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Patty Ivey on How Down Dog Yoga Stands Out from the Pack

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Welcome to Racked's Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.

Down Dog Yoga is a shining star in D.C.'s yoga scene. For more than 10 years, owner Patty Ivey has been dedicated to bringing hot power yoga to the community. Racked DC spoke with Ivey about the exact moment yoga changed her life, how the yoga landscape in Washington has changed over the years, and what the future holds for Down Dog Yoga — hint, juice is involved. —Teresa Tobat

What originally drew you to yoga?
What drew me to yoga was that I suffered a knee injury and had to have surgery on my knee. So my doctor, as part of my rehab, wanted me to take yoga. I actually did not like yoga. I tried it a few times previously, and it was not my thing.

And so someone suggested that there was a famous teacher named Baron Baptiste, who I had never heard of, who actually was by that time internationally known if you were in yoga. He had studios in Boston and I took a class at one of his studios even though he was not living there or teaching there. It was a fluke that I went up there in December of 2002, right before the holidays, and very unexpectedly he walked in the door. He was not supposed to be teaching and he said, "Hi, my name is Baron Baptiste," and he starts teaching the class and from that point on, my life changed. I knew from that moment that I was going to open a yoga studio.

What did you feel like after your very first class?
I always say it was an experience that you can't put your finger on. I knew that something really powerful had happened that I had never experienced in any form of exercise. It was cleansing and just a very different experience in myself of how I felt. And I just knew that there was more to it than I understood, and I knew that I wanted to go back for more.

When you first opened Down Dog was yoga just starting to take off in D.C.?
It was. So yoga had been around D.C. There were some standard yoga studios that were not vinyasa at the time, Iyengar, Unity Woods. People who did yoga at the time were people that were considered granola crunchy. It was just starting to show up in gyms a little bit before it caught on. The only vinyasa studio that was around was Kimberly Wilson of Tranquil Space. Down Dog was pretty revolutionary when we came in and opened up a hot power yoga studio.

How has the D.C. yoga scene changed since you've been here?
It's changed a lot. There are probably, I can't even begin to guess how many studios there are right in the city. I would guess probably 50. As compared to when I started there were maybe three. So it's changed tremendously. Very different scene than when I first came on. People knew very little about yoga.

What have been some of the challenges of running Down Dog?
I don't see too many things as challenges. I think every challenge offers an opportunity. In the beginning when I wanted to open Down Dog Georgetown, I couldn't even get landlords and property owners to speak to me. There was the impression that yoga people were a bunch of flakes. Now, I have everybody calling me wanting to put Down Dog into their buildings.

What are some of the most rewarding parts of being a yoga studio owner?
Just watching people's lives change right before my eyes. Unbelievable. Every day I am amazed at the power of the yoga practice that we do, the power of community because that's a beautiful thing.

What makes Down Dog different from the other studios in town?
I don't know. I think it's a great question to come and ask my clients. I don't really want to compare myself to other studios; I don't think that's fair. I can tell you what we offer is community, consistency, a place to come and learn about yourself, a place to come and be a part of something that is beyond just yoga poses. But really it's a call to action to be bigger and better in your life.

I think that's what it is we're offering. We invite people to come in and discover what it is about them that allows them to start living from a place of your own greatness and really discovering your own potential. How do we help them take that out into the world? What we give back and our intensions are what separate us from many of the other studios.

What would you like each and every one of your clients to feel when they take a class at Down Dog?
We care about them and that every one of the teachers at Down Dog, myself included, our lives, the reason were teaching this practice is because this practice has changed our lives.

How do you pick your locations?
For me, my focus is always community. People need more in their lives. They need community. They need to go somewhere where they can make friends and feel that they can be themselves. For me, I look for those neighborhoods. You'll never see me going into a space, let's say, downtown where it's nothing but office buildings. I'm not interested in that. I like to drop into neighborhoods. Bethesda. Georgetown. Clarendon. Where's there's actually people living there.

Tell me about your new Arlington studio.
We actually have another studio opening in Georgetown, so we're not just opening Clarendon. But Clarendon, we're looking early spring to be in that space. It's a little bit bigger than my Georgetown space. It's about 2,700 square feet. It's going to have showers. It's very shabby chic. It couldn't be in a more vibrant part of Clarendon. We're really excited about going there.

What does the future hold for Down Dog?
We're looking to go into Cleveland Park. For my future, I'm not that big on focusing on how many studios I can expand into. I'm going to go into neighborhoods that I feel there's a calling and a need for what it is I can do.

One of the things were doing in our new Georgetown space, which we're really excited about, is we're putting in for the first time, a juice/smoothie café. That's something I've had my eye on for years. What the future holds is that we're just going to see Down Dog be known for what it is known for, which is really the best hot power yoga in town and a place everybody can call home and really feel a part of something

Here's our lightening round. What's your favorite place in D.C.?
Honestly, my favorite place in D.C. to go and totally be myself would be Down Dog Yoga. After that, I would probably say that my favorite place in D.C., a place to go and have a good meal with friends, is the Peacock Café. I love going there. It's my neighborhood haunt.

Go-to dessert?
The chocolate tornado cake at Peacock Café. It's like that chocolate hot soufflé cake that caves in the middle and it's got all the gooey stuff in the center, that chocolate gooey stuff with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's warm. It's got a little sprinkling of powdered sugar. It's to-die-for.

What's the next movie you want to see?

What song is currently stuck in your head?
This time of year always inspires me to play John Lennon's "Imagine."

Anything people would be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a great cook, and I love to throw dinner parties. Years ago, I used to work for the FBI.

Britney or Beyonce?
Hands down Beyonce, come on girl. I'm too old for Britney Spears. Her name comes up and I'm just like "What? I don't get it." But Beyonce, magnificent.
· Down Dog Yoga [Official Site]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked DC]