POSTED Tue. Jul 19, 2016

Creative Culture

'Namaste' From the Cabildo

If you’ve ever wandered hallowed halls and looked up in awe at the monumental curves in the ceiling of a colossal structure – maybe a museum or a cathedral – and thought about how amazing it would feel to lay on your back and stretch your limbs while taking a deep breath and peering up at history, you’re in luck. Thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit group Friends of the Cabildo, which provides support for the Louisiana State Museum and its properties, you can say Namaste while immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans.

For three mornings per week, the historic Cabildo, located in the heart of Jackson Square next to the St. Louis Cathedral, hosts a hybrid yoga class led by longtime practitioner and Northshore native Nina Boasso. The course takes place within the cavernous second floor gallery that houses the Flags of Louisiana exhibit.

Boasso, who partnered with Friends of the Cabildo in 2009, leads the one-hour yoga practice on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from 8:30am to 9:30am. The class caters to locals and tourists, and all skill levels are welcome.

“I was good friends with one of the directors who is no longer with us,” said Boasso. “He was a student of mine across the lake, and we thought that this would be a great thing for the city after Katrina. It took about three months to put together and then another five years for the business to really start growing, but today – we really have something special.”

On any given day you might see anywhere from two to 52 people (yes, the room is that expansive). Plan to come about 10-15 minutes early to set up your mat, and expect to see regulars trickling in closer to the 8:30am start time.

For both newcomers and regulars, the long hall, complete with chandeliers and stately windows facing Jackson Square, makes for a breathtaking and humbling space.

“What is cool,” explains Boasso, “is that I have so many travelers from around the world. And I have repeat customers from all over the country that come every year for the same convention or festival and make a point to join us at the Cabildo to practice yoga.”

Boasso’s style combines principles of yoga therapy with Iyengar yoga – a style that focuses heavily on precise body alignment and balance achieved through a focus on the breath, strength and flexibility. Her classes tend to emphasize breathing and the yoga precept of mindfulness.

“I focus on breath,” says Boasso, “The breath comes first. Never compromise the breath for a pose – the pose comes after.”

Although the specific movements and poses rotate, the structure of the course remains consistent. A typical class will include both active and passive poses and is comprised of seated postures, balance positions, and stretches that open the chest and the abdomen to improve breathing and digestion, as well as release tension from the limbs.

Yoga mats are provided free of charge, and Boasso supplies props such as blocks and blankets for clients looking for added support to get into a pose.

Boasso notes that her attendees can range from regulars to guests at an annual real estate convention to folks in town for Creole Tomato Festival; the Cabildo, after all, is an easy walk from most hotels. For locals, the 8:30am class time means French Quarter parking isn’t too much of a headache.

The Cabildo houses over 1,000 artifacts and original works of art that showcase the cultures that compromise New Orleans and Louisiana. The building is famously remembered as the place where the French formally turned over Louisiana Territory following the Louisiana Purchase. Designed by architect Gilberto Guillemard and built between 1795-1799, the structure remains one of the oldest buildings in Louisiana.

Drop in rates are $12 per person ($8 for Friends of the Cabildo members) and include a ticket to the Louisiana State Museum. For those interested in being long-term supporters of Friends of the Cabildo, the annual membership is $40.

“Yoga at the Cabildo is an expression of gratitude for the city of New Orleans, our visitors and the great people who live here,” says Boasso.

Image courtesy of Yoga at the Cabildo via Facebook.

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