Washington, D.C., is one stressed-out city. And so am I. I clench my jaw when I sleep and check Twitter more often than is advisable for my blood pressure. Good thing that the latest trend in health and wellness isn’t sweating it out at a spinning class or CrossFit studio, it’s a slew of meditation centers and spas designed to help you unplug and unwind.
“People are seeking alternative ways to refresh their batteries,” says Daniel Turissini, the founder of Recharj, a meditation studio with two locations in the D.C. area. “It’s about escaping from the concrete, glass and distractions of a busy city.” Recharj offers multiple meditation and gentle yoga classes, including lunchtime “power naps” and mantra sessions that teach how word repetition can lead to serenity.
I make Recharj my first stop in what I’m calling "Project Unwind." Amid reclaimed wood walls, dim lights and full-body-length bean bags (aka “cocoons”), I join a clutch of men and women in business clothes for a “sound bath.” A dude in a Buddha T-shirt sets up his metal Tibetan singing bowls as I tuck myself under a cozy blanket and pull on an eye mask for the next 45 minutes. He doesn’t talk that much, and the bowls make a fascinating (if sometimes dissonant) backdrop for relaxation. I find my mind wandering to past foreign trips and visions of the ocean before taking a five-minute nap. I leave with a surprising amount of energy.
My next stop requires a bit more effort. Take Five Meditation offers a range of 30- and 45-minute meditation classes, as well as a once-a-week 90-minute mind-body yoga class. I decide to drop in on the last one, seeking both a stretch and some stress reduction. Located on the second floor of a historic Dupont Circle storefront, Take Five serves as both a mindfulness retreat and a kind of community center; there’s a large lounge area with a groovy turquoise sofa and magazines like Yoga Magazine.
“This space was a Buddhist temple once, so I think that’s fitting,” says co-founder Tara Huber, sipping a cup of the studio’s own tea blend before class starts. We soon adjourn to the meditation room, where floor-to-ceiling windows reveal traffic zipping by on buzzing Connecticut Avenue NW, a surprisingly calming and mesmerizing visual accompaniment during the next 90 minutes.
Focusing on both the hip openers—“They’re your body’s junk drawer,” jokes Huber—and the concept of equanimity, Huber guides us through gentle poses. After about 60 minutes, we recline for the meditative portion of the class (Shavasana). Once again, I’m amazingly zenned out, and yep, I nap.
“I know, it’s funny—half the time I sleep a little, and the other half I’m awake and energetic,” says regular Katie Kowal, who, like many under-pressure Washingtonians, finds that meditation “really reshapes how I see the world. It centers me and helps me re-frame problems.”
Me? After a couple of sessions, my only problem is that my creaky back still aches, which my husband and physical therapist both insist is stress-related. So I take the literal plunge and visit Soulex Float Spa, the city’s first isolation-tank float center. “Floating reboots your system,” says owner Pedramin Vaziri. “You sleep better. It’s just a great mini break.”
But I’m slightly apprehensive as I enter my private float room. Will I feel claustrophobic or bored? Inside, I see what looks like a mammoth, hinged egg to float in. Once the tub-like pod fills with salinated water set at body temperature, I step in and pull the lid shut. Lights and music remain on for a few minutes, then flicker out. I’m suspended in what feels like warm seawater, about three inches from the pod bottom. And while I can’t entirely stop my mind from wandering, I feel peaceful and comfortable.
I don’t nap, but my back feels better. After, I go home and have one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months.
Ahh... that’s more like it.