Spotlight: Jen Lobo Plamondon of bodē nyc

Because this site focuses on news, the Spotlight feature is reserved for the businesses that have been around awhile and don’t get the coverage they should. Then there is this special case: a business celebrating its 25th year in the city in what can only be described as a “hot” industry, founded by a longtime Tribecan.

Jen Lobo Plamondon founded bodē nyc in 1999 because there were no hot yoga places here, and has been teaching and running studios ever since. These fabulous photos of her in the neighborhood are by commercial and editorial photographer Claudine Williams.

How long have you lived in the area? Where did you move from? Where are you originally from?
We’ve been in Tribeca since 2009. We came from Chelsea with two of the three kids –- the third was born in Tribeca. I was really more of a West Village person and then we rented in Chelsea for two years. I grew up between New York City and New Jersey — we moved to Jersey at one point but my mom didn’t like the suburbs so we moved back to the city. I grew up on East 85th Street, went to Loyola and then went to boarding school – Canterbury. I was only allowed to go to boarding school if I went to a Catholic boarding school.

Married? Partnered? If so, what’s his/her name and occupation?
Married to George Plamondon, a TV director who is now dabbling in the car wash business on Long Island with a couple partners.

Kids? Pets?
Three boys: Tate, Luke and George, and a dog named Olive.

How did you get into yoga?
So I was living in San Francisco in 1997 and working for IMG in sports marketing and I was running marathons. I was still playing a lot of soccer and skiing. And a friend asked if I had tried yoga, and I said it was too boring, but she insisted I come to a class. I was 27 and we were partying the night before till 4am. I met her for a 9am class and she didn’t tell me it was hot. After the second posture I thought I was going to die. But after class I felt so good that I was totally hooked. That was the original hot yoga –- Bikram Yoga.

That whole next week I went every day at 6am. So I would run a mile and a half to get to the studio and they didn’t have showers, so I would run up the hill back to my apartment in Pacific Heights to shower and get to work on time.

Where did the idea come from?
IMG transferred me to New York for the television division and I got here and there was no Bikram Yoga in the city –- zero. There was one place ironically on Chambers called Yoga Connection –- they had a couple panel heaters but that was it. I asked one of the teachers how is there no Bikram in the city? And she knew a woman who had just gotten certified and was looking for a investment partner. Donna Rubin and I met at Zen Palate and I told her I just want there to be in hot yoga in New York City — I was not looking to leave my job.

Donna was a Broadway dancer and wanted to open near the theater district because she knew other dancers needed this. So we opened in Times Square – at 48th and Eighth — on August 7, 1999, and we got a New York Times feature within our first month. It was titled “A Yoga Studio That Thinks It’s a Sauna.”

We got so busy that we decided to stick with the momentum and open two studios quickly. We opened on the Upper West Side and Soho in 2000 and the Flatiron in 2001. We also had a studio in Montreal and the Hamptons back then – and Baltimore. Seven was the most we ever had at one time.

Do you teach as well?
I became certified in September 2001 – right after 9/11. I went to LA for training. After we opened the second and third location that was the tipping point – and it was a hard decision, but I left my job.

Where is it headquartered?
We now have two studios: Flatiron and the Upper East Side. I’ve been on my own for a year now. Donna wanted to move on – she had wanted to before covid and then everything shut down. I try to work from home one day a week. It’s hard to get stuff done at the studio – a couple hundred people come in a day and I end up chatting.

What are you known for?
We offer the most Bikram-style yoga classes in New York City and I think we are the hottest studio — 105 degrees, depending on humidity. We certainly have the most experienced teachers. Most of our teachers have been with us for more than 15 years.

When we first opened we were 90 percent women, now we are 65/35. I think the men are attracted to the Bikram style because it is really challenging — we call our classes “yoga for fitness enthusiasts.” We also have a huge age range — from 20s to 80s. Many people have been with us for 20-plus years, and what’s nice is we are now seeing a lot of teens and college kids who are the offspring of our OG group. They see how their parents have stayed fit, happy and glowing and want to follow in their footsteps.

How much do you teach?
I only teach one class a week – a one-hour Bikram-style yoga class. I never taught more than four a week. For many years I was doing all the PR and marketing for the studio and business development and my partner was dealing with the teachers.

What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
That’s easy. Just seeing people improve their lives. People being able to heal injuries. And people dealing with a loss and seeing how they can improve their emotional health through yoga. And I get to meet new people every day. The social thing – I love that.

We have had at least 20 couples get married who met at our studios, and so many more have formed great friendships. Right off the bat you have one thing in common. I was invited to one wedding — one of our teachers married one of our clients. They moved to Brighton Beach and opened a studio.

Every day is just really satisfying, which is why I do it.

How big is the company now?
We have 54 employees – and of those, 40 are teachers covering an average of 140 classes between the two studios. We went from four to three to two studios – it was just more profitable to have fewer locations. People will travel if they like you and they like your teachers. I didn’t want to close the Upper West Side location and they are still asking when we will reopen, but the rents are so high it doesn’t make sense.

Tell me a good customer story.
I always said I should write a book called “Postcards from the Heat.” Let me think about that….

Does living in Tribeca inspire the company in any way?
It’s hard to get Tribeca people out of Tribeca – as you know. It took me at least 10 years to get some of my own friends to my class, and now they come religiously. It’s ok to get out of the neighborhood once in a while!

What’s the origin of the name?
Bodhi is the Sanskrit word for enlightenment. If you look at our logo, it’s an aerial view of a cairn — a stack of rocks made as a marker along a trail — so it’s like you are on your path for your true enlightenment and optimum health. I know, it’s not obvious at all, but that’s the idea.

Where do you eat/drink/shop around here?
So my new favorite store is Elyse Walker on N. Moore and of course Lola Tribeca I love. Everything I have is from her. Valley Tribeca used to be one of mu favorites, and Otte. I love Brandy Library for a quiet thing. I do love the Walker Hotel for a drink. For happy hour I like Estancia — Stacey Sosa (the owner) does $9 Buenos Aires drinks and they are so good. As far as restaurants, Locanda Verde is always a favorite and I like Smith & Mills a lot – its super cute. And George wanted me to tell you that the Odeon is our favorite too!

I have to mention my favorite restaurant outside Tribeca right now — Cecchi’s on West 13th. They make the Chicken à la King that JFK had at the White House – they have the actual recipe.

What do you do for your own workout?
I do three Bikram classes a week – at least. I run once a week. And one other day I will do a HIIT or sculpt class at my studio.

Do your teachers freak out when you are in class?
Some of the newer ones, maybe, but I don’t think so.

What does the future hold?
I think more and more people every year are doing yoga. Ten years ago the average person would say no to even trying it. Now everyone has tried yoga or they want to try it. The future is bright for the yoga industry. The 20-year-olds who are now pounding their bodies as I did in my 20s are discovering it – and I think that’s a good sign.

What didn’t I ask?
The big misconception of yoga, which is frustrating but also an opportunity, is that people will say “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible.” And I have been scratching my head about that statement. How are you going to get flexible if you don’t do yoga? I couldn’t touch my toes when I was 20. If you are an athlete or a dancer or do active things, the only way you will do those things longer in your life is to do yoga and keep your joints and bones healthy.

A lot of people come because they want to lose weight — but we have a saying: “You come for vanity but you stay for sanity.” I am a better wife and a better mother and a better person when I am doing yoga. If I go too many days without it, you can tell. I bet my kids can tell!


1 Comment

  1. I wish she had a studio in Tribeca.