We were first introduced to Big Apple Yoga about 6 months ago when a Parisian friend and devout yogi invited us to her favorite local studio. As New Yorkers, we were naturally intrigued by the name (knowing many Parisians and New Yorkers love each other’s cities), and when we learned the owner is actually from New York, we were even more excited. We were curious to see how this studio differs from others in Paris and to learn more about founder Janelle Watters-Oliel – in particular, her thoughts on the Paris yoga scene and her experience launching a studio in the City of Lights.
Class Experience. Big Apple Yoga is discretely nestled in the trendy 2nd arrondissement, just one block from the dynamic and bustling Rue Montorgueil. Upon entering the lobby, we were warmly greeted by owner Janelle, who would also be instructing our midday class, NY Flow (a vinyasa yoga class taught for all levels). We immediately felt a sense of community at BAY, with many yogis sharing smiles and clearly recognizing each other as ‘regulars’. The space feels charming and inviting — just large enough to feel right at home. Adding to this is the absence of lockers or locks; instead there are beautiful shelves across from the restroom, where people may store their belongings during class.
Janelle’s class was taught with poise, elegance and a subtle intensity that kept each of us focused and very much ‘in the moment’. She took time to slowly walk around and kindly correct postures and offer feedback. Our class was taught in French; however, when there was a language misunderstanding, Janelle naturally flipped to English as needed. BAY currently offers one or two yoga classes in English almost every day; and even if your French isn’t strong, most of their instructors are either expats or have lived internationally, so they’re able to easily accommodate English speakers. (There’s an inviting sense of international community here which reminds of New York.)
Another instructor we fell in love with at Big Apple Yoga is Tatiana Avila Bouru, who we later learned lived and studied yoga at Pure Yoga in New York. She is currently an ambassador for Lululemon, whose first showroom in Paris opened last month in the Marais. Tatiana’s calming energy uplifted us and inspired us to push ourselves throughout her challenging class. Big Apple Yoga offers a wide array of classes including ashtanga, vinyasa, yin yoga, anusara and yoga nidra. Pre-natal and childrens’ classes are also offered.
Behind The Studio: Big Apple Yoga. Founder Janelle Watters-Oliel kindly sat down with us to share some of her journey and inspiring thoughts as a business owner and trendsetter in the Paris yoga scene.
Falling in Love With Yoga. Janelle discovered yoga somewhat by accident as a college student in New York, when her second apartment was located just next door to a yoga studio. It was love at first sight for Janelle, who became immediately hooked and got free classes by working at the studio on weekends.
From New York to Paris. A graduate of NYU, where she double majored in Acting and French literature, Janelle has been connected to the City of Lights since she spent one year of college studying abroad here. Post-college, she traveled a lot in South East Asia — backpacking, practicing yoga and Thai massage. Janelle then returned first to New York and then Paris, where she had a successful career in the cosmetic and spa industries.
Something Felt Missing. “I was constantly disappointed when I moved to France that I wasn’t able to find the same kind of yoga/community experience that I had enjoyed so much in New York. I was unhappy in my job and wanted to do something that I loved and that I believed in. I decided to give it a try and, step by step, kept moving forward with the project.”
Big Apple Yoga Was Born. “Big Apple was a project that was launched as a small community experiment out in the countryside (just outside of Paris) where I live. It was from the love and encouragement of my neighbors, friends, and my children’s friends’ parents that this seed began to grow. I had so much support and this encouraged me to make it bigger and open a space in Paris as well.”
Life is Short. Make It Count. “There was a specific turning point when I knew Big Apple Yoga needed to happen: someone very close to me was sick, and I just felt like if this doesn’t teach me to go after what I want and live a life that I love, nothing else will. “
3 Years And Going Strong. “It’s been three years now since Big Apple was born and each day it feels more like home. I speak more English now that I have for the last 13 years! There is a big group of International & French people that are making this beautiful yogi community grow and flourish!”
Special thanks to Janelle Watters-Oliel for your time and for your passion for yoga and building meaningful community in Paris. We wish you continued success and look forward to visiting Big Apple Yoga soon.