ALEXANDRIA, VA — When times are tough, heroes emerge. We all know someone who’s making a difference right now as we live through unprecedented and changing times.
Here at Patch, we’ve launched an initiative to help recognize these heroes making a difference in their communities. Together with Ring, we’re working to let all your neighbors know about these outstanding people and their stories.
We received several nominations for Suzanne Leitner-Wise, founder of 532Yoga in Alexandria, from Katherine Sheriff, Lindsay Gaudet and Dolores Korba. All three praised her for keeping the yoga studio going and helping them cope during the stressful time of the pandemic.
Patch reached out to Leitner-Wise to learn more about her yoga studio, how it is surviving the pandemic, and what she loves about Alexandria.
Do YOU have a local hero you would like us to know about? Share their story here. Read about other heroes from across Virginia here.
1. Tell us about how 532Yoga got started and the services it offers.
532YOGA is a locally owned and operated yoga studio, and is an independent small business, that was established in April 2012. I had been teaching around 35 classes per week in Alexandria since my arrival from London in 2000, and I wanted a base to build a community in order to share the benefits of a regular Yoga practice. I happened upon the building on my way back from dropping my son off at the Dee Campbell Rowing Center one early morning; a beautiful award-winning space that was/is perfect for the practice of Yoga.
We established this teacher-run studio with a group of the best teachers in the area with a mission to provide a first class service in a welcoming environment and to offer a diverse schedule of classes that is all-inclusive, for all levels, and for all style preferences, both traditional and modern. We want every ‘body’ to be able to enjoy the myriad benefits of health that a regular Yoga practice brings. We are delighted to have been awarded ‘Best Yoga Studio in Alexandria’ (Alexandria Best Businesses) for 4 years and are a Mindbody Visionary Award winner.
532YOGA cares about, and is proud to support, the local community. We support local charities, schools, homeless shelters, benefits, Veterans, non-profit organizations, and more…
Between 2016-2018 alone, we contributed and raised donations to the sum of $12,438. We have presented classes and exhibits for numerous organizations and companies, including The Department of State, The National Health Institute, The Department of Defense, The Department of Finance, The American College of Nutrition, and Microsoft Federal, to name a few.
Right now we are offering socially-distanced in-studio classes and are live-streaming each class so those that are not ready to come back can still participate. We also have a few teachers offering zoom classes from their homes. Pre-covid, we had workshops each weekend to further enhance learning of the importance of alignment of the physical body, plus other mind-body topics related to the practice of Yoga. We intend to bring back workshops soon, albeit perhaps not so many and of course, offering them live-stream. We had also started our 22nd year of Yoga Teacher Training as a Registered Yoga School prior to the order to close our business, and have adapted to continue the training online.
2. What kind of impact has the pandemic had on the business?
Our main concern in these unprecedented times is your health and well-being.
The impact of the pandemic has been just awful as far as economics go. Some of our service providers, such as Mindbody and Comcast, offered discounts on monthly bills, but others did not. We are still currently working with our landlords to (hopefully) negotiate some middle ground. As you can image, and as with many small businesses, money going out vs no money coming in, has been really tough. I don’t know why, when the Governor of Virginia ordered us to close down the business, that service providers and rental offices were not told to suspend invoices as I am sure that would have helped a lot of small businesses to stay open. It is sad. The impact that covid-19 has had on businesses is devastating.
We re-opened when we were able to, on July 6. It was a tough decision to make, but we were secure in the knowledge that the studio was as safe as it could possibly be. We re-decorated the whole studio, thoroughly disinfected the space and all props, and bought new equipment. We are proud to be part of the ALX Promise; a certification program of the Alexandria Healthcare Department that signals to employees and customers that we have gone above and beyond in our commitment to following all local, federal and state guidelines for the safety of our teachers and clients.
Those joining us in-studio and online are delighted that we have re-opened, and we are so pleased to be able to serve our community again. We all have a passion to share our knowledge and to impart the importance of this practice to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
That said, I would say that we are currently at about 25% of pre-covid business. The classes have been small, but our hearts are filled 🙂
3. How were you able to adjust services when places like fitness studios were allowed to open with restrictions?
We have always held our business to the highest standards. Practitioners of Yoga follow guidelines for personal conduct and obligations. We have, and always will, uphold and honor the practice of Saucha (cleanliness) and Ahimsa (non-harming); essential parts of the yoga discipline, in order to provide a safe environment. We implement all proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures. We are routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces and equipment to maintain a clean and safe environment, we have hand sanitizing stations, and ask that clients bring their own props with them to class.
Since our recent re-opening, we have changed our schedule and reduced the amount of classes offered to enable spaciousness for social distancing between entry and exit. Our space is clearly marked for mat placement to adhere to physical distancing, and we require that protective face covering be worn on entering and exiting the studio. Of course this means fewer classes and fewer people in classes, so unfortunately we have had to put some of our teachers on ‘leave’ for now, but we are also offering live-streaming of all our classes for those that are not yet comfortable to return to the studio.
When we closed our doors on 25 March, we started offering pre-recorded and free Yoga classes. All our teachers were (and are) fantastic! They came in to the studio for filming, or filmed from home in order to continue to provide a service to our clients.
We have had many challenges over the last several months. We have had to buy new equipment, and we have all had to learn new skills in order to get our live-streaming classes running seamlessly. One delightful side effect of this is that we are now serving clients across the United States and also Internationally; we have had clients live-streaming from England and Israel, which is rather exciting!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful teachers who have put in the time and effort to provide classes and to thank all our clients for their continued support!
4. How does yoga impact different aspects of health, and how can it be beneficial to help with stress during the pandemic?
So many people have been impacted by the pandemic. It is a crazy stressful time for everyone, but our health is our greatest possession, and we must do our best to take care of ourselves. Stress is the modern day silent killer and 85% of all dis-ease is stress related! It will take a toll on your body, so managing stress will reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition. Yes, Yoga is, in part, physical exercise, but it is also so much more. Yoga, combined with breathing exercises and meditation, can help lower stress levels and hormones that compromise your immune system. It reverses the fight-or-flight (stress) reaction, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces the heart rate and the oxygen requirement of the body by 10-20%, which is the effect produced by medication to lower high blood pressure, without the side effects!. Stress affects each of our body systems and relentless exposure to stress can lead to serious illness. A regular Yoga practice offers a viable means of prevention and reversal of numerous ailments and diseases, including cardiovascular, stress-related illness, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
We are very proud to receive regular feedback and reviews on how we have helped our clients achieve greater health and well-being.
We strongly believe in the power of Yoga and want to help everyone achieve their goals and improve their life through optimal alignment, postural awareness, and proper stretching techniques in order to build awareness, help body stability, flexibility, and strength, keeping the spine and joints supple, de-stressing, and helping them feel better and move more easily in everyday activities.
5. What has the support of members meant during these hard times for businesses?
We have an amazing community and they have been extremely supportive. Throughout this whole ordeal, we have had only one client request a refund on membership, and we are truly grateful that everyone feels that this is, for want of a better word, their sanctuary, where they can look after themselves under expert guidance from our teachers.
We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all that have donated to 532YOGA. It means a lot and it makes a difference. The ongoing support is truly appreciated. If you would consider providing support for 532 to help cover costs during this difficult time, we would be most grateful.
6. What do you like about doing business in Alexandria?
Old Town, Alexandria, is a great place to live, work, visit, and practice Yoga. We love that there is a diverse population and broad demographic in Alexandria, and we love to see tourists come in when they are in town. Alexandria is a very friendly and safe town.
7. What are your go-to places to eat in Alexandria?
We don’t tend to eat out much as my husband is an amazing cook! However, we do have a couple of favorites in Alexandria; Lena’s is great if you like Pizza and we find it to be pretty authentic (I am extremely fussy about my pizza as my mother is Italian and we have eaten ‘a ton’ of pizza in Italy. Also, for Chinese food, we like Shanghai Peking … which is consistently good.
All photos included in this post are owned by identified third parties who have given Patch the right to use explicitly for the Patch Local Heroes series.
This article originally appeared on the Old Town Alexandria Patch