After only one year of serving as a destination for alternative fitness options, Houston Press named Ekam Yoga Center the Best Yoga Studio in its "2010 Best of Houston" issue. The health-conscious, eco-friendly, ghost-free studio lets prospective students sign up for a bevy of mind-body courses, including the calorie-burning Latin rhythms of zumba, the mind-clearing, tension-melting of meditation, and the muscle-bendiness of a yoga class such as hot yoga, gentle yoga or prenatal yoga. If you are a new student, you get a free Intro to Yoga course, offered weekly on Wednesday nights, to help you acclimate to poses and ready your mind for an episode of Criminal Minds. Almost 20 courses are offered weekly and classes begin as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 7:30 p.m.
While many neuroendocrine physiology scientists are up to their elbows in hypothalamus, Sara Turk uses her scientific credentials to foster a more holistic approach to wellness. She traded in her lab coat for a pair of yoga pants and spent the next phase of her life studying under celebrated yogis such as Anusara yoga founder John Friend and Sadhana Yoga Chi guru Doug Swenson. Boasting an understanding of yoga's many forms as well as a penchant for mediation, nutrition, and cross-training, she became a teacher and opened Cherry Blossom Studio with her sister. Turk's hard work and passion eventually earned her the opportunity to serve as a yoga ambassador with the popular athletic-wear company, Lululemon.
Turk and her seasoned team of instructors cater to students from all fitness levels within a spacious studio replete with gleaming hardwood floors and tranquil, green walls. Patrons who'd like to extend the peaceful notions discovered during their yoga practice can swing by the studio's boutique, where they'll find ecofriendly soy candles, eye pillows, and organic cotton leashes for spirit animals.
Sunlight streams into Rising Hearts Yoga Studio through the floor-to-ceiling windows as Hanif Hekima leads a group of familiar faces through an 80-minute class. Hanif, equipped with almost 40 years of yoga experience, has created a peaceful studio in which dedicated yogis further their practice and leave their home-entertainment systems lonely during six-week sessions. Students may attend up to five classes per week, and each session is tailored to students of a similar experience level, creating communities of yogis as they flow through the classes as a group. The studio’s six-week sessions are also punctuated with retreats and workshops that whisk students away to idyllic rolling hillsides and meadows full of bluebonnets for intensive meditation and deepening of yoga forms.
Instructor Cindy Weller?who holds master-level certifications from Pilates Method Alliance and Pilates Academy International?and her team of nationally certified instructors draw on more than 500 hours of training as they lead private and semi-private Pilates classes. Limited class sizes reduce the chance of getting several students who share the name "Agapithe" and let instructors focus on customizing each workout. When teachers aren't leading sports-performance, rehabilitation, or men's classes, they whip physiques into shape with the Redcord suspension system, mat Pilates, reformer Pilates, tower Pilates, yoga, and ballet classes.
What inspired you to open a group fitness studio?
As instructor who worked in a gym for several years, I encountered many people who maintained their membership strictly to attend one or two group classes. Thus, they were paying for equipment and programs that they did not utilize. Consequently, I saw a need for a studio that would offer people such as that—as well as the many that do not like the large gym setting—a place to take great fitness classes at a much lesser cost and more intimate environment.
Have you seen any of your students or gym members undergo an inspiring transformation? If so, tell us about it.
From a physical standpoint I have definitely seen weight decrease and strength increase in many clients. But a notable transformation I have witnessed is actually a more mental one. A specific client shared that attending GroupFit classes has "brought a new light into her life." She shared that she feels more confident and is more willing to socialize in groups. And weight was not the issue at all. In fact, she was possibly underweight when starting classes. But, as her physical strength grew, so did her self-confidence. Her husband also attends classes and she has noted that being able to go to classes together has brought new light to the family as a whole. Thus, the "family" feeling of GroupFit is also a positive element of the studio.
Certifications: ACE Personal Trainer, Zumba (Toning, Gold, and Zumbatomic), R.I.P.P.E.D., Piloxing, Pilates (Reformer and mat), PIYO, TRX Suspension Training
Favorite Workout: Currently, Piloxing
Favorite Athletic Shoe: Asics
Philosophy: In order to change your body, you have to change your workout.
Equipment: Balanced Body Pilates studio equipment
Registration required: Yes
Good for beginners: Yes
Average class length: 60 minutes
Number of Staff: 1?5 people
Class location: Indoors only
Parking: Parking lot
Exercise is challenging, and people frequently give up on their fitness routines. How do you keep clients motivated?
Pilates always progresses and continues to challenge. Most clients that begin Pilates don't usually want to stop.
What is the biggest mistake you see people make when trying to get fit on their own?
They hurt themselves because they lack the knowledge of proper anatomy alignment.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
When a person gets to experience Pilates how it was first designed?one on one?they usually are amazed at the difference. Our sessions are alignment-based and help people learn about the repetitive motion that might not be good for them that they are continually doing in their daily life. When Pilates is taught this way it becomes more than an hour-a-week fitness routine?it becomes life changing.