Before yoga was the hip thing to do—and there were more than a dozen spots to practice it in Saratoga Springs—there was Joy of Yoga. Founded in 1989 and located on the lower floor of the Arcade building on Broadway, the Spa City’s longest-running yoga studio will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next month. “When I think of the thousands of people I’ve instructed over 30 years, it just blows my mind,” says Judy Joy Wyle, Joy of Yoga’s Founder and Owner.
Back in the early ’90s, when the Joy of Yoga first opened its doors, yoga wasn’t a mainstream form of exercise. “People who came to my yoga classes, in the beginning, were like, ‘Wow, I hope it’s OK to be doing this kind of thing,'” says Wyle. Originally from Utica, Wyle began studying yoga in 1968 while living in New York City. “It was the time of the East making its impression on the culture of the West,” she says, referencing The Beatles and their connection to influential Indian figures such as sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar and meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Wyle was heavily influenced by this meshing of East and West, and yoga even drew her close to some fascinating (and famous) people, such as Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder Marty Balin. The two developed a relationship that spanned almost 20 years. (Balin passed away last year.) “I’ve been to yoga classes with Marty, and he was a dedicated practitioner of it,” says Wyle. For a time, Wyle even lived in the famous Jefferson Airplane house in San Francisco, spending time with Grace Slick, the band’s iconic lead singer, who put her indelible spin on hits such as “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.” Wyle recalls trips to Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart’s California ranch (a.k.a. the Dead’s unofficial rehearsal space and getaway), where she says members of Jefferson Airplane and the Dead jammed and played baseball. “I answered Grateful Dead fan mail as an extra job when I was out there,” says Wyle.
During her time out West, Wyle continued and deepened her yoga practice. However, it wasn’t until she completed a yoga teacher training at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA, in ’89, that she decided to open up her own studio in Saratoga. According to Wyle, there were other places in Saratoga where upstart yogis could practice yoga in the early ’90s, but Joy of Yoga was the first spot dedicated specifically to yoga and similar practices. The studio currently offers a number of health and mindfulness services, including private and group yoga classes, reiki healings and consultations in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing science and system of medicine. Wyle is also a certified Yoga of the Heart instructor for cardiac patients. She received her training from world-renowned yoga instructor and healer Nischala Joy Devi, who’s authored several popular books on the subject, including The Secret Power of Yoga, which hones in on yoga practice specifically for women.
In her free time, Wyle has written and recorded two album’s worth of songs, and has also penned an original musical that she wrote in honor of her father, entitled Another Spring. She’s even performed her music at Caffè Lena (about a dozen times). Despite her major music chops, Wyle says she isn’t planning on leaving her yoga studio for a life as a touring musician anytime soon.
And as for any plans she has for a big 30th-anniversary celebration, Wyle says she’s still just trying to digest that Joy of Yoga has been around for three decades. “I think to have any business 30 years running is pretty amazing,” she says. “At the moment, I’m just celebrating that personal achievement.”