By Katie East
Tucked away in a warehouse in Mid-City is a safe space for people of all ages. Grandmothers, LSU students and software developers come together to work on trust and acceptance in a judge free zone.
Is this some new-aged psychiatry experiment? No, it’s Purusa, a growing yoga studio that offers partner-based AcroYoga as one of their many classes. Inner-strength and confidence come free.
Purusa, pronounced Peru-shuh, currently offers more than 20 classes a week ranging from intense hot yoga to a beginner’s level flow. AcroYoga, or Acro for short, is quickly becoming one of Purusa’s most popular classes, combining yoga poses with Acrobatic techniques.
Acro student Tyler Durrett, 33, summed up the classes draw: “It’s all the good things about yoga plus a fun-ass environment.”
Patty Prats, a student at Purusa, specifically sought out Acro classes. Prats, who admits she might be the oldest acro student there, was interested in trying something different than her usual workout.
“It’s a great way for a different type of exercise,” Prats said. “It makes you feel good physically and mentally. Part of that is because of the camaraderie of people. It’s almost like a family you get to know and you’re working out together.”
Durrett wasn’t looking to become a yogi when he signed up for a one-month pass at Purusa. But by the end of the first week he was hooked, and by the third week, he was ready to try Acro. He too can attest to the camaraderie within the classes.
“The Acro group in particular is a community, a family of people. We all became friends and we didn’t know each other before. Now, they’re my people,” Durrett said. “It’s such a crazy awesome way to get to know and trust each other. You break intimacy bounds really fast. You become really comfortable and talk and laugh the entire time.”
It wasn’t by accident that owner Lauren Collignon created such an accepting environment at Purusa.
“Maybe I’m an idealist,” Collignon said, “but I want this to be a place where people can come and feel safe and secure. That makes people want to be here. It’s natural that the community has evolved within the space.
Collignon opened Purusa’s doors, or curtains rather, in September of last year. The studio is still sharing a space with Denicola’s Furniture while their showroom is being built.
The night Collignon heard word that Denicola’s would be moving, she jumped on the opportunity. Collignon, who was battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the time, decided to go with her gut.
“Secretly I’ve always wanted to [open a studio],” Collignon admitted. “Yoga has helped me get through so much in my life and then during treatment I was like, ‘I’m doing it.’ Everything became so clear. I just decided to go for it.”
Now, at 39 years old, she is living her dream.
Collignon assembled a team of yoga instructors she met through her own practice, including Lee Guilbeau, who teaches Acro at Purusa. Guilbeau introduced her to the form three years ago.
The studio, which currently feels cozy and welcoming, is slated to be transformed into a multipurpose yoga center with some select local retail to boot.
“It’s working,” Collignon said of Purusa’s progress. “I completely believe that when you operate from a place of love…it’s not going to fail.”
Collignon attributes the success of Purusa to Guilbeau and the other instructors’ kind and compassionate teaching style.
“With a proper teacher, you’re safe,” Collignon said. “A lot of beginners who have come here, have stayed. They feel welcome. No one has felt judged.”
Prats also appreciates the no judgements mentality.
“Purusa is very accepting of everyone and every level. If there’s someone brand new who doesn’t know what they’re doing, people will go to them say ‘we’ve all been there before,’” Prats said. “Most places I’ve been to you have to seek out help. If you don’t know how to lift weights properly, no one seems to care. You’re kind of just all on your own.”
Prats prefers the benefits that a group environment can offer her, and appreciates the variety of people in the classes.
“There might be a 40 year difference between some people in class,” Prats explained. “Once you’re there on the mat, you’re all the same.”
The studio, which is covered in eclectic furnishings, is as diverse as the classes held within. Old saris Collignon picked up in India have been sewn into pillows cases by her mother. On an altar a Buddha, a Cross and even a King Cake baby sit watching over the classes.
A symbol, Collignon explained, that all are welcome at Purusa.