Studio owner Claire's yoga journey began at her middle school's book fair, where a book about yoga caught her eye. On a whim, she took the book home and used it to help her begin at-home practice. Her dedication to the mind-body stayed with her through high school and college, where she wound up majoring in advertising and marketing. After spending some time in the ad field as a professional, she had an epiphany: she didn't believe in anything strongly enough to justify selling it, at least as not as much as she believed in yoga. With a nudge from her supportive husband, Claire decided to combine her passions for business and yoga by obtaining her 200-hour teaching certification and purchasing Yoga Innovations.
Today, Claire and her seven fellow yogis help guide students of all experience levels to greater fitness and healthier lifestyles via challenging and nurturing yoga sessions and core-bolstering Pilates classes. She specializes in power Vinyasa flow, which shepherds students through a series of difficult poses in 90+ degrees, and unheated prenatal yoga—a variation designed to help pregnant women mindfully battle the aches, pains, and pickle-juice cravings associated with pregnancy.
The instructors at Improvement thru Movement believe in promoting health and wellness by dance-based movement. Inside their unique dance studio, bedecked with custom-made barres and a spring dance floor with a nonslip surface, the instructors lead ballet, ballroom, and dance-based exercise classes. Classes are available for all ages and all levels of ability.
With machines set up in rows to encourage competition, many ordinary gyms cater to men's bodies and psychology, right down to the urinals that were "accidentally" installed in the women's locker room. At Curves, you'll move around a circuit of hydraulic resistance machines that have been designed to work with women's bodies and promote weight loss, protect against osteoporosis, and deal with arthritis. Instead of fiddling with weight stacks and losing your momentum, the hydraulic machines use your body weight and fitness level to create resistance that matches your abilities, decreasing the risk of soreness or injury. Because traditional lift-and-lower motions create bulky muscles, each machine uses push-and-pull motions to create toned, lean muscles perfect for crushing a grapefruit without looking like you can.
Despite its name, Fonzi’s Synergy Fitness isn’t a place where members learn to ride motorcycles while keeping their slicked-back coiffures in place. It’s a locally owned gym helmed by Jim Fonzi and Denice Normandy-Fonzi, who cultivate a welcoming feel inside the fitness haven. High-quality workout equipment, such as the BodyMasters System—a 30-minute circuit workout similar to Curves, as well as free weights fill the space, and a fitness room hosts an array of heart-pumping, calorie-burning classes.
Though he has studied, practiced, and taught yoga in such far-flung locales as Mexico and Southeast Asia, Zeb Homison counts his childhood living room in western Pennsylvania as the site of his fondest yoga memory. That's where, as a tottering pre-kindergartener, he worked through poses alongside his mother. After studying dance and theater, Homison—now the owner of Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh— moved to San Francisco, where he rekindled his relationship with yoga while working at a Bikram yoga studio.
The heat, combined with the repetitions of the postures, focused his mind while conditioning his body, and he was hooked. Studying under Bikram Choudhury, the father of Bikram yoga, was another clarifying experience and one that taught Homison to open up and accept the inevitable. That could mean working through intensely fatigued muscles to push toward greater flexibility, or performing all 26 poses at a black-tie dinner party whenever guests clink their glasses and shout "Pose!"
"When studying yoga, you have to be patient with yourself," says Homison, echoing the philosophy that his staff repeats to encourage students to take their time learning the practice. Together, the team works with patrons, inspiring them through bouts of frustration. "Yoga can be a lifelong process," Homison says, "and you just have to be open to it."
Dominique Ponko sits at the head of the class, leading yogis through muscle-lengthening postures with the steady flow of her deep, rhythmic inhales and exhales. It’s been a long journey for Dominique. She first sought out yoga at the age of 26 to help her cope with life-threatening seizures and a slow-growing brain tumor. Yoga comforted her through three difficult years, welcoming her into a space for healing spiritually before she was able to find the proper medicine to help her heal physically. Though still a little shaky, Dominique has triumphed and opened four yoga studios—voted Best of the ‘Burgh in 2010—to inspire her students to ease their ailments, build strength, and find inner peace.
During her studio's heated Vinyasa-flow classes, an enthusiastic and supportive instructor guides students through a series of strengthening postures that work to increase flexibility and build muscles. Warm, balmy air courses through the studio, pricking beads of sweat on brows to help detox bodies and loosen stiff muscles into deep, soothing stretches.