I entered the studio on a weekday evening to find a dozen girls either sitting with prim ballerina posture or warming up with sun salutations. I noted happily that there was a good two feet of space between the mats--no tumbling onto your neighbor when you flip your dog here. (Saal says class capacity is 25, so it may get more crowded.) As my mat neighbor warns me of the sweat and soreness to come, I spot a male student--the first I'd sighted in my unscientific sampling of barre studios in the area.
Enter the bubbly Saal, clad in a colorful Lululemon outfit. She tells us we're going to learn to add more grace and fun to our yoga flow and have the chance to work on certain body parts, as she pats her behind.
Class starts with some vinyasas, or yoga movements that flow from one to another through breathing, and then Saal begins seamlessly integrating ballet into the flow; think three-legged dog to low lunge to arabesque. Some of the ballet influences manifest as subtle changes, such as doing chair pose with ballerina arms over your head, but some are things I've never done before (dancer's bridge, anyone?). When performed properly, the moves are graceful--even a bit sexy.
And as my mat neighbor promised, we're all sweating by the ten-minute mark. Saal remembers names and issues verbal corrections and hands-on assistance to each person in the class--all of whom are essentially new, since the studio opened only two months ago.
About three-quarters of the way through the class, the yoga-ballet flow gives way to the actually barre part of the class, which involves some leg lifts and small movements: "Think clench, Kegel, clench, Kegel, clench, Kegel," Saal directs. There's a short abdominal sequence with standard fare such as the boat pose.
It's worth noting there's minimal Pilates-style mat work or postures in the class (most barre classes are Pilates-based). Though Saal has studied Pilates, along with classical ballet and Budokon, she says she always felt more connected to yoga.
Her yoga-based version of barre has apparently lit a spark in the area: The classes have been so popular that she added three new timeslots to the schedule for this month. The unique fusion of Indian and French practices is perfectly summed up by how Saal ends the class: with a "namaste" and a curtsy.
Epic Yoga. 1323 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-833-5914. Single classes are $18, and first-time guests can purchase a $20 pass
for one week of unlimited classes. More rates can be found on the website.