Yoga instructor teaches students to strive for balance in life

Yoga and hotels make an unlikely pair, but it’s been a winning combination for Jeanie Carlstead.

“The common thread in my life is how one can achieve the maximum happiness and success,” she said.

A La Jollan since 1986, Carlstead moved from Chicago with her husband Jeffrey after being heavily involved in the hotel industry. She was born in New York and has always cherished living by the sea.

“I think my life has been a long journey back to the ocean,” she said.

The teachings of famed psychologist and La Jolla resident Carl Rogers convinced the couple to move to the Jewel.

The sudden death of Rogers proved to be a slight detour in the path the Carlsteads originally had in mind. So, Jeanie Carlstead and her husband turned to what they knew how to do best: hotels.

“We decided to open up a hotel,” she said, “and build it from the ground up. … We worked it together for many years.”

Their hotel, the Hampton Inn, was opened early in the hotel chain’s history. Through their commitment to excellence and balance, according to Carlstead, the hotel won top awards in its class, including Hotel of the Decade from the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We pioneered the 100-percent guarantee and high-quality customer service (in the Hampton chain),” said Jeanie Carlstead. There are currently more than 1,000 hotels in the chain.

Her outlook on life changed once yoga was incorporated into her lifestyle.

“My doctor had me drinking four glasses of whole milk a day because I was pregnant. …" she said. “My aerobics instructor suggested yoga to me instead, and it was really more my thing.”

Ever since that day 16 years ago, yoga has become a primary part of her life. Her instructor Gerhard Gessner beckoned her to teach at his La Jolla studio, Prana Yoga. She especially enjoyed the classes local high school students attended.

“Yoga gives them tools like stress reduction,” said Carlstead, “more focus and relieves the anxiety and works with the mind more to relax.”

Bishop’s School student Alexandra Ludwig said she benefited from the classes.

“It was cool to have a place to relax after a stressful day at school,” said Ludwig, “and it didn’t feel like you were getting a workout, but you knew that you were.”

Carlstead strives to help her students develop self-awareness by ignoring the inner commentary that tries to place limitations on an individual’s life. She offers advice on how to live more freely.

Perfectly blending with her mind-body disciplines, Carlstead is on the road to acquiring a Ph.D. from UCSD in intellectual history. This deals with how the time period affected philosophers’ theories and how those theories affected the era. She already holds degrees in history and psychology.

Not content with spending precious time researching in the archives, Carlstead slowed the pace of her Ph.D. program so that she could spend more time with her family.

Jeanie and Jeffrey Carlstead have four kids. Daughter Natalie is going to be a senior at The Bishop’s School and son Kevin will be a freshman in the fall.

The Carlsteads have convinced their older daughter Sarah to follow in their footsteps and work in the hotel business. Their adult son Brian is a New York investor.

Her children, her studies and yoga have made Jeanie Carlstead determined to live life to the fullest It’s the same goal for Las Patronas, a philanthropic La Jolla organization, of which she became president in 2003-2004.

“I thought what Las Patronas needed that I could offer them,” she said, “was to clarify what the group’s mission and values were. … What is the meaning of us being here?”

Current president of Las Patronas, Teresa Hixson, is honored in her friendship with Carlstead and having worked as her vice president last year.

“Jeanie provided a strong sense of calm leadership,” said Hixson, “and a true mission of Las Patronas as well as a sincere caring for each member and for all of San Diego.”

Since the mission statement of Las Patronas was based on Carlstead’s thoughts, she noticed that the group became more focused and were able to better serve the community.

Carlstead believes everyone must take pride in their lives and stay motivated.

“There’s something in everything we do that is meaningful. ...” she said. “The more we tap into that and always go back to the big picture of things, creates more awareness for who we are.”