Crash Course: This, my friends, is a full-body cardio and weights class masquerading around in sassy yoga pants. It smiles and whispers “namaste” while challenging you to a full throttle push up contest. And let me tell you…it is awesome. There’s loud music. Yelling. Jumping up and down. Burpees. Bicep curls. Puddles of sweat. And a little bit of vinyasa flow thrown in for good measure. Visit the CorePower Yoga website for a full schedule of their yoga classes at locations in DC and across the country.
where: 6800 Wisconsin Ave. Suite #300/Bethesda Metro
bring: towel, water
perks: showers, free parking, rental mats, lockers
sweat score: 10 out of 10
wear: less is more, it’s hot!
cost: $20 drop-in, membership available
Full disclosure: I’m a hot-yoga-induced-adrennaline-rush junkie. If you know me well, it’s not entirely surprising that I absolutely loved the Sculpt class at CorePower Yoga. It’s a fast and furious combination of many of my favorite things: hot yoga, mid-workout dance parties (more on that later), random bursts of burpees, energetic instructors, and free weight reps that make my arms want to fall off. So when Nanci at the Bethesda location reached out about crashing a class at her studio, I found my SmarTrip card and across the DC line I went.
This particular studio is literally a stone’s throw from the District border and is 100% metro accessible. But if you want to keep things closer to home, CorePower Yoga also has locations in Georgetown and a new one opening in Glover Park next month. The Bethesda location is in a strange strip mall complex, nestled in with a CVS, PetCo, and Mattress Discounters <insert joke about strange bedfellows here>.
If you drive, parking is free. Just remember to have your ticket stamped at the front desk. Make your way to the third floor and follow the stream of yoga-mat-toting folks down a long hallway leading to the front door. And enter the calming, spa-like oasis that is CorePower Yoga.
I have never in my life been to such a beautiful yoga studio. There’s no musty yoga smell. Plenty of space to move around in. The lighting is bright and upbeat. Things appear to be impeccably clean. Everything has its aesthetically-pleasing place. Be still my heart.
Yes, I think that’s a fireplace. See what I mean? Who wouldn’t want to cozy up to some crackling embers while browsing through adorable yoga merchandise and sipping eco-friendly filtered water?
I’m not going to lie. I was blown away by my first impression. It’s just lovely. And if your heart can’t be won with filtered water and racks of fresh Luon, just wait till you see the locker rooms.
Bright. Clean. Roomy. Lots of little amenities in case you forgot a hair-tie or need some mouthwash. Can I move in?
And five showers. Five. I didn’t use one but walked in fully-clothed to have a look-see. Sparkling clean with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash built in. What a lovely way to rinse off after sweating your brains out in class.
I had to literally tear myself away from the locker room and all of it’s splendor. I’ve been to many a gym in this city, and I can count on one hand the spots where the digs were this nice. Well played, CorePower.
Now…on to class.
There are two yoga studios at this location. Both look very similar, so what you see above is what to expect. Gleaming clean floors, fun lights, and lots of windows. I’m a big fan of the natural light. And of the fact that I wasn’t walking through sweat puddles or musty air to get to my mat.
I grabbed two sets of free weights, a block, and settled in to enjoy the proverbial calm before the storm.
Nanci led us through a few warm up yoga poses to kick things off. The music was thumping. Her upbeat voice carried well. And you could tell we were in for a wild ride.
From what I could tell, the class follows a very specific sequence of moves. There’s a leg, arm, and glute series. Each involves a few yoga-inspired moves like chair pose or warrior two, but made enormously more challenging thanks to weighted reps. For example, imagine sitting low in chair pose. Now imagine pulsing in chair pose. Now imagine pulsing in chair pose while doing overhead tricep curls while Miley Cyrus is blaring and sweat is pouring into your eyes. Now you get the picture.
I’ll be honest, this class is really tough. I had to take a few breaks. My arms and legs were shaking. Some positions needed modification just so I could get through them. But everyone in the room was in the same boat – so hear me out: do not feel any pressure to keep up. Be smart about the workout. It’s hot in there people.
The most interesting thing about the Sculpt class, in my opinion, is the mid-workout cardio segment. I’m not entirely sure how long it lasts (about the length of one song), but it involves any assortment of high knees, squat jumps, mountain climbers, and running in place. In other words, it’s a spastic dance party on your yoga mat. While easily the heart-pumpingest portion of the workout, it was also the most fun. I couldn’t believe the energy Nanci had – she was bouncing all around the room, shouting out commands and dancing to the music.
You know who else was laughing?
That guy. I swear the Buddha statue in the corner of the room was silently cracking up as all of us lept, repped, and sweat all over the place. Yoga? I’m not so sure I buy it. This class was a lot more “ommmmm(g)” than “ommmm.” But it’s a crazy challenging and fun workout that no doubt will whip you into great shape, no matter your fitness or yoga goals.
Would you call this class “yoga”?
Crash Course: extendYoga is located in northern Bethesda, a little off the beaten path from the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown area. The studio offers heated and non-heated yoga classes for all levels. I crashed the Saturday morning hot power flow class, which according to the extendYoga website, focuses on linking conscious breath with a vigorous and mindful flow. For a full list of classes, click here.
where: 12106 Wilkins Ave., North Bethesda
bring: mat, mat towel, towel, water
perks: free parking, mat/towel rental, $5 friday classes, new students receive two weeks for $20
sweat score: 8 out of 10
wear: clothes suited for working out in the heat
cost: drop in rate is $18*
extendYoga is a bit farther outside the DC area than I regularly go for my crashes, but it was worth it to find this little gem of a studio. It is not metro accessible and a bit tucked away – if you look in the middle of that “Parklawn” sign off the side of the road you’ll see a blue lotus. That’s where you should turn in.
There is plenty of free parking outside, which is a huge plus for this city girl. If I have to drive to a crash, I typically circle around the neighborhood for a good 15 minutes before finding a spot. It was so nice to not have to worry about it this time – particularly at 9 a.m. on a Saturday!
Step into extendYoga and you’ll be instantly transported to a schwanky city yoga studio, except with much more space! It is beautiful inside, with shiny wood floors, bright windows, and spotless studios. The front desk area also has a lounge space and yoga-centric merchandise to browse.
You all know how much I love the little details studios include to make guests feel at home. At extend, they have a bar area with cold lemon water, hot tea, cookies, and crackers. What a great spot to grab a treat before or after class!
I love that the owners framed their first yoga mats and used them as art in the studio. What a great idea!
The changing area, two bathrooms, and the heated studio are located the back of the building. Everything is very clean and bright – my favorite combination.
This room is a combination coat room, shoe storage area, and changing space. I love the yoga wall decals – aren’t they fun? It can get a little bit crowded, but I had no issues finding a spot to lay my belongings without feeling jostled or rushed. Those curtains section off a little area where you can change into your yoga clothes. If that’s not enough privacy, head to one of the two bathrooms.
This photo isn’t the best quality, but I wanted to test out the panorama function on my camera to give you a full glimpse at the hot yoga studio. You can see how bright and airy it is – it’s almost impossible to think this gleaming room can reach up to 101 degrees. Sizzle! Not pictured to the right is an area with blocks, straps, bolsters, and mat cleaning supplies.
This is the non-heated studio, located in the middle of extend’s floor plan. It’s just as spacious but has no windows. You wouldn’t know it though; the bright hanging lights and high ceilings give the entire place a very open feel.
The hour-long heated power yoga class I crashed was…in a word…hot. I have been taking hot power yoga classes for about eight years, but the scorching temperatures in this class were above and beyond anything I had experienced before. Well, except for in a Birkam class. How hot, you ask? The temperature hovered around 101. It didn’t help that I happened to be right in the path of one of the heating fans, but judging from the sweat dripping from everyone around me, it was hot no matter where you put your mat. I mention this because some people like heated yoga, and some people like hot yoga. You decide if this kind of heat is for you. (Note: extendYoga also offers plenty of non-heated options…so check out their schedule to see what works best for your needs.)
Allison taught a very accessible, flowing class. The pace was slower than I am used to for a power yoga class: this is great if you want a gentler, more available hot yoga option, but not ideal if you are looking for a butt-kicking, extremely athletic practice. She used creative pose combinations, had very helpful cuing, and walked around the room to make adjustments. For an hour-long class, we worked just about every major sequence and I left feeling like everything had received a very good stretch. And the very best perk? That little rock you see in the photo above. During vinyasa, Allison passed around these smooth stones – which had been refrigerated in lavender water – to place on our foreheads. So simple, but it made for such a wonderful treat after the hot and sweaty class.
Because I’m always looking for heathy ways to refuel after my crashes, I popped into MOM’s Organic Market to grab a fresh juice and grain bowl. It is located about five minutes from the studio, has plenty of parking, and even has a few charging stations for those of you with electric cars. I had never been to a MOM’s before and was very impressed with the quality and extent of their products. Think Whole Foods meets Yes! meets local farmers market.
There is a little spot inside the store called Naked Lunch where you can purchase fresh salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, home made kombucha, and juices. Everything is organic and made to order. I went with a carrot, beet, cucumber, ginger juice and the Moler Bowl, which had a combination of farro, quinoa and barley with all sorts of delicious veggies mixed in. The entire thing is served warm and was absolutely, ridiculously delicious. I can’t recommend it enough. If you are near the Rockville MOM’s and looking for a quick and healthy meal…this is the spot for you.
What’s your favorite spot for a healthy post-workout meal?
*extendYoga generously waived my drop in fee. This post is not an endorsement and all opinions are my own.
Crash Course: Hold on to your yoga pants ladies and gents, because this class is one heck of a ride. Ninety minutes of power vinyasa flow in a heated room packed to the gills with sweating, exhaling, bending yogis. Come through the door knowing that you will be pushed to your limits physically and mentally. Hate other people sweating on you? Not big on trying new things? Like to look fresh after working out? Then I suggest you go somewhere else. Down Dog is a rocking experience that will leave you in a pool of your own sweat, exhausted, elated, and wondering when you can come back to do it all over again. Sign up online and come early, the classes fill fast. Click here to see the schedule.
where? 1046 Potomac Street NW, Georgetown
bring? towel, sweat bands, extra set of clothes
perks? changing rooms, mat/towel rental
sweat score? 11 out of 10
wear? less is more; be prepared for leg lifts
how much? walk-in is $18
I first discovered Down Dog Yoga in college. It was a short walk from my cramped apartment and offered a reprieve from the dull whirling of the gym. It kicked my butt from the very first class and still does so today, eight years later. Honestly, it’s one of the main reasons I keep going back to Down Dog; the instructors are consistently good and I never leave feeling like it was a workout wasted. In the studio’s own words:
Down Dog yoga is a challenging practice. But, our method, no matter your age or experience level, will push you to healthy edge and pull more out of you than you ever thought possible. All you need is the willingness to take a leap of faith and a desire for a lifetime of good health.
The Georgetown studio is Down Dog’s flagship location. It’s a small building located at the end of the cobblestone alley next to Dean and Deluca. Your best best is to follow the streams of folks with yoga mats rushing to get a space in line.
Speaking of which: evening classes fill up fast and the line is often out the door. I’d recommend getting there at least 20 minutes in advance, and prepare for a bit of jostling and stress as you squeeze through the droves of spandex trying to secure their spots. The class is oh so worth it, but the pre-class rush is enough to spike anyone’s blood pressure.
Once you make it inside, head to the back to find changing rooms, storage cubbies, and a bathroom. Perk alert: the bathroom is stocked with makeup removing wipes and extra hair ties.
The studio itself looks sparse when empty, but cram 60 or so bodies in there and you’ll be happy for the blank wall space.
Blocks, straps, cleaning solution, and a separate bathroom are located in the back of the classroom.
Class starts and ends with three ohms. If you’re me, this may cause you to awkwardly laugh. My advice? Giggle…and then try it.
The 90 minute class is similar to bikram in that it begins with standing poses and then moves on to floor poses. It’s very different from bikram in that it flows quickly from pose to pose without a regimented sequence. There’s a powerful momentum that takes hold around the 10 minute mark and doesn’t let go until the final resting pose.
See those mats? This is how close you will be to your neighbor. You may as well make the best of it and introduce yourself!
The main focus throughout class is on the breath. Down Dog works with ujjayi breathing – a fancy word for breathing through your nose. You will hear a lot of “inhale, exhale” from the instructors. It seems like a no brainer, but when it’s 96 degrees and you’re twisted in three different directions and the guy next to you is projectile sweating…a reminder to breathe is helpful.
The instructors move throughout the studio during class. They will step on your mat. They will adjust your hips to a whole new level of “sensation.” They will say things that make you laugh and wonder and think (and think again). The intensity of the workout is often matched with the intensity of the overall experience. Hang on for the ride, I think you’ll end with a smile on your face.
As with all yoga, the poses are only as intense as you make them. Some days I go in and bang through the poses like a yogic rockstar. Other days I spend 45 minutes in child’s pose dreaming of ice cubes and dry clothes. You never know how your body will respond to the heat and the intensity of the workout, so try not to get discouraged if you’re down on the mat more often than not.
TanO has been with Down Dog for a few years now, and his classes are some of the most popular. For a good reason. He delivers a crazy challenging class with heavy dose of thought-provoking tid bits. Some of my favorites from today were “you have to get through it to get to it,” “you’re your best yoga teacher, I’m just the guide,” and “you don’t think you’re a yogi? You’re here, aren’t you? It’s time to own it.”
So if you come by Down Dog in Georgetown, make sure to say hello to TanO and all of the other instructors. If there’s one you swear by or avoid like the plague, I’d love to hear about it!
What’s your preference: bikram or hot vinyasa flow?