Fashion guru Suze Yalof Schwartz strives to make over meditation at Unplug, her soon-to-launch recharging and refreshing haven.
The idea of practicing meditation might bring up images of barefoot monks cross-legged on hard, dusty floors accessing a level of nirvana we mere mortals will never achieve. But it doesn’t need to. Unplug, a groundbreaking studio launching in Los Angeles on April 15, makes meditation measured out for the rest of us. We caught up with founder Suze Yalof Schwartz to find out all about spreading the Om.
Giada: You’ve been involved in the fashion media business for decades. How did this life and career change come about?
Suze Yalof Schwartz: I worked for 14 years as an editor at Glamour magazine and I loved it. But after my husband and I moved from New York City to Los Angeles to pursue his dream job I had a lot of time on my hands, which was amazing because I was able to reflect on everything I had been doing career-wise. I was flying back and forth to NYC and really wanted to learn to meditate. I couldn’t find a place that felt right. There were very expensive options and seminars that required four or more days in a row. I’m a mom of three, so I can’t give up that kind of time. So it was really an aha moment for me to create a drop-in, all-levels-welcome meditation studio for the client who is, well, me. That was it. One second I was a fashion editor, the next a spiritual entrepreneur.
GDL: It’s so inspirational to think about changing things up so passionately at any time.
SYS: At 47 I started over completely on a new path, and I know Unplug will evolve as I evolve. I see this as an unfolding story. I’m really at the beginning stages, and where I am starting out is not where I’ll end up. I accept that and feel good about it—so good that I’m not afraid. I’m too excited!
GDL: What’s been great advice you’ve received for that journey?
SYS: To not worry so much and to learn as I go! I’m aiming for amazing. The more people meditate the better the world will be; but the most important thing for me is that everyone, myself included, doesn’t expect perfection.
GDL: What’s really cool is how it works for average people with daily responsibilities. Unplug doesn’t require the commitment of months-long devotion at a crunchy ashram but seems to fit flexibly into busy schedules.
SYS: We will have guided meditation classes at $20 each in regular intervals throughout the day. It’s like SoulCycle for self-reflection. Every class is a half hour, but we build in an extra 15 minutes for clients to arrive and leave. There are five classes a day, Monday through Friday. And one of those will be a lunchtime quickie with 20 minutes guided meditation and a few minutes at the beginning and end built in. So during a busy workday it’s the perfect respite.
GDL: What about on the weekends?
SYS: We’ll have workshops developed with our teachers—meditation for the anxious traveler, breaking bad habits, and others.
GDL: What about private training for the most shy among us?
SYS: We’re planning for it! I’ve teamed up with Steve Ross from Maha Yoga in LA. I just love the way he talks and teaches. He’s an incredible person, an unbelievable guide. He’s setting up our teacher-training program and will help find ways to address private clients as we grow. I want to help connect him and all of our team members to the widest audience possible. They’re all smart and spiritual and I think a good mix. It’s not all about a certain woo-woo philosophy. Some are educated by way of Harvard or Oxford, some by journeys through India.
GDL: The check-in area of Unplug is also a store. What products are available?
SYS: We have the most divine handmade personalized mugs by Betsy Carter with engraved words like “gratitude,” “imagine,” and “manifest.” She also made super special meditation stones. We have a cool glass bottle curved perfectly to fit in your hand. I’m loving the bright and happy Motto journals with inspirations like “Take Epic Chances” and “Find Your Happy” on them. And, of course, there are books by all of our instructors.
Some of the items available in Unplug’s boutique.
GDL: In this issue I chatted with Hilaria Baldwin about kids and yoga practice. Do you have any plans to include younger clients?
SYS: Yes! I love the book The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greenland and am working with leaders who teach meditation in schools. I’m hoping to have an after-school program and weekend workshops geared specifically to young people.
GDL: Popping into a Zen sanctuary seems so inviting, but what about days when even 45 minutes seems impossible. Do you have any (even quicker) tips for meditation on the run?
SYS: You absolutely do not have to come to a studio to meditate! There are some really worthwhile podcasts out there. I love Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Experience and the app Headspace. They and we hope to teach techniques that you can carry with you. The more you do it the more natural it is and the more you can access it anywhere.
I’d say the easiest and best quick tip is a breathing meditation—a simple focusing on our breath. When we do that we are brought to the present instantly. Anyone and everyone can do this. So if you find yourself freaking out at your kids or stressing out from work, don’t react. Instead, pause, breathe, focus on that breath, and then choose your reaction. That present calm is one of the many, many gifts of meditation. It doesn’t end all stress, but it will make you more aware and help you move forward.
GDL: And what can we do at home to carve out a mini Unplug for ourselves?
SYS: The basic elements are easy. First, you need to digitally detox: no phones, no computer, no TV. Be in a corner where you won’t feel the pull of stimulation. Have a comfortable place to sit. The bathtub is a great place to meditate! Tom Ford and Donna Karan have quiet time in the bathtub. They might not call it meditation, but it is.
12401 Wilshire Boulevard, Studio 101
Los Angeles, CA 90025