Name: Taryn Lagonigro
Kids: Sofia, 8, Layla, 6, Genevieve, 2, Rhea, newborn
Business: Iris Mind and Body
Location: 436 Main St., Little Falls
New Jersey Family: Tell us about your business and what makes it unique?
Taryn Lagonigro: My partner Kristin and I met in yoga teacher training, and once we became teachers, we constantly encountered people who seemed “scared” of yoga. Lots of people felt intimidated walking into a yoga studio either because they were afraid they wouldn’t know what to do, or felt they didn’t fit a “mold” that they thought yogis looked like. We set out to create a space where everyone felt comfortable, not just those trying yoga for the first time, but also regardless of what age, body type or season of life they were in.
NJF: When did you launch the business, and what was your biggest inspiration to launch it?
TL: My personal yoga journey became most beneficial to me when I became a mom. For me, yoga was the only time that I was able to “shut off” my brain and have something that was just for me. I was a mom, a wife, an employee, etc.—don’t get me wrong, I LOVED being all of those things…but on my yoga mat I was just Taryn. I became a yoga teacher in 2015 to deepen my own practice but became passionate about helping other moms find that same peaceful space in their mind and body that I do. We opened our own studio in April 2018, and I continue to have the mission of giving moms—new moms, seasoned moms, working moms, stay at home moms—their space to just “be.” My favorite thing is when a busy mom comes up to me after class and says “I really needed that tonight.”
NJF: How have you pivoted your business to adapt to this stressful and uncertain time?
TL: We have moved to an all-online platform, providing live virtual classes more than 20 times throughout the week. We are also now launching some virtual events to give our clients other ways to relax during this time.
NJF: As anxiety levels are at an all-time high, how can yoga help us channel some of that anxiety and ease our stress?
TL: I’m sure we all have heard that moving our bodies with exercise helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Yoga connects movement with breath and mindfulness to allow a true mind/body experience. Yoga relaxes the body AND the mind and can create self-awareness on and off the met. When you establish a regular yoga practice, you start to incorporate more breath and mindfulness into your everyday life. It becomes a tool to calm anxiety and stress throughout the day.
NJF: Congrats on your new baby! Many congrats and best wishes for good health always. What was it like giving birth during the pandemic and how are you all doing now?
TL: Thank you! Leading up to birth, I was incredibly stressed about how the hospital experience would be. Fortunately, my husband was able to be there during the birth, and the maternity ward was very calm overall. The hardest part has been to not be able to have our closest friends and family meet Rhea. It also hasn’t quite been the maternity leave I expected, since I am fitting in homeschooling a Kindergartener and third-grader, keeping a 2-year-old busy and managing other aspects of everyone being home in between nursing sessions! But our everyday life is normally very busy, so sometimes I think we were meant to slow down and enjoy this time as we adjust to being a family of six.
NJF: You shared with us that it’s more important to not only help others but also show your kids, the youngest of which is your newborn who has Down syndrome, that anything is possible if they put their mind to it. How has that inspired your business and your day-to-day life during the pandemic?
TL: I’d like to answer this question in two parts if it’s okay! In regards to helping others, Iris Mind and Body was started and has operated as a people-first business. We have grown by keeping our clients and their needs at the forefront of our minds. We have kept true to our mission of giving clients a safe and comfortable space to find and grow their yoga practice. If opportunities didn’t feel right, or deviated from our core values, we didn’t do it. This is what has been at the top of our minds as we navigate this pandemic. We closed our physical doors the minute it felt unsafe and ramped up an online platform as quickly as possible. It wasn’t just about maintaining revenue, but we knew that what our clients would need more than anything during this incredibly stressful time is their yoga practice.
In regards to my daughters, I have tried to show them, by example, that there is no circumstance by which you should give up your dreams. People thought I was crazy for opening a yoga studio while juggling a large family and a full time corporate job— and some days I felt like I was! I am grateful to have a husband who roots for me and helps juggle the chaos. What I have learned about myself over the years is that I am my best for my family when I also am fulfilling personal goals and dreams. I want the girls to know that they CAN do anything they want with perseverance—no matter what age or season of life they are in. That became more important than ever when my daughter Rhea was born with Down syndrome. I never want her to feel like she has been handed limits on her life. I know some things may be difficult, but I want her to still be able to dream big and know that she can get there if she wants to…we will be there to support her every step of the way. Growing up, my father used to tell me that I could be President of the United States. I would say, “but Dad, I don’t really want to be President,” and he would say, “that’s fine, I just want you to know that you can.” That’s the message I want all four of my girls to understand.
NJF: If possible, how are you and your business giving back through this period?
TL: We have launched a Pay It Forward campaign to allow those in difficult financial situations still be able to have a yoga practice. We also have several free classes to allow anyone to join in. We also are running a fundraiser with another local studio, Verona Yoga, to donate food to healthcare workers.
NJF: What will be the first thing you do as a business when this is behind us?
TL: Get back to being an in-person community! We miss seeing our clients in the studio, hearing about their days, their kids and whatever else they need to get off their chest.
NJF: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever gotten that you want to share with others?
TL: The best piece of advice I’ve gotten is that your customers are telling you what they want—listen to them. Sometimes we think something is a REALLY good idea and it just doesn’t resonate with people. In those cases, you must put the ego aside and move on, even when it hurts! We’ve done best when we evaluate what clients are responding to and either grow it or pivot accordingly.