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. [line]
[left]where: 2603 P Street NW
perks: free mat rental, filtered water, small class sizes
sweat score: 4 out of 10 [/left][right]wear: anything you like
instructor: Kristen Krash
cost: drop in rate is $17 and $10 for students*[/right] [line]
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.