Real Housewife Jana Webb is right at home at her new Yorkville yoga studio, Joga House

BY SUSAN KELLY

PHOTOGRAPHY: VALERIE WILCOX

 

Jana Webb’s semi-detached home in The Beaches neighbourhood is under renovation. But the star of Real Housewives of Toronto says her new yoga studio in Yorkville is more of a natural habitat for her. “For me, Joga House is more of a home these days because it’s what I live, breathe, sleep, eat,” she says.

We caught up with her when she was fresh off a tour, training members of the Brooklyn Nets basketball and Seattle Seahawks NFL teams. They are among the hundreds of professional athletes and teams she has schooled in Joga, or “yoga breathing and relaxation combined with the bio-mechanics of sports,” which she developed with their specific needs in mind. When she cut the ribbon on Joga House last spring, Jana intended it to serve as both her empire’s home base and a place where both pros and non-pros can feel at home.

Somewhat ironically, there was more drama surrounding the birth of Joga House than on the reality TV show. In November 2016, just after signing the lease and filming the final Real Housewives of Toronto scenes, Jana headed to the Dominican Republic. She had just finished a Joga training session with a baseball team when the car she was in hit a cement truck head-on. A difficult rescue and nail-biting airlift to hospital followed, after which she learned she had a severe concussion and broken back.

“It feels surreal,” she says. “I had to make design decisions and give construction orders for Joga House from my hospital bed. It’s a miracle the place ever opened.”

It helped that the other wives have helped her through her recovery, which is still ongoing. “They all came to visit me in the hospital and were super supportive,” she says. “Especially Joan Walker. What she did for me and the generosity she displayed during the toughest time of my life is unforgettable.”

Joga House’s design has a cast connection; it was executed by interior designer Jonathan Furlong, who is a friend of Joan Walker and who appeared in episode six of the show.  Jana feels he brilliantly captured the effect she was after: urban, edgy, and the antithesis of the typical serene yoga studio.

Floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflect stark black vertical surfaces surrounding the huge open studio, which dominates the 4,000-square-foot space. The layout includes a media area and boardroom as well. Members can refuel at a black-and-steel bar or relax on contemporary black leather and chrome chairs in the lounge area. All while the sound system pounds out hard-driving beats. It’s intended to appeal to athletes and the sports-oriented, and to urban warriors, always on the run and hustling.

“If we can make a space where people who wouldn’t usually go to a yoga studio feel comfortable, then we can help more people at the end of the day,” Jana says.

Combining athleticism and yoga may seem paradoxical, but then, that seems to be how Jana rolls. She was as surprised as anyone when the Real Housewives producers called to offer her the gig. Unlike her married cast mates, she’s far from a housewife. The single mother of a nine-year-old son, Will, she spends more time ferrying him to AAA hockey practice than sipping champagne and shopping. Nor can she relate to the ostentatious, wealthy lifestyle of many in this reality series.

And she was arguably the least histrionic Housewife, although she appeared riled in the final episode when one cast member insulted another. So why sign on to a franchise famous for mud-slinging, table-tipping cat fights? Jana says it was a highly strategic move to use whatever brand-building fame the show could provide rather than having it use her.        “Before filming started, I wrote myself a personal mantra that affirmed being true to my authentic self,” she says. “And my authentic self is about putting other people first.”

She also remains true to her jock roots, put down while growing up in Bentley, Alberta, population 1,078. The daughter of a farmer and hospital worker, Jana and her three siblings played “every sport imaginable.”

A car accident at age 24 turned her onto yoga to help with some nerve damage. She quickly discovered that she, like most athletes, found it difficult due to strung-tight hamstrings and hips.

Jana went on to study acting. “It was while I was in school that my singing teacher noticed how my injuries were affecting my breathing,” she says. “She started to do yoga positions with me. They made me feel better so I started to do yoga everywhere but learned that I was horrible at it. There were no styles that made sense for injured, tight athletic bodies. I became curious and found ISHTA yoga in Japan (meaning personalized). I then adapted that to how athletes move, train and digest information.”

She believes that Joga has helped her recover from her injuries more quickly than she would have without it. But she still struggles with chronic neck and shoulder pain, and the head injury. The experience has led her to greater empathy with the athletes she trains, especially those with concussion. “Brain injury involves so many physical and emotional symptoms,” Jana says. “I have the same passion for what I do, but now I also have compassion.”

This new message now infuses her many public appearances, whether she’s speaking or demonstrating. As a Reebok ambassador in Canada, Jana recently gave a keynote address in Whistler, BC that focused on change and adaptation. And during a recent Joga demonstration in New York City, she presented to physical therapists as well as trainers. Her certification program has put the stamp of approval on more than 400 Joga instructors in Canada, and a U.S. expansion is in the works.

If Real Housewives of Toronto is renewed, she’ll be glad to get back to the glitz and glam during summer 2018. And she’ll be keeping it real – at home, at Joga House, and on set. Whatever form it takes, home is an important metaphor for her. “It’s kind of a yoga thing to be mindful of how you treat yourself, and the home is a reflection of that,” she says. “And it should be more about what’s inside you, less about what is external and superficial.”