After graduating from Penn State, sisters Jessica Bajoras and Jamie Malinowski went into pharmaceutical sales. Sharing a passion for healthy living, both sisters eventually found their way to yoga and were studying with instructors across the country. Though they achieved success in the sales world, Jessica and Jamie decided to realize a lifelong dream of opening a business together when they founded Prima Yoga. Today, they offer classes in Bikram yoga, a hot-yoga style that involves 26 postures—participants simply must contort their bodies into all the letters of the alphabet, i.e., a hyper-charged version of the “YMCA”—and two breathing exercises over the course of 90-minute sessions. The sisters teach these sessions in a heated room with antibacterial flooring.:
For Kelly Meeder, the owner and founder of Smokin' Hot Yoga, hot yoga is about more than just meditation. She views her brand of hot yoga as a way to not only center oneself but to also lose weight, increase flexibility, and enhance athletic performance. In fact, many of the poses resemble calisthenic maneuvers, such as pushups and pull-ups. Kelly and her fellow instructors teach a broad range of classes for all ability levels. Level-one classes are best suited for beginners, whereas level-two sessions are ideal for seasoned yogis and types of bread that need to bake longer.
The experienced instructors at Stray Dog Yoga Studio shepherd body benders through a series of Vinyasa movements executed in a heated room. Pupils stretch and sweat their way through the flow, which unites movement with breath the way a magnet unites Dad's finger paintings with the refrigerator door. Each class challenges partakers to push their bodies, find the limits of their flexibility, and discover a sense of peace within themselves. Stretching students of all levels can participate, as modifications for difficult poses allow beginners to follow along and work toward improvement.
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.
The proud and pliable recipient of a yoga mat's worth of accolades, Amazing Yoga spreads its limber arms to embrace all practitioners, welcoming stretching sophomores and savants alike. Talented, passionate instructors lead an array of classes over a flexible schedule at each of Amazing Yoga's four studios. Clients can frequent the studio of their choice and stack their chakras in classes such as the Basics, a beginner's power-yoga class that emphasizes foundation postures, helping practitioners build up a strong foundation to withstand floods, high winds, and tickling attacks. Amazing Yoga recommends bringing your own water bottle and a mat to classes, though rental mats are available for $2 per class.