Erin Rauscher: Back Om Again

Erin Rauscher balances in dancer pose while instructing a class at her studio, Yes Power Yoga, in Huntingburg on April 29.

Story by Allen Laman

Photos by Traci Westcott

Erin (Krieg) Rauscher sends messages unlike the kind that pop up on smartphones and computers.

Her petite frame resting on a yoga mat, she soothingly reminds her students to breathe. To become aware of how their bodies feel. To focus on what really matters, and to let go of what never did.

Mindfulness from yoga brought clarity to the Huntingburg woman’s once-cluttered life. After spending nearly a decade away from Dubois County, she has returned and become a recognizable lightning rod of optimism in the area — a prominent leader devoted to bettering her community and sharing her expertise.

Some days are so busy she can hardly stop to catch her own breath. She owns and leads classes at Yes Power Yoga in Huntingburg. She transforms the busiest of spaces into makeshift yoga studios that bring the ancient discipline to schools and workplaces across the county. She also coaches Girls on the Run and T-ball, and at home, she is raising two spunky boys with her husband, Dan.

Erin’s story is one of journey, growth and service. Family always comes first for her, but leaving a legacy she is proud of in a place she loves is also a top priority. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s important, while you’re here, to give back,” she said.

When working as a school teacher in Washington, D.C., she lugged bags of ungraded assignments and unimplemented lesson plans on the city’s metrorail as she struggled to keep up with the paperwork. She grew overwhelmed by the weight of her career.

Erin dabbled in yoga while studying at Purdue University, and she decided to roll out her mat again in D.C. when her mind began to feel more and more scattered. The results were life-changing.

Erin leads her class in a final Om, a meditative mantra, at her yoga studio on April 29. Erin teaches 11 to 15 classes a week.

The craft increased her focus, allowing her to lead a more purposeful existence while retraining her brain to tackle one task at a time and silence distractions.

“I was in my breath, I was focused,” she said. “And I never really felt that way before. And since I was feeling better, I just wanted to do things better, naturally. Eating better and thinking better. And I was starting to feel more positive.”

Erin finished her nine-year stint on the East Coast thriving as both a yoga instructor and a school teacher. To become an instructor, she trained for hundreds of hours in classes and workshops, and she’s trained for hundreds more since.

But eventually, it was time for a change. She and Dan — who worked in construction and project management — wanted to start a new chapter in a new place.

Dan was ready to take over his family’s dairy farm in Huntingburg. Erin was behind him 100%. And so, six months after Erin gave birth to the couple’s firstborn son, Liam, the Rauschers left the noisy city to come back to their quiet hometown.

Erin and her son, Liam, 6, play I Spy at the lake behind their house in Duff on April 22.

“You don’t realize how important your roots are until you move away,” Erin said. “And I think, obviously, during that time in D.C., it gave me a lot of time to grow up. So I grew up out there, and you start to realize how important your hometown is. And you want to give back.”

Finding a way to lead yoga — a personal activity that helps people feel good — was the first step. Opening her own local business came next.

Erin and her husband Dan have a beer together after yoga class at the Gaslight Restaurant in Huntingburg on April 29.

Upon returning to Huntingburg in 2013, she taught at various area locations before landing her own studio in a brick building on Fourth Street. She outgrew that space and has since moved to another on the same street. Inside, Erin instructs classes covering a variety of forms of yoga in the establishment’s ornate and bright interior.

They range from the powerful and energetic vinyasa flow, to yin, which hones in on deep stretches and positions held for long periods of time. She also trains new instructors who have gone on to lead classes at Yes Power Yoga and work at other area studios.

“I wanted to find something that served a purpose,” Erin said of her decision to open her own studio. “I wanted to be a purpose.”

In the years since, her efforts have expanded outside her studio and into classrooms, gymnasiums and offices throughout the county. After leading a one-day partner yoga course during a Southridge High School gym class in April, students said the days Erin visits are among their favorite of the year.

She meets with classes, clubs, athletic teams and even teachers, bringing yoga into their lives in an opportunity that they might not have had otherwise. The positive mental health messages the practice sends can be a huge benefit to teens.

“I think about myself at that age, and I didn’t accept myself,” Erin said. “And I really struggled with that. We’re always questioning who we are, but I think at that age there’s a level of, I don’t know if I like who I am. And yoga gives you a chance to love yourself just through breathing. Appreciating your breath.”

Erin helps Southridge sophomores Kaylee Krieg, left, and Nakia Blume with a stretch during a yoga gym class she taught at the school on April 12.

Scott Buening, a Southridge physical education teacher and coach, invited Erin to the school for the first time about five years ago to work with the Raider football program. If a session gets pushed, Buening said her absence is noted.

“We skipped yoga one time during football [season] on Labor Day weekend, and I had a couple of our hardworking kids come up and say, ‘Don’t ever do that again,’” Buening recalled. “Just the difference they felt. They had no idea how much what she was doing with them was actually benefiting them until they took a week off, and then they weren’t happy about it.”

He later added: “She just carries a presence, and she’s one of those people that when she walks in, you just get in a better mood. You feel better. It’s who she is, and she’s like that every day.”

Erin dims lights at MasterBrand’s corporate headquarters in Jasper weekly, and has also donated time to leading classes for employees at Kimball International and Ditto Sales. After a free, midday session at MasterBrand in April, one first-time attendee said she’ll never miss one of Erin’s future visits.

“I love my job, but it’s very mentally demanding,“ said Jill Ransom, a pricing associate at the company. “So, to me, this was very freeing.”

Erin’s constant involvement in the community does create scheduling debacles with Dan, who also leads a busy life on the farm. They often pass off their two boys — 4-year-old Rhys and 6-year-old Liam — throughout the day. Without Dan’s understanding and support of his wife’s passion for community service, she said making her way to all the stops on her loaded schedule would not be possible.

Erin Rauscher helps coach Girls on the Run at Huntingburg Elementary School on March 6. Erin works with the program to be a supportive role model for young girls.

“But I think it’s kind of mutual,” Erin explained of their relationship. “I saw that his need to want to carry on the tradition was important, and that he also valued that I felt like there was just a need for something to make people feel happy.”

Dan is a fifth-generation owner on the sprawling farm. (His parents are Mark and Alice Rauscher.) He said because he and Erin own their own businesses, they can pick their own hours to a certain degree, which helps. When he hears of the positive impact his wife leaves on the community, it makes him smile.

“It’s great, because it’s kind of verification that what she’s doing here is meaningful,” Dan said. “Folks wanting her to be involved with what they’re doing, that makes it really nice.”

Erin’s recharge times come in quiet moments, like jogging by herself and spending time with her father at Sunday church services. She recognizes others in the community do as much as she does, and some do more. But she hopes this story inspires more people to get involved.

“Find something you’re passionate about, and then go from there,” she said. “Everybody has a gift.”

Erin and sons, Rhys, 4, left, and Liam, 6, head to the family dairy farm to visit Dan down the road from their home in Duff on April 22.

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