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21 April 2024

As Trump sets up shop, nap studio helps Washingtonians unwind


Naps are for wimps, Donald Trump declared repeatedly as he powered his way to the presidency. But one of his new Washington neighbors begs to differ - offering drop-in zen one block from the White House.

Founded by a think tank consultant who works 60 to 70 hours a week, the "recharj" nap and meditation studio is a tranquil space for harried workers to power down.

One of a handful of similar startups across the United States, the siesta lounge is the first of its kind in the nation's capital.

For $15 a pop, the weary can book a half-hour meditation class or a 25-minute doze on one of the studio's beanbag-esque beds.

And as Washington transitions into a new political era, mindfulness instructor David Underwood, 59, said the studio - which had a soft open in the fall and a mid-December grand opening -- has seen its client base swell since Trump's November 8th victory.

"The floor dropped out that day," Underwood said, perched on a tufted meditation cushion, his back ramrod-straight.

While the Republican billionaire's election came as a surprise to much of the world, in overwhelmingly Democratic Washington it was a largely unwelcome one.

"People coming in - they were in kind of a zombie state for a while. But now that it's settled, and there's acceptance in the air, we've picked up dramatically."

"I think there's this resolution now that people are saying 'Hey, let's accept this and move on.'"

Coming to that acceptance, he said, is partly about focusing back on life's basics.

"The concept was to get people in the here and now," he said of the studio. "Get people into human-being mode, not human-doing mode."

'The world isn't ending'

Trump has branded sleep a symptom of weakness. As a candidate he tagged his primary and general election foes Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, as "low energy" - seemingly to great effect.

"No naps for Trump! I don't nap. We don't have time," the real estate magnate and former reality show host told a Virginia rally back in July.

Native Washingtonian Daniel Turissini -- who founded recharj but has kept his high-powered day job - sees things differently.

"I think there's a general climate of anxiety and stress," the 31-year-old said. "The stigma of napping in the workplace, and the stigma of meditation of being this kind of hippie ideal, is slowly deteriorating."

With a turf-grass floor and walls surfaced with real tree bark, the dimly lit lounge offers stark contrast to the concrete and glass that make up downtown Washington DC - a city more closely associated with workaholism than serenity.

Amanda Herring assists college students at a nonprofit across the street. She recently started frequenting the studio as part of a New Year's resolution to "take some time for myself and get centered."

"Life's been crazy; DC's been crazy," the 27-year-old said. "There's been a lot of anger and hate and negativity, and I think in the new year I want to focus on being positive and understanding the point of view of others."

"The best we can do is just take a moment - take a breather - and realize that the world isn't ending."

'Pushing to the wall'

The boutique taps into a growing trend, with companies including Google and The Huffington Post offering in-house nap rooms to their fatigued employees.

The movement has science on its side: according to the National Institutes of Health agency, sleep deficiency is linked to heightened risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and hormonal imbalances - not to mention daytime drowsiness that can manifest as forgetfulness, slowed reaction time and diminished workday performance.

Recharj's manager Christine Marcella, 50, spearheaded the organization of a "Healing Through Fierce Transitions" workshop scheduled for the weekend after Trump's inauguration.

"Grief and this type of transition have a similar emotional effect," she said, referring to Washington's political changing of the guard. "People are pushing to the wall - they're working so long and hard."

Marcella said everyone from lobbyists to investment bankers to Department of Justice bigwigs have stopped in for a lie-down in one of the nap "cocoons" - curtain-divided sleeping pods with body-conforming "lounge bags."

The studio also offers evening happy hour sessions, so clients can sneak a disco nap before heading for drinks.

And if leading one of the world's most powerful nations starts sapping his energy, instructor Underwood said he would happy for the United States' new commander-in-chief to stop by.