We all know yoga is beneficial for the mind, body and soul. Did you know part of what makes yoga […]
We all know yoga is beneficial for the mind, body and soul. Did you know part of what makes yoga so rewarding is the community that comes along with it? Nowhere is that more apparent than at Synergy Hot Yoga in Fair Haven, New Jersey. Jen Portman, the founder of Synergy Hot Yoga, is solely responsible for that community, although I’m sure she would tell you otherwise. She is one of those generous, thoughtful and benevolent people who just makes the person she is talking with feel so good. Portman operates Synergy with such love and devotion, every inch of the studio is warm and welcoming. Every instructor feels like family and, of course, they make you feel like family, too. One of the warmest people I know, I’d like to introduce you to Jen:
ID: Tell us a little about how Synergy Hot Yoga came to be.
JP:Well, back in the early 2000’s I was a bit of a hot yoga junkie- I practiced at Jersey Shore Hot Yoga in Rumson (started by our own Alice Nelson) The studio closed in 2007 and there was a crisis in the hot yoga community. A bunch of us fanatics were wondering how we would survive without a studio nearby. At the time, I had a small PR consulting firm with a partner, but we were both not entirely attached to it and so I thought hmmmm…maybe I could open a studio….a little presumptuous since I had no training whatsoever, but desperate times call for desperate measures! I started hunting around for potential spaces to rent, still not entirely sure this was going to happen. When I walked into the space at 772 River Road upstairs (our original site) I just knew it was my studio immediately. I signed a lease, scared to death, and then jetted off to Hawaii to do a teacher training, while Robert took care of the kids and oversaw the construction. The rest is history! We opened our doors on April 1, 2008. I was very nervous – like what if you throw a party and no one comes? But, the very first day people came in droves and were excited! That excitement has continued and now we have more than 30 classes a week with 16 teachers- most still here from that first day.
ID: What was your childhood ambition?
JP: My childhood dream was to be a dolphin trainer! But back then, we were not encouraged to think outside the box- or at least, I didn’t…I went to college and got a “regular job” working at an advertising agency in New York. I liked it well enough and was successful because I worked hard and was of course very conscientious- I even got an ulcer the first year fearing that I might make a mistake that would compromise the agency! But when I got married and had kids, I didn’t love it enough to sacrifice staying home with them.
ID: What are the single best/worst things about having your own yoga studio?
JP:The single best thing is having this incredible community. My husband always teases me about it, but almost every day people tell me how Synergy has changed their lives. It is so amazing to be in a place that people are always happy to come to and grateful that we exist! The worst thing is never getting away from it. Owning any retail business means never really being off- we are open every day except Christmas and I work seven days a week- but I love being there so it doesn’t feel like work. Luckily, I have amazing teachers who always show up and are always willing to step in and help out. I could never do this without them. And, I also finally have a fabulous manager who keeps me organized (I’m a little bit of a scatter-brain) and makes my life much easier!
ID: What have been some of your biggest challenges when it comes to realizing your success?
That first year, it always amazed me that people were actually giving me money to come. Now, I think it is a challenge to accept that I do have influence and can make a difference, and have some responsibility to use that power to do good things. We’ve also grown tremendously and the challenge now is to keep the sense of community; that it still be personal; that teachers greet people by name, and that it be good experience for every student that comes here, every time.
ID: Does your family practice with you?
JP:Yes! (well, most of them…. My husband has never and probably will never practice with me, but he is incredibly supportive and proud of my work and the business) My kids mostly are spoiled; they love coming to Synergy when they are home, but don’t want to pay for yoga when they get back to their lives.
ID: Will you share with us your guilty pleasure?
JP: Hmmm… I have a few….taking another yoga class when I really should be working……but my favorite-napping in my daughter’s bed in the afternoon.
ID: We would love to know a surprise random fact about you.
JP: I held the NJ state record in the Javelin throw when I was in high school!
ID: And, finally: please describe yourself in five words. If you have to you can use 6!
JP:That is really tough. Driven, a little bit compulsive, compassionate, happy, optimistic, and try to be adventurous.
Thank you for your time and effort in answering these questions, Jen. I love your guilty pleasure – it reminds me of mine!
Images courtesy of Jen Portman – Synergy Hot Yoga