In 1987, indoor climbing was as unpopular in the Seattle area as breeding labradoodles. But Vertical World––a pioneer indoor climbing gym––introduced the city to the up-and-coming sport of rock climbing in a controlled environment. Since its inception, the gym has expanded to three other locations in Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond, the latter hosting eastside climbers for more than 20 years.
A team of experienced route creators challenges climbers with more than 200 bouldering, lead, or top-rope routes in a wide variety of difficulty levels. The gym hosts competitive youth teams that have gone on to national or world tournaments. The gym's staff of climbers and guides also leads outdoor excursions that build confidence and teach novices how to identify a rock wall in the wild.
It's been more than three decades since Andrew Drake rode his first wave, but his passion for surfing stays strong. Washington Surf Academy is the embodiment of his passion and has grown to include instruction not just for surfing but for paddleboards as well. Unlike a gingerbread man's enemies, Mr. Drake's classes don't take a cookie-cutter approach. "Every person is a unique case," he says. The diversity of his clientele is one of the things Mr. Drake finds most rewarding. "Some people will have huge fears, and it is nice to see them get over them. This one time, this lady was freaking out, but I talked her into it, and she loved it so much that she bought a board from us on the first day."
By helping them to float out of their comfort zones, Mr. Drake and his team open people up to the hidden world off Seattle's coast. With snow-capped peaks in the distance, surfers can conquer waves and paddleboarders can float beneath bald eagles flying to their next college history lecture.
Yoga instructor Hasna Atry maintains a zen-like composure as she leads her students through series of challenging poses. The once competitive swimmer and triathlete didn't attain this serene state easily. At her first yoga class, about 14 years ago, she found nothing but frustration. She would look around the room to see droves of people more fit and limber than she was. Then she asked herself, "Why am I comparing myself to others?" With that simple question, she set forth on an inner journey that she says gradually deepened her connection to the present moment.
Today, Atry leads standup-paddleboard-yoga classes to help clients navigate their own journeys. Of course, clients who just want a workout or who have already beaten the boss in the final asana level are welcome, too. Along with fellow instructor Brian Charlton, she meets her students at Surf Ballard before venturing into Puget Sound, where classes, generally limited to eight participants, anchor their boards. In addition to stimulating fine stability muscles, the water's constant rippling requires that each yoga pose be executed with precision. "If you place your foot wrong, you're going to go swimming," she says. Besides the added presence of mind demanded by the board's wobbliness, the Puget Sound's surroundings also center students in the present moment. Bald eagles and salmon make frequent appearances, and Atry once even had a baby seal try to pull her board away from class. This unique combination of exercise and the outdoors has earned WASUP plentiful local press, including coverage in the Seattle Times. Atry and her team donate a portion of their proceeds to the Noel House and Yoga Behind Bars programs.
Though the thought of striking 26 yoga poses during a 90-minute session in a superheated room may sound intimidating to some, the practice is actually well suited to welcoming beginners. At Meserve Studios, Bikram yoga—also called “hot yoga”—helps practitioners sweat out toxins as they boost their flexibility, tone their limbs, and increase the strength they need to open all the pickle jars in the grocery store. Experienced staff members also adopt a gentle approach, encouraging students to enhance their health no matter their age or abilities.
From a six-month journey across the Indian subcontinent to graduating as one of the first yogis ever to be certified by Baptiste yoga creator, Baron Baptiste, there’s seldom been a dull moment in Lisa Black’s 12-year history with yoga. She even invented her own style of yogic practice called Shakti Vinyasa yoga in 2003. With the help of a fleet of instructors that she personally certified, she brings her wealth of experience to each class she teaches through Shakti Vinyasa Yoga’s four studio locations.
All four studio locations provide a venue for renowned yogis to visit and hold workshops while passing or levitating through town. The brightly lit, hardwood-floored rooms have hosted such experts as Baron Baptiste, Shiva Rea, and Ana Forrest.
Dora Gyarmati leads her fleet of graceful instructors with the same carefree humor she uses in her own Ashtanga-style yoga classes. After stumbling onto yoga when a passionate affair with running led to an injured knee, Dora realized her love for the low-impact discipline, and over the years has continued her education with advanced teacher training and workshops. Her dedication has created a community of like-minded yogis that welcomes students of all experience and fitness levels to inclusive classes and focused workshops. Cheery yellow walls unadorned by mirrors surround the judgment-free studio as guests breathe, stretch, and brush their spirit animals together.