“I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” If you don’t think Beyoncé’s album was on my mind while I strolled the streets of New Orleans, then you are severely mistaken.
I’ll admit: not being able to go to Bali was a huge downer. Walking home with my packed bag was a bit downtrodden— I felt like I had been broken up with in a very disappointing way.
But I was on a mission to reclaim my time, as I always am, and I had another plan. Again, I packed a backpack and left right after work. After a brief stop in Chicago to see my goddog, Kiki, and my best friends, I made my way to the Big Easy to check out a yoga studio at which I might do my Yoga Teacher Training— so I crafted my own yoga retreat!
I can’t get this picture out of my mind.
Here it is, The Church of Yoga. As a branch of the Laughing Lotus brand of New York and San Francisco, I was turned onto this place through my dear friend and Seattle yoga instructor, Danielle. The colors exploding on the face of the edifice are nothing short of what happens inside, where true expressions of love, dance, and harmony come together.
I got in on Sunday night, and I went to a Moon Circle— not quite a yoga class, but a spiritual exploration of the New Moon. We sat in a circle and discussed this particular new moon’s effects and meanings. Each of us shared our intentions and stories of what was on our mind, and we repeated affirmations after we finished; I was in awe of the community that this place supported.
I was excited to take a class taught by the studio’s co-founder, Dana Trixie Flynn. I had just missed her master class in Seattle at my home studio, The Grinning Yogi— but I heard that she was a burst of energy. I was NOT disappointed. I was blown away by the diversity. Yoga is a very White People™ activity, often accused of appropriation of Eastern culture. But the people in class were white and black, fat and skinny, gay and straight, men and women.
Dana’s teaching style is very in line with my own yogic philosophy— during class, a student asked a question about a particular pose, something about how her arms should be. Dana cheekily responded, “Well, after you do it 1,000 times, it’s still going to be different.” I chuckled, because I’ve seen this same scene before— people, rightfully so, being inquisitive and asking questions about how a pose should be. They direct their intricate questions toward the instructor, looking for guidance. And sure, there might be some technical alignment wherein a certain direction could be given. But, by and large, feeling out the pose as your body expresses in that day, in that moment, is the answer to those questions.
The following night, I went to a class with a live DJ who was playing Beyoncé. Let me reiterate that: there was a yoga class, with live music, playing Beyoncé.
This could not be more on brand for Robbie Barnhart if I tried.
Chelsey, that evening’s instructor, pulled out all the stops— dancing in the poses, singalong “Halo” savasana, and even going so far as to do a costume change at the end. I apologized to the girl next to me for twerking in such close proximity, but I truly could not help it. NamaSLAY!
Don’t even get me started on how sad I was that I had to leave before Yoga After Dark – Drag Edition.
The creativity flowing out of this studio is beyond my wildest expectations. It’s relevant, authentic, and downright FUN! As I peruse this as an option for my Yoga Teacher Training (which, let’s be serious, is about 95% right now), I realize that my perceptions of a traditional training experience are antiquated— there is a way to keep this ancient practice fresh!
I had to supplement my burnt calories somehow— and New Orleans did not disappoint ways to do that. My first full day, I goofed up the recommendation that my Lyft driver gave me. She said to go to Cochon Butcher— but I got caught in a thunderstorm on the way there and completely missed the small place in the back. Instead, and unbeknownst to me, I sat in the bougie dining room of Cochon. I only realized it after I had placed my order, noting that it was a bit pricier than originally mentioned; however, the rabbit and dumplings soothed my cold and drenched body.
Seeing that Parkway Bakery & Tavern was closed on Tuesdays, I went to Wille Mae’s Scotch House instead. Now, my grandma could make some mean fried chicken, and that will always be my favorite— but this place is a close second. And the butter beans (that were, surprisingly, vegannnnnnn)? Get out.
And, on my final day in New Orleans, I had the behemoth fried oyster po’boy. Only available on Mondays and Wednesdays, I saved the best for last. (I’m glad I only got half, because I couldn’t imagine eating a whole one with a side of gumbo.)
Cafe Du Monde is a tourist cliché for a very good reason. My first late night adventure through the French Quarter had me inhaling beignets— and choking on powdered sugar. Throughout my stay, I obviously had to get a second opinion of Morning Call’s beignets, which weren’t as good. Therefore, it was clear that I had to have another batch of Cafe Du Monde’s beignets for good measure— and of course I had to come home with a can of coffee and chicory. Don’t @ me.
The spirit flows through NOLA, and I can’t wait to return. Over those days, I met so many wonderful people, welcoming me into their space and amplifying my love for yoga. I have yet to debrief with myself— I have to come down from the excitement of the experience, but that will be duly noted in my Pro/Con list for YTT programs.
It was hot there, which usually isn’t my MO. But as the sweat hit me in class, a voice popped up in the back of my head, “Don’t get burned by the fire; ride the flame.”