Everything about Erin Jacques tingles with movement. Growing up, a self-proclaimed “Air Force brat,” she moved multiple times before her family settled in Fairfax, VA. But even with that dose of steadiness, she remained in motion, running cross country for the College of Charleston and eventually teaching group fitness. Her fascination with kinetic energy led her to a degree in exercise physiology.
Her connection to movement now remains through her company, Erin Jacques Yoga. She’s using the online platform (erinjacquesyoga.com) to teach livestream classes and also build her audience for Central Park in-person offerings and more. With a decidedly athletic approach, Jacques aims to challenge and support her clients as they find their own personal connection to movement. Read on for more.
SBS: What led you to owning your own business?
Erin Jacques: I've had my private training/teaching business for over 20 years while teaching at various studios. I taught Pilates before becoming a yoga teacher, and in fact, when I got certified to teach yoga, I resisted teaching classes for some time. I did the yoga training for personal reasons and not to become a teacher.
After college I moved to NYC and worked for HBO, running their corporate fitness program. In 2005 I started working for Exhale in Chicago, and in 2008 I moved back to NYC as their national yoga director. Those years were incredible and taught me a lot about my passion to teach and train others.
In the spring of 2012 I left Exhale to pursue a dream: I partnered with Amanda Freeman, owner of SLT, and we opened SLT Yoga. Those years were probably some of the best years I’ve had, and I learned so much.
SBS: What's your style and approach as a teacher?
EJ: I definitely love to work hard while maintaining balance. I used to push myself physically and mentally. One day I was forced to face this and slow down.
I want those who take my class to feel safe, comfortable, and to be able to work to their best ability for that day, that moment. My teaching style is demanding and challenging but everyone has to have the ability to work to their personal edge. I want us to stop comparing ourselves to our past selves or to others. I love to move and push the boundaries but not at the expense of losing our breath and becoming frustrated or injured. My sequences are created carefully, blending strength and flexibility.
SBS: On your site you emphasize the athletic nature of your yoga approach. What drew you to this style versus something else?
EJ: I was a competitive athlete most of my life, but yoga taught me that I didn’t need to be competitive with myself or anyone. I believe the marriage of yoga (asanas) and fitness is a beautiful bond. It’s a push and a pull, it’s effort with ease, it’s strength with flexibility.
SBS: What does yoga bring to your life? What do you hope it brings to your clients?
EJ: Yoga has taught me acceptance, to show up as I am. I used to think doing more was better, almost in a competitive way. But now I think the opposite. Less is more.
My hope for those who take my class is to give themselves permission to show up and be where they need to be. Those who push, maybe they can slow down, and those who coast, maybe they can push a little harder.
SBS: How were you offering yoga pre-covid? What's your journey been like taking everything online?
EJ: When COVID hit, as with so many, it shifted everything. Being on a screen and teaching definitely pushed me to my edge. I had to step out of my comfort zone. I never thought it would be as successful as it is now. Obviously teaching and taking classes is a different experience online versus in person. For one, when I teach in person classes, I never do my class or demonstrate many poses. I’m a hands-on teacher, usually adjusting and assisting every person in the room.
When I shifted to online teaching I had to do my class, while cueing and watching those on the screen. Music is a huge part of my life and my classes for many reasons, but one being that it creates energy and stirs up emotions. So in the beginning of Covid I was offering my classes for free; it was a dress rehearsal, sort of. I couldn’t get my music right and I wasn’t feeling connected.
A few months in, my husband, Emilio, stepped in and took the reigns of producer for my classes. And now I feel like I’ve created a class with the sense of being in person while being on a screen. You still connect, despite being in different places. And that’s what’s also so exciting. I’ve had clients show up in various parts of the world to take my class. I don’t think the online business of taking classes is going anywhere. In fact, it keeps evolving.
SBS: What are your tips for new yoga practitioners, both in person and online?
EJ: There are several tips but one that always stands out is that it’s never about you, the teacher! It’s about the clients, the guests who show up. I always have said to them (my clients): You showed up for me (my classes), but in essence you need to show
up for yourself. That’s why I was never demonstrating or doing my classes. It’s important to focus the energy on the client.
SBS: What about tips for students new to yoga, both in person and online?
EJ: Have patience! Be willing to fall over, take a child’s pose, take a pause, be forgiving. Yoga is not about perfection or the poses. It’s about letting go of expectations and experiences.
SBS: What’s your wellness routine, and how has it changed during Covid?
EJ: I have two young, very active boys. So I definitely had to shift my mindset of working out after having them. I definitely am cranky if I don’t move and have to do something everyday. But that might be a walk to errands or playing chase with my boys. I remember I used to take two classes in a day...yikes! Now I’m happy to get 20 minutes to stretch and do some
body exercises on my mat. I definitely have run less since COVID, but I definitely walk more.
SBS: What’s next for you?
EJ: I hope to build bigger and offer variety for my on-demand platform. I’ll continue to teach live virtual classes, and I’m back to teaching in-person classes in Central Park. I’m looking at hosting a weakened retreat mid-summer and one next spring in Greece. My fingers are crossed we can travel. I know that I’ll eventually be back to teaching classes inside four walls. But for now I’m really enjoying the pace my business is building and trying to expand more of an online presence. My clients show up every week, and I’m forever grateful to them!
Erin’s SBS Mantra: Be Still. Be Strong. Most of us, myself included, fill up our days and are constantly on the go...even in a pandemic. It’s necessary, perhaps challenging, to sit and be still. You actually gain strength being still.
Erin’s NYC Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Le Botaniste, Juice Press, Plant Shed
Fun Activity: Being outside with my very active boys, followed by a picnic in Central Park with friends and wine
Calming Activity: Walking and hiking in nature
Fitness Studio: SLT and Pilates with Laura Anders
Athleticwear: Beyond Yoga, Alala, Playground, Spiritual Gangster
Athletic Shoes: On Cloud or Air Birds
Books: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle