Lena Manning was in a bind. Her new yoga studio District Flow Yoga at the Wharf in southwest DC had just been open a month when, in March 2020, government directives shut fitness venues down. Manning briefly reopened District Flow Yoga to a mandated limited capacity in the fall of 2020. Requiring limited capacity was bad enough for her new business, but COVID was not the only occurrence that caused Manning to almost throw in the towel. The building owner told Manning her lease would not be renewed.
“I was reluctant to abandon my community of students and teachers,” said Manning. “My manager, Ora Star Boncore and I transferred classes to an all online format while we pondered our options.”
The yogis looked at several possible locations in southwest and southeast. A second floor former cycling studio in Barracks Row caught their eye. It had an open and peaceful interior layout with skylights and soothing blue walls. Just a little over a year ago Manning and Boncore opened up District Flow Yoga there with a skeleton of offerings.
Both women knew they were playing against the odds. Summer months in DC are notoriously slow for business of all kinds. Boncore said, “Financially we had reached a point where it was now or never to reopen the studio.”
“That first summer we saw a lot of unattended classes and had to tweak the schedule quite a bit to figure out what worked with this community.” They continued their well-attended outdoor classes at the Wharf, which Boncore said helped carry the studio financially during its first few months.
District Flow Yoga has flourished against the odds. Its membership (ages 18 to 70s) and class offerings have been steadily climbing, with longtime Capitol Hill residents as well as with recent transplants to DC, said Trish Tillman, assistant manager. The studio’s mission of fostering individual growth within the community by sharing the teachings of yoga in a welcoming and inclusive way is coming to fruition.
“We offer about 40 in-studio classes that include vinyasa yoga, slow flow, yoga sculpt, yin/yang flow and restore and yin yoga classes,” Tillman said. (The first class is free.) District Flow Yoga’s outdoor classes at Transit Pier in southwest on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings continue through September.
This month District Flow Yoga is offering a two-hour sound bath workshop Sept 17. A sound bath is a meditative experience where those in attendance are “bathed” in sound waves.
Workshops on arm balances and inversions are being planned for later in the fall. Pre- and post-natal classes also are coming this year.
Boncore said classes always focus on safety and alignment. “It’s an opportunity to explore your body in a safe secure place where you can creatively explore your mind, body and spirit on your mat. You are encouraged to focus solely how you feel at the present moment.”
Currently District Flow Yoga offers no virtual classes but Boncore said they are looking into reviving them because of student interest. They are also considering hybrid classes that are live-streamed versions of in-studio classes.
For those who want to practice yoga more than they may be able to afford, District Flow Yoga has a work/study program that gives no cost membership for in-studio work.
“I’m happy to be in a community again and feel the way we did before COVID where we can be together and learn. As an owner it’s so rewarding to hear from staff that we are accomplishing what we set out to do when District Flow opened in February 2020. We wanted to keep yoga in the community, not only for the students but also for the teachers,” said Manning.
One of her teachers described Manning and her staff’s kindness, inclusiveness and caring. “In my years of teaching I’ve never worked for a studio that cared so much for its teachers and sees that we, as teachers and employees, have needs that most studios don’t fill.” Another teacher said, “I love how we built the studio. It is cool to see classes fill up and have regular students. We are building a community.”
Recently, the studio celebrated a huge milestone, passing 100 monthly members. “When we left our old location, we discontinued all our memberships, so, when we reopened, we really had to start from zero,” says Manning. “We feel so fortunate to have survived the pandemic and to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this community. I’m beyond grateful to all of our members who trusted us and supported us during our first year, and want to give back more to our community as we grow.”
For more information and to sign up for classes log onto: www.districtflowyoga.com
Pattie Cinelli is a health and fitness professional and a journalist who has been writing her column for more than 25 years. She focuses on holistic ways to stay healthy, get well and connect with your true self. Please email her with questions, comments or column suggestions at: email@example.com.