Cesar Bravo—a gymnast who holds certifications from CrossFit, the International Sports Sciences Association, and the USA Gymnastics National Safety association—opened Bravo CrossFit in 2009 with a few sandbags and a single rusty barbell. His gym has evolved leaps and bounds since then; it recently moved to a new, 3,000-square-foot facility, in which Cesar still teaches every class. He helps clients from all walks of life get in shape, including students, business executives, athletes, and stay-at-home parents. He leads these clients through functional exercises that eschew the muscle-isolating machines and movements of traditional gyms. The daily-changing routines harness kettlebells and calisthenics as well as training skills from Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics. He further helps his clients overhaul unhealthy lifestyle habits with nutritional training, and posts healthy, flavorful recipes online for dishes such as slow-cooked coconut-ginger pork and bacon-wrapped chicken to ensure that taste buds don’t get bored and wander into a pint of ice cream.
The Yoga House's team of six certified yoga instructors strive to do more than just help their students achieve stronger, leaner bodies. Beyond the bodily health they work toward helping their clients cultivate, the staff emphasizes that the physical aspect of yoga is only one of the practice's benefits, and infuse their classes with meditation techniques to strengthen mindsets as well as muscles. Their studio further inspires this psyche-soothing notion, enveloping guests in dove gray tones, sparkling hardwood floors, and soft lighting, helping even the most distracted downward dogs center themselves during flowing Vinyasa sequences or while playing dead in savasana—easily the best way to earn a treat from a yoga partner.
Within Equalize Fitness’s cavernous interior, the sounds of whirring cardio machines joins with the high-energy music blasting from a group fitness class to create a dynamic soundtrack. Guests can strengthen and tone muscles during more than 15 classes, peddling to freedom in the cycling classes, or kicking out aggression and latent high-kicks during cardio kickboxing classes. Children can get a workout, too, in the Kids Club that boasts tot-sized amenities, complete with a changing room and lockers. When not exercising, guests can relax at the juice bar, slurping down nutrient-dense smoothies while indulging in the free WiFi.
"Our brain is designed to realize what we wish, without any minor errors," says Tao Yoga & Tai-Chi founder Ilchi Lee. "If you want success, it will create success. If you want happiness or health, it will create them. Anything is possible, as long as negative thoughts and emotions don't interfere." To make this challenging, yet hopeful, philosophy accessible to all, Lee combined the Eastern concept of chi energy with his own brain-management system, developing a distinctive program that unlocks inner peace and sweeps up brain clutter caused by the daily stress of always having to find Waldo. Warm-up yoga maneuvers awaken muscles before 30–40 minutes of breathing, stretching, core practice, and meditation—including a signature brain-wave vibration technique that aims to calibrate mental and physical energies. Cool-down exercises ease the body back into quotidian functionality before a 10-minute teatime invites socialization among participants while bolstering pinkie endurance.
A pioneer of brain education and president of the Korean Institute of Brain Sciences, Ilchi Lee folded his studies into the design of his own Dahn Yoga, equal parts traditional asana and neuroscience research. A typical session begins with a simple tapping of the lower abdomen to gather chi energy that would otherwise get absorbed by Bagel Bites swallowed whole. Sessions launch into an exercise routine that combines aspects of yoga and tai chi to improve flexibility, strength, and balance. Next, yogis cool down and focus energy during an active form of meditation called Brain Wave Vibration, the studio's specialty, that harnesses flowing movements in an attempt to align minds and bodies. After the physical segment, workouts shift into a meditative portion that infuses cardiovascular systems with a stream of purifying oxygen through deep breathing.
Getting in shape, much like doing the backstroke through a pit of quicksand, can be a daunting task. But the health buffs at Yonkers Fitness Center provide doses of motivation and support to help their students conquer any physical challenge. They make fitness fun and attainable through yoga and Pilates, Jazzercise, and classes for kids. The yoga classes range from yoga flow, which covers yoga’s fundamentals, to Pranayama yoga, a practice that focuses on controlled breathing. Jazzercise takes a much more up-tempo approach to exercise. Its routines blend cardio, strength, and stretching exercises borrowed from dance styles, such as hip-hop and jazz, and fitness regimens, including yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, and resistance training. To boost the calorie-burning effects of the workouts, the instructors often call upon handheld weights and other strength-training tools.