Editor’s note: Since this story was published, Sun Moon Yoga and Healing has moved to 1201 Sycamore Ave., Tinton Falls.
LONG BRANCH – Though Emily Sobel and Lisa Horan-Sockol came from different backgrounds and life experiences, the two — now co-owners of Sun Moon Yoga and Healing in Long Branch — were on the exact same page when it came to living yoga and bringing the power of the ancient practice to others.
Growing up in Rockland County, New York, “I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) for arts and transferred to SUNY Purchase, where I secured a degree in art and design,” said Sobel, a Middletown resident who’s married with two children.
Though she worked professionally in the field of graphic design and music promotion, “I was an avid yoga practitioner for many years — typically finding myself at a yoga studio every day — and have been teaching for five years,” she said. “I got into yoga based on how beneficial it was for my body and how good it made me feel, but I soon realized what a profound impact it had on my mental state as well. Yoga changed my whole life and made me more peaceful and able to hear my authentic self more easily.”
Long Branch hospital: How Monmouth Medical Center lowered COVID pandemic death rate
After Middletown native Horan-Sockol graduated from Rosemont College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, with a degree in humanities, she secured a master’s in psychology counseling from New Hampshire-based Keene State College.
“I started practicing yoga in 1999 and got certified to teach in 2012,” said Horan-Sockol, a Holmdel resident and mother of two. “I’ve always loved the body movement in yoga and the calming effect it brings.”
The two, who share the same birthday, met through a mutual friend in 2018 and immediately started talking about opening a yoga studio together.
Having worked at many different studios, “I knew I needed to have a business partner and Lisa had a lot of experience running studios, so it was a great fit,” Sobel said. “We looked far and wide for studio space and ended up honing in on Long Branch because it wasn’t saturated with other brick-and-mortar yoga studios.
“We ultimately leased a great 1,500-square-foot space that used to be a dance studio and has beautiful wooden floors, plenty of windows and doors for ventilation, and an outdoor patio for moon ceremonies and other events,” she said of their June 2019 launch of Sun Moon Yoga and Healing, which they promoted through their website, social media posts and word of mouth.
“We practice hatha yoga and the word ‘hatha’ translates to ‘sun and moon,’ so we loved the name Sun Moon Yoga for our studio and the balance of these two interstellar forces,” Horan-Sockol said.
Healing the body, calming the mind
Over two years later, the studio offers 16 weekly classes for all skill levels as well as beach yoga outside of the studio (at the nearby Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion) in the warm-weather months.
Among their classes, “we offer a vinyasa flow that connects the movement and breath as well as our signature ‘Sun Moon Flow,’ a hatha vinyasa flow that we modify so that it’s attainable for everyone from beginners to more seasoned practitioners,” said Sobel, adding that their beach yoga classes are gentler and ideal for beginners.
“Our studio currently averages five to 10 students per class and everyone enjoys all of the space and individual attention they get,” said Sobel, who teaches six classes per week, while Horan-Sockol teaches four to five per week and fellow instructors Adam, Nicole, Alice, Sheryl and Denise each teach a class a piece.
“Walk-in classes are priced at $18, but we offer many different tiers of memberships — from 10-packs to monthly and yearly packages — and students can end up paying as little as $11 to $12 per class,” Sobel said. Ample parking is also available.
Unlike some other studios, Sobel said, “we’re very nonjudgmental, noncompetitive, and there are no egos or drama here. We take more of a healing, nurturing approach and truly listen to what our students want.”
‘A club that none of us asked to join’: Lakewood woman’s support group for terror victims
Among trends, “yoga of all kinds has hit the mainstream more than ever before,” said Sobel, “but life is a trapeze right now and people want to relax, so we find that students are seeking more meditative, restorative yoga these days.”
“Yoga isn’t just about the moving postures, but about relieving tension and calming the mind,” Horan-Sockol agreed.
As for challenges, “it’s been a little hard to get the word out about our studio, especially during the pandemic,” Sobel said. “Long Branch is a diverse city with a lot of restaurants, cafés and retail stores, but our studio is off the beaten path a bit.”
In addition, Horan-Sockol said that social media posts filled with images of yogis in advanced pretzel-like positions have led some prospective students to think that they won’t be able to do yoga and/or will be embarrassed in front of others.
“There’s also a misperception that you need to be super-fit to do yoga, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” she said. “Yoga is for everyone, no matter what age, level, or shape.”
Finally, Sobel added, “there are a number of yoga studios located within a few miles’ radius around us, so there’s definitely competition, but we feel that there’s a place for every studio in the market and enough students to populate each one.”
‘The biggest love affair of my life’: How martial arts changed Toms River man’s life twice
Enlightening and uplifting students
Looking ahead, “we’re offering new 200-hour teacher training as well as New Moon and Full Moon workshops,” Sobel said.
“In our next New Moon workshop, taking place on November 5th, we’ll lead students in manifesting what they want in their lives and share a healing elixir, while our next Full Moon workshop, taking place on November 19th, will help students let go of things that no longer serve them,” she said, adding that both workshops will involve slow-flow and/or restorative yoga as well as the powerful properties of cacao.
“We also have pranayama (breath) workshops on November 7th and 21st, special five-week beginner class packages available this holiday season — the best gift you can give yourself! — and a retreat to Costa Rica taking place this January, which currently has 16 registrants and room for more!” Horan-Sockol said. All classes and packages can be given as gifts/gift cards as well.
Overall, both Horan-Sockol and Sobel are excited for the studio’s future and agree that yoga has been their rock through all of life’s challenges.
“From the stresses of working and raising kids to running a household and more, yoga has always gotten me through the hard times and grounded me,” said Horan-Sockol, who wants to pay that blessing forward. “My hope is to build community with what we offer at Sun Moon Yoga and help others lead happier, healthier and more peaceful lives.”
“I want the studio to blossom and help heal people,” agreed Sobel, who said that yoga helped her through a difficult bout with Lyme disease 10 years ago. “We’re excited to help share what we’re doing and enlighten and uplift our community.”
Sun Moon Yoga and Healing
Location: 104 Brighton Ave., Long Branch
Owners: Emily Sobel and Lisa Horan-Sockol
Launched: June 2019
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Sun Moon Yoga in Long Branch aims to appeal to everyone