How did you start your yoga studio, SOUK?
SOUK was born in Beirut, Lebanon, my hometown. In 2015, I was asked to co-found a yoga school in Beirut as a way to offer a bit of calm and consistency to a city that has been in turmoil for as far as I can remember. Yoga Souk Beirut opened its doors in the fall of 2016 and quickly became ‘The ultimate surviving guide for living in Beirut.’
Fast forward a few years, and Jivamukti Yoga where I had been teaching for 15 years closed its doors in December 2019. A few months later, the pandemic took us all by surprise and there we all were - practicing on Zoom. While that virtual gathering space became a lifeline, I knew that community, being together in-person was a deep yearning we all had. The shutting down of the city forced many businesses to follow suit. I wanted to create a space of practice and community where we all gathered again; to build a home for teachers who had lost their home studio and for students to return to their mat outside the four walls of their home because “the healing is in the return.” *Sharon Salzberg
In 2020, my business partners and I hired Order Design, a Brooklyn-based agency, to design our logo and brand identity. In 2021 we pitched the business idea to investors while looking for spaces in the Flatiron/NoMad area. We raised funds for a full gut-renovation and found our home at 12 West 27 Street - a landmark building with large windows facing the Empire State Building. We signed our lease in September 2021 and built SOUK from scratch in collaboration with the design firm Home Studios NYC.
SOUK Yoga Studio opened its doors on January 15, 2021 at the height of the Omicron Variant. The photographs of that first class - 78 students with masks - are epic! At SOUK, some of the most experienced yoga teachers in NY spanning different lineages, have come together through practice, storytelling, music and sweat. I believe that this multidisciplinary approach to yoga allows one to go deep by exploring the subject and its many facets through different angles, through the lens of different methods and techniques.
What's your favorite part about the New York creative community?
The teachings of yoga remind us that every moment is a fresh start. And that is New York’s MO. NYC is in a constant state of creativity, constantly renewing itself by embracing newcomers and new ideas. We too can be in a constant state of refreshing ourselves and NYC encourages us to do so. New York or nowhere!
What's inspiring you right now?
Small business owners, especially brick & mortar owners. Their grit & grace in the face of it all. Unyielding in their aspiration to offer an impeccable customer experience without caving to the need to scale and become a chain. It’s that “boutique” feeling that is not exclusive which inspires me.
That’s my vision for SOUK - to become a hyper-local entity that meets NYC at its renaissance while also being a destination for visitors/tourists interested in yoga and in community.
It’s a little bit what NY Magazine coined as a zizmorcore attitude, meaning NYC to the bone! Dr Zizmor was a New York born dermatologist who became famous for his television commercials and prolific, colorful subway ads in the 1980s. In March 2021, The Cut New York Magazine issued an article entitled: “Thank You, Dr. Zizmor. The newest fashion trend in New York is — unironically, hyper-specifically — New York itself… It’s a way of saying: We’re not going anywhere. And when you see it, it gives you a little warm feeling.”
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