Greetings, Shaw Yogis! We are so excited to introduce you to the new blog! In this space, you can expect to find interviews with some of your favorite instructors, posts about different aspects of practice, and discussions on integrating yoga into your daily life. Please make use of the comment section to let us know what you’d like to see here—this blog is for you!
For our first blog feature, we would like to introduce you to your studio founders, Elizabeth and Parker! Read on to learn more about how they began practicing, what they appreciate most about their practice, and how they came to found the studio that we all know and love.
When did you begin practicing and why?
Elizabeth: I was in my early 20s in DC. I saw people exercising all the time – running, going to the gym, participating in activities that involved elaborate equipment – and I knew it was time to start exercising myself. It was the adult thing to do. I was drawn to the idea of yoga because I associated it with peace, spirituality, and no equipment. (Don’t we all have enough baggage?) I first practiced with a colleague who was a yoga teacher. We got into down dog, and I was delighted and surprised by the simultaneous ease and intensity of this fundamental pose. My first studio classes left me no doubt that this was the way for me, and for many.
Parker: I started practicing when I moved to DC six years ago. As destiny would have it, I injured myself running and was searching for something else to keep me fit. Along with staying active, I was also looking for a community to belong to. A local yoga studio provided both of those things for me.
Do you have a favorite style of yoga? Is it different than the one you began practicing in?
Elizabeth: I am really an equal opportunity yoga tradition lover. I admire and benefit from every school and teacher I’ve practiced in and with, and blend the most resonant parts of these in my teaching. Truly, the reasons I started practicing – to get in better shape, to find peace, and to go within – are my favorite continued benefits, and I try to blend that in my continued practice and teaching. I like intensity and then release, always with attention to some yoga philosophy or teaching.
Parker: Dharma Yoga, which is classical yoga (mediation, asana, pranayama and living according to the yamas and niyamas), has always been my favorite. I was lucky enough for my first class to be with a senior Dharma Yoga teacher here in DC. I left that class not knowing what I had just done but realizing that I needed much more of it in my life. I’ve since gone on to study with the living master himself, Sri Dharma Mittra. I’ve described that time spent with him and other senior Dharma teachers before, where I got all of the questions answered without asking them.
What's your favorite asana?
Elizabeth: There’s the one that’s easy and freeing for my body and spirit, and that’s Standing Half Moon pose. And there’s the one that I was afraid of and avoided for 7 years of practice, and now love and recommend as freeing and empowering, and that’s Headstand.
Parker: My favorite asana/pose is Pigeon. It was the pose that I struggled with most when I came to the mat and still struggle with today. Besides its amazing physical benefits for the body, the pose forces you to go inside to the place in your heart that is already pure and perfect. And it reminds us that that place resides in all beings everywhere. We are all the same. It’s such a healing pose for me.
What's your favorite time of the day to practice?
Elizabeth: Early morning. It just feels so right to be kind to yourself, engage your body, and offer love towards the whole world as the first activity of the day.
Parker: I don’t have a favorite time, anytime really! My physical practice looks different daily, but I’m always practicing being kind, being compassionate, finding forgiveness, and maintaining mindfulness. Most days I meditate in the morning so I can find clarity to the start of what’s usually a crazy, busy day.
What do you love most about practicing?
Elizabeth: That the mat stays the same, and we change, and the constancy of the mat and the ritual of the practice allows us to connect to past and current self, and access respect and devotion for our and everyone’s journey, in that combination of flux and continuity.
Parker: It forces you to stay present. It’s what I struggle with most.
What do you find most challenging about practicing?
Elizabeth: Yoga is full of what might seem like paradoxes, but are really false dichotomies. The same things I love – simultaneous change and consistency – are an example of this. And these things are also what’s hardest about it for me. You want to grow your practice, physically, mentally, spiritually, and yet you also want to accept yourself where you are, and where you have been. Finding that balance between acceptance and continual aspiration to higher planes of attainment is challenging, and inspiring.
Parker: As mentioned, staying present is both the thing that I love most about practice and its greatest challenge.
Do you have a "yoga bucket list" (e.g., a particular instructor you'd love to practice with, a destination you'd love to study/practice)?
Elizabeth: Relievingly, with all that’s challenging about the yoga path, non-attachment in yoga comes more easily to me. I would love to study with great instructors who I know of, and those I don’t, but I have no particular agenda. I’ll see what crosses my path. I would like to do a silent meditation of a week or more, and I’d like to go to India.
Parker: I’ve already checked my yoga bucket list off by studying with Sri Dharma Mittra. I would however, love to take a more trainings with him and I’ve always wanted to make the pilgrimage to India.
When did you start teaching yoga? Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Elizabeth: The feeling of overwhelming love and acceptance, of myself, and of others, that was one of my first intense feelings early in my practice: I felt this to be a calling, and once I was sufficiently grounded and experienced in my practice, I moved towards teaching.
Parker: In 2014, I started teaching yoga to help a friend recover from a surgery. I found it so satisfying to help someone for the soul purpose of helping. I was hooked. We opened the studio in 2015, which was my first time teaching in a class setting. I’ve never looked back!
What led to the founding of Shaw Yoga?
Elizabeth: Parker and I were good friends who both loved yoga. We wanted to create a space that would be warm and small, not centered around a particular teacher, but expressive of many different quality teachers and styles, to create a haven of accessible, inspirational yoga in one of the most intense and interesting parts of DC - Shaw. Like so many things that have happened for the studio, we had that dream, and then a space emerged – the 9th Street original space. It really is sort of Field of Dreams story, or a Harry Potter “Room of Requirement” situation, because then it happened again: when we needed to move spaces, the perfect Naylor Court spot emerged, against what felt like all odds (given the cross purposes of expensive real estate, and a not intensely profit-driven yoga business).
Parker: Everything that Liz said and the fact that the Shaw neighborhood was a yoga desert at the time. We wanted to create a real sense of community for folks there.
What do you hope students will take away from classes at Shaw Yoga?
Elizabeth: A sense of peace, self-acceptance, and a desire to expand past any limitations they thought they had for themselves – mental, spiritual, or physical.
Parker: Peace and acceptance for themselves and their circumstances. It’s easier to practice compassion when you are at ease and can forgive your own self.
What would you say to someone who was on the fence about trying yoga?
Elizabeth: I tend to be suspicious of anything that is growing in popularity, so I get being on the fence. The most common reason for reticence I hear is “I’m not flexible.” And sitting still and talking about the universal consciousness and chanting, I also totally understand that this could smack of faux spirituality. However: there’s a reason for the continued growing popularity. All the great teachers say it: we need yoga now more than ever. Yoga is anti-competition, anti-judgment, pro-acceptance, love, and non-reaction. And yoga classes in general, and certainly ours at Shaw Yoga, are a buffet-style: take what is relevant to you, and leave the rest. If you don’t want to “Om,” just listen. If you’re not ready to do a headstand, don’t. If you can’t touch your toes, just breathe. If the person next to you is doing all those things, they aren’t doing any better than you. And if you try, and decide it’s not for you, engagement with the practice is still a fascinating experience, and you won’t be sorry.
Parker: Yoga is not just the asana. Just be kind to all beings everywhere, and then you’re doing yoga. Who wouldn’t want to try that!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about your founders! Stop by the studio to see Elizabeth for Morning Power Flow on Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. or for Yogalates on Saturday afternoons at 12:30 p.m., and to see Parker for Dharma Flow Yoga on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. and Thursday mornings at 6:30 a.m.