Our founder Seán Johnson was born and raised in New Orleans, and is a graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School. During college (The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA) and graduate school (The Naropa Institute in Oakland, CA) Seán had the unique opportunity to focus his studies on a deep exploration of yoga and cross-cultural spiritual traditions and practices, before returning home to New Orleans in 1999. He began teaching at The New Orleans Yoga Center, The University of New Orleans, Loyola University, Delgado Community College, L.S.U. Medical School, and other regional yoga studios.
(Photo above – Wild Lotus Yoga – original location in Mid City 2002)
Wild Lotus Yoga was born by serendipitous events in July 2002 when Seán joined three friends Beverly Morris, Kellie Panus, and Tricia Lea to teach together. There were only a few yoga studios in New Orleans at the time. The original location was in a historic former small family corner grocery in Mid-City. The classroom was a cozy space and Seán moved into the rear grocer’s apartment. The studio initially offered seven classes a week. Though the location was tucked away in a residential neighborhood, word spread, and soon classes were packed. A year later the studio moved and renovated its current location on Perrier Street, formerly the home of a neighborhood seafood stand, a dry cleaner, and the The New Orleans Yoga Center. In 2005, Wild Lotus was the first yoga studio in New Orleans to reopen after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and, at that tender time, became a haven for returning residents as well as volunteers and emergency relief workers.
(Photo above – Class at the uptown studio 2006)
(Photo above: Wild Lotus Yoga Downtown at The New Orleans Healing Center – 2008-2020)
Following Hurricane Katrina, we were invited to join a volunteer think tank of New Orleans citizens from many walks of life to explore creative solutions to New Orleans’ vast recovery challenges. Out of that effort developed a plan for The New Orleans Healing Center, designed to support citizens at the economic, social, environmental, physical/mental, and spiritual levels. The 55,000 square foot Universal Furniture building on the corner of St. Claude Ave and St. Roch was transformed into a multifaceted Healing Center with Wild Lotus as a primary tenant. Our downtown studio was a service project and labor of love at the Healing Center for 12 years, with a priority on offering affordable and accessible classes for the community. Sadly, due to economic hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the downtown studio closed in the Summer of 2020, along with hundreds of other yoga studios around the country. The Healing Center continues its work serving the community.
(Photo Above – Soul School Teacher Training Program – pictured – class of 2020)
(Photo above courtesy of Heather Dotterweich in Tennessee with her cat Michael. Our online classes began during the pandemic and created the opportunity for locals and people around the world to practice with us for the first time from their homes.)
As for so many, the pandemic has been an immense challenge and opportunity to apply our yoga practice to the adversity and uncertainty of the times. In mid March 2020, we quickly pivoted to offer daily online classes, and amazingly there was only one day, at the very beginning of quarantine, when we didn’t offer classes. One blessing of the pandemic has been the connections we’ve been able to create with students worldwide who practice in our online classes and participate in our online teacher training programs and events. Before we reopened for in-studio classes on the Summer Solstice 2021, we also offered a variety of outdoor classes that were generously hosted by Port Orleans Brewery and The Broadside.
In our twenty year history, we have witnessed yoga move from more of a fringe practice tried by a few adventurous souls to a lifestyle embraced by many. We’re grateful to have helped introduce yoga to tens of thousands of New Orleanians and blaze a trail for what has become a thriving citywide yoga community. New Orleans was even named one of the top 10 cities for yoga in the U.S. by Yoga Journal. Seán also represents the New Orleans yoga community at national and international festivals and conferences through his teaching and music with The Wild Lotus Band, writing for Yoga Journal, and curation of the Putumayo music for yoga series. We created Soul School — one of the first teacher training programs in New Orleans which continues to this day, with many graduates who have gone on to passionately teach yoga in their own unique and inspiring voices. Wild Lotus has hosted countless workshops, courses, concerts, retreats, and other events, with inspirational teachers over the years to share their wisdom and art.
There is the timeline above with some major events that have helped shape our history, and then there’s also another subtler, and perhaps more powerful timeline – and that is simply our teachers and students showing up again and again over the years to practice yoga, the art of being present. We are deeply grateful to all of our teachers, staff, and students who have contributed to our community all these years.
To be continued!