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Fitness, reading pop-up stretches body and mind

Don't have time for book club? A new reading club in town works out the bodies and minds of busy Washingtonians. (Getty Images)
A reading club for yogis keeps body and mind fit

WTOP's Rachel Nania

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WASHINGTON — Yogis in the D.C. area can bridge in a brewery, warrior in a winery — even down-dog in a field of goats. And now, they can stretch their bodies — and minds — at Well + Read, a yoga pop-up that doubles as a reading club.

Well + Read is the brainchild of Karina Carlson, who recently had a self care wake-up call. A year ago, her father, who she said was always “a beacon of strength,” suffered a bad stroke that left him temporarily unable to walk or talk.

“It really offered me the gift of being in such a reflective space to see that, wow, to truly put one foot in front of the other and get myself where I want to go, to be able to open my mouth and look you in the eye and tell you exactly what it is I need to say is a gift, and is something that we take for granted so often,” said Carlson, who works as a director for The Atlantic.

Her goal with Well + Read is to celebrate and nurture both physical and mental strength, all while connecting with the local community. Each Well + Read class consists of a sweat session (yoga and high-intensity interval training are a few of the featured workouts), followed by an insightful discussion on a selected article.

Carlson said the decision to tackle 30-minute reads from The New Yorker or The New York Times, over a book, was intentional. Washingtonians are busy, and reading a book — or two — on a routine basis for more traditional book clubs isn’t always possible.

Plus, with articles, participants can dig into the big issues of the moment.

“We’ve had conversations about being able to negotiate in the workplace, being vulnerable in the workplace, and really tapping into that as a strength, rather than as a weakness,” Carlson said.

“Love, sex, money, finance, career, family, friends, relationships — we’re really trying to access and meet people where they are.”

Well + Read participants are served a post-workout cocktail and a few rules related to respect before the reading discussion begins.

“We don’t want this to be an echo chamber, but we want it to be a place where you’re criticizing an idea, and not the human who has the idea, because that’s a thread that is often so prominent in the way we’re having dialogues — not just on an individual basis, but on a cultural basis,” Carlson said.

Erin Sonn, an Arlington-based yoga instructor who sometimes partners with Well + Read, finds that a few post-flow minutes of mindfulness meditation right before the discussion can help foster an environment of compassion and open-mindedness.

“It encourages listening, being there, being present rather than jumping to judge,” Sonn said.

“That’s so important in our fast-paced day and age. I think we need a lot more of the compassionate listening, and I love to hold space in which people can explore that.”

Well + Read is held about once a month; the location, workout and article change each time. The next pop-up will take place Nov. 13 from 7:15 to 9 p.m. at La Pop DC. Sonn will lead 30 minutes of yoga flow and 15 minutes of meditation. The discussion will focus on Tim Wu’s “In Praise of Mediocrity.” Tickets are $30, and drinks and snacks are included.

“It really is a celebration of what our bodies and our minds are able to do in nontraditional spaces,” Carlson said.


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