Next month (the official grand opening celebration on February 11), New York City yogi Dana Trixie Flynn will open the Church of Yoga—a space to "party and pray," complete with gospel music classes on Sunday and a baptismal font filled with glitter—in New Orleans.
Think of it as chaturangas with playful references to religious traditions and a Big Easy soundtrack, courtesy of the Laughing Lotus founder.
"Let’s bring people together, support each other, sing, create a place for community to gather—and if the gospel is love, then we’re in great shape."
And it all came about with a healthy dose of, yes, divine intervention. On a recent visit to New Orleans—a city Flynn has regularly visited since it stole her heart over 20 years ago ("It was just everything I ever dreamed of in a place," she says)—she was riding her bike around and spotted an intriguing building for sale in the 7th Ward.
"This church jumped out and was like, 'Holla!'" she says (which sounds like a perfectly reasonable scenario, if you know Flynn). It was a Baptist church for 28 years but had been severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina and needed to be completely gutted. So, Flynn finally made her big move south and got to work.
"When we were painting the front, people were honking the horns and excited," she says about the structure, now adorned with silhouettes of Martin Luther King, Nina Simone, the Dalai Lama, Louis Armstrong, and more. "Nobody feels like I’m coming in to gentrify. People are feeling uplifted and positive."
Here's what you need to know about the Church of Yoga.
A parish of pranayama
With studios in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and San Francisco, Laughing Lotus is expanding into the South for the first time with the Crescent City studio. And the space Flynn is building is unlike anything she's done before. Think: kitschy religious references, like the aforementioned baptismal font of glitter and a "Church Lady Cafe" that sells juice shots with names like the "Our Father."
The Church of Yoga's approach to the practice is different, too. The yogi plans on pairing her ethos—which emphasizes adding joy, love, and a sense of playfulness to the tradition—with the music of New Orleans, by having local musicians play live in many of the classes offered.
"Every time you turn a corner in New Orleans, there’s music," she says. "It’s a reminder, like yoga, that it's never going to be easy, but there’s always a reason to celebrate."
Playing in the spiritual realm
When I ask Flynn if she's afraid the concept may be seen as sacrilegious in a city with such deep religious traditions, she says she thought a lot about the issue but has so far gotten only positive feedback.
Sharing what she sees as the transformative power of yoga is her goal, and she emphasizes the many spiritual practices yoga and church share: singing, awakening, community, charity. "Let’s bring people together, support each other, sing, create a place for community to gather," she explains, "and if the gospel is love, then we’re in great shape." Plus, she'll be using the space to give back, too; there are plans to offer as many donation-based meditation classes as possible to serve the locals.
As we speak, I can hear workers bustling around her ("They’re painting the side of the church pink today," she says), then asks me to hold on because two locals are peeking inside to see what's going on. I hear the entire exchange—from Flynn explaining it will soon be a center for yoga and meditation to the women erupting in laughter at the name. "The Church of Yoga!" they exclaim happily, the music of New Orleans ringing in their voices. "Oh, we'll definitely be back!" Sounds like Flynn's already got a few believers.
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