Dancing Mind owner Paula Baake is transforming more than just bodies. She’s also challenging the traditional gym experience.
There are no treadmills or weight machines anywhere in the 8,000-square-foot space in Falls Church. But there is a cozy living room with couches clustered around a fireplace. Members can pause there before choosing their workout for the day: yoga, CrossFit or cycling.
All three disciplines cultivate a social atmosphere, which is just what Baake wants at Dancing Mind.
“When you go to these big-box gyms, you don’t feel like you have this connection with the other people that are there,” Baake says. “We crave that connection. Deep down, we’re animals and we crave that pack mentality.”
There was only a small pack of students around for the founding of Dancing Mind Yoga in 2007 — it was a nine-person class in Baake’s bedroom. Within a year, the group outgrew that space, and she relocated her yoga program to one studio in the current building. No more than 44 mats could fit, so as more students showed up, Baake took over more square footage.
By September of last year, Dancing Mind finally had to cut back on something: its name. Baake dropped the “Yoga” to reflect the new, broader reach of the business, which now offers 120 classes taught by 30 instructors each week. It has three yoga studios, a 20-bike cycling room, two coaching rooms for one-on-one instructor/student or health counseling and a CrossFit box.
CrossFit’s Olympic lifts and kettlebell swings don’t look like they have much in common with yoga’s tree pose and warrior II, but the fitness philosophies do overlap, Baake says.
“A lot of people think that CrossFit tightens, but actually CrossFit really roots people down into their bones. It’s all about alignment,” she adds.
Many of the exercises even resemble one another. Take, for instance, the walking standing splits that CrossFit coach Cassidy Ginivan likes to have athletes do as a warm-up. To do the move, you place your hands flat on the floor, lift a leg straight up behind you, swing it forward to take a step, and then stand up and repeat on the other side.
That position looks an awful lot like a downward dog with one leg extended back, which yoga teacher Ronnie Goff frequently has her students do during all-levels classes.
Yoga and CrossFit share a connection with cycling as well. Chair pose and wall balls — squatting while holding a weighted ball, bouncing it off a wall and catching it as you squat again — build leg muscles that help students pedal harder.
Baake, an avid mountain biker, also recognizes that being in the saddle can be every bit as meditative as a series of poses on a mat.
During a recent hourlong ride, instructor Emalee Gawrelski asked participants to visualize heading up a hill while remembering to breathe and keep their arms relaxed.
Dancing Mind’s one-stop shop for cardio, strength and flexibility has hit the spot for Elina Xanttopoulos of Falls Church, who joined two years ago for yoga. Now she’s quit her traditional gym membership and incorporated CrossFit classes into her regimen — and she’s persuaded her husband to join her.
“When I work out, I have a set routine I do three times a week, and it’s the same thing I’ve done for 10 years,” says Alex Xanttopoulos. “This is different exercises every time I come. I feel like they push you past your normal comfort level, but in a good way.”
Arlington resident Amy Fang says the combination membership adds up to more than what she’d get at multiple gyms.
“It’s a whole healthy lifestyle,” Fang says.
And if history is any indication, Dancing Mind will only get bigger.
Dancing Mind (929 W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-237-9642; dancingmind.com) offers a $75 unlimited membership for 30 days to new guests. Drop-ins are $25, or $15 for seniors, students, military teachers and first responders.