21 years ago, Ellie Herman worked as a professional dancer and choreographer, running her own company in San Francisco. She loved her work, but she had bills to pay. So, naturally, she took on a side job; she became the professional wrestler known as "Ruth Less." As soon as she began tossing fellow wrestlers around, she incurred a serious knee injury that threatened to end both of her careers. Luckily for her, the nearby St. Francis Hospital of Dance Medicine offered surgery-free rehabilitation through Pilates. Ellie did the workouts for months, and returned to her company an even better dancer than she'd been before her injuries. Later, as a masters student at NYU, Pilates once again helped her recover from hip pain. She discovered an ability to innovate within the bounds of Pilates, and resolved to become a teacher.
She opened the aptly named Ellie Herman Studio, where she continues to teach today. True to her inspiration, she uses Pilates as a basis on which to innovate better forms of corrective movement. So far, she's written nine books on the subject. She invented her own piece of equipment, the Pilates Springboard, which compresses the size and cost of the more traditional Pilates wall unit. She also developed a blend of Pilates and gait training, to help people stave of injury by becoming conscious of the way they move their legs in every day life, which helps to prevent things such as rolling ankles or randomly kicking strangers.
Change can be terrifying, but at The Exercise Studio, owner Millie Miraglia and her team of seven instructors help students of all levels face their fears as they transform their bodies with classes that combine the principles of yoga with effective cardio workouts. The Brooklyn-based studio, with a classroom on each of its two floors, has been opened for almost three decades and offers women-only Zumba and fitness sessions?including total-body workouts and body toning?and Hatha and Vinyasa-style yoga classes are open to both women and men. Offering small classes with one-on-one instruction, the Exercise Studio even goes one step further to ensure students learn how to lead healthy lives by providing regular workshops and courses that have included classes on restorative yoga and how to balance one's chakra using just a paper clip and a stick of gum.
As a cancer survivor, Millie knows firsthand how negative emotions can impact the healing process, which is why she created The Exercise Studio's Pathways to Healing. The noninvasive stress-management program is designed to help clients bring balance back to their mind and body by using a blend of restorative yoga, meditation, and reiki modalities.
At New Body Bootcamp & Wellness, personal trainer Aja Davis hopes to inspire two types of change in her clients. The first is visible: a fitter, slimmer physique resulting from her signature interval workouts. The second is philosophical: a lifelong awareness of how to preserve and pursue health. This model of "lifestyle implementation" encompasses nutrition as well as exercise while avoiding temporary fixes, such as fad diets and foam muscle suits. Instead, Aja's program uses challenging and varied routines, the motivational power of teamwork, and individual attention from a fitness expert.
At one-hour boot-camp classes, Aja leads groups through cardio and resistance maneuvers that employ stretchable bands, kettlebells, and TRX suspension cords. The routine has won the title of Best Post-Holiday Rescue in GO magazine, which also lists New Body Bootcamp & Wellness as one of its three favorite fitness venues. Aja aims to spark camaraderie as much as she does weight loss and toning—using partner drills to prompt campers to rely on one another—and even outside of class, patrons can run local races as part of the New Body team or tag-team wrestle the local mall Santa.
Husband-and-wife team and Prana Power Yoga cofounders Philippe and Taylor Wells foster an environment in which clients can explore holistic wellness through yoga, intensive workshops, and events. Instructors at each heated studio locations roll out the welcome yoga mats, encouraging students of all interests and skill levels, from mothers-to-be to veteran sun saluters, to build strong bodies and peaceful minds in a judgment-free environment. During athletic Vinyasa-style yoga classes, certified instructors crank up temperatures as high as 99 degrees before taking mat mavens through a sequence of sweaty postures linked with mindful breathing exercises designed to boost lung capacity to Sting-like levels. Meanwhile, visitors in search of a transformative experience can attend one of the studio's workshops or events, which range from juice cleanses to destination yoga retreats in Nayarit, Mexico.
The more than a dozen brick-and-mortar locations that make up Ultimate Champions Taekwondo Association share not only a style of combat, but a teaching philosophy as well. Tracing the lineage of their combative art back to Grandmaster Sang K. Oh, the instructors adhere to his teachings, exemplified by the quote, "The person who can defeat others with flashy techniques but is without love toward his fellow man will in the end defeat himself." Students use the physical empowerment of mastering jumps, kicks, and weapons to arm themselves with discipline, confidence, concentration, self-respect, and courtesy for others.
Outside of the classroom, the organization reaches out to the tri-state community with ample demonstrations of some of their most exciting techniques. Practitioners soar skyward in flying kicks or fill the air with the whirring blows of nunchakus, bos, and kamas. Fists slam through boards, balloons, and bricks to demonstrate the striking power of tae kwon do and the structural flaws in the Three Little Pigs' panic room.
When Drita D'Avanzo, a cast member of VH1’s Mob Wives, enlisted for one-on-one training at Evolution Boxing, she was fresh off a rooftop brawl. Hoping to unleash her simmering anger, she teamed up with Anthony, a boxing instructor. "I've got to turn over a new leaf," she explained on the show, "I'm taking it from the rooftop to the ring." As she threw punches, she began to experience release—and control. Upon leaving, she concluded, "Now I don't have to hit anybody."
D'Avanzo successfully channeled her aggression into an appropriate outlet. In doing so, she proved Evolution Boxing's commitment to serving individual needs, whether through group or personal instruction. Instructors classify boxers according to experience and tailor all subsequent instruction to drive toward goals. They equip children for playground brawls with anti-bullying classes, help women defend against attackers with self-defense classes, and help everyday working professionals knock out lunch thieves with the Blue Collar program.