Our culture is woven from threads brought from Europe, Africa and America, both North and South. Since the end of the Vietnam War with the arrival of refugees, some of whom spoke French and other cultivated rice and shrimped, the Asian influence is felt more and more strongly, especially when looking for the restaurant serving the best phở. Yet Asia's first colony in America was probably established in 1763 on Lake Borgne by Filipino escapees from a Manila galleon commanded by Spain. The village was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915, was called Saint-Malo and may have provided some fighters who took up arms against the British with Jean Lafitte a hundred years before. Later, another community was created in Barataria Bay where locals "danced the shrimp", that is to say, they walked on these crustaceans dried in the sun to remove the shell. When I was a child and asked where the little bags of dried shrimp next to the check-out in the store came from, they always told me about the village on stilts called "Little Manila". Today, Indian food is increasingly popular and even the Festival International de Louisiane honored the music and culture of India during its last Fête du Festival fund-raiser. Bollywood and curry are not the only products of Indian culture for which Acadiana cultivates a growing appreciation. As surprising as it may seem, yoga, after a slow and steady progress, has gained momentum lately and show no sign of slowing down.


A pioneer in the region is Sally Hebert. She grew up in Opelousas but lives in Abbeville. In the 70s, she and her husband Calvin read a book on yoga, fanning their interest. At the time, there was no yoga classes nearby. They gleaned what they could of other books they could find on the subject. They had to travel far to the east and west coasts to deepen their knowledge. Gradually, they participated in workshops in cities increasingly close: Atlanta, Austin, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. At first, people did not know what to think; is this is a religion or just plain weird? Over the last ten years, she sees a greater acceptance of this Asian discipline as also noted James Hebert, no relationship, who has been practicing since the late 90s.


His interest began when a friend and colleague, a certified yoga instructor to boot, shared his knowledge of Eastern philosophies. Shortly thereafter, he is on the mat trying to relax his body into the traditional positions all the while paying attention to his breathing. Only a few individual classes existed; sports clubs and rehabilitation centers had not yet offered it regularly. The first instructors were physiotherapists or masseurs who used yoga as an additional treatment. He said the turning point came when Red Lerille’s gym began offering yoga classes around the year 2000.


How can yoga with its physical discipline and emphasis on eating well with a vegetarian or even vegan diet, harmonize with our joie de vivre and its motto "Let the good times roll"? Sally thinks the connection is obvious: in order to appreciate fully life, you have to feel good about yourself. James recognizes that the regular practice of yoga is challenging here, but notes its increasing popularity. Can the tenacity needed to continue throughout the years, an inheritance from our ancestors emboldened by many trials, explain the success of yoga, as evidenced by the recent profusion of certification courses? Finally, does not a greater interest in alternative healing options remind us of the renewed curiosity for the remedies our grandmothers concocted from the plants found in gardens and forests? Whatever the origin, Acadiana always takes in the best part of other cultures.