The SweatBox Yoga studio sits in the middle of Pike/Pine where more than a few of the nightlife venues are now owned by tenders, chefs, and managers turned bar and restaurant owners.
Earlier this year, Frani Assaf officially took ownership of SweatBox Yoga after starting as a student and teacher at the Capitol Hill mainstay since the early 2000s.
“She’s always risen to the occasion. She and I are both from the midwest. We get that mentality and we get each other,” longtime owner Laura Culberg said. “Once I hired a broker and put the SweatBox on the market, I met with a few people who were interested in buying the studio and my gut told me it wasn’t right. I couldn’t imagine selling this living community to a stranger . . . A lot of people think Frani is the owner already, and it seemed like a natural fit… Frani at the helm would be the best for the community.”
Assaf has taught yoga since 2003, and was recently SweatBox’s studio manager. Hailing from Iowa, she trained as a dancer for over twelve years and was introduced to yoga around 1996 when she and a friend started practicing poses from a book in their living rooms.
“When I moved to Seattle [in 2000] was the first time I took an actual class, it was not even at a yoga studio,” Assaf remembers. “There were very few yoga studios in 2000. I was doing yoga in a church basement in Wallingford. That was my first class setting.”
Culberg, meanwhile, says she will focus on her teaching, including sessions at The SweatBox, as well as retreats and meditation classes. Culberg managed to keep SweatBox a part of the Capitol Hill community for nearly 20 years though there were plenty of challenges along the way including in 2014 when CHS talked with Culberg about construction and development in the neighborhood.
When Culberg opened the SweatBox in 2001, it was one of the few studios in Seattle that offered hot yoga. When she discovered hot yoga, it was “like a light bulb went off for me,” and Assaf delved into the practice, becoming certified to teach it in 2003. Though she practiced and taught at different studios around town, Assaf found herself coming back time and again to The SweatBox. “Our real draw is that we are so community-focused. I’ve taught at a lot of studios in Seattle and elsewhere, in California and the midwest, and the SweatBox is really all about a family or community feel,” she observes. “After a few years [of teaching], I quit teaching at other studios and just taught at The SweatBox because this is really where I want to be.”
Though hot yoga remains her first passion, Assaf was trained to also teach Yin yoga last year. “It’s slow moving. It’s so good for your joints. It’s so good for our brain, to move slowly and intentionally. That’s my new love,” she said.
The SweatBox has been able to promote non-heated classes through their Loft space. Located in the same building, the Loft has been home to Yin yoga, and other slow-moving classes and workshops. Assaf hopes to add even more events to the Loft in the coming year, including a class called Yoga 12-Step Recovery, a donation-based class that begins with a 12-step meeting and ends with an all-level Hatha / Vinyasa class. Assaf also wants “To be able to offer more yoga to artists and musicians who maybe don’t have the money for that. That’s something I’m thinking about and trying to figure out how to make that happen in the new year.
SweatBox yoga is located at 1417 10th Ave. You can learn more at sweatboxyoga.com.
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