Profile of an Entrepreneurial Petworthian


Elizabeh, Yoga House, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Allow me to introduce Elizabeth Greathouse, who actually lives in Brookland but her business Yoga House Studio is located right on Georgia Ave. and Princeton above Temperance Hall. So that counts.

First, let me set the scene. I had arrived to the interview a bit early so I conveniently was able to grab a drink at Temperance Hall downstairs from the Yoga House. So it was quite a contrast, initially, when I walked up the stairs to meet Elizabeth. I was immediately hit with the smell of incense burning and I almost expected to see my college buddies sitting on the floor listening to some Grateful Dead, as I stumbled upon a huge number of shoes on the third floor landing. I dutifully took off my shoes and knocked on the door. There was dead silence. So I opened the door and peaked my head around. I saw about a dozen folks sitting on the floor in what I assume was a yoga position, um, breathing. Yikes, I instantly felt awkward. So I’m sitting on a bench just chilling when all of a sudden the entire group starts chanting. At this point, I’m saying to myself, maybe I should have had more than one drink. But as the chanting continued I have to tell you it was really quite peaceful and I started feeling super relaxed. Of course that may have also been the killer rum and coke Scott fixed me downstairs, starting to kick in. No doubt about it though I felt like I was in a very warm, peaceful, safe place which is actually quite a contrast from the bustling gritty Georgia Avenue scene right outside.

“Well, there are no longer people urinating in the doorways at 6:00 am in the morning, so that is a positive development.” – Elizabeth Greathouse

Elizabeth immediately came over to me and welcomed me to yoga house. She is a beautiful woman who was positively glowing as we sat down to speak. Damn, that chanting really must work, I thought to myself. I asked Elizabeth how on earth (or heaven) she decided to pick Petworth for her Yoga studio. In the Spring of 2005, Elizabeth noticed on the Petworth listserv that Lakritz/Adler (the developers and owners of the building) were looking to rent out the two floors above Temperance Hall. Elizabeth notes that her Yoga Studio actually opened up before Temperance Hall. She also noted that she has a very good relationship with Temperance Hall now that the bass on the juke box has been lowered and since the smoking ban went into effect.

Prior to opening Yoga House, Elizabeth was a lawyer for 20 years before moving to DC in 2000. Not long after arriving she began teaching Yoga in Adams Morgan and Tenleytown. Yoga House opened its doors in September 2006 and Elizabeth initially had retained many of her students although she lost a few from the Tenleytown location. Elizabeth admits that she did not know too much about Petworth before moving her business here but was delighted that it was near her home in Brookland. Since coming here, in addition to Temperance, Elizabeth has become a fan of Domku. She would love to see a coffee shop open up on Georgia Ave. When pressed to discuss what type of change she had witnessed, for starters, she cited the fact that “you don’t see too many junkies on the street at 6:30 in the morning anymore.” Well, that certainly is a positive development!

“We have bamboo floors!” – Elizabeth Greathouse

The studio itself is beautiful. It is located on two floors. Both spaces exude calmness and serenity. The walls are exposed brick and on the second floor there is a string of colorful prayer flags. (I think they are the Tibetan kind but I forgot to ask.) On the third floor there is a little office area, a kitchen area and a big empty space for the students to spread out their mats. Also unique to the third floor and probably to Petworth in general is the gigantic gong at the front of the room which is used in a particular type of Yoga that Elizabeth teaches.

“I’m really passionate about what I’m doing.”

There is no doubt about that. Every question I asked was answered with Elizabeth at the edge of her seat looking at me intensely, directly into my eyes. I felt like she was looking for my soul, fortunately I had brought it with me that evening.

“If the price of rent isn’t crazy I’ll stay here. I’m expecting the neighborhood to grow and improve.”

Elizabeth was very honest and open about her thoughts on the space and the neighborhood in general. “The neighborhood hasn’t improved as fast as I’d like but there is lots of development coming to this block, there are big condos going up above the metro so hopefully I won’t get priced out!”, she told me. When Elizabeth refers to the neighborhood she is talking about the immediate vicinity around her business on Georgia Avenue. She would especially like to see all the vacant buildings renovated and improved. She notes that “with pride of ownership comes beautification.” Elizabeth currently has a five year lease which increases 5% a year and then has an option to renew for another five years.

“I get wonderful feedback.”

This past weekend was her busiest weekend with over thirty students attending all three classes. Elizabeth teaches what is known as Kundalini Yoga which deals with breathing and mantras. She studied with Yogi Bhajan the founder of this style of yoga for eight years. Yoga makes Elizabeth “feel so much better emotionally and a lot more stable.” Her classes are usually 2/3 women. I also noticed that there was lots of diversity in her class. The class seemed evenly split between black and white students.

Elizabeth teaches 4 private classes and 10 full classes. She has 7 other teachers, a few of whom are from the neighborhood. The classes cost $20 per session individually or $13 per session if you purchase a package. Currently she is able to pay all her bills but, she notes, fortunately, her husband, Mark, has “a good job and can pay the mortgage on his salary. He has trusted me to make the right decisions and he doesn’t even do Yoga!”, she explained.

“Some people are afraid of personal awareness because then they must take personal responsibility.”

Elizabeth explained to me that Yoga is not religious rather it is spiritual. It is “spiritual in the sense of looking at spirit and emotions and having a concept of being able to affect life by thoughts and emotions.” She concluded that “it has an awareness component not a religious one.” I should add in addition to the spiritual component that yoga also gives a hell of a workout too.

I was very skeptical when I heard all the chanting but in the end my mind was changed. Each and every student had huge smiles on their faces as they exited the studio and they visibly looked super at ease. Elizabeth has a class for beginners on Saturday that I’m definitely going to check out… or maybe I’ll still go to Temperance Hall for my own brand of relaxation. But I can conclude that we are very lucky to have this amazing place in our neighborhood. If you are remotely interested in Yoga I would urge you to check it out. I think I gained five years on my life and I only witnessed five minutes of one class!

To learn more:Yoga House Studio
3634B Georgia Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 285-1316

14 Comment

  • OK, it was evenly split between black and white, but what about male/female. gay/straight? diversity must be diverse if we call it diversity.

    I might take classes there…adding a cubano into the mix

  • That is a good point. I went back to my notes to clarify. It turns out there is about 70% female students. 33% of the students were of Dutch extraction. 13% were from island nations. 16% were left handed. 21% spoke a foreign language. And 11% had served in the armed forces… (I don’t do emoticons but if I did, I’d put one here.)

  • I think I originally found out about Yoga House on this blog. It is a really fanstastic place. I would live there if Elizabeth would have me.

    A few additional notes:

    Elizabeth remembered my name after only our first meeting, and made sure to greet me by it every time I walked in. She and her staff are kind and helpful and not snooty at all.

    There is a wide range of ability levels in each class, something I really appreciate. Almost every time I’m there, I see people who seem brand-new to yoga, and some people who can pop into a headstand like it’s nothing. It’s a great mix.

    Although Yoga House, as all yoga studios, isn’t cheap, there are $5 community classes on Tuesday nights at 6:30, and free meditations every full moon.

    Also, you can purchase passes and sign up for class on the website, which is great and easy to use.

    Thanks again for this post.

  • I agree Yoga House is a great place. If you’re like me and not into chanting/mantras, there are other kinds of yoga classes offered, too. The website is very helpful and has a schedule & description of the classes. (http://www.yogahouse.org/)

  • I find it funny that she had issues with Temperance Hall’s bass levels. I’ve been to Temperance for Sunday brunch. The noise from her tumbling class is quite amazing.

    And as for the smoking ban – I would think that she would rather the smokers stat inside than stand around her door. Oh well, maybe it traveled through the heating system or something.

    My strongest reaction though is to her statement that the neighborhood “isn’t improving quickly enough.” It just really rubbed me the wrong way and hit me as a really snobbish and generally snotty thing to say. Sorry we’re not suburban yup enough for you yet. Don’t worry, those people are pushing the rest of us out as quickly as they can.

  • Sarah,

    I understand what you are saying, it felt a little weird to me as well, but in fairness when she said “neighborhood” she was really referring to Georgia Avenue. Honestly, she was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and sometimes the written word doesn’t express tone properly. She wasn’t putting down Petworth, rather she simply wanted to see the vacant buildings filled on Georgia Ave.

  • OK PoP, since you talked to her and I didn’t, I will believe that she wasn’t talking smack about us. I do think it is exceptionally poor phrasing and came across in print as disrespectful.

    I’d like to see the vacant building on GA Ave filled too, in a thoughtful manner with shops and such that work well together and are good for the neighborhood. (I swear, I haven’t been smoking anything funny!) I hope that’s what she meant, and I hope ti does indeed happen.

  • Hey P.o.P.,

    Do you always make it a point to stop in at Temperence Hall before, during and after an interview. (Insert emoticon here)

  • Fonzy, Temperance is unofficial P.o.P. Headquarters of course…

  • Yoga House is an amazing studio and I am so happy to have it only two blocks from my home. Elizabeth is a fantastic teacher and her studio is helping to bring a peaceful and mindful vibe to our neighborhood.

    I think her comment about the much needed and slow moving development to the neighborhood is right on target and neither snoby or inapropriate. Georgia Ave is a warzone, straight up.

    “My strongest reaction though is to her statement that the neighborhood “isn’t improving quickly enough.” It just really rubbed me the wrong way and hit me as a really snobbish and generally snotty thing to say. Sorry we’re not suburban yup enough for you yet. Don’t worry, those people are pushing the rest of us out as quickly as they can.”

    Give me a break!! I think that wanting the vacant buildings, the open air drug transactions and the rest of the general nastiness of GA Ave to be cleaned up is appropriate and normal! “Sorry we are not suburban yup enough” Honestly, wanting your neighborhood to be safe and pleasant is neither suburban nor yuppie.

  • Beautiful studio space but way too expensive. With prices cheaper in all but two other studios in DC, including in the high rent district of Georgetown, I can’t help but think she could price herself out of the market. $20 for a drop in…ouch! The teachers there aren’t really all that special to be charging those prices. In this case, it pays to shop around though I wish the best for Elizabeth for establishing a Yoga studio in the area.

  • I love Yoga House; the instructors are great, and while it’s not cheap you get a big discount by buying 10 classes at a time. They also offer discounts to students. Re: the music, it is a little distracting during yoga when you can feel the floor moving from the music below, but it doesn’t really bother me because i really like Temperance Hall, too. I like to do what I refer to as the Petworth Special – a yoga class followed by a beer and those mini sloppy joes. Yeah it’s sorta wrong to undo the yoga class that way. But it feels so good!

  • SM – email me at CuriousGrrl@gmail.com

    I thought I was the only sinner on the Petworth Special trajectory.
    Lets get together.

    Meg

  • More than just a ‘drop-in’ studio to take a class, YogaHouse is an Oasis of tranquility and warmth; by its luminous esthetics and intention, easy on the eyes, easy on the soul.
    I am one of those relative beginners. I was warmly welcomed. No high-brow attitudes here – it is the real deal – simple, authentic, and sincere.
    Oh – and I am fairly sensitive to gentrification insensitivity.. NONE of that here.
    Yes, more expensive…but .. you get what you pay for..(hey! just a happy hour drink difference..) ASK for special rate for first week of classes, to test the waters.
    As the Prince said..I have added not just years, but joyful ones..

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