“Ommm,” Koritansky exhaled last week at a yoga studio in Dupont Circle. Sixteen yogis-in-training were there, all women, all under 35. They meditated together, on the cusp of competing their final, 200th hour of training.
Training with her were PhD candidates and investment bankers, teachers and sales managers, a White House staffer and a lobbyist. Several declined to talk to a reporter, not wanting to tip off their employers about their new passion, or their potential next career.
Five years ago, yoga was becoming so popular among the District’s young professionals that studios emerged as telltale status signs of gentrifying neighborhoods. Now, some of those professionals, in the throes of long, stressful work hours, are repositioning themselves in yoga studios, metamorphosing from yoga student to teacher.
At Studio DC, the number of students in teacher-training classes doubled in 2011 to 80. After 200 hours of training, the yogis-to-be can register with the Yoga Alliance, which has seen its count of registered yoga teachers climb nationally from 20,000 to 35,000 over the past five years. The registration adds legitimacy to a profession that has no formal licensing requirements.
Even considering the growth of yoga across the country, few places are as consumed with yoga as the Washington region. The North American Studio Alliance, a trade group of sorts that is better known as NAMASTA, estimates that the number of yoga professionals has grown by more than 200 percent here in the past five years.
Koritansky was among the thousands who tried yoga because it was the cool thing to do. Five years later, it’s much more. She and her classmates spent six weekends training at Studio DC. That’s in addition to the three regular yoga classes she took weekly. She learned the intricacies of the spine. She was instructed on yoga ethics (flirting is a no-no).
Because it’s yoga, the students kept a meditation journal to help them connect with the harmony of the world. Because it is yoga in the District, the students discussed “branding” their personal styles.
One student has quit her job; many of them hope to transition over time. Some took the class in stealth, hoping their employers wouldn’t find out. Many were there for the same reason the owner, Katja Brandis, started the studio.
Brandis, now 42, decided in 2001 that she’d had enough of her 70-hours-a-week World Bank job. “All my problems were related to stress,” she said. “So I started a business plan and decided to try and change the world, person to person.”
She founded Studio Serenity, now called Studio DC. When she started in Adams Morgan, Brandis said, hers was the only yoga place on the block. Now there are five.