For Petworth residents, new and old, it's om sweet om
The two yoga studios serving Petworth and neighboring Park View aren't just for "young hipsters," says one studio owner.
Petworth residents are experiencing community building in a new way as yoga studios are becoming anchors for calm, focus and connection.
Three years ago, Julie Eisenberg opened Lighthouse Yoga Studio—the first yoga studio to directly serve Petworth residents.
“In terms of learning about yoga and how to practice yoga, we're one of the best studios in town. We're very small and we're very unpretentious. People don’t come in wearing fancy yoga clothes or anything like that—we're very casual,” says Eisenberg, who began practicing yoga in the mid-1990s after a stressful work experience.
Yoga isn’t about working out and breaking a sweat, she continues, “It’s about how to transform yourself through the practice, how to empower yourself and how to you learn this in a way that is safe and sustainable.”
Lighthouse Yoga is also the only studio in the city that regularly teaches Kundalini Yoga, often referred to as the “yoga of awareness,” which incorporates dynamic postures, breathing methods, gestures, body locks and chanting. It’s also one of the very few studios that teach hatha yoga—a practice that focuses on physical postures, breath and meditation, allowing students to gain flexibility, strength, and be more relaxed during stressful situations.
While Kundalini draws in crowds from all over the city, the goal isn’t to be the biggest yoga studio in town, says Eisenberg. One of the most popular classes is the basic fundamentals of yaga that caters most to Petworth residents—many of whom are not who most people assume to live in the developing neighborhood.
“I know people think of Petworth as a place where all these young hipsters are moving in, and to a certain extent that's true, but the reality is that most Petworth residents have lived here for many years and its an older demographic,” says Eisenberg, who’s lived in the neighborhood since 2006. “So we really work to make sure that we meet the needs of everybody in the neighborhood.”
Jess Pierno was also intent on uplifting her neighbors when she co-founded the Yoga Heights studio just blocks from her home in 2014.
“We're trying to really break down any barriers and we don’t let budget get in the way,” she says. “If people come in and say they want to try yoga, we find a way to let them try yoga and we are trying to keep it very casual and non-intimidating. We try to make it feel like a place that everybody feels welcome and everybody can learn something at Yoga Heights.”
Just south of Petworth metro, Yoga Heights is at the crossroads of Park View, Columbia Heights and Petworth and most students come from the surrounding neighborhoods.
“If we drop a pin on the map for where our [students] live, its really clustered within a half mile of the yoga studio,” she says. “It’s also really cool that a lot of our teaches live in the neighborhood and they take a lot of pride in that, too, because they’re teaching their neighbors and community.”
With over 20 instructors inside the studio, Pierno has recently found herself teaching in local schools, offices, residential buildings and community centers under the Yoga Heights name.
“A big priority for us is to bring the yoga to people who otherwise wouldn’t come into the studio,” she says. “[And] people in the neighborhood are excited about getting healthy and wellness. The fact that they're interested in fitness, health and nutrition bodes well for the neighborhood.”
The receptiveness of residents may also be an indicator that more might yoga studios are on the way.
“It definitely keeps us on our toes, but I think in general it’s just a positive thing,” says Pierno. “If more styles of yoga are coming into the neighborhood, more people will get used to it and more people will have access to classes—so ultimately it’s a great thing.”