‘Yoga saved my life’

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Lydia Lagenour took over ownership of Fire horse Yoga in July of 2017. Here, she walked amongst the participants of a beginner's class Monday night and occasionally stopped to assist in movements or poses.


JASPER — It was chance that introduced 33-year-old Lydia Lagenour to yoga and the practice has since changed her life.

During her senior year at Indiana University, the 2002 Jasper High School graduate and former cheerleader remembers seeing a friend out in front of her house doing big toe pose — which includes standing tall on one foot, grabbing your opposite and foot and extending that leg out in front of you.

“She was just standing there like that,” Lagenour said. “It’s similar to a cheerleader thing we would do, too, and I said, ‘Oh, are you doing some old cheerleader moves?’ She was like, ‘No. No. This is yoga.’

Lagenour had heard of yoga before, but didn’t quite know what it was.

Her friend was taking a yoga course for credit and encouraged Lagenour to enroll.

“You should really look into it,” Lagenour remembers her friend saying. “I think you’d really love it.”

So, Lagenour signed herself up and a new passion was born.

“I just loved it with my whole heart,” she said. “From the get-go I was like, ‘This is my speed, everything I really need to fulfill myself.’”

Lagenour demonstrated using blocks for certain poses during a beginner's yoga class Monday evening in Jasper.

According to the Yoga Journal, the word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit word, “yuj,” which means to yoke or bind. “It’s the union or yoke of the mind, body and soul,” Lagenour said of the yoga practice, which dates back thousands of years.

Most yoga practiced today, the journal says, is asana, “a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.”

At the conclusion of Lagenour’s yoga class at IU, she proceeded to attend classes at every studio she could find in Bloomington. When she was home in Jasper — her parents are Patricia and Donald Lagenour — she also attended classes at Fire Horse Yoga on the Square.

Upon graduation, she moved to Louisville for a job working with troubled teens at a girls home that included a lot of recreational therapy and art therapy. She had studied social work at IU.

After a year in that position, she took a job as a recreational therapist at an adult psychiatric hospital in Louisville.

Throughout her time in the city, she continued to explore yoga during her free time and discovered a studio that she went to as often as possible.

She found her professional work to be stressful, which made her even more grateful for her yoga practice.

“It was also a blessing having that community aspect of yoga,” she said, also saying that she incorporated yoga therapy at her job at the girls home and then at the psychiatric hospital.

"I never wanted to own a particular yoga studio," Lagenour said. "I just knew I wanted to own this yoga studio. This place has brought me so much joy and healing." She used singing bowls at the end of a beginner's yoga class she taught Monday evening in Jasper.

She remembers instances when her yoga was met with some skepticism at the hospital.

“We had a lot of guys that had been in prison. A lot covered in tattoos, big burly guys, shaved heads, just a rough-looking crowd,” she said. “I would come in and lead the guys in meditation or yoga and almost every time I’d walk in, it would be a new group, and they would all groan, ‘Are you kidding?’ and all these jokes about how they’re too masculine for that. It would just crack me up because every single time at the end of class, the tattooed, big burly prison guys were the ones that would walk up to me and say, ‘That was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. When are you coming back?’”

Then, something happened in November 2007 that changed her life forever.

Her friend, Natalie Wessel, came to visit her in Louisville and on her way back to Jasper, Wessel was killed in a car accident.

“Everybody has one major tragedy in life where they rethink everything,” Lagenour said. “The fact that I had been the last person to see her was just horrific.”

Ten days later, another friend died suddenly of a drug overdose.

Lagenour assisted Sarah Blackgrabe of Ireland in a pose during a beginner's yoga class Monday evening in Jasper.

Lagenour continued living and working in Louisville, but realized she wasn’t functioning well emotionally. The grief was just too much to bear. “I held it together for about a year and a half and then I started to crumble,” she said.

She moved back to Jasper in the fall of 2009 to try to sort out her life.

“It was depression,” she said. “That describes that heartache and the amount of despair I went through.”

Back in Jasper, she found a part-time job at Grounded Organic and Natural Foods and attended yoga classes daily at Fire Horse.

“It was deep depression and yoga was exactly the medicine that helped me come out of that,” she said, saying that at the studio, she felt “so welcomed and loved in a healthy and supportive way.”

“I was feeling good about working the sadness out through the body and breath,” she said.

As she slowly got herself on the right track, Lagenour began to consider teaching yoga. Fire Horse’s owner at the time, Tina Drew, had the same idea and helped her get started teaching at Fire Horse.

After about a year, Lagenour said she was itching to get back to the city, so she moved back to Louisville. She worked at a vintage store for a while and eventually returned to her position at the psychiatric hospital. Around that same time, she signed up for formal yoga teacher training, a 200-hour certification, which she completed in 2012.

“It’s like going back to school. It is not an easy thing to achieve,” she said. “I always tell my trainees that I almost quit in the middle of it. It’s very intense. You’re learning a new language, a whole new history. You’re learning a new way of pretty much thinking.”

Lagenour led a beginner's yoga class through a chant before starting a series of poses Monday evening in Jasper.

Following training, she taught part-time at a studio in Louisville and continued in her position at the hospital until Carrie Klaus, a woman she met through the Louisville Vegetarian Club, made her an offer she couldn’t pass up. She asked Lagenour to teach at her southern Indiana studio, Inner Spring Yoga, which has locations in both Jeffersonville and New Albany.

Lagenour accepted and moved to Jeffersonville.

“It was a good fit from the beginning,” she said. “The perfect place for me to grow as a teacher.”

She soon found it was difficult to make a living as a yoga instructor, so she found a part-time job at a local chocolate shop. As her student base increased, she slowly dropped hours at the shop.

She taught at Inner Spring for three years. At one point during that time, through a subconscious train of thought (she really hadn’t considered leaving Jeffersonville), she reached out to Drew at Fire Horse and politely asked if she would ever consider selling her business.

People had always asked Lagenour if she planned to eventually open her own studio, but she always said no.

Lagenour assisted Julia Jalles of Huntingburg in a pose during a beginner's yoga class Monday evening in Jasper.

“But I did want this particular studio,” she said. “On some level, it’s very special to me.”

Drew replied to Lagenour’s initial request and said that she wasn’t considering selling at the moment, but she would let her know if that were to change.

A year or so later, in late 2016, Lagenour felt called to ask again.

“I told her I’m still interested,” Lagenour said. “ She wrote back, ‘I’m ready.’”

Lagenour calls the exchange “serendipitous,” because she happened to contact Drew at exactly the right time.

She officially took over Fire Horse Yoga on July 1, 2017, in what she calls a “big leap of faith.” The Jasper Chamber of Commerce held the business’s ribbon-cutting last week to celebrate its new owner.

Since Lagenour took over the studio (Drew still teaches there, as does another previous owner of the studio, Phil Barth), she hasn’t changed much because she said she “didn’t want to shock the system.” She wants to honor the studio’s past, but also make it her own. 

The studio no longer offers massages and Lagenour has added additional yoga instructors and classes. She’s also planning some future cosmetic changes to the space, which is located at 513 1/2 Main St., above EJ and Dots on the Jasper Square.

Lagenour wants the studio to be an oasis for clients, a place for them to “find their center and connect with their highest self.”

“People come in here physically in pain, spiritually in pain,” she said. “Mentally, they come in in bad shape sometimes. As a teacher, I know that by the end of class, nine times out of 10, they look completely different. A lot of times they get exactly what they need from that session.”

Her hope is that yoga can help others like it did her.

“Yoga saved my life. Literally, my heart had broken,” she said. “By sharing yoga, we’re helping to change the world.”

To learn more about Fire Horse Yoga, visit www.firehorseyoga.com.

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