Posts Tagged ‘yoga’
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: The Hatha/Iyengar Inspired class on Sunday afternoons is a level two playground for students who want an expressive, inquisitive, no-holds-barred deep dive into their practice. Be prepared for just as much mental stretching as physical – you’ll be asked to move the lower inner left back of your kneecap away from the outer upper right back of your kneecap at the same time. Figure that one out while still tying to keep your balance and you’ll have an idea of what to expect. It’s a wonderful academic approach to yoga and a breath of fresh air from the more ubiquitous vinyasa approach. Hatha places greater emphasis on longer held poses and the Iyengar bit means you’ll be using blocks, straps, blankets, and even the wall as you move through the class. Check out the Georgetown Yoga site for a full schedule of classes.
where: 2603 P Street NW
perks: free mat rental, filtered water, small class sizes
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: anything you like
instructor: Kristen Krash
cost: drop in rate is $17 and $10 for students*
Georgetown Yoga is one of the most recent additions to the DC yoga family. It sits half way between the hubbub of Georgetown and Dupont, just across the street from Rose Park. The easiest way to get there sans car is to bike or walk from the Dupont metro. There are no close-by bikeshare stations, so I left mine at the Dupont metro corral and hoofed it about 10 – 15 minutes to the studio.
Eli – one of the owners – me outside with an iPad. There is no sign in desk or reception area in the studio, so the check-in process is done entirely via mobile device. When you walk in you’ll see why. The studio is a one room wonder. No merchandise table, no computer desk, no changing rooms. A modest, bright, clean space dedicated solely to the task at hand and a stark contrast to every other yoga studio I’ve visited. I loved the simplicity of it.
There is a small back room to store your belongings and to collect props. You’ll also find a bathroom, filtered water stand, and yoga mats to borrow.
That’s the full tour! Class sizes are intentionally kept small to maintain the relaxed atmosphere. Eli explained that he really prefers students to have a few inches of space to work with before they run into their neighbor’s mat. There’s just nothing zen about having someone’s foot in your face, he said…and I have to agree. From the wide open studio room and the lack of extraneous clutter to the space between the mats, the entire philosophy behind Georgetown Yoga goes something like this:
We try to keep it simple. It’s not about how much you sweat, how far you can twist yourself, or if you chant ‘om.’ It’s about great yoga. And great yoga teachers.
Can I get an amen? Another refreshing detail I noticed was in the students themselves. At least today, there was no hint of “keeping up with the Joneses” in terms of gear, clothing, or accessories. All too often yoga studios feel a bit like runways as opposed to centers of wellness and exercise. Today the rule was: wear whatever you want, laugh when you fall over, and just enjoy the simplicity of being yourself in the moment.
Now, let’s get down to the business of the class. When I first signed up, Eli reminded me this was a level two class. “Oh that’s okay,” I chimed. “I’ve never tried this type of practice but I’ve been practicing for years. Everything should be fine.” Famous. last. words.
Yoga has a funny way of pulling the mat from under your feet and reminding you of the humility you so desperately deserve.
I followed along with the instructor at the start of class as she rolled a blanket into a tight ball. This is interesting – never seen this trick before. “And then,” Kristen said calmly, “lay on top of it so it presses firmly into the pit of your stomach. And breathe.” Three minutes into this class and I’m already toast. There I lay, suffering through a self-inflicted and persistent punch in the gut, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. This was not like anything I had ever done in all my years of practice. This was uncomfortable, strange, and made me want to run out the door. As if a sign from the great yogini from above, I glanced over and caught a glimpse of the message on my block.
Real funny, block. How is one supposed to keep calm and practice on with a ball of blanket pushing and squishing her innards in every abnormal direction. But you know what? A few moments later we were out of the pose and I was reminded of the entire purpose of yoga: to be in the present moment, because nothing is certain and nothing lasts. The ah-ha moment was worth every second of that uncomfortable blanket pose. Now, I’m not saying the rest of class became any easier. There were moving handstands, partner camel poses against a wall, a series of standing and seated splits, and a few other moves that brought me to my edge and back again time and again.
Despite my see-sawing emotions of panic and relief about being in over my head, I was so deeply concentrated on every tiny micro-movement Kristen was cuing that I didn’t have much time to think about how improbable the pose seemed. She teaches an enormously academic and thought-provoking class. I will never, ever look at down dog the same way again. There were times when I had to really stop and think, “now, what ten things am I supposed to be doing in this pose?” But it was a much-needed jolt from any anticipation I had to turn on autopilot and flow through the poses. She demanded we be fully present, fully engaged, and fully aligned. And, as she warned at the beginning of class, I definitely left feeling like a piece of pulled-out taffy.
If you are looking for a no-frills, simple, non-competitive atmosphere to practice in, I’d check this tiny space out. And if the Hatha/Iyengar level two craziness seems a bit extreme for your taste, they offer a variety of other styles so just check the schedule to find something that works with what you need.
Have you had any humbling yoga moments?
* Georgetown Yoga generously waived my drop in fee for this class. This review and all opinions are my own.
Last week, Sculpt asked me to come by and crash their new monthly class called the “Sculpt Lab.” If the name conjures memories of that dreaded high school course when you were partnered with the kid with sweaty hands, don’t fret. While there won’t be any chemical mixing or mitochondria modeling, the hour-long class is definitely a bit of a mad science experiment in the fields of stamina, calorie burning, and sweat.
So what exactly is Sculpt Lab? Each month, the studio chooses one of their instructors to piece together a Frankenstein workout based on participant requests. While Sculpt focuses on spin and yoga classes during the week, the Lab class are a wild combination of any and all workout options put on the table by the instructor. This month, Anita sent an email to everyone signed up for the Lab class soliciting votes on what we would like to do. We chose from the following: body weight exercises, yoga, pilates, kick boxing, spin, plyometrics. I’m not entirely sure there was any choosing or voting, because we ended up checking all of those things off the list in one crazy, calorie-burning hour.
We started Lab in the spin studio with 25 minutes of intense intervals. There were flashing lights. Standing climbs. Eye-closingly-intense seated sprints. And then there was “Dirty Pop” by NSYNC – which Anita swears is one of the most challenging spin songs of all time. I can’t say I disagree, but I was too busy signing and channeling my 14-year-old self to notice. This first part of class definitely was not a warm up – we cannonballed right into the deep end and never looked back. With shaky legs and sweat pouring everywhere, we moved on to the second part of class in the yoga room.
Don’t let the yoga mats and mood lighting fool you – this was not a cool down. Anita turned up the music and we began with plyometric moves (think lots of jumping). We transitioned into kickboxing, followed by a series of push ups and planks. I’m not going to lie, after the kickboxing part I was starting to really feel fatigued and pushed to my limit. This was tough. Think muscle confusion meets bootcamp meets a crazy and twisted decathlon.
We ended with a few signature Pilates moves focusing on abs (not the easy ones I was hoping for) and then, as if the giant Buddha head decided to show mercy on us, we cooled down with some yoga. Oh boy, Sculpt Lab, you crashed this crasher in the best way possible.
This was tough, fun, and totally unlike any other class I have taken before. If you go, remember to listen to your body and monitor your heart-rate’s roller-coaster ride. I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for the March Lab to see what kind of insane combination you piece together next. And for those of you who have never taken a class with Anita – do it. She teaches an enormous variety of things ranging from spin to breakdance yoga at gyms all over DC and is a total ball of energy.
One other thing to note: I haven’t been back to Sculpt since they did a bit of remodeling downstairs to help maximize the space. The landing on the ground floor is now much more open, with only one cubby cube and a bench. This helps reduce the claustrophobia of everyone standing on top of each other trying to get to their lockers at once.
The lockers now line the hallway wall leading from the changing area to the spin studio. This is such a big improvement in their use of space and general flow. I’m a fan.
I’m also digging this new piece of artwork hanging on the wall. Oh, it’s so true. If only all watches looked like this.
Sculpt Lab: eureka or scary?
On Sunday I bundled up in my warmest running gear and drove over to the City Sports in Georgetown to join their Rock ‘n Roll half marathon training group. Each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. until the race on March 16, the store will be hosting a guided run to help get participants ready to conquer 13.1. This weekend they had 11 miles on the docket.
I don’t typically eat before working out, but I woke up with a grumbling stomach and knew I needed to feed it something before we attempted any sort of distance. So I stuck with something relatively plain – ezekial toast, almond butter, raw honey, and banana – with the hope of satisfying my hunger without causing any unnecessary stomach upset on the road. It worked!
There are always so many things to think about when joining a new training group. What pace will they run? How many runners will there be? Are they chatty or quiet? Down for stretch breaks or not? Will the route be worthwhile? Are they friendly? I mean, 11 miles is a long way to go with people you’re not meshing with. That said, you don’t know till you try, so I decided to take my chances and dive right in. Here we are taking a group photo before hitting the road – notice how nice and toasty we all look. That didn’t last long!
There were two pace groups on this run: one at 10 minutes or slower, and one that was supposed to be around 8 – 9. The store manager mentioned that they typically offer three pace groups, but today one of the leaders couldn’t make it. Because I’m trying to hold somewhere between 8:15 – 8:30 for the half marathon, I stuck with the faster of the two groups. We ended up running 9 minute miles the whole time and I seemed to be the only one keeping track of pace and distance (there were a lot of “what mile is this?” and “how fast are we going now?” questions).
It was the first group training run I’ve ever been on that didn’t have the familiar chorus of chirping Garmins chiming at every mile. Strange and refreshing all at the same time. But for someone who is training with a time goal in mind, the laid-back attitude was a bit frustrating. Then again, I’m a tad competitive…so take that for what it’s worth. My advice is this: if you are looking for an easy going, non-intimidating group to train with, I’d check out City Sports. If you are particular about keeping a faster pace and know your way around the paths and trails of DC, I’d check out one of the more established groups like DC Road Runners, Pacers, or Potomac Runners.
The other thing that struck me as odd about this group is that the run leaders were not vary familiar with the city or with commonly-used DC running trails. I was happy to point out where Rock Creek Park trail was and how to get through the Zoo to Connecticut Ave., but was surprised that nobody else on the run knew where many of the major landmarks and turns were. I’m not saying runners need to be DC map experts, and going out for an exploratory run and finding your own way can be fun – but joining a group for a training (vs. fun) run shouldn’t come with the adventure of finding your way around the city for 11 miles. Just my two cents – the group is fairly new and hopefully with a few more runs under their belt they’ll have it down in no time.
That said, I really did enjoy the runners in our little pace group and want to give a shout out to Joy, the City Sports representative on our run, who was a constant source of upbeat energy. We all made our way through Rock Creek Park, up through the Zoo (hello hill!), down Connecticut Ave to Dupont, and over to the City Sports store in Chinatown. This is where we stopped for a quick water break (and to try to return feeling to our frozen fingers). Then we made our way over past the White House to Connecticut Ave., up through Dupont Circle, across P Street to Wisconsin Avenue and then home on M Street to the Georgetown store.
The run itself was really good and I felt ready to tackle 13 miles in March. But then again, the pace was slower than I was used to and I also had a lot of opportunity to stop and stretch along the way thanks to a route that zig-zagged through downtown (read: stopping every block for the traffic lights). I mentioned to the City Sports folks afterward that this wasn’t a lot of fun for tired (and cold!) legs, and maybe a better route for their 12 miler next weekend could include a few more miles outside of downtown to help keep runners on pace and cut down on lag time waiting at crosswalks.
After saying my goodbye’s at the Georgetown store, I came home and promptly changed out of my cold and wet running clothes, grabbed a big glass of water, and settled in for a good stretch. Thanks to the cold temperatures, my muscles were already feeling stiff and I knew I needed to give them some extra TLC. I had been hearing good things about the site Do Yoga With Me – which offers an online library of free yoga videos – so I thought I’d give one a try. It was meant to be, because I immediately found a video called “Yoga for Runners: Post Run” that was perfect. It had a few moves I’ve never done before and they felt phenomenal on my tired legs. I’ve bookmarked it to use regularly, but if you have any others that you’d recommend please let me know!
What do you think about training with a new running group? Do you have a favorite?
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.