The Scene: The symbol of the lotus flower as a thing of beauty that emerges out of the mud has a special resonance for the yoga community in New Orleans. Sean Johnson, whose Wild Lotus studio was one of the first to reopen in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, says that he’s seen the city’s interest in yoga blossom in the wake of the devastation. “In 2005, there were five or six studios here. Now, there are 22 studios in the city, across a full range of traditions,”says Johnson, the lead singer of the kirtan group Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. “So many people lost the things they relied on for stability in their lives, and turned to yoga for sustenance. Many people have told us they don’t know how they would have survived in those first few years after the storm without yoga.”

Cat McCarthy, owner of Nola Yoga, attributes the increasing vitality of the New Orleans yoga community to the practice’s ability to help people feel at home in difficult circumstances. “After Katrina, this city needed such healing, and then there was the oil spill,”she says, referring to the 205.8 million gallons of oil spilled in the Deepwater Horizon accident of 2010. “I really think that’s why people have embraced yoga the way they have. Yoga is about learning to respond more skillfully to the things that happen.”

The 55,000-square-foot New Orleans Healing Center, which will house myriad health and wellness services, is scheduled to open downtown at press time. It will include an offshoot of Wild Lotus Yoga, a co-op grocery store, and affordable holistic wellness services. “The idea was to bring the yoga lifestyle to the people who need it the most,”says Johnson.

In a city famous for street music, Mardi Gras parades, and Jazz Fest, it makes sense that people would embrace yoga as another way to celebrate life. A number of yoga-related live-music events take place throughout the year.

Fun Fact: Yoga is part of the curriculum at some New Orleans charter schools, including Pride College Prep, as the city seeks to rebuild and reform a school system devastated by Katrina.

Shout Out: ”It’s such a sensual place,”says Geoffrey Roniger, owner of Freret Street Yoga. “The climate is so conducive to the practice—your pores are open, your muscles feel easy to move. Yoga here is so natural, so easy.”  Read full article here