November 2012 archive

Red Sun Yoga @ Epic Yoga


Crash Course: Put on your yoga pants and get ready to move like the karate kid, young grasshopper. Red Sun Yoga blends the moves of vinyasa yoga, martial arts, tai chi, budokon, and capoeira into a fun, challenging class. It pushes you to find strength in flexibility and grace in speed. How very yin and yang. Click here to see when the next class is offered at Epic Yoga.


where: 1323 Connecticut Avenue, red line/Dupont Circle

bring: yourself

perks: showers, lockers, wifi, free mat rental and towels

sweat score: 5 out of 10

wear: something comfy

cost: drop in rate is $18, first week is $20*

instructor: Emma Saal

 

Naming your studio “Epic Yoga” in a city full of Type A fitness fans is a bold move, to say the least. I remember reading all sorts of exciting things about the studio before it opened, and if Yelp is any indication, the studio is living up to its name during its first year. So I was extremely excited when owner and instructor Emma Saal invited me to come crash at her studio. According to its website, Epic Yoga is:

a passionate group of individuals, who truly love life and embrace the adventures that lay ahead…Back in the summer of 2011, we laid the groundwork and path to create a workout experience unlike any other. Our name, Epic, embraces our vision. We hope you’ll follow us down this path, join us on our journey, and reach your goals…an Epic adventure that is our Yoga Studio.

Studio

The studio is located on the top two floors of a fully renovated historic Dupont Circle building. It’s up there on my list of most beautiful studio spaces. Think wall after wall of exposed brick, rich hardwood floors, skylights, and large windows. Hello gawgus. Epic Yoga is so “epic,” in fact, that it has three separate spaces for their classes: a hot yoga room, a yoga room, and a barre studio. Here’s the barre studio:

This is the yoga studio, located just behind the barre area. You won’t be breathing down your neighbor’s neck in either of these enormous rooms, which are actually connected in the middle by a sliding door. Like the cavernous Stroga ballroom, this space just begs for rollerskates, cartwheels, and dance parties in socks.

Up one small flight of stairs is the hot yoga studio. It wasn’t suffocatingly hot and offered a cozy, comforting, and beautiful space to practice in. The addition of the tea lights along the floor boards for the evening class (not shown here) was an awesome touch…what a lovely detail to greet you when you walk in.

In addition to the ample seating room in the front lobby, Epic Yoga also has a recovery room where students can hang out before and after class. You’ll also find a mat storage rack, clean mats in the corner, and two bright restrooms. The ladies restroom had hair elastics and other amenities in case you forgot – win!

And here’s a look at the women’s locker room. It has plenty of clean showers, stacks of dry towels, and two rows of lockers. It’s pretty basic, but having the option to shower and change after class is an enormous perk in DC. All in all, with free showers, towels, lockers, and mats for a drop-in rate of $18…this is by far the best bang for your buck in DC that I’ve found so far.

One thing to note: I’m sure it’s just the weather and the fact that Epic Yoga is in an old building, but this locker room was an ice box when I visited. They have space heaters going on full tilt, but you may want to bring socks to wear on the cold floor.

Class

After admitting my new love affair with budokon and having a longstanding obsession with hot yoga, I was psyched to try Emma’s 8 p.m. Red Sun Yoga class because it sounded like it would be a good mix of the two. It definitely echoed of budokon and the class spent a lot of time practicing the rolling wave vinyasa that’s so characteristic of the budokon style. I like it because it forces you to rethink and rewire your entire yoga practice – like starting over again fresh. 

The sequences were simple enough to follow along with for a first timer like me. Oddly enough, they were also challenging enough to keep me on my toes the entire time. I’ve never done tai chi before, and really enjoyed the influence of that practice into the movements. The martial arts flare came into full force later in the class, when we practiced “floating” into and out of fighting position.

Emma made it look effortless. Me? Not so much. But I imagined I was floating like a feather and put on my best game face. Just don’t mind the crashing sound in the back of the classroom as I land on my mat. Note to self: I’d make the worst ninja in the history of ninjaness. Best to stick to Red Sun Yoga.

Between the heated room and the difficult moves, we were all sweating by the end of class. You try squating in this position for a few minutes and you’ll break a sweat, too. Ouchers.

We closed the 60 minutes with a savasana pose typical to yoga classes. With the tea lights twinkling off of the exposed brick, the soft music purring, and Emma walking around giving mini shoulder massages with eucaliptis oil…I zoned out into total yogic bliss and may have even fallen asleep for a hot second. With a good sweat behind me (and possibly a micro nap), I left feeling totally restored.

Things I would change: 

- Tiny nit pick: the pace of the class could stand to be a bit faster. I realize it must be hard to balance teaching the new moves and then practicing them, but a faster class would help make it a more vigorous workout. Just my two cents!

Instructor: 

Emma is the owner of Epic Yoga and teaches many of the classes offered throughout the week. (Note: I’ve heard through the grapevine that her barre yoga class is a rocking good workout.) She’s a classically trained ballet dancer and has studied extensively under various yoga, pilates, barre, and budokon teachers.

via

I found her to be extremely personable, approachable, and passionate about what she does. Her verbal cues during class were excellent, her voice was loud enough to hear over the music, and that end-of-class massage is hard to beat.


What other classes should I crash at Epic Yoga?


 

*Epic Yoga waived my walk-in fee, but opinions are entirely my own.

getting back on the bandwagon

I admit it – I took every opportunity to indulge over my Thanksgiving vacation.

Sure, I worked out once a day. But between mom’s never-ending supply of  baked goods, my favorite ice cream stocked in the fridge, and the great turkey meal itself…my waistline is feeling a little worse for wear.

So I’m taking a few moments this week to brush up on a few healthy habits and get back on the bandwagon. 

1. High Quality H2O: This one is so simple yet so hard. I know how important it is to drink plenty of water every day. It increases my energy levels, tempers my urge to snack, and sends my skin into a happy dance. To help get my hydration on track, I’ve decided to spice up my water bottle with different infusions each day. Some of my favorite additions are cut cucumber, ginger, lemon, and even some chia seeds. Try it!

2. Smart Snacking: My monstrous sweet tooth typically attacks around late afternoon. This is when commence the walk of shame from cubicle to cubicle hoping one of my coworkers has a candy dish on their desk. Talk about pathetic. So I decided to do something about it. These no-bake energy bites are sweet with raw honey and sunflower butter, have a pinch of salt to balance things out, and finish with a yummy crunch from oats and almonds.

3. Nutritious Meals: Living in downtown DC makes takeout a quick and easy option after a long day. There are plenty of healthy options to choose from, but I tend to walk myself into the local Thai joint and order death-by-padthai. To save me from myself, I’ve decided to make a huge batch of butternut squash curry with lentils and shrimp. This dish is packed with nutrition and should last me through a few meals.

4. Glorious Sleep: I type this as I sit up at 10:30 writing. Bad fitness blogger. But we all know how critical sleep is to our mood, our health, and our workouts. Fit crashing would be terribly hard without a good night’s sleep. I’m setting an alarm at 10:45 to remind myself to start winding down for the day. At that point, the computer shuts and I start my bedtime routine.

5. Breathe: Coming off of a vacation is always like drinking out of a firehose. Not only has the work piled up at the office, but the holiday commercials are on full tilt reminding me of all the shopping I haven’t done yet. Talk about stress! Combat the overload by taking a big, deep, juicy breath. It slows the world down for a few moments and sends a signal to your brain to chillax. Things are going to be okay.

6. Schweat: This is something Lululemon made into a mantra, but I’m going to state it again. “Sweat once a day.” No excuses. I always need to remind myself that some days this means taking the stairs at work or walking around the block after dinner instead of sitting to watch TV. Other times it means fit crashing a new class and hammering out a killer workout. Little or big, take the steps to make it habit.


What are you doing to detox from the holiday?


Trying the original: The Bar Method DC


Crash course: The Bar Method DC is the city’s original barre studio based on the Bar Method franchise. It is located in the heart of downtown and is an easy walk from both the Metro Center and Chinatown metro stations. The class is a mix of barre work and stretching and uses micro movements to exhaust, tone, and strengthen various parts of the body. Don’t expect to work up a large sweat, but you will wake up with sore muscles the next day. With 65 classes per week, the studio also offers the most extensive schedule in DC. Click here for the full list. 


where: 750 9th Street NW, red line/Chinatown

bring: socks, water in a clear bottle

perks: showers, towels, lockers, blow dryers

sweat score: 4 out of 10

wear: socks, pants for leg lifts

cost: drop in rate is $24*

instructor: Kate G.

 

If you thought ballet-inspired workouts materialized out of the frothing frenzy of Natalie Portman wannabes, think again. The Bar Method is a franchise based on the principles of the Lotte Berk Method, an “ultimate body transformation system” popularized in the early 80s based on yoga, dance, and strength training. The Bar Method claims to build off of that foundation and:

integrates the fat burning format of interval training, the muscle shaping technique of isometrics, the elongating principles of dance conditioning, and the science of physical therapy to create a revolutionary new workout that quickly and safely reshapes your entire body.

Bar Method DC owner Kate Arnold brought the studio to DC after falling in love with classes in Chicago. “When my husband and I returned to DC, I couldn’t imagine my life without Bar Method in it. I knew that if I loved and needed The Bar Method in my life, that others in DC would feel the same.  And I was right!”

Studio

The studio is a bright and clean escape from the busy streets of downtown DC. Located just off of H Street, the front door opens to a welcoming front desk and waiting area. Sign in, tell the folks you are new, and you’ll be treated to a personalized tour of the space. Lucky for you, you’ll already have an idea of what to look for!

There is a beautiful women’s locker room in the back of the studio. Gents will have to use the bathrooms to prepare for class (sorry!). The locker room comes complete all the necessary amenities for freshening up after class, including mouth wash, hair dryers, lint rollers, lockers, coat rack, towels, and two showers.

There are two studios at this Bar Method location, both are carpeted and well lit. The smaller studio has no windows, which gives it the feeling of working out in someones finished basement…but other than that I have no real complaints.

Something unique from other barre studios I’ve visited are the stall bars located in the hallway and in each classroom. These are awesome for stretching out before and after class. It feels a bit like a medieval torture device (put her on the rack!) but it feels amazing. I thought for a minute it might even make me a little bit taller.

Class

The class basics were very similar to what I experienced at Biker Barre, Xtend Barre DC, and Barre3. We started with the arms, using small weights and sets of push ups to work the muscles to exhaustion. I never thought I’d grow to tremble at the sight of 2 lb. free weights, but consider me a changed woman.

We then moved on to doing thigh work, the typical series of squats, plies, and leg lifts you do in every barre class. There is a heavy emphasis on stretching the muscles after each set of exercises, which came as a welcome break at this point in the class when my muscles started to shake uncontrollably. So if you come to The Bar Method and think you can’t make it past the next set…hold on, my friend. Sweet relief is coming. Enjoy those stretches.

The class then moved on to seat work, which is just a fancy way of characterizing the muscles in the derrière. Somehow the tiny micro-moves we did got deep into those hard to reach places, because I couldn’t sit properly the next day. Kate assured me that “the short and intense strengthening intervals are a very effective way to tone and strengthen your body as well as burn calories and raise metabolism.” And, I must add, make you ridiculously sore. I look at this as a positive, but if you are going on a long car ride within 24-hours I wouldn’t recommend coming here for the first time.

The final minutes of each class are spent doing core exercises on the ground. I didn’t find these to be as effective as I had hoped, and spent many moments wondering if I was doing the exercise correctly because they didn’t feel particularly challenging. Then again, I was probably doing them wrong. Lesson: ask for help or an adjustment if you think you need it. The instructors would be more than happy to help. And after a few final stretches, you’re out the door.

Things I would change: 

- the music was a generic workout track and turned down low. I understand the focus is on the exercise, but when my legs are shaking uncontrollably and my arms are burning, help a sister out and turn up the beats.

- the price. I know the market in DC is expensive and they need to pay their rent, but I’m not sure I would ever be able to afford making this an every day indulgence. And for $24, I’d rather leave a place drenched in sweat and feeling like I was really put through the paces. Then again, it’s a great way to keep my knees in check during marathon training, so something tells me I’ll be back.

Instructor

Kate G. led the class I took last week. The one thing that most impressed me about her was how personalized she made the workout for everyone in the studio. Even with a class full of many first-time students like myself, she managed to memorize every one of our names. Now, I am terrible with names, so maybe my barre is low (get it?), but I was astounded by this. Talk about good customer relations and hospitality. So don’t think you’ll come to her class and sneak by with poor form in the back of the room. You’re not a number in this class, you’re a person, So be warned: she’ll call you out…by name…until you do it right. 

All of the instructors at The Bar Method train for 4 – 6 months learning barre technique, general anatomy, and exercise physiology – and it shows. The entire class is heavy with information, but I walked away with the feeling that I learned a little bit more about how my body works. Win!


Are you a fan of The Bar Method franchise?


*The Bar Method DC comped my first class, but all opinions are my own.

Thanksgiving Recap

Happy Monday! I am slowly working my way back into the workweek here in DC, but thought it would be fun to show you a few of the fit crashes I did while at home for Thanksgiving.

If you remember from my post last week, the original fit crasher (my mother) lined up quite the array of options. In fact, we signed up for a spin class as soon as I landed in Cincinnati. Talk about getting after it!

My luggage got stuck in Chicago and I had to sweat it out in leggings and my Toms. I have to say, they were actually great shoes to spin in! Give it a shot, I dare ya.

On Thanksgiving day we headed out for a four mile power walk/run to enjoy the warm weather. 

We did a few laps around Mirror Lake, pausing to check out the friendly ducks. Mom pulled the old “leaf as food” trick…worked like a charm.

It was time to get down to business when we got back to the house. Mom tackled the turkey and I tried out a new stuffing recipe featuring apple brandy. It was delicious!

We always have an unbelievable amount of food on Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception. We are truly blessed. Here’s a shot of my plate: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, green beans, cranberry/orange sauce. Talk about food coma! And check out at the sweet note mom put in our napkin rings – love.

After enjoying all of that delicious food, I had a huge hankering to get moving the next morning. The new hot power yoga studio in town sounded like the perfect place to work up a sweat. Luckily they had a spot left for their 9:30 class. Seven dollars later…I was in the door and ready to flow.

The type of class at Move Your Hyde was similar to Down Dog Yoga in DC, minus the crowds. I found it challenging and the instructor provided a wide variety of options with each pose. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in town. Also, how cool is this UV mat cleaning device in the studio?

On Saturday mom took me to her favorite pilates class at The Hyde Park Studio. She swore it made her sore for days – I said, “where do I sign?” Two days later, I can attest that the class does indeed leave you with sore muscles you didn’t even know you had. We used props and it was much more difficult than the one I took at Fuse Pilates. Next time I am in town I’m going to sign up for their back-to-back spin and pilates classes.

Sunday morning came quickly and I didn’t have much time to work out before my flight. Luckily our gym has a rowing machine, the perfect torture device for a quick sweat. Five minute warm up; five rounds of one minute hard one minute slow; five rounds of 30 seconds hard 30 seconds slow. I was drenched, refreshed, and ready to take on my journey back to DC.  

Best part of the workout? Seeing this:

You can’t see her pink glitter earphones or the other stuffed animal to her right, but you get the idea. Get it girl!


What workouts did you do over the holidays?



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