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Longtime yoga instructor builds center

A sense of belonging is one of the most important things in life, according to La Jolla Yoga Center owner Jeanie Carlstead.

As such, she has tailored her new Fay Avenue destination to provide exactly this.

“It’s a place for the community to gather, and no matter what kind of day they have, they can come and have a sense of community,” she said.

After 10 years of teaching at La Jolla’s Prana Yoga, the award-winning businesswoman decided to open the center she always longed for. Recently constructed within existing space at 7741 Fay Ave., it offers classes to all skill levels in a welcoming environment with no pressure to perform.

Carlstead said she realized the mental and physical health benefits of yoga while she was pregnant, and has wanted to share them ever since.

“I know how to help people so they are more at ease in their body and in their mind,” she said. “We tend to have such limiting thoughts, and yoga really helps with that a lot.”

Carlstead said the amount of physical fitness gained from yoga depends on the type being practiced. There are stressful techniques that are popular with young or professional athletes, but also the kind that can gradually help improve posture and long-term physical health. She plans to bring in master teachers from the larger cities to conduct some of these classes.

“San Diego almost always gets skipped — it’s like a concert — (master teachers) go to L.A., New York or Chicago,” Carlstead said, adding that her large studios will attract them. “It would support the whole yoga community in San Diego, and so there’s actually quite a few yoga studio owners who are really excited about that.”

Originally from New York, the La Jolla resident is no stranger to building a business in this city. After moving here in 1986, Carlstead opened San Diego’s first Hampton Inn, which has since won more than 30 awards for service and quality.

But unlike owning a motel in a city of thousands, her new yoga center could become the big fish feared by her competitors. Still, Carlstead, who estimates that 50 percent of her clientele will be new to yoga, does not see it so contentiously.

“If you think of all the new people we’re bringing to yoga, yeah, they may stay here, but there will also be people doing yoga that may go wherever they go and people who always, even if they come here for a lot of certain specialty classes and things, they’ll still go in whatever neighborhoods they’re in,” she said.

Carlstead said her approach to business has always been about what she can offer her community. She said a successful businessperson listens to her customers, making sure the lines of communication are always open: “It comes down to where it’s people, and we care about each other so we want to hear from each other.”