More than a thousand yogis stretched and posed Saturday on an array of colorful mats spread across the National Mall.
D.C. Yoga Week began May 13 and culminated Saturday with Yoga on the Mall, bringing more than 20 yoga instructors to the Sylvan Theatre Stage, near the base of the Washington Monument, encouraging participants of all levels to challenge themselves and explore their individual practices.
In 2005, four local yogis, passionate about their practices, founded the event to foster D.C.’s yoga community. Organized over a five-month period by DC Community Yoga – a nonprofit with 25 member studios – the weeklong festival offers $5 and free community classes at studios around the District.
“Yoga on the Mall is what community and unity look like in action. It’s beautiful, and very joyful and very fun,” Debra Perlson-Mishalove, secretary of DC Community Yoga and the owner of Flow Yoga Center, located off Logan Circle, said.
Since the first yoga week in 2005, when 12 studios participated and 300 yogis stretched on the Mall, the event has grown to include two sign language interpreters.
Perlson-Mishalove added that though yoga has gained recognition across America, D.C. is particularly receptive to it.
“It really complements what a lot of people are doing here, trying to make the world a better place. Yoga is a catalyst for change and transformation,” she said.
Michelle Mitchell, founder and executive director of YoKid, a yoga program geared toward children, said yoga is beneficial for practicers of all ages.
“Benefits were an increase in their confidence, in their enthusiasm for the practice itself, in the way they would approach things that at first seemed challenging for them,” Mitchell said.
Participants could choose from over 100 classes held throughout the week, with options ranging from basic to Bikram, flow to family and Pilates to power yoga.
Bikram instructor Deidre “Misty” Smith, whose 6:30 a.m. class flooded with new students this week, said the festival offers a chance to learn yoga while cushioning the price tag.
“D.C. Yoga Week is a brilliant concept. Most people doing yoga make over $70,000 a year, but when classes are $5, it makes it more accessible,” she said.
For George Mason University adjunct professor Marja Calhoun, the practice enhances awareness, focus and refined sensitivity.
“I think the most important thing is to find a studio or find a teacher that can help you develop your home practice, so the idea is to get the sequence of postures, and then go to the occasional class to have a teacher give you the adjustments you need to evolve,” Calhoun said.