Yoga classes now offered at The Duce


Photos by Lillian Reid and Cydney McFarland

Chicago-style bar and local hotspot The Duce held its first hour-long session of “old-school” yoga Sunday afternoon.

Marisa Maggio-Harelson, who instructed the noontime class of four participants, hopes the sessions will grow and appeal to the downtown demographic that may not be familiar with yoga, as well as experienced yogis.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Maggio-Harelson said. “We’re just planting the seed right now.”

The Duce, located on Central Avenue and Lincoln Street, advertised on its Facebook page that the class would offer the same physical benefits of a normal yoga class but without “the soft soothing music, chanting and smelly candles that make you dizzy.”

“The point is for you to connect with yourself. You can’t be too young or too old to do yoga,” Maggio-Harelson said. “It’s not about being on the cover of Yoga Journal. It’s about being 90 and walking without a walker.”

The music ranged from The xx to Coldplay as Maggio-Harelson led the class through various poses. Customers of The Duce milled about in the shop area and watched the yogis for a few minutes while others ate brunch and drank mimosas after participating in an earlier exercise class.

Matthew Fritz of Sutra Midtown yoga studio and Roman Acevedo of Ra Yoga doubt that more yoga classes in the area would be detrimental to business.

“In regards to new locations, we personally think it is fabulous to see yoga expanding into more venues,” Fritz said.

The Duce and Sutra Midtown both charge fees to take yoga classes, but for those looking for a more economical option, there are free classes available downtown as well.

Ra Yoga, located on Central Avenue and Jackson Street, is a nonprofit yoga studio that offers free classes with a suggested donation of $5.

“The more (yoga classes) the merrier,” Acevedo said. “I just want people to have a place to practice if it resonates with them.”

Each class is going to be different, according to Acevedo. Classes that are based around Ashtanga yoga will be focused on breathing so there might not be any music, while other classes could be more upbeat.

Maggio-Harelson, who was certified and began teaching yoga more than a year ago, initially wanted to open a studio of her own but ran into some difficulties. She said she didn’t know how some studios could stay afloat without charging customers.

“This Phoenix market is absolutely saturated with studios,” she said.

Instead of opening her own studio, Maggio-Harelson teaches yoga at several locations four days a week.

Steve Rosenstein, co-owner of The Duce is not worried about the first “old-school” yoga class having a small turnout. His own popular South Central Mad Dog boot camp classes started with only three people in January 2011. Now, the average turnout on a Sunday morning class has grown to about 25 people, he said.

The price per class is $10 at The Duce and $12-$18 at Sutra Midtown, while Ra Yoga suggests donations.

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Clarification: Sept. 18, 2012

An earlier version of this article quoted Marisa Maggio-Harelson as saying that she didn’t know how yoga studios that charge customers could stay in business. Maggio-Harelson clarified that she was referring to studios that do not charge their customers.