1321 Rockville Pike, Rockville
Walking into Thrive is like walking into a forest: Vines hang from the ceiling and river rock floors with inlaid pebbles massage the feet. The walls look like stone, and statues of Buddha and Shiva punctuate the natural-looking environment. “It’s a sanctuary for me,” says Alan Weiss of Rockville, 55, who practices regularly at Thrive. “It’s just such a friendly place. It really does what I need to get into a true yoga zone.” Thrive offers 35 classes, most Vinyasa flow-style, many of them all-level but others specified as levels I, II or III. Classes are set in one of three hot, but not steaming, studios where temperatures range between 78 and 85 degrees.
Owner Susan Bowen of Potomac is Baptiste-trained—that’s the vigorous, hot yoga popular at Down Dog—but rather than open a Baptiste-certified studio, she looked at the Rockville community and decided something more diverse would serve more people. Vinyasa reaches students at many levels of practice; gentle yoga and anusara classes stretch offerings even further. “We’re not trying to be all things to all people, but we’re trying to match up a practice that leaves people feeling better,” says Bowen.
Linda Parreco of Rockville, a loyal, four-day-a-week student for the past year and a half, says one of the big attractions at Thrive is the people. “One of my reasons for staying with that studio is that there’s a warmth of spirit that comes from [owners Susan and Dave Bowen] and that emanates through the whole place.”
In addition to traditional classes, private sessions are available at Thrive, along with meditation, yoga therapy, yoga massage and even yoga parties, popular among the younger set.
Tranquil Space Bethesda
7475 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 8, Bethesda
Located below Wisconsin Avenue near the Metro station, Tranquil Space is a friendly oasis from the hustle and bustle outside. Packed neatly into a tight space, it includes one studio, a tiny boutique of yoga wear designed by founder Kimberly Wilson and a closet-sized room for acupuncture, massage, reiki and raindrop therapy. The decor is soft and a little fanciful—even the wicker towel hamper and recycling bin are dressed up in a pleasing shade of blue.
But don’t be fooled—there’s serious yoga among the pastel swirls. Classes are Vinyasa-style, but less aggressive than a power yoga workout. The studio is kept at about 78 to 80 degrees. “One of our strong points is challenging our students, but we do it in a gentle way,” says Siobhan Troy-Carranza, who runs the studio and teaches several classes a week.
Tranquil Space leans heavily toward nurture, taking its cue from founder Wilson, who wrote the book Hip Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life On and Off the Mat. Wilson runs the Dupont Circle location, creates a line of yoga clothes (for sale in the boutique), organizes yoga retreats and hosts trunk shows for local female designers—ventures all designed to help people celebrate and nourish the self. Wilson opened the Bethesda studio with Troy-Carranza in 2004. All instructors go through Tranquil Space’s training and are “very consistent,” says frequent student Olga Chistyakova of North Bethesda.
7849 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda
An international chain of more than 120 yoga studios, including 12 in the Washington metro area, Dahn is different from other area yoga studios because it is centered in Korean, rather than Indian, tradition. Most students wear loose, pajama-like uniforms (available at the studio), and the practice focuses on deep stretching, meditative breathing and moving energy around the body through energy awareness. “Brain-wave vibration” is a key concept here, linking mind and body. Dahn yoga, is “focused on strengthening your body, but it’s not necessarily a hard workout,” explains Fatima Abdur of Gaithersburg, who helps manage the Bethesda studio. “By making your brain more flexible, you can become more flexible in your body.”
To help explain Dahn concepts, posters are hung in the hallway and studio, with detailed explanations of chakras—energy points on the body—and postures, numbered for easy reference. Students are encouraged to sign up for a series of classes; instructors say a steady practice will yield the best results.
Many students go to Dahn yoga to improve their health by losing weight, resolving back pain or relieving stress or allergy symptoms. Aurelius Fernandez of Chevy Chase, 77, says Dahn yoga has cleared up his back problems.
Sometimes goals are more general, like improving self-confidence and achieving inner peace. “At my age, flexibility and feeling good are not always the best,” says Carol Moravsky, 65, of Bethesda. “This keeps me flexible, keeps me feeling good, keeps me energized.”
Willow Street Yoga
8561 Fenton Street, second floor, Silver Spring
Willow Street takes students of all levels through countless classes at its two multiple-studio sites, and still manages to keep the experience intimate and personalized. Willow Street teaches anusara yoga, a refreshing combination of movement and meditation.
Described as “light-hearted, yet profound,” anusara is a mix of physical challenge and mindfulness. Teachers use principals called spirals and loops—ways of engaging and describing muscle movement—and encourage students to adjust the intensity of the class according to their ability. Classes are categorized by levels I through IV and include Vinyasa flow, yoga nidra (a restorative relaxation practice), children’s sessions, Pilates and specialties like therapeutic yoga and abdominal or lower back strengthening.
Established in 1994 in Takoma Park, Willow Street’s Silver Spring studio opened in 2003. There are two practice rooms in Silver Spring, painted in earth colors (sand and sage), each with a small altar and the five principals of anusara painted on the wall: “opening to grace, muscular energy, inner spiral, outer spiral and organic energy.” A comfortable lobby features a boutique with yoga mats, books, tapes, clothing and other gear.
Owner and teacher Suzie Hurley of Takoma Park is a nationally-respected yoga leader, recognized beyond anusara partly because many yoga teachers in this area trained at her studio. The studio reflects her warm and welcoming personality. That uplifting attitude is what attracts Sara Sennett of Chevy Chase, 58, who takes a Vinyasa flow class from teacher Maria Hamburger of Silver Spring. “To me, yoga is not only the physical thing, it’s the spiritual thing that goes with it,” she says. “Maria is incredibly uplifting. She’s just so positive.”
3838 Northampton Street NW, Washington, D.C.
At Circle Yoga, the emphasis is on inclusion and mindfulness. Classes focus on developing a presence and awareness through movement, rather than on physical movement for movement’s sake. In addition to multiple levels of yoga, from “Super Gentle” to “Shake Your Soul,” Circle offers therapeutic yoga classes, workshops and private sessions for people dealing with specific issues like anxiety or depression, ADD, ADHD, addiction and chronic pain. “We want everybody to feel comfortable, no matter who they are,” says teacher Jill Minneman. Classes are influenced by a number of yoga styles, depending on the teacher’s training, and include elements from anusara, Iyengar, Himalayan and kripalu.
A beaming Buddha statue dressed in a yoga T-shirt and a plastic lei greets visitors at Circle Yoga. Behind him are three small studios and a spacious lobby/office area with a few items for sale, including a unique selection of children’s yoga gear. Circle began five years ago as Budding Yogis, a children’s yoga studio, and still offers one of the largest children’s programs in the area. Owner Annie Mahon is the mother of four.
Prenatal and “Baby and Me” classes are popular here, too, partly because teachers are experienced mothers. Students in these classes and others have created a support network of sorts that adds to the community feel of the studio.