Lake Highlands family-owned studio YAM Yoga shares positivity and resilience

By Rebecca Heliot |

According to owner Jennifer Johnson, local art pieces adorn the walls of YAM Yoga studio in Lake Highlands in a purposeful sequence. YAM stands for yoga, art, and music.

The space serves primarily as a yoga studio. Still, when Johnson and her late husband, Trey, a prominent local musician and founder of the band Sorta, opened YAM Yoga in 2019, they did it with the same intention she designed the art gallery with a lightheartedness that illuminates the studio’s optimism, Johnson said.

“It was on our anniversary, on Valentine’s Day in 2018. … We had talked about it at dinner, and we literally said, ‘Oh, YAM, that would be a funny name,’” Johnson said. “My husband and I [wanted] to elevate the culture around Lake Highlands and give exposure to local artists and musicians.”

Jen JohnsonYAM represents Johnson’s dedication to yoga, her late husband’s passion for music, and their shared love for art, which tied them together. Each element of the yam-colored heart carrying the studio’s logo represents their family, including her, Trey, their son and daughter, and their family dog. “It all just kind of came together,” Johnson said. “We wanted to start a family business. We wanted to combine all three [concepts], and we wanted to help elevate the [shopping center].”

Johnson attributes the success of her yoga studio to the love of her teachers’ practice. They teach students from various demographics, including 20-year-olds up to 60-year-olds, both male and female.

“It’s the vibe that builds the [yoga] community, and you can’t do that without amazing teachers,” Johnson said.

Johnson said local bands used to perform intimate shows for an audience settled on the studio floor, wrapped up in blankets. She said this year; she hopes to add more similar live music shows, such as the ones those bands and her late husband used to play.

Y.A.M.: So a yogi, an artist and a musician walk into a studio…

By Marissa Alvarado | LakeHighlands ADVOCATE

Visitors enter the venue with blankets, wine and food as if it’s Coachella.

They sit and wait for the musical performance, having only found out hours before that the secret setting is Y.A.M. Studio in Lakeridge Village.

Sofar sounds is hosting the event where guests and artists come together, featuring local artists Matthew And The Arrogant Sea, Noa Jordan and LeTrainiump.

This is just the beginning of Y.A.M.’s venture into live performances. Yoga studio by day, the space was created with a stage and an acoustic-friendly environment meant for live music. Did we mention that the studio is also right behind the owners’ backyard fence?


Photo credit: Danny Fulgencio

Jen Johnson was on a plane just after celebrating her 30th birthday on 9/11. The national tragedy inspired her to reach out to her brother, who was her yoga buddy back when they used VHS tapes to practice.

“My brother and I connected again and said, ‘Let’s quit our jobs and go open a yoga studio.’”

They opened a studio, Whole Life, at Greenville and Lovers with reiki, acupuncture, massage and 40 yoga classes a week.

“We were maybe the third or fourth studio in Dallas at that time,” Jen says. “Our slogan was ‘We’re nice.’ We were trying to make yoga very unintimidating, especially in 2001. People are like, ‘What the heck is that? Is it religious? Do you have to be vegetarian?’”

Jen and her brother soon created American Power Yoga and certified the program through the Yoga Alliance. Yoga teachers could go through a 200-hour training program, and to this day, there are American Power Yoga teachers teaching throughout Dallas.

Then in 2006, Jen started to shift away from yoga.

“I had a child that was about a year and a half. I was teaching finance at night, yoga in the morning, doing the books during the day, and I was just kind of getting burnt out, so I took a corporate job,” she says.


Photo credit: Danny Fulgencio

Jen and Trey Johnson met in high school and attended the University of North Texas together. They always had a love for art but visiting galleries in college increased their interest as a couple.

Currently at Y.A.M., artists’ works line the walls so that yogis can view the pieces while holding downward dog with the chance to purchase them.

“The art that’s in there right now, it’s pretty notable. If you walk in and looked at the art and aren’t moved, you might not be that into art,” Trey says.

The most recent featured artist is Abebe Zelelew. An artist born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with works hanging in several private collections around the world as well as at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa and the Chateau de la Court d’Aron Saint-Cyr en Talmondais in France. In 1996, some of his works were selected to represent Ethiopian art in the “Aethiopia” exhibit that traveled across Europe.

“It’s pretty powerful stuff, and I love when a piece of art can generate a visceral response from somebody,” Trey says.


Photo credit: Danny Fulgencio

Having studied music in college, Trey is the M in Y.A.M.

His band Sorta received praise from the Dallas Observer, Rolling Stone and was even featured on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” After the band, he went on to teach music at Zounds Sounds and soon began his own label, State Fair Records.

“That was my first time I’d ever taught music before, and that was pretty interesting and eye-opening on lots of different levels and I think that’s what kind of led me to the record label thing,” Trey says. “Some people are very ambitious musicians, and some people just kind of want to play music because it’s fun, and some people don’t even want to play music and they’re being forced to.”

His record label has spawned stars like Joshua Ray Walker, the Vandoliers and Ottoman Turks. State Fair Records was also approached by the State Fair of Texas to curate the live music at the 2019 event.

“They contacted us because we’ve been pretty active as an artist development label and that means also in tune with what’s happening in the music scene,” Trey says. “[They] came to us because we had our finger on the pulse, really, if you get right down to it. And once we sat down it was pretty clear that we were compatible.”

While the duo focused on this project, they say Y.A.M. will return with live performances including music and stand-up comedy.

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