studio overviews

YOGA LAGNIAPPE goes directly to the source, studio owners, just for you.  We help you get a feel for studios in your area by interviewing their owners. YOGA LAGNIAPPE is not a listing service. We value our credibility and strive to maintain a strong relationship with the local yoga communities we serve. Yoga studios and teachers do not pay to be listed or interviewed. We do this to provide our community with the most impartial and useful information possible.

When in Doubt, Paddle Out: h2ohm SUP Yoga

Interviewee: Nikki Carter
Studio Owner: Cheryl Golich

I am happy to report that I finally went to a stand up paddleboard (SUP) yoga class! It’s been on my goal list for two years now and I ventured out a couple of weeks ago to one of Cheryl Golich’s classes on Bayou St. John. I would love to someday develop a regular water practice; it’s challenging in a completely unique way and brings a completely different level of awareness to your practice. Cheryl recently started a regular class schedule with her new company, h2ohm, and I followed up with her to get more information. Also, be sure to check out my interview with Cheryl from last December.

My friend Courtney & me before we began our practice on the bayou! (All photos courtesy of Cheryl Golich)

My friend Courtney and me before we began our practice on the bayou! (All photos courtesy of Cheryl Golich)

NC: How did h2ohm evolve? The last time I interviewed you in December 2013, you were teaching classes sporadically with Jeff of NOLA Paddleboards.

CG: This summer, I took advantage of a SUP Yoga teacher training with Floating Yogis in Southern California, where I grew up. The first time I tried paddleboarding, I felt a strong desire to combine SUP and yoga, and this training gave me the tools to take my classes to a new level in a safe and fun way; it also sparked a deeper desire to bring this practice to New Orleans. We have copious amounts of water in this area and the warm weather makes for a great combination.

I love what Jeff Lakey at NOLA Paddleboards has done to promote paddling in Louisiana. He has been very busy with preparation and planning for his Lakefront store, which will be opening soon, and my desire to teach classes on a very regular basis led me to start my own business, which is how h2ohm emerged! We are starting off small. Classes are limited to 6 people, which allows for a super safe environment and lots of individual instruction. I have two outstanding teachers working with me, Lauren Darnell and Shannon Hill, who both share my passion for SUP yoga.

I was able to try lots of different styles of boards in California. They actually make boards specifically designed for a yoga practice! And you can get boards with LED lights to paddle or practice yoga at night. What will they think of next?! It was very important to me to find a quality board that was made in the United States. Most boards are made in China, Thailand, or Peru. I found a great board that was functional, super stable, and made in Hawaii. I got to meet the husband and wife team who started the company over 10 years ago – the husband, who grew up in my hometown, designs and shapes the board. He is an avid surfer and designed an amazing board that is very versatile. Although I am focused on combining yoga and paddleboarding, I really want people to have fun out on the water and develop a love for this rapidly growing sport. Stand up paddleboarding is a blast, it’s easier than most people think, and it’s a great way to explore the water around us and workout.

NC: What are your regular class days and times?

CG: Wednesdays: 7:00-8:30 AM

Saturdays: 8:00-9:30 AM and 10:00-11:30 AM

Grouper Therapy: organize your own group and schedule your own time and place for a class.

We are planning a Grouper Therapy class for parents and kids right now!


NC: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from taking your practice on the water? I know it was incredibly challenging to concentrate so intensely on building my poses from the feet up.

CG: Doing yoga on the water is very challenging. The poses that seem easy on your mat can be much harder on the water. But that’s part of the connection for me – the practice keeps you very grounded and focused, and you are outside enjoying nature. It’s easy to get distracted on your yoga mat, but balancing on the board keeps you in the moment. Playing with different alignment on the water and building the poses from the board up become very important. I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than lifting into a backbend and seeing the beauty of nature all around you – while you are upside down!

SUP yoga does get easier each time you do it. Getting more comfortable on the board usually leads to the desire to try more challenging poses. Because of this learning curve, we encourage people to come out on the water more often and offer discounts on multiple class cards – “one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish!” (Yes, I grew up with Dr. Seuss.)

NC: What are the most common concerns you hear from students…reasons they are scared to try SUP yoga? What should they know to help dispel those fears? I had some friends say they were scared of falling in the water and getting bitten by mosquitoes.

CG: Some people have a fear of falling, but it’s truly empowering to overcome this fear or to realize that it really isn’t that bad to fall in the water. Our class sequences are designed to build confidence on the boards. Staying as relaxed as possible and moving slowly and mindfully definitely helps keep you on the board. I also always have extra sunscreen and bug repellent!


Thank you for reading! As a special thank you, Cheryl will offer 33% off drop-in classes or multiple-class cards to YL readers. You can register on the h2ohm website by using the promotional code “YogaLagniappe.” Be sure to follow Yoga Lagniappe on Facebook and Twitter.  To get lagniappe delivered directly to your inbox click here and enter your information in the box at the top right corner to subscribe.


Studio Name: Free To Be Power Yoga

Location: 3507 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA

Owner & Interviewee: Janae Holmes

Interviewer: S. Brooke Bailey


Free To Be has been open for about six months, and has already had a big impact on the New Orleans yoga community. The studio is influenced by Baptiste Power Yoga.  All classes are taught by Baptiste-inspired teachers and have a fluid style that challenges students physically and mentally. Your Free To Be experience will not only stretch, strengthen and empower your body and being, but you’ll have way more FUN than you thought!

SBB: Can you give us a little background about how the studio began and why you chose the name Free To Be?

JH: I moved to New Orleans in August of 2011 from Chicago where I was greatly involved at a Baptiste-Affiliate yoga studio called Om on the Range.  It was at this studio that I FELL. IN. LOVE. with the practice and knew I wanted to have my own studio one day. The Baptiste YogaTM practice is designed to empower you with the focus, training and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice and active self inquiry are used as tools of transformation – encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, create authenticity, and instill confidence and new possibilities.

Moving to New Orleans, I was challenged to find a “yoga home” as there weren’t any Baptiste-style yoga studios or classes. I began teaching at several different studios in the city, but knew I wanted to share my love and passion of the Baptiste practice with New Orleans.  While there are power yoga classes offered here in NOLA, I knew that the community could immensely benefit from the Baptiste Power Yoga style and methodology.

In March of 2013, Lauren Darnell (at the time, the only other Baptiste-trained yoga teacher in New Orleans) and I decided to introduce Park Yo’ Mat, an outdoor yoga series offered in Audubon Park.  This was our initial introduction of Baptiste Power Yoga to New Orleans.  Shortly after, we teamed up with a good friend and fellow Baptiste-trained teacher, Kelly Boudreaux, in Morgan City, LA to create a 200-hour power yoga teacher certification program (Registered Yoga School through Yoga Alliance).  We thought, what better way to introduce this style of yoga to Louisiana than to create amazing teachers!  With both of these ventures underway (Park Yo’ Mat and the teacher training school), I knew it was soon time for me to open up a studio of my own!

As partners in the teacher training school, Kelly, Lauren and I went through at least 60 names before coming up with Free To Be Power Yoga School. Free To Be is a great representation of what we believe about life…we all have the choice to do, to create, and TO BE whatever we want!  The name Free To Be Power Yoga is a simple reminder to our students and the greater community of that exact phrase…we are “free to be whatever we choose!”

Kelly already had a yoga studio in Morgan City called Karma Project Yoga, and she and I decided that we would become “sister studios” under the same name, Free To Be.  Kelly’s studio in Morgan City is now Free To Be Power Yoga Morgan City and I own the studio in New Orleans, Free To Be Power Yoga New Orleans.  Lauren is involved with the Free To Be studios and is dedicated to the amazing non-profit organization she founded, Yoga Power Play.

SBB: How do most of your students describe the studio and your classes?

JH: At Free To Be Power Yoga New Orleans, the students are always commenting about the sense of community.  They feel welcomed and integrated into the Free To Be family after their very first class.  It’s as if they’ve been coming to the studio for years!  One of my goals at the studio is for every student to feel at home as soon as they walk in the door.  I want them to feel that it is their studio just as much as it is mine!

The students also love the way they feel after class – the temperature in the room combined with the physical intensity of the practice and the heat and energy generated by the number of people in class, is what makes them feel so rejuvenated and detoxed after class. All this sweating along with the positive messages that the teachers at Free To Be share throughout class is what makes our students keep coming back (every day for many!).

And lastly, my students love how powerful and rigorous the practice is.  They are gaining flexibility, strength and physical transformation!  My students tell me how they feel challenged in new ways every time they come and love that no two classes are ever the same.

SBB: The studio offers a program by Baron Baptiste called 40 Days to Personal Revolution. Tell us more about what is required of students and the benefits they might experience by participating in the program.

JH: This program has absolutely transformed my life – more than once!  In short, the program includes 40 days of yoga, meditation and journaling.  In addition, caffeine, sugar and alcohol are eliminated from your diet and daily routines throughout these 40 days.  The combination of these elements help you create a powerful personal transformation.

Created by Baron Baptiste, the 40-day program is designed for growth and whole life health to create a focused, limitless, rejuvenated you! It is absolutely accessible to EVERYONE regardless of circumstances (fitness level, age, occupation, background, etc.).  It was designed to create space in your life to access new power and possibility that may have been dormant or that you didn’t even know existed within yourself.  It is my hope that through this program you will be capable of letting go of limiting habits for clarity of mind, a rejuvenated body and an awakened spirit.  It is not just another “quick fix” workshop or diet, but rather a whole-life revolution to feeling your very best!

SBB: What do you hope students leave a Free To Be class with?

JH: A huge smile, some new friends and of course a feeling of balance, fulfillment and POSSIBILITY! I hope that students leave class with the insight to discover their full potential, to live passionately, and to create confidence and new possibilities for their practice and their life.

After all, at Free To Be, we are dedicated to empowering you to live NOW, in THIS moment, with power, purpose, and possibility.  We are here to inspire action in your life and help you realize that you are free to be whatever you choose!

Free To Be Power Yoga offers new students the opportunity to practice as much as they like for 30 days for only $30. So get to one of their classes soon and tell them you read this interview on Yoga Lagniappe.


Studio Name: Yoga Krewe
Location: 2112 Belle Chasse Hwy, Suite 12
Gretna, LA 70056
Studio Owners: Michelle Gunnell (Mark’s wife and Jen’s sister-in-law)
Mark Gunnell (Jen’s brother and Michelle’s husband)
Jennifer Gunnell (Mark’s sister and Michelle’s sister-in-law)
Interviewee: Michelle Gunnell     Interviewer: S. Brooke Bailey

The Westbank finally has it’s own yoga studio thanks to a family initiative. Jen, Michelle and Mark Gunnell recently opened their studio in Gretna. The vision for the studio has been about a year in the making. Jen moved away to build her career living in Dallas, Memphis and Minneapolis for a period of 6 years. She found her way back home in July of 2013 to be closer to her family and the city of New Orleans. Nothing beats home, especially since these three come from a very close knit family. They love being part of a small community and are now excited to share the benefits of yoga with that community on the Westbank.

SBB: Tell our readers how the three of you became involved in yoga and why you decided to open a yoga studio together?
MG: Jen has been practicing yoga for several years. However, her love for yoga really grew while she was living in Minneapolis. When she moved back home to the Westbank in the summer of 2013 she found several studios in the area to practice, but really hoped for something more convenient for her work schedule.

I  grew up addicted to movement and danced for 20 years. I took yoga classes here and there, but it didn’t quite stick until I was pregnant with my first child and tried prenatal yoga. From that point on I was hooked. But after having a child, working on the Eastbank and living on the Westbank, it became difficult to fit in my practice.

Mark has always been active, but is relatively new to yoga. Following years of prodding, Jen finally got him to go to some classes with her when she moved home and he is now wondering why it took so long for him to get on the mat! After discovering our mutual love for yoga we dove right into the SmartFLOW Teacher Training at Shanti Yoga Shala, to immerse ourselves in the practice. After a few weeks of tinkering with the idea of opening the studio, we knew it was the right decision. The Eastbank has so many fantastic studios and the Westbank deserves one too! So we accepted the challenge and we are so glad we did!

What’s that saying? The family that does yoga together, stays together!

The Krewe!

SBB: Does your studio focus on one particular yoga style or are you offering a variety of classes?
MG: Right now, we are offering Vinyasa Flow as well as Gentle Flow classes. We have decided to stick with beginner and intermediate level classes for the time being because we have so many beginners. Our teachers are really great about making modifications to the poses so that even a beginner in an intermediate class feels comfortable and stays safe while practicing.

At the moment we are developing classes for a kids yoga program and would like to add a prenatal class to our schedule. We are actually still hiring for these types of teachers if anyone is interested! Because our studio has two dedicated yoga spaces we can have classes run simultaneously, which will be wonderful for all of our Westbank yogis to get their practice in!

SBB: Yoga Lagniappe frequently gets questions from our readers about yoga offerings on the Westbank. Until now, we have only been able to direct students to isolated classes in gyms, etc. What has the reception for Yoga Krewe been like so far?
MG: The reception of Yoga Krewe has been amazing! So many people walk in daily (or post to our Facebook page) and let us know how happy they are that the Westbank finally has our own yoga studio! Actually, there have also been several people who said that they thought about opening one themselves, but just couldn’t do it at the time. The comments and love from this community have been such a wonderful affirmation that we have done something great by opening Yoga Krewe.

SBB: You mentioned you have a lot of beginner students. Are you also getting interest from seasoned yogis?
MG: We have gotten several seasoned yogis, but the majority of our students are new to yoga altogether. Which is fantastic! It is quite common to hear the students say that they have always wanted to try yoga but just couldn’t fit the travel to the Eastbank into their schedule.

SBB: How do you want people to feel when they enter and leave Yoga Krewe?
MG: We want everyone who comes through our door to feel welcomed and comfortable, just like they would walking into their family home. And when they leave, we hope they will feel centered and secure knowing there is always a place to practice yoga just around the corner!

SBB: What kind of impact do you hope Yoga Krewe can make on the Westbank?
MG: We hope Yoga Krewe can have a strong and lasting impact on the Westbank by spreading the love of yoga so that it becomes a part of people’s lives.

Lagniappe: The first 10 YL Subscribers that mention this interview when they arrive at Yoga Krewe will receive their first yoga class FREE!

studio overviews

YOGA LAGNIAPPE goes directly to the source, studio owners, just for you.  We help you get a feel for studios in your area by interviewing their owners. YOGA LAGNIAPPE is not a listing service. We value our credibility and strive to maintain a strong relationship with the local yoga communities we serve. Yoga studios and […]