Having spent much of her life as a stay-at-home mom, Wendy Chanelis turned to yoga as a way to tone her muscles and awaken her mind. She quickly fell in the love with exercise form and, after studying with many different masters of many different styles such as Iyengar and Jivamukti, eventually decided it was time to open her own studio. She founded Yoga People in 1998 as a welcoming haven for like-minded yogis and curious beginners alike.
Wendy—along with a staff of 15 certified teachers—now conducts twelve different kinds of yoga classes multiple times throughout each week. Some sessions cater to the beginner, others to pregnant mothers, and still more to meditative practitioners. Beyond yoga, holistic health and wellness counselor Donnalynn Civello provides nutritional consultations, while massage therapists employ modalities such as shiatsu, craniosacral, and prenatal massage, which helps babies appreciate backrubs before they're even born.
Before opening his own studio, owner and passionate yogi J. Brown spent more than a decade working as an independent yoga instructor. He credits this experience with creating Abhyasa Yoga Center's personal and inclusive atmosphere that welcomes students of all experience and skill levels. Each of the studio's 15 certified yoga instructors have been trained by Brown, resulting in a cohesive schedule of classes practiced in a therapeutic, breath-centered style. Though yoga's physical postures can help students increase strength, flexibility, and patience when training wild spirit animals, Brown and his fellow yogis encourage patrons to perform each pose at their own level of difficulty and link their movements with Ujjayi breathing techniques to sync the body and mind.
When Dara was growing up, she was often picked last in gym class because she couldn't keep her eye on the ball. Nowadays, however, her fitness regimen is ball-free—and she's so passionate about it, she started her own fitness studio: Sacred. Primarily a yoga studio, the center specializes in Evolation Yoga, which blends the flexibility and cardio benefits of Bikram yoga with meditation. However, other classes complement the flowing hot yoga workouts in Dara's curriculum, ranging from hot Pilates to fusion dance and more sultry dances. Pole dance sessions, for example, cover basic spins and floorwork, whereas the Bed-Stuy Burlesque class teaches students to peel off stockings, gloves, and other garb to reveal their sexy wetsuits.
Yoga to the People believes yoga instruction should be available to anyone who wishes to improve their health, and that inclusion is key to the yoga experience. Instructors welcome students by designing classes that provide a challenge for all skill levels. Experienced practitioners can test their limits by exploring deeper stretches and bends in the heated confines, and first-time visitors can follow sequences at a comfortable pace and focus on finding a balance between the physical and mental aspects of the workout. The studio also offers instructor-training classes that prepare yoga practitioners to lead sessions on their own without the hassle of copying notes onto their forearms before class.
Founded by Kensington resident and former corporate executive Wilhyn Larsen, Namaste Yoga of Kensington works to add yoga to everyone's daily fitness routine. With classes ranging from rigorous power Vinyasa to restorative tai chi, the studio features something for everyone. Instructors lead classes in yellow sunlit studios with mirrors. As students move through poses, they can reference their reflections and improve their alignment or facial expression accordingly. Additional classes include kickboxing, Zumba, cardio dance, Pilates, and belly dancing.
Bikram Yoga Williamsburg, as a Yoga College of India outpost, invites students of all levels to stretch and bend in its soothing, heated room tucked away just steps from the L train's Bedford stop. During each 90-minute session, uplifting instructors guide students through Bikram's traditional 26 challenging poses designed to build more strength, balance, and focus. Deep-breathing exercises fortify lung capacity, helping students exhale pent-up stress and retrieve pennies from the bottom of the ocean. Muscles loosen as warmth seeps into the skin, making sweat flow and toxins flee.