Jyll Hubbard-Salk | Yoga teacher I urban asanas
"I want it to feel like a community, like a home. I want people to feel safe and not feel judged...People needed to have an opportunity to expose themselves without judgment. And if I can give you 90 minutes of that blissfulness, I’ve done my job."
Where’d you grow up? How would you describe that place?
I grew up in Canton, Ohio. It’s country as hell. It inspired me to get the hell out and do something and make a difference.
What was family life like?
It was a typical middle class/country/urban-ish household. I’m the baby. My parents definitely loved us and that was apparent – and on the flip side I knew there were issues in their marriage. My parents got a divorce after 25 years. But there was always support – we were always together.
Describe yourself as a child…
Very stubborn. I didn’t fit in because I was very tall. I was a tomboy. I looooved boys. I loved school. I was very popular. I was a cheerleader, I ran track. I just was always in it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. I’ve always been interested in the physical.
When did you know you wanted to leave Canton? How did you make it to New York?
I always wanted to leave Canton. I left when I went to college at Kent State. I left Kent and transferred to Jackson State in Mississippi. At one point I was interning for a senator and then ended-up going to Paris. I lived in Paris for 3 years, waiting tables and modeling. I met a guy there who I went to London with and then when I left Europe, I went back to Mississippi. Then I got involved with a drug dealer and moved to Houston Texas - and got in a lot of trouble. My mom was like “you better get your motherfucking ass out of Texas!” He got arrested and I left Texas.
I came to New York and met my husband. I lived in the East Village for all of those years and met Danny when I was waitressing at a French Bistro in the Meatpacking. We married in 2 weeks. We’ve been married for almost 18 years.
Why have you stayed in New York?
I can’t think of any other place I want to be. Who would accept my family? Bi-racial - Danny is Jewish, and I’m black. But we’re raising our kids Buddhist. I can be me here.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
I’ve been practicing yoga for about 25 years.
How did you find yoga?
Well my brother was a big dancer and took me to a yoga class at David Barton’s gym on Broadway. I took my first breath and it was love.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you wanted to teach yoga?
I didn’t know I was going to teach it, but I knew it was going to be a vital part of my life. I don’t know when teaching hit me, it just came.
When did you know you wanted to open your own studio?
I wanted to for years. I was at Shambhala (in Brooklyn) for 10 years and then opened up Urban Asanas a year and a half ago.
Do you connect differently in your own space?
Yes, I feel even more open. It’s like mi casa es su casa. I’ve created that space but it’s you guys who are building that space, not me. I’ve laid the foundation and the externals, but the studio is doing it’s own thing.
I want it to feel like a community, like a home. I want people to feel safe and not feel judged. And I just wanted people to feel open and be able to come to the yoga mat and purge. If you feel like crying, even if you don’t feel like yoga, just stay in child’s pose and cry and don’t feel like you’re judged.
Do you feel like that was needed in this neighborhood?
It’s what’s needed not only in this neighborhood, but in the world. People needed to have an opportunity to expose themselves without judgment. And if I can give you 90 minutes of that blissfulness, I’ve done my job.
How has your practice evolved?
My practice now is not just asanas. My practice now is slower and deeper. I take classes how I teach classes. It’s about creating something sustainable.
Describe a typical day…
I get up at 5:15/5:30. I do the schedule for the studio and check my emails. I either go to the gym or meditate. I get my kids out. I come to the studio. I teach. I take a class. I have some meetings. I have dinner. I do emails again. And then by 9:30pm, I’m toast.
What’s your favorite part of teaching yoga?
Changing lives. I feel like that 95% of the time. Like last week a woman came to class. I had never met her, couldn’t figure her out, and then after class she said “Oh my god, I found my home. I found my yoga home!” And then she went and told her husband. Her husband came on Monday, and he just started crying and said thank you.
Administration and managing people…and the computer stuff.
What are your biggest challenges as a business owner?
One thing I’m trying to get fluidity with is being a business owner, a wife, and a mom. That’s what I’m still struggling with. I don’t believe in balance, I don’t think anything is balanced – nothing is 50/50. I just want some fluidity.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome?
I’m not going to say bad things don’t happen to me, but I don’t own those things. The only hardship I’ve ever had is when Andre, my brother, died – that’s all. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. But on the most part – I’m good. I’ve got a man that loves my crusty black-ass. I have these three amazing kids who get to go to a private school. I have my own business. I own a home. I own my car.
I mean, I’m not going to the Hamptons…I can’t go get my Cartier bracelet I want – but that’s okay! I’m blessed. I'm good. I attract what I am. That’s how I view the world and that’s what comes back to me.
Who inspires you?
My kids. It’s important for me as a woman to empower them, to let them know that they can do whatever they want to do. It’s important for me to keep them grounded – money can’t buy you love, many can’t buy you happiness. That comes from within – that’s what I’m really working hard on.
What does authentic mean to you?
Integrity, realness, what you see is what you get, no façade. I think authenticity is so lax in this world right now.
Do you have any personal affirmations?
I am powerful. I try to walk in the light.
Everyday I tell myself "I’ve got this." Also, in the back of my mind, when I feel I don’t have this, I can always press my restart button to start over. It’s all about restarting and re-booting. And that can be right now. It doesn’t have to be the next morning.
Listen to your gut. It will never steer you wrong. We move so fast – slow down and let it come to you. We miss it. Sit. In. Your. Shit. And it’s beyond yoga, it’s beyond the mat. It’s a challenge for me, but I know it’s what I have to do. I don't have a choice.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself with another studio or a bigger space....a wellness center - body work, meditation, health support, healthy eating.
I’m also a big advocate of trying to stop the epidemic of black girls getting pregnant at 15, 16, 17, and empowering them to know their worth. Something needs to shift. It’s bigger than me, but I want to be a part of it.
If I could offer you a magic potion, what would it do?
Stop poverty – so everybody could be on an equal plane.