For Claire Diab, director of The American Yoga Academy & Studio, yoga isn’t just a matter of stretching, balancing, and breathing. It’s a way of being that promotes peace and transforms lives. In addition to teaching backbends and sun salutations, Claire and her team of instructors show students how to extend their practice beyond the mat. In her more than 25 years as an instructor, she has led yoga and meditation classes with Deepak Chopra and the popular Zen and Yoga course at Seton Hall University, where she’s a professor of Asian Studies. Hatha poses and Eastern philosophies guide the studio's teaching during classes such as yoga basics and power flow, which help yogis build enough strength, balance, and focus to rescue a bobcat from a sky-high redwood tree. Known as Modern Day Yoga, this system also informs her teacher trainings, in which students of all levels can become Yoga Alliance–certified yoga teachers or convincing Sting impersonators. Between classes at her studio in the Wilshire Grand Hotel, pupils can pose with Claire via several instructional DVDs and mp3s.
The NASM-certified personal trainers at Gifted Bodies strive to improve lives, not just bodies. Driven by the belief that all clients have the potential to become gifted, trainers redefine clients' limitations and push them toward progressive goals with a mixture of firm motivation and compassion. During boot-camp classes and group sessions, which include kickboxing, Zumba, ab work, and yoga, they guide patrons of all backgrounds through invigorating routines.
They also visit homes for one-on-one appointments—as long as they have a 5'x5' space or a permit to punch through drywall, trainers can commence a custom exercise routine. To instill sustainable habits for healthier living, they place emphasis on nutrition as well as gym drills. Troy Samuels, Gifted Bodies' creator and nutritional counselor, likens one's diet to the fuel put into a car: the proper fuel allows the vehicle to hit maximum speed.
Fittingly located in Newark’s Ironbound section, A Fit Above Fitness Center invites members to pump iron amid top-notch equipment from Hammer Strength and Life Fitness. Members use the boxing center’s heavyweight bags to practice jabs, or join TRX, yoga, and boot-camp classes to hone their physiques. After the workout, members can hit the sauna and grab a smoothie at the juice bar before heading up to the rooftop tanning beds, where they can add a sun-kissed glow to newly bulging muscles.
The lively dance instructors at GoDiva Studio impart the rhythm to burn calories in a variety of sweat-manufacturing, 60-minute dance classes, which may incorporate dance poles, thumping hip hop beats, and entrancing Latin melodies. The GoSensual Flex class blends hot dance moves with serene yoga and Pilates techniques to improve balance and set chakras to conga; the GoOpen class for all skill levels hones the pole-dancing maneuvers of flirtatious flag-imitators. During Virgo's GoVixen class, stiletto-clad students boogie to the latest radio jams, and Eve guides the Latin footwork of the GoZumba class with agility and aplomb.
Grandmaster Taek Sung Cho has accrued more than 40 years of martial-arts experience and a host of titles on his resumé, including coach for the International Junior Taekwondo Championships and the U.S. Junior Olympic Taekwondo Team. However, he derives the most reward from his role as teacher, a position he has coveted since establishing Master Cho's Talium in 1991. Working with expert instructors, he imparts the value of community and inner balance through the lens of tae kwon do technique.
Master Cho's lessons amplify confidence as well as coordination in young children, teens, and adults. Students can practice with others in their age group or alongside their families, depending on whether their school bus or their house transforms into a giant fighting robot. Kardio Kickboxing workouts toast calories with rapid jabs, and the staff emphasize the social aspect of self-defense training by hosting summer camps and birthday parties.
The dedicated instructors at Afro Brazilian Cultural Center of New Jersey see capoeira as more than a blend of dance and martial arts—they see it as a way of life. They train children and adults of all ages in capoeira's graceful movements through classes, therapy sessions, and afterschool programs, many of the instructors drawing from extensive training in Brazil and an understanding of Brazilian folklore and culture. But their instruction doesn’t end at capoeira—many of the Cultural Center's coaches specialize in disciplines including yoga, Zumba, salsa, and West African dance. Though many of the instructors were born and raised in New Jersey, others hail from places such as Guinea and Senegal and infuse their culture into their teaching style. The instructors hold classes at least once a week and more frequently for students preparing to dance-battle chaperones for control of the prom.