Feel Good Look Good: Yoga

Yoga Can Stretch, Strengthen, and Relax You, All at Once. Here Are Good Places to Learn.

Finding Your Balance

Yoga Can Stretch, Strengthen, and Relax You, All at Once. Here Are Good Places to Learn.

Washington isn't so stiff. Behind the blue-suited politicians, lawyers, and television pundits are some terrific–and busy–yoga studios and teachers.

Yoga is an ancient practice that integrates the body, mind, and spirit. Stressed-out Washingtonians do yoga to improve relaxation and strengthen muscles.

The Washingtonian interviewed local yoga leaders and students to create this list of the area's best yoga centers.

Shop around for a class and teacher that suit you. Some studios offer one class free. Ask about an instructor's training and how long he or she has been teaching. The Pennsylvania-based Yoga Alliance (www.yogaalliance.org) established a national Yoga Teachers' Registry, a listing of teachers with at least 200 hours of training. The Mid-Atlantic Yoga Association (www.mayayoga.org) is a local resource that also lists teachers.

Find out the style taught by the instructor and who it is suited for; some people presume all yoga is restful and soothing, but Ashtanga, for example, is best done by athletes and gym rats.

Tell an instructor about any physical limitations you have. Put any competitive spirit away or you'll hurt yourself trying to best your fellow students' twists and turns.

And remember: Breathe.

Good Yoga Centers

Classes range from 60 to 120 minutes; a higher price usually means the class is longer. Larger studios (and a few smaller ones) offer a menu of classes that may include yoga for teens, kids, seniors, and pregnant women.

Ashtanga Yoga Center, 4435 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-342-6029; www.ashtangayogadc.com. Even the seriously buff are humbled by Ashtanga's fast pace. Studio owner David Ingalls will challenge your every muscle. Class fee, $15; ten-class card, $130.

Bagheera Yoga, 2801 Adams Mill Rd., NW, room 306; 202-265-1783; www.bagheerayoga.com. Bobbi Poncé-Barger offers instruction in her airy studio overlooking Rock Creek Park. Her relaxing classes focus on postures, breathing, and Eastern and Asian yoga philosophies. Class fee, $14; $100 for a ten-class card.

Bikram's Yoga College of India, 4908 Wisconsin Ave., NW, second floor, 202-243-3000; www.dcbikramyoga.com. Ex-Army Ranger Jim Ambrogi takes pity on overheated students during the 90-minute class–in a mirror-lined Tenleytown room heated to more than 105 degrees–by offering ice packs and a chance to step out of the room. The idea behind the heat is that it loosens muscles. Students perform Bikram Choudhury's 26 poses in sequence–twice. Those who forget a yoga mat, or bath and hand towels, can rent; water available for purchase. Class fee, $13; monthly unlimited access card, $150. On-site showers.

Bikram Yoga Dupont, 1635 Connecticut Ave. NW, fourth floor; 202-332-8680; www.bikramyogadc.com. Carolan Sudol opened the area's second Bikram studio, which offers the same 26 poses in a heated room. On-site showers and water available. Class fee, $15; ten-class pass, $125.

Capitol Hill Yoga, 221 Fifth St., NE; 202-544-0011; www.capitolhillyoga.com. Kripalu-certified Leyla Mahbod incorporates dance and meditation into yoga at this small studio. Class fees: $10 to $17.

Divine Life Yoga, 19008 High Point Dr., Gaithersburg; 301-924-5164; yogalife@his.com. Hillary Blackton combines yoga with meditation, punctuated by an "om" at the end of each class. She blends Kripalu and Iyengar, using props such as straps and blocks to hold poses. Class size is limited to 11 students. Fee: $18 drop-in class; ten-class pass, $160.

Down Dog Yoga, 1046 Potomac St., NW; 202-965-9642; downdogyoga.com. This Georgetown studio takes the prize for best space: 14-foot ceilings and high windows that overlook the city and the Potomac. The lightly heated room glows from candles on the windowsills. The music, thankfully, is not New Age; it borders on rock. Baron Baptiste-trained Cathy Cox leads students through a challenging sequence of poses that starts with an "om" and ends with a poem. Towel and mat rentals $1 each. Class fee, $17; $120 monthly unlimited pass. Student discounts.

Evergreen Yoga, Bethesda; 301-320-3630; www.moreyoga.com/evergreen. Viniyoga instructor Shelly Greenberg leads groups of 8 to 12 students through postures adapted for individual needs. The focus is on safety, strength, flexibility, and balance. Fee: $18; six classes for $96.

Health Advantage Yoga Center, 1041 Sterling Rd., Suite 202, Herndon; 703-435-1571; www.healthadvantageyoga.com. Anusara yoga is taught at one of the area's busiest studios. Try director Susan Van Nuys or Doug Keller for advanced classes; Janet Kim for levels I and II. Class fees: $15; $120 to $195 for 8- to 13-week sessions.

Samata Yoga Studio, 2401 Columbia Pike, Arlington; 703-979-9642; www.samatayogastudio.com. Samata means even-mindedness, and owner Gayle Fleming strives to infuse that into her students through a blend of Iyengar and Anusara, moving through guided relaxation poses and breathing. Class fee: $16; 13-week session, $182.

Spiral Flight, 1726 Wisconsin Ave., NW, second floor; 202-965-1645; www.spiralflightyoga.com. This studio shouts fun, with local artists' works on the walls. Each class includes chanting, meditation, and breath work. Owner Cristin Tighe specializes in teaching kids and teens; adults, try Jane Fryer. Class fees: $12 to $18.

Sun & Moon Yoga Studio, 3811 Lee Hwy., Arlington, 703-525-2058; 9998 Main St., Fairfax, 703-934-9480; and Belle Meade Inn, Rappahannock, 540-825-1215; sunandmoonstudio.com. Students who get a class from yoga leader JJ Gormley, who is trained in various styles, will experience a smooth blend of breathing, postures, and mind-balancing techniques. Classes: $13 to $20; 14 weeks for $196.

Unity Woods Yoga Center, locations in Bethesda, Woodley Park, Tenleytown, and Arlington; call 301-656-8992 for all or see www.unitywoods.com. The largest Iyengar center in the country, founded by John Schumacher, offers a style that utilizes props to hold positions. Iyengar is disciplined and precise. Class fee, $16; 12 weeks for $192.

Willow Street Yoga Center, 6930 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park; and 8561 Fenton St., second floor, Silver Spring, 301-270-8038; www.willowstreetyoga.com. This studio is renowned for its Anusara teachings, a style often referred to as a playful Iyengar. Try a class with owner Suzie Hurley, son Joe Miller, or her daughter, Kate Miller. Fee: $20 a drop-in class; 13 weeks for $195.

Yoga for Dummies

From Ashtanga toViniyoga, Here's How to Make Sense of the Lingo

Finding a yoga class you like may require knowing something about the different schools of training. Many area studios adhere to one style. Others blend and bend the styles.

Iyengar is the most widely taught in this area, thanks to Unity Woods, the largest Iyengar studio in the country.

Other words you will encounter include hatha (physical), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), vinyasa (the flow of moves), and namaste ("I bow to the Divine in you").

Yoga Styles

Anusara: A playful style that means "follow your heart." A workout that is subtle yet relaxing.

Ashtanga: Also called power yoga, Ashtanga features a rapid-fire style and is a tough workout.

Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga: Also referred to as Hot Yoga–just not as hot as Bikram's–this yoga was created by former Bikram Choudhury student Baron Baptiste. The style is challenging and will leave you toned.

Bikram's: In his perfect world, Bikram Choudhury's 26 poses are repeated twice in a 105-degree room to warm and loosen muscles. Often studios can't reach the peak heat. A rigorous style, not for the weak of heart.

Iyengar: A precise style using props such as blocks, straps, and cushions to help hold poses. The result is proper body alignment and balance. The props can allow those with previous injuries and limitations to do a pose.

Kripalu: Focuses on postural alignment, meditation, and flow. A blend of movement and relaxation.

Kundalini: Meant to awaken your serpent power, or Kundalini, through chants, breathing, postures, and meditation. Not for the self-conscious.

Viniyoga: Emphasizes adapting a posture to an individual's capacity. Good if you want gentle yoga or are nursing aninjury.

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