Free yoga classes this Spring at the Kennedy Center. [Image: Alia J. Khan | Flickr]

Under crystal chandeliers and on an iconic red carpet, a vinyasa flow class took place in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on March 4th. Approximately 100 people of varying ability levels laid out their yoga mats to do asanas in the Grand Foyer of the Kennedy Center, a space traditionally used to toast cocktails before an opening night.

This was the first of 13 free yoga classes offered by the Kennedy Center as part of the Sound Health program. In partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Sound Health aims to explore the important and sometimes surprising connections between the performing arts and mind-body wellness.

Each of the 13 yoga classes are to be led by instructors from different yoga studios in and around Washington DC. The first class was led by Alia Khan, owner of East Side Yoga in Capitol Hill. She said that the magic of teaching a class at the Kennedy Center was what attracted her.

“It’s such a magical place. I love the theater, and the opportunity to teach in a space like this was — you certainly couldn’t walk away from that,” she told WTOP in an interview.

The director of special programming at the Kennedy Center, Matthew Winer, considers the yoga classes and other Sound Health initiatives a fitting tribute to the eponymous American president.

“What better place to activate our living memorial to President Kennedy and welcome people here, and what better reason than to activate healthy living and encourage healthy lifestyles,” he said.

In keeping with the center’s purview of the performing arts, the yoga classes are to showcase the use of music in yoga. This is another facet that encouraged Khan to teach the class, who strongly believes in music’s power to “unplug from the hamster wheel of the mind” and just be present in the moment.

“It’s like a moving meditation,” Khan said. “If I know somebody is mouthing the words or dancing along a little bit in their down-dog, I know I’ve succeeded.”

The class on March 4th attracted 130 people, which is the capacity of the venue. Winer added that students wishing to attend the future classes should reserve a spot on the official website.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a cultural center located on the Potomac River, adjacent to the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. It produces world-class performances in a broad range of genres: theater, dance, ballet, and orchestral, chamber, jazz, popular, and folk music, as well as multi-media performance art.


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