An octopus graphic greets visitors at the doorway of Downtown Yoga Studios. It's an appropriate image: the mollusk holds a meditative quality as its eight arms flow outward with a strong yet relaxed energy. Downtown's instructors help guests attain a similar state of serenity and fitness with multiple styles and levels of yoga, such as Go with the Flow, Relax and Renew, and Power Yoga. They also lead fitness classes that include cycling, boxing, and chicken chasing.
A former cubicle dweller, studio director Natasha Roggi knew she needed something that could rejuvenate her tired mind and stiff limbs. Though she emerged from her first Bikram class feeling sweaty and somewhat shell shocked, she began to feel her body grow stronger and her mind become sharper with each subsequent class. Before long, she found herself headed to Palm Desert, California to become certified through Bikram Choudhury's nine-week program and forge a new, healthier path through life. Today, she shares her downtown studio with a staff of other instructors, all of whom stretched and persevered through Bikram's rigorous teacher-training process. While the classroom's stifling temperatures may sound too intense for some students, the practice caters to guests of all experience levels, as the heat helps even the stiffest muscles and arthritic snowmen melt into the deep, detoxifying stretches. To keep things comfortable, Natasha and her staff have bottled water and electrolyte drinks available for sale, and have equipped the studio with spa-like changing rooms, complete with men's and women's showers and comfortable beauty vanities.
Floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflect 2,700 square feet of glossy, hardwood floors ringing with the staccato of dancing high heels. Brass poles sprout from the floor, supporting whirling women as they learn sensual routines and build upper-body strength by suspending themselves skyward.
Pole Control Studios' owner, a seasoned performer with a BA in sports science, designs programs that scale up in difficulty while centering around fitness. The studio inducts exercisers in the flirtatious art with an introductory class, where each dancer learns correct posture, transition work, and how to use high heels to tap out Morse code. From there, guests foray into more than 75 types of empowering fitness classes that build on the basics, imparting techniques for climbing, controlled spins, or inversions. Pole Fit and Sensual Stretch supplement pole-dancing prowess with intense cardio, squats, lunges, and body-elongating posework.
Since its 1965 founding in Venice Beach, California, Gold's Gym has dotted the globe with more than 600 locations where professional athletes and exercise newbies gather under the umbrella of personal strength. Nearly 3.5 million Gold's members chart and aim for their fitness peaks, perspiring beneath the gaze of certified personal trainers or pedaling beside peers at cycling sessions. In a diverse lineup of group classes, patrons strengthen cores, finger-paint pictures of ninjas in martial arts, and amp up heart rates with INSANITY routines. Many Gold's Gym locations stockpile futuristic amenities, such as cardio machines with individual iPod docks and televisions that help keep patrons motivated.
The air was chilly and the sky was still dark one wintry morning in Hartford, when five women huddled around Racquel, awaiting instruction at the very first Racquels Addiction Fitness boot camp. But as hard as that first workout may have been, it obviously inspired something positive in the women who attended. From that day forward, word spread about the workout that group fitness instructor Racquel had put together—a powerful routine that targeted problem areas such as the hips, thighs, glutes, and abs and quickly transformed them with little to no help from cumbersome workout equipment.
Today, Racquel and fellow fitness instructor Betsy have branched out from just boot camp. At Racquel's Addiction Fitness, they also teach Piloxing (a blend of Pilates and boxing), Zumba, and Hot and Bothered on the Bench classes, which blast calories with help from a step bench and weights. And, in their quest to make fitness fun for everyone, the studio also hosts many exercise-themed special events, including chair dance fitness parties, pole dancing parties, and sultry potato sack races.
PHIT Pilates Studio’s experienced instructors help students strengthen abdomens, backs, and resolve with training that focuses on individual goals and abilities. Owner and certified Pilates teacher Susannah Israel-Marchese and her team lead pupils through the discipline’s series of low-impact movements Monday–Friday. Using joint-friendly techniques, students augment strength in the abdomen, back, shoulders, and hip joints to achieve the goal of subbing for the vacationing Bulkeley Bridge. PHIT’s boutique-style studio maintains a noncompetitive atmosphere and a cheerful, personalized approach to working out. Proximity to the Real Art Ways theater allows newly straightened postures to pull off previously unattainable pranks, such as blocking views of people sitting behind them at art exhibits and independent films and sticking a flippant Post-it note to the top of Shaquille O'Neal's helicopter.