My beautiful roommate recently ventured to New Orleans. The mysterious city of my conception. She did some yoga there. This is her tale…
This is my first installation of Yoga on Tour, the post occurrence documentation of how I plan to hemorrhage student loan money while I still have it. Perhaps I should save, maybe invest in high yield bonds. Mais non, I am jetting, bussing, bumming rides across this great nation to see friends, family members, bars, and new yoga studios. First stop: New Orleans, NOLA, the Big Easy, ye ol’ swamp streets (a name of my choosing).
Cassi (you know her from such websites as…this one) suggested I try Shanti Yoga Shala, the owner of which assisted in Annie Carpenter’s teacher training last summer. On Friday I trekked from my hotel to the other end of Magazine street in the middle of a gale. The only thoughts racing through my mind were, “Shit, I’m gonna be late for ze yoga” and “any open wounds on your person, Grotheer? Hope not, seeing as you’re wading through several feet of NOLA streets’ flood water.” I made it to the studio sans flesh-eating virus and on time. There were already ten or so people waiting on the front porch to the studio. The number grew to about 15. Nathalie Croix, the superstar goddess owner (never met her so I’m erring on the side of over-complementing) was meant to teach at noon. The storm (gale, as you remember) was such a doozy that the class was cancelled. Nards. This was mostly disappointing because I wanted to meet Nathalie AND I decided to forego the plate sized pancakes avec peanut butter during breakfast so that I wouldn’t barf during yoga.
First thing I learned about yoga travel, don’t congratulate yourself for simply trying. I thought, “Oh, well I was GOING to go to a yoga class. Good for you, Grotheer, now go get hammered without feeling guilty.” Then I remembered that it wasn’t just about maintaining a consistent practice, it was about new experiences and living and breathing deeply in new spaces with different kinds of walls and floors and curtains. So I only had one beer (so shoot me) and went back to the 5 pm class.
The studio is one side of a one-story old home, of the shotgun variety but slightly wider. You walk the six or so steps up to the hanging basket plant porch and remove your shoes and hide your umbrellas. The space is narrow but tall, maximum mats allowed; 25 I’d say. You walk straight through two rooms of equal size, both with old fireplaces turned alters, towards the back where the desk and prop area awaits you. The studio embraces you with its warm jewel tones and worn but well-maintained floors. The floors instantly reminded me of the house I grew up in. Wooden floors strong enough to support the weight of sturdy furniture and delicate hearts. It’s a dark wood, preserved but with enough character to proudly present its scuffs and scratches. Man, I loved that floor. I hope it’s an old floor, because that’s what it felt like to me. If it’s new and just inorganically aged to make me feel the way I felt that day…well, no one tell me about that.
Friday I went to Pamela’s all levels vinyasa class and on saturday I went to Christine’s all levels vinyasa class. Both classes were challenging yet playful, demanding but mindful of the limited space for experimental flailing. Both ladies spoke in assertive yet subtle and comforting commands. I asked Pamela if the studio got hot. She said that with a full studio on a summer day, there’s a lot of “sweat slinging.” She was right. Friday was mild because of all the rain, but Saturday…oh Saturday. It. Was. Hot. Some people love the way they feel as their body is bending through such high temperatures. I am not one of those people. I do, however, love the way I feel after surviving a very sweaty yoga practice. After Saturday’s class I made an awkward midwesterner comment, “Boy, this New Orleans’ humidity is no joke!” I hate to place any style label on instructors or studios after only two classes, but I did get a general feeling from both classes of fostering endurance. They were both very well balanced classes that did focus on the breath and stillness of mind. But they’ll also rock your quads into a state of painful bliss.
Shanti Yoga Shala is a studio with class and vulnerable personal character as well. It feels lived in. It feels completely original in a carefree way. Judging from the lines before every class, yogis in NOLA would agree with me. And let us (or, rather, me) not forget the yogis! Some kind, beautiful, approachable folk attend classes at Shanti, which always makes a studio feel like home!
In closing, I’d recommend Ignatius for a great meal, the Saint for a dive bar with great dancing, Down the Hatch for dollar beers, and Shanti Yoga Shala for bringing you back to your practice, your body, and your mind while enjoying the first three suggestions. Thank you to all the wonderful yogis I met, and to the humidity that taught me how to sweat like a real Southerner.