Barb Blum’s Life of Yoga
after practicing yoga for 30 years, Eau Claire native has returned to teach
Barbara Arnold, photos by Andrea Paulseth
Barbara “Barb” Blum is a new yoga instructor in town. Yet she’s not new to Eau Claire.
Born and raised in Eau Claire’s Shawtown neighborhood, the daughter of two teachers, Barb returned recently because “Eau Claire is home to me.” Though Norwegian to her core, for the past half-century she has logged thousands of miles across the nation, traveling to Alabama, Texas, Colorado and back, then on to Milwaukee, Phoenix, Tokyo, northern California (Saratoga and Los Gatos), southern California (Malibu and Santa Ynez) and Philadelphia.
She is a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, friend, Old Abe, downhill racer, U.S. Army medic, Army veteran, Blugold, registered nurse, wife, mom, certified yoga teacher, aunt, step-daughter, orphan, divorcee, and grandmother. Barb is proud to have served as a U.S. Army medic in the hospital and clinics at Fort Carson, Colorado – valuable experience for earning her nursing degree on the G.I. Bill from UW-Eau Claire.
Throughout her life, yoga has been her constant. Barb first got a taste of eastern philosophy in high school when she took a course in transcendental meditation (TM) in Eau Claire, which also introduced her to yoga. The TM movement and other gurus coming to the United States helped bring yoga to the Western world, and after moving to Silicon Valley with her then husband, she took up Hatha Yoga – or physical yoga – in 1993 to help with the stress of being a busy mom of three children under the age of 12 and running a household. After Barb studied Hatha Yoga for a year, her teacher called upon her to teach yoga classes, and she has been doing so ever since as the field of teaching yoga has evolved.
As a registered nurse and certified yoga instructor, Barb’s mission is to help students explore how yoga can be a tool for health and well-being. With extensive background in the philosophy and history of yoga, she blends her knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and body mechanics with the science and art of yoga. In the 30 years, she has taught thousands of classes and taken thousands of classes as part of her study of yoga. Her primary training is in a branch of Hatha Yoga called Iyengar Yoga, an alignment-based approach with the use of props and modification when needed. Barb specializes in assessing individual needs and giving safe adjustments with permission or upon request. She offers opportunities to explore breathing and meditation techniques and the movement of energy throughout the body.
“I come from a wellness perspective on health, and to me, yoga is a way for people to integrate wellness – mind, body, and soul – into their daily lives,” she shared in a recent face-to-face interview at the Acoustic Café after leading a class at the Chippewa Valley YMCA in downtown Eau Claire. “Adapting yoga to suit the needs of the individual person is where the true greatness of yoga lies.”
Standing at the head of a large exercise room, a beautiful smile on her face and glowing from within, Barb’s petite stature reflects her 30 years of daily yoga practice. Barb’s intention is to offer a posture or pose that starts the class in a mindful way. She begins each session with a brief, quiet meditation, and in the background harp and chime-like sounds come from a Chakra Suite CD. As she moves through various poses leading the class of 10 people, her calm and compassionate voice emphasizes that yoga is not competitive, each person does what they can when they can, depending on their own flexibility. At the end, the class closes with “namaste.”
Her students consider her a yogini, the feminine form of a yogi, or someone who adopts yoga into their day-to-day life and commits themselves to the practice to maintain a level of adeptness. After class, one student comments on how fast the hour-class went by, living in the present moment. Another student stops by to thank her for suggesting doing one particular pose while watching television or brewing his coffee in the morning. To incorporate yoga into his daily routine had never occurred to him.
Which is precisely Barb’s gift: providing her students with options on how to incorporate yoga into their daily lives … just as she has for the past 30 years.
For additional information, please reach out to the Chippewa Valley YMCA and Latitude 44 Yoga Studio, where Barb Blum is currently teaching.