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.
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.
Rebecca Rankin and Lisa Lau came out of college prepared to be an architect and an engineer, respectively. Today, they own Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill. Their goals haven't changed much, though—Rebecca specializes in the architecture of the human body, and Lisa studies its engineering, teaching students how to bend and breathe during each 90-minute class.
These classes are held in a studio heated to around 105 degrees. But newcomers to the practice needn't worry—as the space's website says, "The heat is not there to make it tough, it is there to help." As participants move through the 26 asanas, or postures, of Bikram yoga, the heat loosens up their muscles and encourages a detoxifying sweat, allowing for deeper stretches and a smoother post-workout slip-and-slide ride. Rebecca, Lisa, and their fellow instructors limit their class sizes to better personalize their guidance, and welcome guests of all skill levels to attend any session.
Yoga H'om's instructors continually encourage students to push the limits of their abilities by patiently introducing new skill sets to beginners and challenging seasoned yogis to perfect advanced maneuvers in a safe and supportive atmosphere. Teachers encourage their pupils to develop at their own pace and learn from one another during all-levels classes, which include Vinyasa-style Yoga Flow sessions, where attendees link one pose to the next with transitional movements that require intense focus and balance. During gentle yin yoga classes, beginning, injured, or physically disabled students can ease into mild stretches with the use of props, and experienced pupils can use the meditative session as an opportunity to wind down following vigorous flow classes. Regardless of the style, instructors in each session emphasize mindful breathing techniques and conclude with a period of deep relaxation that lasts just long enough for attendees to shake that song that has been stuck in their head.
Moonglow Yoga's team of certified yoga instructors guides students through a collection of heated and nonheated classes to hone strong bodies and minds. The studio's schedule boasts classes for students of all experience levels, including beginners Vinyasa classes, in which newbies learn foundational poses, breathing techniques, and how to weave baskets from sticky mats. Teachers dial the studio temperature up to a balmy 95 degrees during Hot Vinyasa sweat sessions, challenging savvy stretches with advanced poses such as half moon, wheel, crow, and robot.
Although Lifesource normally dedicates itself to the age-old practice of yoga, occasional age-appropriate exotic-dance workshops shimmy their way onto the class roster. Instructor Jessica Rawson began teaching at Lifesource in 2009 and has 28 lunar rotations, or two years, of private pole-dancing and exotic-dance lessons under her belt. During the course of the two-hour workshop, Jessica will take the pole's helm and instruct participants in a variety of exotic dance techniques, from pole dance and lap dance to strip-tease techniques and cheeky burlesque moves. Although participants will wear their clothing, the techniques can be easily applied to garment-free activities at a later time. As your inner seductress makes her way to the surface, you'll build confidence and engage rarely used muscles, sometimes resulting in day-after pangs of soreness and a self-assured saunter.