Halftime Leisure

It’s a Down-Dog Eat Down-Dog World: yoga culture in DC

September 21, 2015


Photo: daveynin on Flickr

Yoga can be a down dog eat down dog world. This is especially the case at Down Dog Yoga, the local yoga melee of Georgetown yogis and yoginis, located in a former garage just on the edge of the Potomac Canal. Instructors at Down Dog say things like, “I am working to make DC a better place to live by starting a yoga revolution. Please join me.”

I’ve never quite felt like I fit into the yoga community.  I secretly never chant “ohm” at the outset or closing of each class, and I can’t do camel pose—my back just doesn’t bend that way without cracking. Also, sometimes I just want to remain in child’s pose ad nauseum.

I should add that Down Dog runs heated classes; at anywhere between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the room becomes a synthetic sauna as yogis flow through chaturanga after chaturanga (aka a high-plank-to-low-plank-to-up-dog-to-downward-facing-dog sequence).  In this vinyasa-flow-meets-power-yoga, personal space ceases to exist as you tend to be gridlocked mat to mat with some stranger who will likely fling his or her sweat at you. Namaste.

All of this being said, I keep coming back to yoga, specifically at Down Dog.  But like all things in DC, Down Dog can get a little political. Patty Ivey makes it known that she runs the studio; she both teaches and attends classes.  Once, in a class where I practiced just two mats away from her, I was distracted by her indiscrete whispering of inspirational phrases in a repeat-after-me tone directed at the instructor teaching our class. The poor instructor proceeded to echo exactly what she said like a subservient child.

Yet overall the instructors are lovely.  My three favorites are Marcus, Kahlil, and Claire. Marcus teaches an amazing class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:30 am.  The tones of his classes are never overly inspirational or soliloquizing, rather the focus is more on pushing the boundaries of your fitness—for new and experienced yogis and yoginis alike.  Kahlil I love for his personality. He left the world of science, and years of working in a lab, for the world of yoga. He’s witty and just a little bit awkward in the most endearing of ways, but his perspective on life is unique, and it’s worth attending his classes both for the work out and to hear what he has to say.

With Claire—a former Hoya—I always feel like I have a friend in class. Her spirit is incredibly welcoming; though perhaps I’m a bit biased, as she was my first instructor at Down Dog. What’s different about Claire is that she’s ready to admit that there are good days and bad days both in yoga and life in general.  In doing so she makes you feel better about yourself for being who you are amid the brilliance in life and the mundane.

While yoga may seem strange to those who don’t practice it (especially yoga at Down Dog) yoga is about unity; the etymology of the word yoga comes from the Vedic Sanskrit which meaning “to unite.”  It’s a coming together of people from many different places with many different worldviews—students, teachers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, children, politicians, lawyers, doctors, friends…

And if dogs could do yoga, I’m sure even Bo and Sunny, the First Dogs of the United States, would partake. 



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