As cold weather forces many students to move their workouts inside, the temperature in the studio at Down Dog Yoga on Potomac Street remains a balmy 95 degrees. Those emerging from the 6 p.m. Thursday class step casually into the cold, reluctant to put their jackets back on.
Owner Patty Ivey says that since Down Dog’s opening, she has seen a steady stream of students from Georgetown and The George Washington University populating her classes, which she says are packed mornings, evenings and weekends.
Heated yoga — a field that has expanded greatly since its invention in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury — combines the traditional yoga benefits of strength, flexibility and balance with a detoxification process, as students literally sweat out toxins. Ivey says that this kind of cleansing is especially beneficial for students.
“It’s a great way to sweat out, you know, college kids’ types of living … We have a lot of junk in our bodies.”
Ivey also points to the mental and psychological benefits of hot yoga: Down Dog’s particular style of hot yoga is called power yoga because “as the body is strengthened, so is the mind.” Beyond strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility, she says, students see themselves becoming less stressed, more positive and more confident in their decisions.
At Bikram Yoga Dupont, another local studio, instructor Lauren Mills has similar praise for hot yoga’s mental benefits, especially nutritional and lifestyle ones.
“I’m more aware of what I put in my body,” Mills says.
Unlike Down Dog, Bikram Yoga Dupont follows the traditional Bikram routine. Bikram is the Catholic mass of hot yoga, a set series of 26 postures performed in the same order during every session.
“No matter where you go in the world, you know exactly what you’re getting into,” Mills says.
For Bikram, the room is heated to 105 degrees, a difference from power yoga that is immediately noticeable when entering the studio. However, within only a couple of minutes, both series leave students drenched in sweat. Down Dog’s postures emphasize more strength and aerobics, including sit-ups and bridge positions, while Bikram includes more flexibility and balance exercises.
Most students in attendance are regulars, as the payment plans are structured toward regular membership. Student passes are $110 for a month at Bikram Yoga Dupont for unlimited use or $100 for a plan of the same nature at Down Dog. However, both studios also offer promotional deals in which students can try their first week for a reduced price, or, in the case of Down Dog, for free. Used to such trial visitors, instructors are especially friendly to newcomers, emphasizing the noncompetitive nature of yoga and encouraging participants to try without fear of failing.
“The sooner you start, really, the better,” Mills says. “Actually, one of our senior teachers, she’s in her 80s, and she looks like she’s in her 50s. She’s like, I’ve had the same body for 20 years with Bikram yoga”.