I’ve always loved going to yoga classes, trying out different styles of yoga, and feeling how its benefits impact my daily life routine. But lately I’ve stopped going with the cost of classes at studios just being too much, and not being part of gym that offers yoga groups. So when I found out about free sunset yoga on the pier at National Harbor, I was itching to try it out. The National Harbor, a D.C. landmark and popular attraction with shopping, dining, events, is right on the water and a perfect location to view the sunset. Located on 250 Waterfront Street, Oxen Hill, Maryland, the Harbor is easily accessible from route 295 or 495 from D.C. and Virginia via car. There is no Metro stop nearby the site. The free yoga series is offered exclusively during the summer months.
At my first class on a Tuesday evening, about 50 people congregated under the tent at National Harbor’s East Ridge pier, and for one hour an unspoken camaraderie developed between dozens of total strangers all withstanding the heat and the intensity of the class. Whoever said yoga isn’t a cardio workout must have never done it before. The workout is a true test to your athletic abilities. Next to the pier where the group is held, there is free live traditional yoga music being performed, similar to the CD’s your instructors turn on during indoor practice.
The class being free of charge is not the only benefit this summer’s sunset yoga provides. Instructors theorize that partaking in yoga outdoors as opposed to indoors enhances your practice. With yoga becoming so popular, many of us have taken classes with our local gym, fitness center, or yoga studio. But it’s less often that we see outdoor public classes offered. Somehow it just seems easier to fit the indoor yoga into our routine. In order to truly get into the meditative mindset, the outdoors provides the spiritual ties with nature that indoor yoga aims to simulate. You might notice your indoor instructor providing soothing tones, nature sounds, or asking you to imagine a breeze going by to deepen your breathing, all to make you feel connected to nature. These exercises serve a purpose to improve your meditation and help build your awareness of your natural surroundings, in turn helping you feel more relaxed and focused in your day-to-day living. Personally, I found it relaxing just to be free from being enclosed in a studio. There is even debate on whether it’s best, or more natural, to practice outdoors without a mat, but that’s a story for another time. For National Harbor’s yoga I would definitely recommend bringing your yoga mat, but no harm in going barefoot.
Don’t talk yourself out of going to an outdoor yoga class because of this summer heat. Even if its 100 degrees out, yoga gurus believe that the hot air can help relax your muscles, allowing you to be more flexible and enhance your stretches. Think about Bikram yoga, also called ‘hot yoga’, where Bikram Choudhury designed his practice to be done in a 100 plus degree heated room so that you can maximize your flexibility. The more you sweat, the better you’re doing! Except this time, it’s not a heated room, its real, natural, outdoor heat. Forget the lovely luxury of air conditioning for just this hour, and use the summer weather to benefit your yoga practice.
National Harbor’s sunset yoga may occasionally have the same heat level as Bikram yoga, but it’s not the same style. The stretches are unique to the style of yoga that the instructor teaches at each class. For the most part, there are different guest instructors every session, which means there are different styles each time such as, Hatha flow and Vinayasa. Both are great workouts for beginners and include a series of stretches called Sun Salutations which engage multiple different muscle groups.
Male or female, adults or children, experienced or beginner, everyone is welcome to join free sunset yoga at National Harbor, held every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00-8:00 PM through September 27th 2012. Check out the National Harbor website for directions and information on parking.