By Brad Goins
When Linda Kleinschmidt started teaching yoga in Lake Charles in 1982, the city wasn’t ready for it, and she didn’t dare use the word “yoga.” She called her first yoga class — held in the YMCA that existed in Lake Charles at the time — “Stress Relief.”
Things have changed in the ensuing four decades. Nationwide, people are seen practicing yoga in hundreds of TV commercials and health programs. And the Lake Area now has numerous individuals who lead yoga classes on a regular basis.
When Kleinschmidt had her own studio, she led 10 classes a week. Now, at age 75, she teaches three two-hour classes a week at the Tai Chi Chih Center in Lake Charles. She still has many students — most in their 60s and 70s.
After all these years, Kleinschmidt still finds it somewhat difficult to attract men to yoga class. It must have been something of a coup for her when her husband, then in his early 60s, started attending 10 years ago.
With a background in Kripala yoga (a recent form of yoga that posits that practitioners should do postures in accordance with the limits of their body), Kleinschmidt has no interest in forcing students to get into yoga poses they aren’t ready for. In fact, one of the principles of her yoga practice is not to force anything.
This principle serves her well, as she works with students who are almost all seniors. Four years ago, she started a class in yoga that’s done in a chair. The class was oriented toward those who had trouble walking or getting off the floor.
She likes her classes to be largely about mobility, conscious breathing and focus. “When we work with our minds we focus on what our bodies are doing,” she says. When the class does a pose that — for example — requires students to move an arm “we watch our arm move. This pulls the mind into the present.” Students are encouraged to be acutely aware of what is going on in their bodies as they do yoga.
The last 10 minutes or so of Kleinschmidt’s two-hour sessions are devoted to meditation. Kleinschmidt feels that yoga is all about “getting the body out of pain” so that practitioner is finally in a position to meditate, and can then reach a state of “peace, calmness, lightness.”
Kleinschmidt is one of many teachers who’s experienced a miracle cure as a result of her extended yoga practice. A number of years ago, she suffered a stroke that caused her to lose the use of her entire right side. Her yoga practice gradually brought her back to full health. Today, she is not aware of any lingering side effects of the stroke.
Yoga, she says, is “pretty much my life …
“I’m still learning. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Just starting as a yoga teacher is Lake Charles native Adelaide Saucier, who’s attending law school at Tulane. When she’s not in class, she’s teaching yoga at the Yoga Center of Lake Charles (321 Broad St.).
Saucier begins her group classes with a brief talk. This is in the tradition of the teacher delivering the dharma — a Sanskrit word for teachings that lead to a sensible and calm way of living. In her introductory words, Saucier delivers an intention to her classes; she tells them something they can focus their minds on as they do their asanas — a Sanskrit term for the poses and postures of yoga.
Saucier’s teaching style is very accommodating. She lets her students know “this is their practice. Everything I say is just a suggestion.”
Yoga “should be individualized,” says Saucier. The person who does the individualizing is not the teacher but the student “because it’s their own mentality” that is at the heart of the matter. They should direct what they do in yoga class toward “whatever they need.”
One way Saucier helps them do this is by giving them cue cards they can use to determine the level of attention they receive from the instructor. The student can put the card in a certain position if he wants Saucier to make adjustments to his body if she feels he could improve a pose. If he’d rather skip the adjustment, he just puts the cue card in the appropriate position.
Saucier’s adjustments are “never forcing them” into a pose; rather, “it’s asking them to soften [their muscles]” so that they can ease into the pose.
Saucier begins each class with five minutes of meditation. In addition, she ends each class with students lying in a leisurely corpse pose. One of the most common yoga poses, the corpse pose allows students to relax and focus on their breathing as they lie on their back. Saucier says the corpse pose is “a very passive form of meditation.” In the pose, she says, students “can completely access a state of release and surrender.”
“There’s a spectrum of meditation,” says Saucier. And she is careful to bring students into that spectrum gently. Meditation, she says, “sometimes turns people off. They automatically think that they can’t do it.” Saucier’s even careful not to use the word “meditation” too often in class. In the opening meditation, she tells students simply that the members of the class are going to “sit with each other.”
Saucier asserts that people “should never be afraid to step into a yoga class.” Her yoga class, she says, works on the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the body. It is suited to all body types. It’s universal.
Summer Solstice Yoga In Drew Park June 21
Saucier is one of the local yoga teachers who will be at Lake Charles’ Drew Park for a solstice event in commemoration of the International Day of Yoga. Saucier says this will be a “really unifying activity for the community.” It will take place Friday, June 21, 6 to 8 pm.
The event will include a 50-minute “yoga flow” for people at all levels, including beginners. For those who have been thinking about trying yoga, this is an opportunity to meet area yoga teachers to learn more about the benefits of yoga, mindfulness and meditation. Teachers on hand will include instructors from The Yoga Center, Yoga Y’all, Seed and Flower Yoga as well as Lisa Tauzin, Rosie Pryor and Steven Fox. Those of all ages can participate, as can individuals and families.
Organizers hope to have area juice bars and food trucks on hand. The event will be free to the public.
It will be presented by the Love of Chuck and City of Lake Charles. The Love of Chuck’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in SWLA by supporting arts and wellness projects. Those who would like information about participating in Summer Solstice Yoga can contact email@example.com.
Chelsea And Carl Boudreaux
The Yoga Center has been around since 1998, when it was founded by Janet Houtz. It was acquired by Chelsea and Carl Boudreaux in 2005. Both husband and wife teach yoga in the studio.
Chelsea is well aware of the reluctance some first-time participants feel about taking on yoga. “People aren’t sure what it’s all about,” she says.
That’s why she offers a beginner’s series. She shows that variations and modifications of difficult poses can make them accessible to beginners. “We don’t push,” she says. “We accept our body as it is.”
She shows beginners ways to let go of distracting thoughts so they can learn to listen to their bodies’ needs.
Chelsea says that yoga as she teaches it links the mind, body and breath, thus “working all systems.”
The Yoga Center holds classes in the morning and afternoon, seven days a week. Offerings include gentle yoga, intermediate yoga, hot power yoga and tai chi.
Students get individual attention. They can do easier or harder yoga than others if that’s what they prefer. If students have trouble with the sciatic nerve, they can skip postures that might irritate the condition. And pregnant women can do modified poses that work in concert with their condition.
The center provides two classes in meditation per week: one of 30 minutes and one of an hour. Students aren’t required to meditate in one position. Practitioners can meditate while sitting in a chair or lying down. “We want [the student] to be comfortable,” says Saucier. Those who take the classes will be able to go through a number of guided meditations.
Chelsea’s main message to the public is “if everyone could add some awareness breathing, it could do wonders for our well-being. We’re not getting enough oxygen.” She says that yoga is first and foremost about “how to breathe more efficiently.”
Stormi Vincent has been teaching yoga for two years at Yoga Y’all, which is located at Main Squeeze at 3629 Nelson Road. She’s been teaching eight years in all.
Yoga Y’all, which has been in operation five years now, is owned by Miranda Duplichan, who’s been teaching yoga for seven years.
One of the main ideas of the yoga instruction at Yoga Y’all, says Vincent, is to “honor your body. What it’s doing is different every day.”
Another idea is gradual progress. The Yoga Ya’ll program is in complete opposition to the popular slogan “no pain, no gain.” “In yoga,” says Vincent, “you don’t want pain.”
To dramatically reduce the chances of pain, instructors can modify each pose for every physical situation.
Yoga Ya’ll offers three main forms of yoga in its classses:
• Vinyasa. Vincent says this is the yoga of “invigoration.” It closely incorporates movement with breath. It involves constant movement, and is thus a somewhat strenuous form of yoga.
• Slower Flow yoga, which is a more meditative practice that emphasize mindfulness of breathing.
• Yin. This yoga focuses more on the joints than the muscles. Practitioners get into poses by allowing gravity to gradually pull them down into the correct positions. It is a somewhat passive and slow form of yoga. Poses are sometimes held for quite a while as gravity is allowed to do its work.
Other forms of yoga are also practiced by the group. The hour-long classes take place seven days a week.
Vincent describes yoga as “a moving meditation.” She talks at length about the central place of awareness of the breath in this practice.
She says classes begin “with the building of the breath and bringing all of the focus to the breath. When you clear your mind of everything and focus on one thing, that is meditation. So in yoga, that would be your breath.
“The yoga breath warms the body, allowing you to go deeper into poses; it also calms the mind and the body. Your breath guides you through the movement and allows you to go deeper into a pose or to back off. It teaches you how your body moves. For instance, if your breath becomes compromised (choppy), that would mean your body needs to back off or out of the pose.”
Students of all levels are invited to the classes. The yoga teachers of Yoga Y’all “are trained and certified to help and teach each student how to find the practice level for them and their body.”
This yoga center holds teacher training sessions several times a year “for those who would like to become a certified yoga teacher or for those who just want to deepen their own practice.”
Lisa Tauzin originally came to Lake Charles to study piano with Fred Sahlmann at McNeese State University. After graduating, she established herself as a piano teacher in the city.
As for her becoming involved in yoga, she says “it was accidental.” At the time, Tauzin’s exercise was jogging. She saw little attraction in what she considered the much slower pace of yoga.
Then her teenage son invited her to his yoga class. “It was love at first sight,” she says. “I became very passionate about it.” Soon, others were asking her to provide instruction in the practice.
Tauzin’s primary interest has always been in Yin yoga — the gentle yoga that focuses on joints and flexibility. But she teaches several forms of yoga, the most unusual of which is aerial yoga.
A form of yoga that is done with a “yoga trapeze” or “yoga swing,” aerial yoga defies gravity and allows students to do yoga poses that may be difficult to do on the ground, but easier in mid-air.
Almost all the body parts are forced to move and stretch. Muscles are toned and joints are strengthened. The support delivered by the yoga trapeze relieves some of the pressure to the joints that comes with traditional yoga.
Aerial yoga helps students move more freely, with less effort, by counteracting gravity. Suspension in the air releases tension in the muscles, increasing flexibility. Suspended yoga strengthens core muscles and increases spinal and shoulder flexibility. Going against gravity also helps with balance and stability in daily activities.
Since aerial yoga gives one the chance to hang freely, it allows the spine to lengthen. Reduced strain on the back while one is doing aerial yoga eases tension in the spinal cord. Tauzin says the practice is “great for back pain.”
Aerial yoga releases “happy hormones,” like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, which boost one’s mood and help one feel more energetic.
Tauzin says the straps on her yoga trapeze allow for “more pose options.” The pull-up motion that is often required for these poses increases upper body strength as well as the strength of the grip.
In the Lake Area, aerial yoga has “been very popular … My classes tend to max out … I get texts and calls all the time.”
Tauzin also teaches chair yoga and restorative yoga. The latter practice uses a great many props to support the body. The use of the props makes it possible for gravity to slowly bring the body into the pose.
Practitioners “rest in poses for long periods.” In the moment, says Tauzin, they may not even feel the stretch. But they will sense the beneficial change in the muscle in a couple of days.
This type of yoga is ideal for people who are recovering from an injury or sickness.
Tauzin doesn’t feel that the types of yoga she teaches are superior to other types. “I think all yoga is beneficial.”
Tauzin teaches from an in-home studio and requires a reservation for each class. Interested parties can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her on Facebook. (Note the variation in the spelling of Tauzin’s name in her email address.)
Charlotte Marie Hanks
Charlotte Marie Hanks teaches the local yoga class that probably comes closest to the conventional concept of fun. She’s one of the instructors who leads the Bottoms Up yoga classes held at Crying Eagle Brewery.
Hanks says the yoga in these classes is “less intense” than in traditional classes. The Bottoms Up approach, she says, is “relaxing,” “fun,” “light-hearted” and “inclusive.” It’s oriented towards beginners. She tries to play upbeat music during the classes.
And then there’s the fact that practitioners can, if they like, drink beer as they do their poses. Since the class starts at 10 am, many wait until after class to have their beer. But some do indulge during class. And Hanks emphasizes that non-drinkers are entirely welcome in the class.
She notes that “alcohol can calm the nerves,” which can be especially helpful if the participant is new to yoga and is somewhat wary of the unknown. “I try to make sure I don’t intimidate people,” says Hanks.
Hanks wants to make this form of yoga “very familiar” to those who take the class. One way she does this is to skip the emphasis on formal meditation that’s part of most yoga classes. “I didn’t want to scare people. [Meditation] is a skill you have to develop.” Hanks does create situations in which practitioners may meditate without being aware they are doing so. She begins the class by observing “a few moments of silence.” And she ends the class by having students spend a few minutes in the savasana — or “taking rest” — pose.
The class does have some of yoga’s traditional emphasis on breathing. Hanks starts each class by emphasizing to the students that their breathing will tell them whether they need to slow down or can exert themselves a bit more. “If you remind people to breathe” [during the class], you can see them settle into certain positions.”
Hanks is one of several teachers from local yoga studios who rotate as the main teacher of the class. Rather than seeing Bottoms Up as a sort of Yoga Lite, Hanks feels it is just “a different avenue” to yoga. And it’s one that makes some people who otherwise might never think of taking a class “want to go to yoga.”
The summer sessions of Bottoms Up are set for June 8, July 13 and August 10. Classes start at 10 am.
Stuart And Christina Cormier
Adelaide Saucier feels sure that “new [yoga] teachers are coming [to the Lake area] all the time.”
Two of those newcomers are Stuart and Christina Cormier, whose new yoga studio — Seed Yoga and Flower Massage at 923 W. McNeese — should open shortly after this magazine hits the stands.
The presence of the word “seed” in the studio’s name indicates that the two instructors hope to “plant that seed of practice” in each student, says Stuart. By starting a practice and carrying it on in the future, the student will “blossom into the best [he or she] can be.” With such a mature practice, individuals will “really notice the benefits yoga can bring into life.”
Stuart says the word also indicates that the Cormiers want to build their practice “in the yoga roots of the community” and thus “establish a healthier area.”
As for the specific type of yoga practiced, Christina says, “We specialize in Yin yoga: a slow-paced, meditative style of yoga. Poses are held for extended periods, allowing access to connective tissues and fascia, which can bring greater mobility to the joints of the body. Yin brings balance to our busy lives, asking us to slow down and go deep within ourselves.”
Stuart describes their brand of yoga as “slow and meditative.” He says students hold poses up to five minutes. This “creates more mobility” in their everyday activities.
The two teachers will hold classes made up of small groups of 10 or fewer.
Christina is also a licensed therapist. The studio will make good use of the ways yoga and massage overlap and complement each other.
To learn more about this new operation, call 419-2126.