By day, Carmen Aguirre works as a San Francisco public defender. Now, she's moonlighting in a new role: as the owner of a Bayview yoga and dance studio, Studio Ashe.
Located at 4734 Third St., Studio Ashe was formerly home to Trifusion Yoga, owned by Armando Luna. While Luna still teaches yoga classes in various businesses and community centers throughout Bayview, the space sat vacant for years until Aguirre decided to take it over.
A Bayview resident for the past two years, Aguirre has worked with clients in the neighborhood for more than a decade. She hopes Studio Ashe will be "another business on the corridor that will heal the community."
A trained yoga instructor, Aguirre is originally from San Diego, where she learned the practice from her mother — also an instructor.
But it wasn't until 1991, when she relocated to the Bay Area for law school, that she set dual intentions: to become a public defender and to own a yoga studio.
"Practicing yoga helped me deal with the stress of law school," Aguirre said. After becoming a public defender in 2005, she wanted to share that resource with her clients.
"I meditate with my clients and do breathing exercises," Aguirre said. "95% of my clients were victims of trauma, and I view this technique as a way to physiologically change what is happening in their bodies and calm them."
"So many of the issues addressed in 850 Bryant and the criminal justice system are connected to public health," noted SF Public Defender Manohar Raju. "The more we can focus on diverting resources into public health, the more we have a way to solve some of these issues, and create societal change."
At Studio Ashe, locals will not only have their pick of various yoga formats, like vinyasa, yin and Kemetic, but Zumba and other dance classes as well. Acupuncture and massage services are part of the long-term plan, and Aguirre hopes to keep prices affordable, starting at $15 per class or $50 for a five-class pass. An unlimited monthly membership is currently $100.
"As a public defender, I've had a longstanding connection with the Bayview through my clients," Aguirre noted. "This community historically has been deprived of affordable holistic resources."
The studio will have a variety of instructors, allowing Aquirre to balance her time between being an instructor and attorney. At a soft-opening party last week, many of her colleagues dropped in to support her dual passions.
"Sadly, we see the people who typically take advantage of these types of practices are the people with the most privilege," District Attorney Chesa Boudin told Hoodline. "It's beneficial to have an affordable holistic space in the Bayview, a neighborhood that has been culturally and economically marginalized."
Though he's never done yoga before, District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton announced at the event that he plans to take his first class at Studio Ashe.
"I love and appreciate it when someone invests in the Third Street corridor and wants to be here," Walton said. "We need this type of diversity on Third Street — not just with people, but the things we offer. "
Aguirre said the community has been supportive of Studio Ashe so far.
"I've had people visit and tell me that they want to stop drinking alcohol or doing drugs," she noted. She also plans to partner with other fitness gurus in the neighborhood, such as Lawanda Dickerson of U3Fit Studio, which neighbors Studio Ashe.
"Lawanda and I talked about ways we could incorporate yoga as part of her services," Aguirre said. "I'm excited to work with her."
Studio Ashe is now offering classes daily, with Aguirre herself teaching two classes per week. Start times run from as early as 7 a.m. to as late as 6:30 p.m. Visit Studio Ashe's website to see the schedule and sign up for classes.