Yoga From the Water to the Rooftop

Sati teaching on the roof of East Side Yoga. Photo: Courtesy East Side Yoga

Mary Ternes started doing yoga in the 1970s. Two years ago she developed pain in her hip. “I had to stop my yoga practice. I was too embarrassed about how hard it was for me to get up and down off the floor.” Then she discovered yoga in the water.

“It just didn’t hurt when I did poses in the water” she said. “I got the support I needed, but I received the same benefit as doing poses on the floor.” After getting a hip replacement this past June, Mary continued her yoga in the water. “Both my physical therapist and surgeon were overwhelmed by how quickly I could function so well after surgery.”

Pamela Wilson, who has been teaching yoga on land for almost 30 years, started her yoga in the water class about six years ago at Waterside Fitness & Swim Club in southwest DC. “You can get all the benefits of land yoga – balance, flexibility, strength and endurance—in the nurturing environment that water that gives you. You gain a strong link between mind, body, and spirit.”

Christine Brahmi Romero, director of St. Mark’s Yoga Center on Capitol Hill, has found practicing yoga in the water to be therapeutic. Last year when she broke her ankle she could practice poses that were impossible to do on land. “Holding on to the edge of the pool keeps you safe while the water does its work. Retraining atrophied muscles is aided by the gentle movement of the waters, as the body checks and rests. A deep squat, such as malasana, painful and difficult on land, when practiced in shallow water, releases my low back and stretches my calves and quads with ease.”

Pamela loves the idea of making yoga accessible to more people. “I have students who just love yoga and students who love the water. Because we are buoyant in the water, weight is taken off our joints which gives us the ability to further explore a pose. The classes also include men and women who are very adept physically, are all ages, and are all shapes and sizes. Yoga in the water is very adaptable.”

Pamela said that, “with a little creativity almost any asana (pose) will translate to the water.” She said that practicing yoga in the water puts less stress and strain on the muscles, joints, and bones. “It’s an invigorating workout that’s less painful.”  Pamela welcomes yogis at all stages of yoga and life into her classes.

Waterside Fitness & Swim Club offers yoga in the water every Thursday morning 9:30-10:30 and Sundays at 12:30-1:30. For more information:  Waterside Fitness & Swim Club, 901 6th Street, SW: 202-488-3701. To contact Pamela Wilson:

Yoga on the Roof

Every Wednesday morning during the summer I have had the enjoyment of starting my day on the rooftop of a private office building at the bottom of Capitol Hill, teaching yoga to students before they start work. At 7:30 most mornings, even during the heat wave, a breeze blew across the roof keeping us cool under the awning. When I looked to my left I saw the Capitol dome. To the right was the Washington Monument. I thought, “What a fantastic way to start my day.”

Practicing yoga on the rooftop gives students a way to allow their spirit to connect with nature as they develop the physical side of yoga. At East Side Yoga, owner Alia Khan presents yogis with options. She offers at least one rooftop class every day of the week (weather permitting).

Nick Rome has been practicing yoga in a studio for more than 10 years. But this summer he has found a way to enhance his practice by connecting with the outdoors at East Side Yoga. “Practicing on the rooftop is incredible. Breathing fresh air and feeling a cool breeze wash across your body, paired with the mental and physical benefits of yoga leaves me in a state of utter tranquility.

During summer evenings, I love watching the sky evolve and transition with the class. Beautiful clouds and colorful sunsets compliment my movements. I can’t think of a better way to wind down after a long day.”

Alia has enhanced East Side Yoga’s rooftop experience by offering a special yoga on the roof, live music, desserts from Grassroots Gourmet and beverages. In September, Alia will teach classes on Sept. 10 and 24 at 8 p.m. Each evening will feature a different musical guest. “The class will flow to a custom set list performed live by that evening’s musical guest,” explained Alia. “Afterwards, you can enjoy the company of other yogis (age 21 and older) while sipping bubbly alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages.”

If you enjoy moving in the elements, yoga in the water or on the rooftop affords a connection to nature that can give either a practiced yogi or a novice a new experience.

East Side Yoga will offer its rooftop yoga with live music Sept. 10 and 24.

For more information on classes:  East Side Yoga, 518 10th Street, NE:

Pamila Wilson uses a combination of classic yoga poses and stretching exerises in her water yoga class. Photo: Pattie Cinelli

Pattie Cinelli teaches and practices yoga on land, although when on vacation last month she explored poses in a pool. She has taken her Sunday afternoon classes outside in Garfield Park on occasion. Pattie has been writing her health/fitness column for more than 25 years. You can email her with questions or comments at: