Yoga Review: Balance Yoga & Wellness, New Orleans

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Happy Friday, friends.

I want to take a moment to thank you all, kind of belatedly, for the warm response you gave my post on Mind Body Green this week. Writing about my relationship with yoga and movement is kind of new territory for me (as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I don’t often talk about exercise on the blog, not because I have an aversion to doing so, but because it’s just not the topic that interests me most as a blogger), but I’d really like to start writing more about yoga. My ongoing posts on Mind Body Green about yoga and recovery will be a nice place to start!

In Sunday’s post, I discussed the ways in which yoga has become essential to me, not only as a form of movement, but as a means of understanding and valuing my own body. My initial relationship with yoga was pretty rocky, but lately, to steal a line from Katie, yoga is now often the “single best thing I do every day” (well, in my case, not every day, but a lot of days).

If anything is proof of my devotion to yoga, it’s the fact that one of the first things I try to do when I arrive in a new city is to find a yoga studio. If it’s a hot yoga or power studio, so much the better, but I’m happy with a flowy, dance-like vinyasa kind of situation, too. Last time I visited New Orleans, I received an email from Jessica Blanchard, co-owner of Balance Yoga and Wellness in Crescent City. She invited me in to take a class or two, and also gave me some feedback on vegan dining in the Big Easy.

As it turns out, Jessica is not only a yoga teacher and practitioner, but she’s also a wellness enthusiast who has gone back to school for an R.D. at the age of 38. Hooray, Jessica! As a 30-year-old post-bacc (I’ll be 32 when I start med school, if I get accepted) I feel tremendous kinship with women and men who make big life changes at an age that’s a bit older than average. I really admire the education that Jessica is pursuing and the passion that led her to pursue it. And I can’t imagine a more wonderful endeavor than to marry work as a yoga instructor with work as a dietician! At Balance, Jessica already offers ayurvedic health coaching, body image talk, and massage; the R.D. will surely complement this beautifully. I love the idea of a studio that has health and wellness services in place for those who find that the practice of yoga has sparked a deeper interest in personal wellbeing.

Jessica was out of town on my visit, but she encouraged me to check the studio out regardless. I arrived to a brightly lit, cozy space with three large, sunny studios for practice and a boutique in back.

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So lovely!

On my first day in NOLA, I took a class with Meredith Salvago. It was a “vigorous vinyasa” class (my favorite kind!), but I could tell right away that Meredith has some experience with Ashtanga practice. Sure enough, she told me after class that Ashtanga is the practice that speaks most directly to her, and which she teaches most often. I’ve had only limited Ashtanga practice (the highlight was a class with the lovely Laura Olsen, which I’m overdue to write about). On the whole, I really enjoy it, though I struggle with the jump through sequences (I struggle physically, and I struggle with boredom). Meredith’s class was everything I love about Ashtanga, mixed with the freedom and elegance I love about vinyasa. I adored the class!

Two days later, I got to enjoy a class with Lauren Darnell. This was also a vigorous vinyasa class, but once again, I could see that my teacher’s style was influenced by a style that isn’t 100% classic vinyasa flow. I suspected that Lauren had done some Baptiste yoga training, and sure enough, she has! In fact, she’s assisted Baron Baptiste at some of his own workshops. Down Dog Yoga, the first studio I practiced in in DC, is a Baptiste power yoga studio, and discovering that style was really transformative for me. In fact, I’ll quote from Lauren, who sums up my feelings precisely:

The heated power vinyasa practice challenged her personal limitations. She was able to move beyond the physical, emotional, and mental restraints to feel joy, freedom and an inner strength in her body that she had never tapped into before.

Not surprisingly, then, I loved Lauren’s style, which had all the discipline, speed, and challenge of a power yoga class, but also full of playfulness and moments of work on breath, alignment, and even some meditative quiet. It was fantastic.

In all, I had a wonderful experience at Balance Yoga and Wellness. I loved that my teachers had distinct styles, and that each brought her own unique talents and experience and passion to the vinyasa practice. I also really enjoyed the warm, welcoming environment at the studio, and would recommend it to anyone at any yoga level. There are also alignment, restorative, and Ashtanga/mysore classes, as well as the special wellness services. There also seems to be a happy, affectionate community in place. So, NOLA-dwellers, check it out, and hopefully I’ll see you on another visit!

Right now, I’m at my Mom’s in NYC for one night only, en route to my stepsister’s wedding upstate this weekend! So I’ll be on the road tomorrow, but around again on Sunday. Before I sign off, I wanted to make you aware of a new opportunity to enhance your blog and skills as a blogger. My friend Cory—the man behind Zesty Blog Consulting—is offering a new series of WordPress webinar classes. I think it’s a fantastic idea: speaking from personal experience, it’s possible to write a blog for four years without really knowing the first darn thing about how to use WordPress efficiently.

Why not change that? Starting mid-October, Cory is offering a four-week class at two levels of training (basics and advanced) in an easy, web-based format. He’ll use live interactive audio and video and include live question and answer time, so that students can get the technical support they need. Topics covered in the basics class will include managing pages, using plugins, working with media and customizing widgets. In the advanced class he’ll cover social media, ads management, and customizing themes.

The cost for the class is just $127 for all 4 weeks, but Cory is generously offering CR readers a rate of $30 off (only $97)! That’s less than $25 per class, and oh so worth it if you’re a new blogger especially. Just enter coupon code “WORKSHOP” on check-out if you sign up. All details can be found right here, and as someone who has worked with Cory for a long time, I personally can vouch for the quality of attention and care he’ll give you.

Alrighty, folks. Signing off—happy weekend!


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  1. I also find it really inspiring when people go back to school at an older age. I’m nearly 24 and am contemplating doing a post bacc and pursuing med school. It seems daunting and scary at my age; I can’t even imagine the obstacles you both face. I would be really interested in hearing more about what made you decide to take that leap of faith, and your experience as someone a bit more “alternative” than the majority of the medical community. I’m interested in doing integrative and functional medicine.

  2. Lauren’s quote is exactly how I feel about heated vinyasa, and the first time I took a class, I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt at the end of it.

    I think working out, in general, taught me confidence in my body, but yoga has taught me to love my body. Just as it is.

  3. I truly find it so inspiring that you people 30+ go back or start uni to pursue their dreams.
    I want to start uni and because of my tendency to stress and a worry that I may fall back into ED, the best option would be do to part time , which will make me 30 when I finish.

    She is so inspiring! love it!

  4. Lol. I actually would love to incorporate *more* yoga into my life, but right now it’s difficult to do it more than a few times a week w/ Joseph being away for military training. I used to teach much more than I do now, but currently I just teach one yoga class a week & try to do my own practice a few times a week (I would love it if I could manage daily!). I used to teach 15 fitness classes a week (not all yoga), but my yoga classes were always my fave classes to teach.

    Anusara, at least from the teacher I primarily learned from, is all about opening up & releasing tightness–something I *really* need to do, one of the reasons it appeals to me. It has a lot of similarities to ashtanga (still very rigorous). I’ve done bikram yoga, & aside from the fact I couldn’t handle doing the same 21 poses every time, the intense heat is not something I’d like to subject myself of my own free will!

  5. I agree with you, I don’t talk about fitness very much on my blog, mostly because there are too many other things that end up coming up that I’d rather discuss!

    I am yoga alliance certified in ashtanga yoga, but I find that anusara yoga speaks more to me. My training focused a lot on the primary series, which in it’s classical form is rigid–not a lot of room for interpretation. Some people like find that a liberating thing, I find it restrictive. So, my method of teach is a blend of the things I like from ashtanga w/ some of the other things I’ve picked up from other methods.

    I for one, would be interested in seeing more yoga-related posts. Hope you have a great weekend, Gena!

    • I’ve never taken an ansura class, and I’d love to try.

      And I, for one, would love to know how you have time to balance being a mother to four little ones with such intensive yoga training! I know you teach fitness, but gosh, I am impressed with how you fit it all in, Janae! xo

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