WILD LOTUS YOGA FAMILY
In classes I merge vinyasa and bhakti yoga – the yoga of the heart – through storytelling, singing, evocative playlists, poetic language and creative yoga flows. I love to create the possibility for students to feel and tune more deeply into guidance and inspiration from within.
I am a proud native of New Orleans a graduate of NOLA public schools K-12. I have a B.A. in Cultural Studies from The Evergreen State College and an M.A. in Creation Spirituality from the Naropa Institute, where I studied yoga and spirituality with teachers from many traditions.
I founded Wild Lotus in 2002 and am deeply grateful for all the people – our teachers, staff, students, and my family – who make the studio such a loving place to be. It’s also a joy to sing, play, and tour around the country with The Wild Lotus Band merging ancient mantras, roots, rock, gospel, and world grooves. My wife Farah, our son Finn, and our cat Sasha light up my heart.
A graduate of Soul School (2008-9), I am also trained in Anusara alignment and Tantrik philosophy. I received a BA from Naropa University and an MFA in Creative Writing from UNO. I recently stepped away from academia to write my second novel. I live with my husband, Bill Loehfelm, also an author, in the Garden District with our dog Josie.
I didn’t take my first yoga class until the age of 50, when I “leaned out” from my career at a multinational corporation. Lucky for me, Wild Lotus was the yoga studio closest to my home. Since then, Soul School, Bhakti Immersion, and BhaktiFest have all been part of my path.
Along with the yoga postures, I bring mindfulness, meditation, gratitude, poetry, pranayama, and chanting to my classes, encouraging each student to focus on what is needed in the moment.
I was born and raised in the Northeast and moved to New Orleans in 1979 to do a Ph.D. in Psychology. By day, I run a management consulting practice and dedicate my time to helping make New Orleans a great place to live and work. I’m especially grateful for my daughter, Katherine, and for Natasha, our Katrina-rescue pup.
When 9-11 happened, I was a gym rat known for hanging upside-down from the pull-up bar. The manager of the gym had the insight that people could find peace through their bodies, so she sent me to teacher-training. Although I’ve been teaching yoga for many years, I’ve never stopped being a student. I’ve studied in many different styles, including Iyengar, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Anusara, Bowspring, etc. My teaching melds what I’ve learned, reaching back even to modern dance at the University of Texas, into a lighthearted, alignment-driven vinyasa flow. I like to teach everyone, from students who have physical limitations to advanced practitioners. I think every class should offer options for everyone, no matter what their level.
The certification I draw on most is from White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, California. More recently, I studied bhakti with Sean Johnson of Wild Lotus, who inspired me to purchase my first harmonium. It may be a while before you see it class.
I took my first yoga class while working on my Architectural Thesis at Tulane. Amidst the stress and sleep-deprivation, yoga gave me peace and restoration. In addition to Soul School, I’ve had the privilege of completing Daniel Orlansky’s Yoga of Energy Flow.
I LOVE spending time with my dogs, husband, and friends, and watching Star Wars. Outside of teaching, I’m a freelance graphic designer, and I make oh so many things. Find me online here: AndraAitken.com
Bhakti yoga strongly influences my practice and teaching, which includes a mix of things that awaken the heart! There is an intention behind every class I teach and I share my love of poetry, dance, laughter, mythology, self-inquiry, creative sequencing, mantra/chanting, and uplifting music.
I love yoga because it’s a mind, body, heart medicine! It empowers and opens me, revealing my highest, truest, original self.
I completed Soul School at Wild Lotus in 2014. I am currently enrolled in an Advanced Yoga Psychology Teacher Training, diving deeper into the therapeutic approach of yoga, meditation, depth psychology, and neuroscience, exploring the transformations that take place on our mat. These holistic practices have inspired me to write a memoir about my personal journey of self-discovery and healing through yoga, mindfulness, travel, and love! When I am not teaching, you can also find me at the front desk of the studio or in my kitchen trying to master Thai food!
My perspective on life is greatly influenced by my survivorship of several cancer diagnoses and my passion to live gratefully and joyfully. I believe strongly in the importance of self-care and creating a loving relationship with your whole self and to gently and respectfully meet yourself where you are. I love the fusion of the heart, spirit and body that my practice brings me and I always leave my mat in a different space than how I arrived. I bring these values for living with intention into my classes.
I completed Soul School and the mentorship program. My passions outside yoga are my work as art therapist, artist and mother to my precious daughter. I’m a native New Orleanian and love it.
My practice has taught me that yoga can transform stress, anxiety, and pain. It can turn mental and spiritual roadblocks into jewels of acceptance, peace, wisdom, clarity, strength and vitality. I completed Soul School in 2016. I was born in Los Angeles, but New Orleans (my mother’s birthplace) has also always been my home. Now, I live near the river where I am close to the deep sustenance in the voices of our ancestors.
I’m a Canadian transplant who found my way to Louisiana in 2005. As an impossibly shy and introverted soul, I’ve always found refuge in solitary activities like skiing, powerlifting, reading, yoga, and Nintendo. Yoga, especially, has stuck around like an old friend. These practices help me to get out of my head and let me reconnect with my body, my heart. I completed my training in Soul School and have an MA in English from UNO. I love cats and I dream of joining the circus.
I love that yoga doesn’t tell us what to believe, but rather shows us a rich tradition of practices and invites us to explore what happens when we engage. When I started regularly practicing, it was as if I had come home after a long, long journey. I have seen in my own life yoga’s power to heal the body, heart, and mind, and nothing excited me more than the opportunity to complete the teacher training at Wild Lotus so I could share this almost magic power with others.
Outside the studio, I play jazz trombone with my own band and as a sideman in a few other musical projects in and around New Orleans.
Yoga connects me more deeply to my physical, emotional and spiritual self, which allows me to live more intentionally, treat others with more kindness, and make decisions from a place of love and authenticity.
I am a graduate of Soul School, followed by the teacher apprenticeship program.
Off the mat, I am a singer, a music teacher, and a devoted New Orleans enthusiast!
In my classes, we explore imaginative combinations of meditation, alignment, creative movement, breath awareness, and soulful music. I strive to create a space where students feel at home, have the opportunity to find more moments of relaxation, and feel free to express themselves in their truest nature. With a strong focus on breath and expression, my hope is that we learn to enjoy the practice in new ways on and off the mat, leading to a greater understanding of ourselves and our relationships to our surroundings.
Drawing on my background as a curator and writer, I am inspired by the ways in which artists of all types ignite important conversations and help us see and experience life differently. I also love to laugh, so you will generally see me smiling around the studio! I graduated from Soul School in April 2017, participated in the 2017–18 Wild Lotus apprentice program, and have continued my training in restorative and heart-centered yoga practices.
I love taking long walks in the park, and moving my body in a variety of different ways. I am inspired by Nature and am passionate about food. I am moved by meditation, and often struck at how simple and yet deeply profound the practice of tuning into one’s breath is.
I’m a graduate of Soul School and am trained in Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra, Health Coaching, Thai Yoga, and Yoga Therapeutics. My teachers and influences include my husband Sean Johnson, Mitchel Bleier, Kate Rivera, Saul David Raye, Erich Schiffmann, the Wild Lotus Community, my family and friends, writers John O’Donohue and Joseph Campbell, and my beloved cat, Sasha.
Most of my life I just wanted to not be with myself; intimacy is scary and it was easier to numb out and live on the surface until the pain got so great that it wasn’t anymore. Early in recovery, I took myself out on the sweetest first date of my life: yoga. I completely let go of thoughts and inhabited my body and knew this was a pathway home. Since then, practices of presence, connection, and trusting this heart have been a constant in my life and are the focus of my teachings. My classes are fueled by emotion with a message of acceptance – steeped in wisdom teachings, mantra, movement and breath – and an invitation for students to embrace all of who they are right now.
I LOVE singing my heart out at kirtans, nature, cemeteries, rituals, traveling, Bhakti dances, my altar, spiritual teachers, dad phone calls, and remembering my True Nature when I inevitably forget.
Bio Coming Soon.
Karen Rountree Palmer
Karen Rountree Palmer
Yoga allows me to be, to look at life inside out, and to love.
I have practiced yoga for over fifteen years. In 2013-2014 I studied with Sean Johnson and Mitchel Bleier in Soul School Teacher Training. I continued studying Prenatal Yoga with Mamaste Yoga. I continually attend workshops and retreats to strengthen and grow in teaching and my own practice.
My passions…. Music, art, photography, animals, traveling…I love spending time with my loved ones. I am humbled and inspired on a daily basis by life. When I am not in the role of teacher, I am a counselor. I am truly grateful to do what I really love on a daily basis.
Through my study of bhakti and physical alignment, I have learned to take up residency in my whole body. This inspires me to share my knowledge of alignment and the creative elements of yoga. My classes explore the strength we already hold and the movement that brings us to feeling free in our own bodies. I use music, meditation, and creative flow to give students the opportunity to [explore and] find their personal practice within an ancient tradition.
Yoga inspires me to play with the mundane and the unknown. It teaches me to soften while remaining rooted. It teaches me to breath into the discomfort and the joy of each day.
Outside of the studio, I work in schools where we teach children to connect to themselves and the world through gardening and cooking. I am also a creator, a dog lover, a dancer, a star seeker, and a Gulf Coast native.
Bio coming soon
As a nurse and yoga teacher, I’m amazed at the human capacity for healing. My intention is to invite students to slow down, move beyond habits and beliefs about their bodies, be attentive, curious and willing to explore, with breath as a constant support in movement or stillness. I seek to bring yoga to individuals of different abilities along the health spectrum.
Yoga helps chill the windmills of my monkey mind (sorry Patanjali!). Yoga found me in the 1970’s, and was a support and refuge during my college years and nursing school. I’ve seen the forms of practice and teaching shapeshift in the years since then, but the transformational essence of the teachings remains. My appreciation for the gifts of yoga has grown and deepened, through living in a yoga community at Kripalu and taking the practice on the road to Russia, as a yoga clown with Dr Patch Adams.
Bio Coming Soon
Lauren Best Shapiro
Lauren Best Shapiro
In 2009, I participated in Soul School at Wild Lotus. My fascination with the breath developed in my work as an OT. Noticing how enhancing breath awareness positively impacted patients’ mood, quality of movement, and decreased their pain, I turned to yoga to deepen this understanding. I appreciate the way yoga informs my work as an OT, and how my therapeutic background enhances my yoga teaching.
I’m a native New Yorker who lived in Chicago before coming to this amazing, quirky and culturally rich city in 2004. I love teaching in New Orleans, with the reminders of creative possibilities, opportunities for new beginnings, resilience, acceptance, and community.
What I love most about teaching at Wild Lotus is cultivating a sacred and safe space for people where they can connect with their higher selves, better understand their purpose on this earth and mindfully step into their power with clarity and grace. For me, Yoga is dynamic. It can be playful one moment and contemplative the next. If I can support someone find peace, equanimity or confidence during practice, even for a moment, my mission is accomplished.
I came to yoga through my meditation practice. Craving a sense of moving meditation and looking for new way to teach, Soul School (class of ‘17) enriched and deepened my approach to mindfulness. In addition to teaching, I enjoy tap dancing, biking, travel and family time with my dog Remy and my fiancé James.
In my class you’ll experience a rhythmic treat of movement and breathing combined with poses and hip music from many genres. Feel free to move as your body desires. I appreciate yoga as an expression of self. It is important that my students feel the freedom to explore what feels right for them while I offer instruction for alignment and modification of poses. I want all of my students to receive the same benefits from their practice. I enjoy watching students evolve in class and beyond the mat.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, New Orleans became my home in 1989. I found Wild Lotus Yoga in my quest to become a yogi and Wild Lotus became a different kind of home – – a place of personal peace. I attended Soul School in 2018-2019 with a desire to give back to the community that raised me. So here I am!
I am a happily married mother of five who also finds fulfillment in my heart work as an attorney and a doula.
In class, expect a creative exploration of subtle awareness, and a strong encouragement to listen to your own intuition to develop a practice that is healing for where you are. My teaching emphasizes mindfulness, meditation, self-inquiry, intuitive movement, and the experience of the subtle body. I believe a yoga practice should be healing and strengthening not only in the physical sense, but also on an emotional, psychological, and energetic level.
I love yoga because it has allowed me become more loving in this lifetime, and has been a gateway to a deeper relationship with body, earth, and Spirit. Essentially this practice has helped me become a better listener. As a visual artist and teacher, I am passionate about the healing power of creative practice, and exploring how art-making intersects and intertwines with spiritual practice. I am deeply inspired by shamanic practices that use ritual and ceremony to honor Spirit and connect with mother Earth and her wisdom.
In addition to completing Soul School here at Wild Lotus, I have studied meditation techniques with Hridaya Yoga in Mexico, as well as Kundalini-based Hatha yoga.
I attended the first Soul School Teacher Training and graduated at the ripe young age of 21. After teaching for several months, my journey took me to Austin. Upon returning to New Orleans, I returned to Wild Lotus and was ecstatic to reconnect with my roots and the studio. I have since attended a Prison Yoga Project Teacher Training, become a medical advocate for the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response organization, and a Doula (birth assistant).
I first found yoga after suffering from serious illness in my early twenties. After recovering from surgery, a close friend of mine invited me to a group meditation and pot luck dinner. I didn’t really know much about meditation, except from what I saw in Kung-Fu movies growing up. My first taste of stillness awakened something deep within me and intuitively I knew there was something there I needed to explore, which took me to India and eventually Soul School.
Yoga showed me things about my mind and body that I never knew. What I love most about yoga is that it moves against the current of our high speed, competitive, and results-based society. This discipline teaches me the peacefulness of patience, the art of process, and the joy of practice.
As a life-long lover of movement, I started my asana practice as a strengthening and preventative complement to my training as a collegiate runner. However, as I challenged my body physically, I cultivated an appreciation of yoga as a resiliency building and healing practice for my mind, body, and soul. I guide through an accessible yet challenging flow infused with creative, fluid, and playful movements. Inspiration for my classes comes from my dance and athletic backgrounds as well as nature and the world around me. I invite students to let their practice move from a place of intuition and appreciation for the magic and beauty of seeking balance and self-discovery by linking breath, movement, and awareness. My practice and teaching continually evolve, as my boundless curiosity drives me to learn, explore and integrate. I completed my 200hr teacher’s training with Wild Lotus’ Soul School and Swan River’s 25hr Restorative Teacher’s Training. Off the mat, you’ll find me dancing on feet and hands as an acro yogi, thrifting for my next project or costume, or seeking adventure and insight both in New Orleans and around the world.
In addition to managing both studio locations at Wild Lotus, I teach Prenatal, Mom & Baby and Peaceful Mamas. It’s taken me years to realize there is no such thing as the perfect parent. Mindful parenting teaches me to see things as they are and not how we wish them to be. This is what brings me to my mat and makes me a better parent to my 2 amazing children. My hope is that by talking about parenting that the journey into parenthood becomes more graceful for the women who come to my classes.
After my first class, Wild Lotus instantly became my home. I am in awe of how the universe led me to NOLA where I met my husband and have the honor of working with an amazing group of people I call my family. I attended the very first Soul School at Wild Lotus Yoga and I am a certified prenatal instructor through Mamaste™ Yoga.
Bio Coming Soon
My classes are alignment based and led from the heart, sprinkled with creative flows and encouraging of self expression. Through connecting movement and breath, we arrive in meditative states that slow our busy mind while still getting our bodies moving. Physical alignment is key – as the more we understand our bodies and the specific way we move as individuals, the closer we can tune into the messages it sends us everyday – merging body and mind.
Off the mat, I perform with several bands (rebeccacrenshawmusic.com) and teach private violin lessons to both adults and youth. I graduated Soul School in 2016 and have since studied yoga therapeutics and am currently completing my 500hr training with 90 Monkeys.
Bio Coming Soon
Yoga to me is the integration of the self: body, mind and heart. I’d been practicing yoga since childhood, but became serious about my personal practice after stumbling upon Wild Lotus in 2013. What began as a way to get fit and escape the stresses of work turned into a practice in self-compassion and mindfulness. In my classes I encourage my students to meet themselves where they are and to get curious about their bodies. I hope to teach students to move from a place of authenticity and inspire them with story, poetry and music.
I completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training with Soul School in 2017 and previously studied Vedanta philosophy for 15 years. I hold a M.A. in Teaching and earned a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Southern California. When I’m not teaching yoga you can find me teaching high school math, cooking for friends, soaking up the sun, and writing about yoga and education at: www.veenasenra.com
I’m fascinated by the physical body — obsessed with anatomy, mechanics, therapeutics, innovative alignment, and using the body as a metaphor in class. I borrow from classical and tantric philosophy alike, and use stories to help understand the tough stuff of life. Most importantly, I think yoga should always be fun — both on and off the mat.
Yoga helped me escape the never-ending hamster wheel in my brain, and then it showed me how to be gentler with myself and dared me to expand my expectations for myself. Laughter and singing are my preferred methods of prayer. I’m a Soul School graduate and a mentor to new teachers at the studio. When I’m not teaching, I’m coaching thoughtful leaders, marrying people (to each other!), and writing about yoga and life at www.veralester.com.
Bio Coming Soon
Yoga, and asana in particular, is a great way to explore the mythos of our being. I find that each movement is symbolic in some way. In my classes, I like to explore this symbology as we mindfully move through the practice. Music is also an inspiration for me, and something I include in my practice and teaching. I love diving into sound whether in a more musical sense or just the sonic bouquet of a gong.
Yoga has been an unfolding practice of fusion and synergy for me. I began practicing yoga while studying literature in college. Soon, I noticed the parallels between the existential philosophy I was reading and the yogic philosophy I was learning outside of class. After I graduated college, I knew I wanted to study yoga and meditation. I left Louisiana for the Omega Institute and it was there where my practice and study of yoga deepened. I enrolled in Soul School when I returned.