet. To read more of her work, click here.