Kicking off her slip-on sneakers, Lisa Samuels steps into a small space that is the color of sunshine.
Lisa is the owner of The Happie House.
Filled with fire, she balances on one leg, and leaning forward, positions herself in Dancer’s Pose. She stands, holding her other leg in the air, as still as a statue.
With joy, she transitions into Tree Pose, turning her legs into a grounded trunk and her arms into triumphant branches.
Satisfied with that, she pulls out a yoga mat for King Pigeon, another precarious pretzel pose that she makes look as simple as snapping your fingers.
She grew up in Long Beach on Long Island.
Lisa, a robust woman with Rapunzel ringlets the color of raven’s feathers, ends her mini practice with a seated meditation, the light of the room washing her serene, smiling face in goddess gold.
Yoga makes her happy, and she’d like to make you happy, too, which is why she opened her wellness center: Her Happie House literally puts the ‘I’ into happy.
“The services I offer – yoga, nutrition counseling and workshops — are meant to help people find true happiness and true connection with other people but most importantly with the self,” she says. “I want people who come here to make The Happie House their Happie home.”
The Happie House is on 35th Street at 30th Avenue.
Lisa, a registered dietitian and 200-hour registered yoga teacher, is a stunning example of the transformative power of body and soul work.
When she was growing up in Long Beach on Long Island, Lisa spent a lot of time playing soccer, basketball and softball.
She spent just as much if not more time eating.
“I’ve always been overweight,” she says. “Depression made me a compulsive eater – I was a 100-percent carb person. I could eat an entire loaf of bread, no problem.”
Her fascination with food led to her interest in nutrition. After taking an intensive course at the Natural Gourmet Institute, she decided to become a registered dietitian.
“Suddenly, I realized the power of food,” she says, adding that she eats healthy although she’s not vegan or vegetarian now.
She already had a degree in art history from Ithaca College when she enrolled at LIU Post in Brookville, Long Island, to become a registered dietitian.
“Even when I was in school, I realized that I didn’t want to work in a clinical setting, which is what I was being trained for,” she says.
So after working in a nursing home, Lisa, who had been practicing yoga, decided to teach it.
“I was so miserable in my job,” she says. “This was my cry for spiritual health.”
Around the same time, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which explained her lifelong battle with mood swings.
She moved to Sunnyside, where she has friends, and set up a private-client nutrition/yoga practice.
For a long time, she had been mulling the idea of creating a community center, and The Happie House is the result.
After searching for spaces in Long Island City and Sunnyside, she discovered the second-floor walkup on 35th Street at 30th Avenue.
“I had gone to Modern Spaces to ask about rentals, and when I walked out the door, I saw the ‘for rent’ sign and called,” she says.
The Happie House, which announces itself with a small, semicircular black awning, opened at the end of March.
Lisa wants to help you put the I in Happie.
Right now, Lisa is pretty much a one-woman show – she works the front desk, manages the studio, takes care of business issues and teaches many of the classes.
“I want to do a lot of events and become a part of the community,” she says, adding that she doesn’t mind that her days typically run from 5:30 in the morning until 11 at night.
If all goes well, Lisa wants to open more wellness centers. But if that doesn’t happen quickly or ever, she’s OK with that.
“Since I opened The Happie House, my life has changed in a good way. I think I have found peace,” she says. “I feel like myself for the first time in my life.”
Astoria Characters Day: The 2nd Family Reunion is Sept. 23, 2018. A free, public event, it is sponsored by Bareburger and Salt & Bone.
Copyright 2018 by Nancy A. Ruhling