Category Archives: DC yoga

The yoga scene in the Washington, DC metropolitan area

Healing trauma through yoga reaches the miliary

The military is opening up to non-traditional ways of treating trauma in veterans and wounded soldiers.

Warrior Pose — One way to help veterans with PTSD? Lots of yoga. – The Washington Post
Starting Friday night and running through Sunday, Thurman and 17 yoga teachers from five states will be gathering at Yoga Heights in the Park View neighborhood of the District for yoga for PTSD and trauma training. The studio will host workshops specifically designed to heal and help veterans suffering from both the emotional and physical wounds of war.

I am late with the blog entry, but I have to register the article.

Mindfulness in museums and sensuous overflow

The Phillips Collection is introducing a mindful approach to accessing the art work on display there:

Washington PostAt the Phillips Collection, viewing art through mindful meditation:
As with traditional yoga practice, the mindful viewing program focuses on breathing and its restorative power, says Kanter, who teaches at Yoga District in D.C. and Willow Street Yoga in Takoma Park. “Even just slowing down the breath, noticing and deepening the breath,” she says, can trigger “your relax-and-renew response. When you can mindfully attune to your breath and start to influence it, you trigger deep changes in your body. So that immediately has an impact on how you feel.”

The new approach benefited from yoga therapist Elizabeth Lakshmi Kanter‘s insight. The Phillips will make the program available via a smart phone app. Many European museums already hand out headsets that provide information and commentary in the language of the visitor, but I did not notice any mindful tones in the narration of the headsets that I used.

Proponents of mindfulness have long emphasized the power of breath in managing stress. “It’s like we mimic the relaxed state by breathing more slowly,” says Klia Bassing, a mindfulness meditation instructor and founder of Visit Yourself at Work, a stress-reduction program based in the District. “It’s a state in which the body is more able to heal.” That shift, she says, can stay with you beyond the immediate experience, such as contemplating a work of art. “A body at rest will stay at rest,” says Bassing. “A body at nervousness will stay at nervousness.” (Does using a cellphone as a medium for mindfulness disrupt the mindful moment? Not necessarily, says Bassing: “It’s still effective in bringing the body and mind into a state of present awareness.”)

Photo: tourist crowd in from on Michelangelo's Pietà
The crush of tourists at major museums makes it hard to appreciate the art work.

I could have used more than a mindfulness app when Teresa and I were trotting through museums during our recent trip to Europe. We were there in September and early October when crowds had dropped off a bit. But it was hard to slow down when thousands of multinational tourists are being herded through the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. You almost feel bad when lingering in front of a particular art piece because you’re holding up others.

Of course, you can develop plenty of mindfulness while waiting in long queues to buy tickets, get in the front door or get passed security.

You can only take in so much visual input and stimulus, especially at the major European museums that flaunt their riches with national pride. During our trip, there were several moments when we had to say “Stop, enough is enough.” At the Orsay Museum in Paris, after feasting on Impressionist artists all morning, we walked out and found the sun light a relief from the overpowering brilliance inside the museum. We sat by the Seine River, ate some fruit, and let the emotional overflow spill into the river.

Photo: vaulted, glass roof of Orsay Museum, Paris
The interior of Paris’s Orsay Museum

Should Yoga Be Exempt from the “Yoga Tax”?

Now that yoga studios in the District of Columbia have been lumped together with fitness centers and tanning studios for the purpose of paying the local sales tax, some advocates are advancing the argument that yoga is not really (or exclusively) a physical fitness activity.

City Desk Should Yoga Be Exempt from the “Yoga Tax”?
The Yoga Alliance, a national nonprofit yoga advocacy organization that boasts more than 50,000 registered yoga instructors as members, argues that yoga is not actually a fitness program and should be exempt from the new sales tax that has come to be known as the “Yoga Tax.”

This whole debate gets into the shifting definition of yoga in the U.S. mainstream culture and marketplace. On one side, Christian critics say that yoga is a religious proselytizing activity. The counterargument is that it’s not religious, spiritual at most, and, more commonly, physical as practiced in the United States. Others lament that the “yoga industry” is making billions of dollars a year, which contradicts the whole claim that yoga studios should be exempt from sales taxes.

Curvy Yoga founder Anna Guest-Jelley to teach a class in DC

I think this news is just as big as Shiva Rea or any other big-name yoga teacher giving a workshop in the DC area. Curvy Yoga founder Anna Guest-Jelley will teach a class in D.C. :

 The Washington Post says:
Anna Guest-Jelley thought something was wrong with her body, so she went on 65 different diets. Then, 15 years ago, she tried something that actually made her feel better: yoga.

But instructors didn’t always know what to do with her larger frame, and prodded her into uncomfortable, squished positions. Guest-Jelley remembers thinking, “This isn’t being talked about. I must be the only one who experiences it,” she says.

So the Nashville, Tenn., resident got teacher training and developed Curvy Yoga ( Since 2010, Guest-Jelley has certified 158 instructors worldwide — including one in D.C. and two in Alexandria — in her hatha-based body-positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes. She’ll teach a class in D.C. next week.


Thieves in the Temple

This is not the first time that I’ve heard of theft in DC-area yoga studios, but Amy Dara gives a first-hand account of confronting a team of purse thieves while teaching a class:

Maybe you’ve heard the chatter in the Washington, D.C. yoga community: there are two young women stealing wallets from students’ bags during yoga classes at D.C. Metro Area studios. They’ve struck in Tenleytown, Bethesda, and Kensington. They entered the studio while I was teaching.

When students are on the mat, they are especially vulnerable because their focus is on their practice, not their personal belongings that may be stashed outside the room, in the hallway, in shelves or the dressing room. Studio operators may not turn up their alertness until the first incident happens; they trust their clients, too. Because most studios have limited space, it’s not always feasible to allow non-yoga items to clutter up the floor.

When I used to go to yoga in downtown DC after work, I arrived with my work paraphernalia, including a laptop. Now, I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving my wallet, smartphone and non-essential items in my car when I go into the yoga studio, not because of fear of theft, but a desire to lighten my load physically and mentally when prepping for class. Of course, that’s not possible for people who don’t drive to class.

DC Council to lay tax on yoga studios and other fitness businesses

The issue of how to treat yoga studios under the DC tax code has come to the forefront again:

Washington City Paper Yogis Go Mad Over Proposed Yoga Sales Tax
Although the proposal doesn’t just target fitness studios, the tax has been dubbed the “Yoga Tax” by people who oppose it. The Council gave preliminary approval this week to charge the city’s 5.75 percent sales tax on services like health clubs and tanning studios that previously haven’t been subject to it. The sales tax would also extend to bowling alleys and billiard parlors, barber and beautician services, carpet and upholstery cleaning, car washes, construction contractors, and mini-storage.

Since this measure is part of the annual budgeting process for 2015, the time frame is going to make it hard to alter the decisions already made by the DC Council. Many critics say that the measure is a tax on healthy behavior, but yoga studios are still businesses that are subject to other Federal, state and local taxes. Mayor Vince Gray is a lame duck and has already lost a lot of his pet initiatives so he could not influence this decision one way or the other.

There was also an article in the Washington Post. Here’s the Facebook page of the campaign against the new “yoga” levy.

Yoga, kirtan and the special child find a sangha in Sterling

I’ve been meaning to write an entry about Gita’s Dreama Kirtan group led by Gita Krista Zember and her husband, Christopher. It runs out here yoga studio, BE Yoga, in Sterling, Virginia (think Dulles Airport). They hold chanting sessions at yoga studios around the DC area, including Yoga in Daily Life in Alexandria and lil omm in DC. Last year, they participated in DC Kirtan Fest; there’s more to the kirtan scene in DC than you might think. She picked up kirtan in 2007 and it’s blossomed into a root of her yoga practice and teaching. Check out the schedule of performances; there’s a couple of things almost every month.

“I now have a Yurt studio out here  teaching Hatha Yoga, Meditation, Living Yoga, Reiki, Yoga for Children with special needs and a whole lot of Kirtan! All of the money earned from our kirtans is donated to girls in India rescued from sex trafficking that I go visit and work with there in Kolkata.”

Gita is trained in the Kripalu and Integral Yoga traditions, and has been influenced by other teachers.  She leads yoga sessions for special children, which is definitely an under-served group.

I will add her to my DC yoga directory as soon as I can. By the way, a yurt is a portable dwelling typical of nomadic tribes of Central Asia steppes, but in the States it’s come to be an example of sustainable buildings.

DC Yoga Week is upon us again!

It’s that time of year again: DC Yoga Week (9th time around). It stretches from Monday, April 28 to Sunday, May 4.  The crowning event will be Yoga on the Mall, Saturday, May 3, 10:00 am–12 noon.  It’s a big, public display of yoga, led by some of the best teachers in the Washington Metropolitan Region, as well as master teachers such as Shiva Rea.

You can find more information on the DC Yoga Week site or its Facebook page. The event is organized by the DC Yoga Community and 30-plus yoga studios and instructors.

Other Resources

New yoga listing for DC

The Washington, DC area just got a new yoga studio directory: DC Area Yoga. It looks that it has been operating since the start of the year, according to its blog. It also covers wellness and apparel. More power to them.

The operators seem to have a relationship with a Philadelphia directory and a Chicago one.  But if they want to feel intimated, just check out the other Chicago directory and print magazine: illumine. It has more than 200 studios listed, feature articles, commentary and a newsletter.

Being inspired by art in a yoga class at the DC yoga exhibit

Every Sunday, the Sackler Gallery’s Art in Context offers the chance to practice yoga in one of the Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibit’s salons. You will have to register ahead of time, and the class has a cost of $15, about what you’d pay in a yoga studio. There are specialized classes for kids and seniors. If you are interested, you need to hurry because most of the slots are sold out, even into January.

Washington Post – Sackler’s ‘Art in Context’ lets participants practice yoga in the gallery
The marble jina from that first room was in Susan Levine’s head throughout the class. “It looked so relaxed, but really very aware. That’s the essence of meditation,” said Levine, who lives in Rockville. The other image she couldn’t shake: The black-and-white video of two legendary teachers, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and B.K.S. Iyengar, that played on a screen right next to where the mats were rolled out. “It’s history looking down on you,” she said.

You can’t just throw down a mat and start doing a Sun Salutation while you’re touring the exhibit. The Smithsonian requires a certain decorum and protocol. Of course, I dont’ think a guard or monitor would stop you from slipping into Warrior II when you feel inspired.

My YTT pals are planning to visit the exhibit this Sunday, unless they chicken out with the excuse of overbooked schedules and family duties.