There’s no shortage of ways to practice yoga around the District. There’s goat yoga, yoga inside a salt cave and naked yoga. So, if you want to switch up your routine or try yoga for the first time, we’ve scouted and tested six unconventional locations for classes, including a picturesque rooftop and even a cemetery. (Yes, I’m dead serious.)
These all-levels, vinyasa-style classes are led by trained instructors, and most are free. Many participants are relative beginners, so don’t be intimidated if you’re new to the practice. It’s a good opportunity to get some exercise while meeting new people and exploring different parts of the city.
Wear comfortable clothing, and plan to arrive 15 minutes early, because the instructor may ask you to fill out a waiver. Remember to go at your own pace and let the teacher know before class if you have a preexisting injury or want extra assistance. Pack your water bottle, mat and smartphone. You never know — you may be inclined to snap a selfie with a cat during savasana.
Yoga Mortis at Congressional Cemetery
Don’t arrive late — as I did — or you may spend 40 minutes trying to find the group by frantically hoofing the 35-acre cemetery, where such historical figures as J. Edgar Hoover and John Philip Sousa are buried. (When I asked a fellow visitor whether he had seen any yogis, he replied skeptically, “You mean live ones?”)
While yoga at a cemetery may sound grim, the instructor, Kelly Carnes, says it’s anything but. “It gives everybody a chance to come and enjoy the space and support a local and national historic landmark,” she says. (The cemetery also has film screenings, such as “The Sixth Sense” on Sept. 14, and twilight tours with costumed reenactors around Halloween.) Students typically meet Carnes at the main gates before the class, which is held bimonthly in the cemetery’s chapel or on the shaded grounds near the TKF Foundation bench at the end of the Ward 6 September 11 Memorial path.
After practicing your downward dog, plank and, of course, corpse pose, you can stroll the grounds free. Pamphlets, located near the front gates, outline self-guided tours that range from “Educators, Agitators and Lawyers” (prominent Washington women) to LGBT veterans and advocates.
1801 E St. SE. Certain Saturdays, 2-3 p.m., through October. congressionalcemetery.org. Pay what you can.
Cat yoga at Crumbs and Whiskers
Feline-loving fitness fiends rejoice: D.C.’s first and only cat cafe offers weekly yoga classes. During a recent lesson, the airy upstairs loft easily fit 10 students and 15-some furballs. The cats roamed the practice area, darting in and out of participants’ legs between poses. While some decided to observe the class from high perches, most decided to join in. (One social kitty, Baby, drowned out the directions with his persistent meowing, eliciting giggles from the class.) Halfway through the lesson, we were all given colorful cat teasers to hold and entice the cats with during elongated stances, like Warrior II pose. Afterward, we streamed to the first floor for 30 minutes of playtime, where you can treat yourself to a latte and a macaron. And if you find yourself smitten with a kitten, you’re in luck: The cats are available for adoption and looking for forever homes.
3211 O St. NW. Sundays, 9:30-11 a.m. crumbsandwhiskers.com. $28 tickets, which includes the class and 30 minutes of cat playtime, must be purchased online in advance.
Rooftop yoga and mimosa brunch at the Watergate Hotel
Panoramic views of the Potomac River are the backdrop for this hour-long flow. The class, organized by the health organization In Good Company Wellness, is held on the iconic hotel’s swanky rooftop during warmer months and includes a breakfast buffet, making it the perfect morning activity to share with a friend. The breeze, paired with complimentary chilled water and fresh towels, is refreshing and — according to a nearby mat mate — a great cure for a Saturday night hangover. Mindfulness, stretching and breathing were emphasized by our instructor, Nailah Allen, during practice.
After sweating with up to 70 yogis, we headed downstairs for an expansive buffet of bagels, smoked salmon, eggs, bacon and croissants, along with bottomless coffee, tea and mimosas. There’s plenty to do after breakfast: I swung by the concierge and asked for a quick tour of the hotel’s “Scandal Room,” where E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy orchestrated the infamous break-in of the Democratic National Convention headquarters in 1972. You can also enjoy the hotel’s pool and sauna at no additional cost.
2650 Virginia Ave. NW. Sundays, 10 a.m.-noon. ingoodcowellness.
com . $58.37 tickets, which includes bottomless food and beverages, must be purchased online in advance. A sunrise class with just a juice bar is also offered for $25.
Yoga at BicycleSPACE
The best way to cure the Monday blues is to share some calming oms with fellow classmates at BicycleSPACE. Yes, a bicycle shop. The community-focused D.C. bike chain invites 9-to-5ers to start the week off right with a fun and creative practice in the lobby of their stores. Cozy up near the floor-to-ceiling windows at the downtown location or unroll your mat among a sea of bicycle racks at their flagship shop in Adams Morgan.
At the start of class, a teacher asked us to rank our experience level and, based on that, helped guide us through the movements with a focus on proper form. The downtown class was intimate (there were seven other people in my session), and guests were able to ask questions and receive personal adjustments, making it an ideal destination for first-time yogis. Proceeds of this pay-what-you-can class benefit local nonprofits, most recently New Endeavors by Women, which provides education, housing and employment to homeless women.
2424 18th St. NW and 440 K St. NW. Mondays, 7:30-8:30 p.m. bicyclespacedc.com. Pay what you can.
Yoga in the Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden
Perfect your lotus pose amid beautiful flowers at this popular, year-round garden oasis. Sponsored by With Love DC, a community group that plans events to make the District more “joyful and love-filled,” the class takes place on the lawns just outside the conservatory in the summer and in the West Gallery during rainy days or cold months.
One summer morning, I attended an outdoor session with about 50 other yogis, with the soundtrack provided by the city. (A high school band was repeatedly practicing “America the Beautiful” outside the U.S. Capitol.) Despite the somewhat distracting ambient everyday noises, this is a class with interaction: Some of the balancing moves, such as Warrior II, involved partner work. After class, we gave each other high fives and trickled into the botanical garden together.
100 Maryland Ave. SW. Saturdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m. usbg.gov. Free.
Sound Health Yoga at the Kennedy Center
Didn’t manage to score “Hamilton” tickets? Consider this class your consolation prize. The arts center offers sessions in its light-filled, 630-foot-long Grand Foyer. The popular program — part of the Kennedy Center’s Sound Health initiative, which explores connections among the performing arts, brain development and wellness — has been taught by seasoned teachers from several studios, including CorePower, Spark and East Side Yoga. That means it’s a great chance to sample a variety of local offerings before committing to a studio membership. Get there early to snag a space near the front of the Millennium Stage: Spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and tend to fill up quickly. (By the time I arrived to class, 15 minutes early, 30-some yogis had already staked out their spots.) Try to position your mat beneath one of the foyer’s 15-foot-long crystal chandeliers for an extra special skyward view. And, afterward, walk along the outdoor terrace for sweeping vistas of the Potomac River and Georgetown.
2700 F St. NW. Select Saturdays, 10:15-11:15 a.m., through the fall.
kennedy-center.org. Free, but you must complete a liability waiver online before class.