Yoga: No Fancy Pants Required

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jasmine Chehrazi doesn't believe in yoga pants.

As often as not, the founder of the D.C.-based Yoga District studio leads her class in downward-facing dogs and sun salutations while wearing her old high school sweats.

Which seems fitting for the school's newest studio above a used-furniture store on 14th Street NW. It's the size of a bare-bones studio apartment -- and that's probably what it was before Chehrazi and her friends whitewashed the walls and polished the wood floors.

Yoga District is a nonprofit organization, and it shows. There's no expensive apparel rack or gleaming front lobby, but there's a dimmer switch on the lights and teachers as dedicated as any in Washington. Moreover, classes cost $10, about half what many studios in the city charge.

"We just want to make it accessible to everyone and comfy and not price anyone out," explains Chehrazi, who established Yoga District 1 1/2 years ago after quitting a stressful law career. She jokes that "maybe if there'd been a Yoga District around, I wouldn't have had to quit."

The school, which also has a studio in Dupont Circle, offers beginner and advanced classes as well as specialty workshops and more relaxing, meditative "flow" sessions.

Yoga is meant to increase flexibility, posture, strength and well-being. Lately it seems there's a new studio popping up on every corner, and, likewise, there's a growing abundance of certified yoga teachers in the area.

That, says Ananda Leeke, who runs a local yoga Meetup group, is just one of the reasons yoga shouldn't be prohibitively expensive. Leeke hosts a free yoga session once a month in Meridian Hill Park and frequently teaches classes at other studios, many of which offer free community classes on a monthly or weekly basis.

If none of those options fit, Leeke says, people can see if the yoga will come to them. She suggests contacting a national organization such as Yoga Alliance to ask for names of local teachers willing to conduct classes for groups at community centers or even in private homes. "They have a running list of yoga teachers who are just looking to give back," she says. "You'd be surprised."

It was stolen not too long ago, but Chehrazi used to keep a sign outside Yoga District's 14th Street location that summed up her thinking on the subject. It read: "Yoga Is for Everybody."

"Yoga is a lifestyle," she says. "When you try to make yoga your living, your business, I feel like you're not making it your way of life anymore."

YOGA DISTRICT 1635 Connecticut Ave. NW and 1910 14th St. NW. 202-265-9642. Classes throughout the week. $10.

YOGA MEETUP GROUP Meridian Hill Park, 16th and Euclid streets NW. Meets monthly; next session is Sunday at 11:30. Free.

STUDIO SERENITY 2469 18th St. NW. 202-518-9642. Community classes two times a week. $8.

LULULEMON ATHLETICA 2847 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 703-807-0539. Free classes Sundays at 10 and 7.

LULULEMON ATHLETICA Tysons Corner Center, 1961 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean. 703-821-1357. Free classes Sundays at 10.

To find registered area instructors, visit the Mid-Atlantic Yoga Association Web site,, or the Yoga Alliance site,

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