Om. Om. Om. Walk by D.C. Yoga on Connecticut Avenue, and you might just hear the yogic chants drifting toward the street. For thousands of years, yoga has called people into its practice. Whether you're looking to escape the rushed blur of daily life, seeking increased flexibility or simply want to connect with your spiritual center, chances are yoga is for you.
And yoga studios, such as D.C. Yoga, have popped up all over the country to encourage those budding yogis. Popularized by American Buddhists and Hollywood celebrities (who could forget Madonna's gorgeous spread in W magazine?), yoga has appealed to countless eager disciples looking for more than a sweat-and-grunt workout.
D.C. Yoga's Pomac
''The pace of life has gotten faster so people look to things like yoga and meditation to slow their lives down,'' says Shannon Pomac, an instructor at D.C. Yoga. ''It's one of the only times they get to relax and let everything go.''
D.C. Yoga, in particular, offers a ''mish mash'' of classes, says Pomac, designed to appeal to the novice and the accomplished yogi. Too often, beginners get scared away because of the complexity of the poses or strange-sounding names (to wit, Adho Mukha Svanasana). Avoiding pretense and dispatching with trivia, instructors at D.C. Yoga tailor their sessions to ''meet the needs of a normal person,'' Pomac adds.
Open seven days a week with classes from morning until night, the studio attracts a diverse clientele of men and women of all ages. The physical benefits are plenty: increased strength, more stamina and better breathing. Mental benefits include increased focus, heightened relaxation and a stronger sense of peace.
While the spiritual component of yoga can turn some people off, Pomac says, others say it's their chief motivation for practicing. Moving away from the technology and fast-paced culture that consume our lives, ''people are looking to turn back to something ancient,'' Pomac says.
Often seen as a ''women's sport,'' yoga is attracting more men to the fold. Though the majority of students at D.C. Yoga are women, many men see clearly the advantages in practicing.
Though there's a sense that working out in a gym is somehow more masculine than yoga, the rigors of a high-energy yoga session can knock even the most intrepid gym bunny on his butt. Some men, lacking the natural flexibility of women, might also avoid yoga for fear looking weak or unskilled. But DC Yoga strives to be the ''right fit'' for all students.
Prices for classes vary. An individual drop-in session costs $15, and an unlimited, 30-day package is $144. Students can also take advantage of other deals for groups of classes.
D.C. Yoga is open seven days a week at 1635 Connecticut Ave. NW (top floor). For a schedule of workshops and classes, call 202-232-2926 or visit www.dcyoga.com.