Less than 10 years after attending her first yoga class, Freehold-born Renaissance Girl Erin Fogel (who you might recognize from Boardwalk Empire) is now the owner of one of the go-to places for asana on the Upper East Side, the palatial House of Jai. Along with co-founders Molly Lehman and Meg Carlough, in just a few years she has made the Yorkville Yoga studio popular for students and great teachers from far and wide. Their new TT program begins in January, led by Molly and Amy Matthews-trained anatomy expert Cait Morth, and featuring a rock star roster including Erin, Rebecca Ketchum, Corey Loftus, Lori McAlister, Bee Bosnak, and Amitai Cohen.
An actress and producer, Erin has just completed “The Strike,” an independent film comedy she stars in, that yogis will love.
Jim Catapano: How did you get into yoga for the first time?
Erin Fogel: In 2004 when I graduated from Hofstra, I moved to 87nd St between 2nd and 3rd, and became fast friends with a cutie named Randee, who was moving in on the same day. And we were extremely unhealthy together: disgusting late-night takeout, going out and having a good time, etc. Fitness was not part of our friendship! But one of Randee’s friends found a fast love of yoga. And every time I saw her, her body was just more and more beautiful, and she wouldn’t stop talking about it.
One Sunday we had some time before an off-Broadway show, so Randee said, “why don’t we take a class?” It was very crowded. I had no idea what I was doing, I was claustrophobic and sweating and suffocating. I hated it—and then I went back the next day! I think I was feeling the effects of what my body hadn’t wanted to do. Even when you’re body is resisting, it’s still releasing serotonin. I felt so good afterwards. I started going to Lori McAlister’s Lunch Crunch three times a week. Within a couple of months people would stop me, saying they couldn’t believe how my body was changing!
JC:How was House of Jai born?
EF: My mom used to throw her back out just tying her shoes. So I sent teachers to her. She started doing private sessions with Lori and Meg, and after a year and a half she was ready to come to class with me. We’d go to class together twice a week, walking quite a way to get there, and we would joke that we should open up our own studio right across the street from her!
JC: And it turned into a dream that became real…
EF: We’d all suffered so many injuries that we wanted to have a Wellness facility, which is so much more than a yoga studio. A place where people could come and feel safe and supported. A lot of people aren’t getting that anywhere else. If only I could get a camera on every person that tells me that this is the best place that ever happened to them! They come in to Jai and everything’s fine. There’s like an energetic orb over the studio. We’re very protective of our Jai family.
And the clients are so diverse. We have the 20-something guy who just passed the bar, pressing up to handstand. And we have stroke victims. And they pass each other in the hallway, and they all say hello to each other.
JC: How is the 2015 HOJ Teacher Training different from other trainings?
EF: We’re taking a new approach and perspective. We’ve done two other TTs, but this is our first 200-hour Vinyasa training. Teacher Training is a very limiting way of sharing the practice of yoga if only people that want to be teachers are coming. I learned the most from a woman named Lynn Vera, who took the TT last year with no intention of teaching. But through it, she learned so much about herself, the body, and the gift and the power to heal people, that she learned that she did want to teach!
And I took her second-ever class as a teacher, where she said, “Today we’re going to talk about your serratus!” And I thought, this is a finer class than I ever took in the first 6 years of taking yoga! And we also had people who went into training to teach, and found that it was just the next step to where their journey was going to take them that was not where they originally intended. So how can you call something a teacher training? It’s really a life training. It’s something that anybody can take.
(Many trainings) have just two preliminary instructors that you have the majority of the time, with other voices that come in for a minute, and very little anatomy training—the Yoga Alliance has very few contact hours for anatomy. Our approach is to use all of our finest instructors. How can one person under 40 know enough about the depth of life, the depth of meditation, and the depth of asana? We need a bit of perspective. And since we’re trying to encourage you to find your voice, your niche, where your soul belongs in the world, we need you to have a collective experience, a collection of the best that everyone’s got. So you can find which part of this practice is for you, and what you’re going to do with it next is for you to decide.
JC:Your film “The Strike,” is coming out next year which has a lot of yoga content. Tell us about it.
EF: It’s funny…it’s not a documentary and I’m not playing myself! However it’s as close to my real life as I could imagine it to be. It’s written and directed by Guillermo Ivan, and it’s a collection of every place that I go, every person I know, and every dream that I’ve had. Except I’m playing Molly Mirovsky! She’s an overexaggerated version of myself who is a yoga teacher but also looking to make it big as a performer.
The movie features House of Jai, and we used a lot of House of Jai students in the movie as our featured yogis. The yoga you’re seeing in the movie is real. All the things students go through: the passion to want to keep the balance, putting the ego in front, getting injured because you’re not there for the right reason.
It also showcases how many people in industries like the entertainment industry do yoga, to not feel stressed. It shows how much everybody needs this, and everybody loves it.