Emma Saal leads Red Sun Yoga, a practice that welcomes additional movement.
With 5,000 square feet of space, three yoga studios, two lounges, and plans for a food and retail operation, Epic Yoga is living up to its name.
What it is: The Dupont Circle center is a hot yoga studio, a yoga studio with a ballet barre and a traditional yoga studio all under one roof. Even if you’re not taking a class, there are plenty of other reasons to hang out, says director Emma Saal. The “recovery room,” where students are invited to linger, will soon be stocked with cucumber water and chilled towels. The bar area by the reception desk is already a comfortable place to grab tea and flip through yoga books. Eventually, juices and snacks, and works by local artists will be sold there. The intention, Saal says, is to be able to welcome visitors throughout the day, starting with Sunrise Yoga at 6:30 a.m.
Moves: For now, most of the offerings are fairly general, and Saal plans to let the schedule evolve according to student demand and teacher availability. The exceptions are Saal’s two signature classes, “Red Sun Yoga” and “Barre Yoga.”
Saal — who’s half-Japanese — was inspired by the symbol on Japan’s flag when naming her fusion of Budokon (a martial arts/yoga blend) and Prana Flow (the expressive, breath-focused style developed by Shiva Rea). Rather than having students hold each posture rigidly, Saal encourages students to use each pose as a chance to explore their bodies. So cat-cow becomes more of a multidirectional undulation, and you slither up gradually into cobra. For 24-year-old Kelsey Tallon, who has yet to be disappointed sampling Epic’s schedule, it’s a welcome change. “It’s not holding Warrior Two for 25 breaths. But it’s not so loosey-goosey that you don’t know what you’re doing,” she says.
Saal’s also been tapping into her ballet background to develop “Barre Yoga.” It has more of a cardio component than most of Epic’s other classes and is a sneaky way for Saal to improve students’ form. “You can say, ‘Grab onto the wall for stability when we do this.’ But they feel self-conscious and won’t do it,” she says. “With the barre, you can make them.”
Workout: “These classes are about getting into your mind, body and spirit. They’re not just an athletic practice,” Tallon says. But barre yoga, in particular, she adds, “kicks your butt in a major way.” Ken Mendelsohn, 47, who’d never practiced yoga until discovering Epic, has found the classes challenging but welcoming to a beginner. “It’s very hard, but I didn’t think you could feel this wonderful after exercise,” he says. It helps that classes end with a mini massage with lavender or eucalyptus oil.
Crowd: Many of the students so far have been folks who work in the neighborhood. That’s why Epic’s offering one-hour classes every weekday at noon, and promoting the fact that not only can you get yourself cleaned up after class (there are three showers for men and five for women), but you can also get your laundry done. The goal is to make getting to yoga epically easier.
Details: First-time students can get a one-week pass for $20 or a one-month pass for $50. Epic is at 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW. To get more info, call 202-833-5914 or visit Epicyogadc.com.