Sacramento-based studio teaches first-ever yoga classes on White House Lawn

A Sacramento yoga studio has been given the distinction of offering the first-ever yoga class on the White House lawn. Six instructors from Midtown-based Zuda Yoga are teaching several half-hour classes today as part of the annual Easter Egg Roll at the Capitol.

"I like to think it came about because of good Karma and all the good things that we do at the yoga studio," said Zuda instructor of co-founder Anne Marie Kramer.

But Kramer conceded it was also a who-you-know situation. Zuda instructor Leah Cullis is engaged to John Liipfert, the producer of C3 Productions who handled both Barack Obama's Election Night celebration at Grant Park in Chicago and his inauguration. Liipfert called the studio several weeks ago to offer Zuda a slot at the event. But Zuda management had to keep the news under wraps until last week, when they started informing students that some instructors would be out for several days.

"I didn't really fully grasp it at the moment, not fully believing it," Kramer said, adding, "We haven't really been able to talk about it until the White House sent their press releases out. We had to jump up and down on the inside."

The theme of this year's Easter Egg Roll is "Let's Go Play," with numerous activities designed to encourage "America's youth to lead healthy and active lives," according to a White House press release.

Cullis and Kramer are being joined by four other Zuda instructors: Corri Chadwick, Tyler Langdale, Jessica Michelitti, and Bill Prysock, who is Zuda's co-founder and Kramer's husband. They also invited instructors from DownDog Yoga in D.C., MBody Yoga in Jacksonville, Fla., and Cleveland Yoga in Ohio. The company JadeYoga donated 50 of their eco-friendly yoga mats for the event, while other companies donated yoga clothing for participants to wear.

The Obama family includes numerous yoga enthusiasts, according to People Magazine. Yoga practice is reputed to be one of the ways First Lady Michelle Obama got her famous arms. Her 71 year-old mother, Marian Robinson, is a longtime yoga practitioner. First daughters Sasha and Malia do yoga with their mother, grandmother, and godmother Eleanor Wilson-often led by Wilson's younger brother, yoga instructor Stephen Shields.

Cullis and Liipfert met in 2003 while working for the John Kerry presidential campaign in Iowa. She worked on several other campaigns as well, including Phil Angelides' 2006 gubernatorial campaign, and met the Obamas while working on that presidential campaign in 2007.

She recently transitioned to being a full-time yoga instructor. When asked about her stress level, Cullis said, "Much, much lower. Are you kidding me?"

Liipfert continues to maintain a busy schedule flying between offices in D.C., Sacramento, and Austin, Texas. The pair are getting married at a Buddhist retreat in Santa Cruz next month.

Zuda opened in June, 2007. They started a Folsom studio in February, and are currently expanding their Midtown flagship location. Kramer said enrollment has grown steadily despite the recession.

"The one thing people aren't cutting out is the yoga, because it makes them feel better," she said. "And it lasts a lot longer than a martini."

She also said they have been heavily involved in the Sacramento community. The studio gives money to local animal shelters. Zuda instructors have taught classes at the Loaves & Fishes homeless shelter and in schools in Sacramento's impoverished Oak Park neighborhood and. Kramer said she particularly loves teaching yoga to children, who will be most of the students at the Easter Egg Roll.

"The main thing we teach in yoga is that we already have everything we need to be happy and we are perfect the way we are," she said. "It's an awesome thing to teach to children."

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