Not a High Price to Pay

How Yoga District manages to provide low-cost classes and keeps adding locations


Students get into a twist at Yoga District's 14th Street location.

Yoga is a priority worth spending money on for 29-year-old Kat Zambon. Just not that much money. That’s why you’ll find her several times a week at Yoga District, where she never shells out more than $10 a class.

“I shop around for everything and there aren’t cheaper places,” says Zambon, who’s impressed that the money-saving decision hasn’t been a sacrifice. “A lounge is nice, but I don’t feel like not having it is a step down.” The classes provide her with a sense of community, and getting there couldn’t be more convenient. She lives near the Bloomingdale studio and works near the new I Street studio.

The downtown location that opened last month is its fifth studio, making Yoga District a full-fledged yoga empire. It’s also it’s cheapest because founder Jasmine Chehrazi has insisted on keeping prices what they were when she opened in 2006. “When we walk around handing out fliers and people ask, ‘How much?’ We say, ‘$10 or less.’ That changes people’s perception of yoga,” she says. “It’s not a luxury spa treatment.”

Yoga District’s commitment to affordable yoga has paid off by bringing in students who would otherwise be intimidated by the practice. And any money Yoga District earns, Chehrazi explains, goes back into their non-profit mission. “Everybody who’s with me, rather than personal wealth, we’re working toward community wealth,” she says. That’s made it easy to count on folks to pitch in with their expertise for free, whether it’s legal assistance or website design.

Whatever Yoga District would have spent on those services is instead funneled into opening more spaces and directly into the pockets of instructors, who can find it difficult to survive under a typical pay structure. “If you have a cold and you have a sub, you’re usually not getting paid,” says Chehrazi, who’s committed to giving senior instructors set salaries and paid time off. New instructors are paid by attendance, and offered educational opportunities to improve their teaching.

Yoga District instructor Mike Graglia (who also happens to be a consultant with an MBA) was drawn to the studio specifically because it doesn’t focus on the bottom line. But he’s tried to use his business know-how to help streamline the finances and suggest improvements. After comparing prices at virtually every other studio in Washington, he determined that Yoga District is coming in at 30-40 percent cheaper. His suggestion: Up prices by 10 percent. “She’s giving it away. I tell her, “You’re killing yourself because you’re working so hard. Stop being stressed out.’ They’ll still be the cheapest prices in town,” he says.

Despite Chehrazi’s rejection of the proposal, Graglia says he’s not worried about Yoga District’s future, even though it’s currently just sustainable rather than profitable. “[Chehrazi] doesn’t think like most people. You could call it reckless or inspired. I call it both,” he says. With the scale Yoga District has built up over the years, he thinks the business model is just crazy enough to work.

Chehrazi keeps turning up expansion opportunities she can’t refuse, so more Yoga Districts are likely on their way. “Communities need yoga all over,” she says. “People are waiting for studios in their neighborhoods.” And she wants them to get it for $10 or less.

D.C. Yoga Week

Time to get into happy baby pose. D.C. Yoga Week — which offers free and $5 classes — kicks off Sunday. Here’s what you need to know.

Locations: There are two dozen studios across the region (including ones in Maryland and Virginia this year) participating. See who’s on board and find their schedules at Dccy.org/dc-yoga-week.

On the Mall: Pull your mat up to the Washington Monument on May 19 for Yoga on the Mall, a huge, all-level event that starts with a kiddie session at 1:30 p.m. That’ll be followed by an acro yoga demo, and then a class at 3 p.m. Details are available at Dccy.org/yogaonthemall.

Yoga for A Cause: Would you do 108 sun salutations to support a program that brings yoga to youths? Then head over to GW’s University Yard (2000 H St. NW) on Sunday at 2 p.m. for the YoKid Challenge. It’s $5 per person, which includes snacks.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Christopher Porter · May 8, 2012