The year was 1975, and Sam Sann crept alongside his grandmother and sister through the untamed countryside of Cambodia. He and his family were fleeing political insurgents on foot, barely subsisting on snakes and any other sustenance they could find. After four years of wandering, the Sann clan finally made it to Houston, where Sam excelled in cross-country and track. From his post as a staffer at a gym in high school, Sam ascended to personal trainer after graduation and eventually opened Iron Sports Indoor Obstacle Course with the help of his wife, Gabby. Well-known for having a spirit more generous than the secret lovechild of Santa and a fairy godmother, Sam eagerly welcomes up to 60 visitors at a time into his unique two-story obstacle course fitness studio. Exercisers of all skill levels tether themselves to a rope belay system to surmount potholed walls with climbing pegs and then scurry through tunnels at the top of ladders. From ramps for running to monkey bars for swinging, the course offers a unique approach to wellness with fun built in.
The gym also houses traditional cardio and weight machines from Precor and two First Degree Fitness Fluid Cycles XT, which are akin to a bike for the upper body. Instructors, including American Ninja Warrior veteran Drew Drechsel, have backgrounds in sports medicine and fitness, and incorporate the facility's obstacle course and gym equipment into classes such as a year-round boot camp, Kids Fit sessions, and Zumba.
Dahn Yoga integrates Korean Taoist philosophies and holistic Korean Oriental medicine into a form of yoga that strives to forge stronger connections between mind and body. The certified instructors at Dahn Yoga adhere to these ancient practices and help students of all ages and fitness levels develop core strength, which, according to Dahn philosophy, is the basis of physical, mental, and spiritual health. Through classes, private lessons, and workshops, students learn to link postures with breath control, ultimately developing greater bodily awareness. Besides improving flexibility, strength, and posture, instructors also emphasize the brain's role in overall well-being. They lead brain exercises that challenge and sharpen the mind to develop more productive habits and levitate pennies out of mall fountains.
Dahn Yoga's founder, Ilchi Lee, also built a comprehensive brain-development program—called Brain Education—from the principles upon which Dahn Yoga is founded. Combining physical, emotional, and cognitive exercises with guided imagery and games, Dahn Yoga's instructors develop emotional control, improve communication between the brain's hemispheres, and inspire guests take decisive action. This program has five progressive steps that can be applied to a dedicated yoga practice as well as everyday life.
Barefoot students sway to the music, moving their arms rhythmically, punctuating the flow every so often with martial-arts-style punches and kicks across the sprung wood floor. The low-impact, low-pressure practice nourishes the body, mind, and spirit alike—as co-owner Helen Tracy told Great Day Houston, “I fell in love with my body through Nia.” The instructors at NiaMoves specialize in Nia’s aerobic workouts, in addition to an eclectic assortment of other group fitness classes. The instructors lead students in everything from body-stretching and mind-calming yoga sessions to aerobic hoop-dance workouts. Many of the classes are holistically refreshing, including the healing drum-and-dance-circle sessions, which begin with a tension-relieving meditation session. Instructor Emilia then leads students in expressing themselves through movement and thumping drum beats, both of which are effective during most job interviews.
“At birth we are given natural ability; our life’s purpose is to build on it.” So goes the motto at BONA Fitness and Wellness. A strategically designed member’s-only workout space, both the Westheimer and Katy locations house a staff of certified personal trainers, “cheerleading” receptionists, and a crew of trainer assistants, each essential to helping clients transform themselves. The expert instruction and team environment makes BONA’s personal training sessions fun and inspiring. But the studio’s true draw is its signature cross-training class, BLAST (Building Lasting Awareness, Stamina, and Tactics). Each BLAST session marries speed, agility, and plyometrics, core and weight training, resulting in one intense heart pumping full-body workout. BLAST classes are for all ages, fitness, and athletic levels. Kid-friendly instructors dole out fun and informative nutritional information at the onsite Kid Zone, putting kids on the right track for a healthy, happy lifestyle. BONA even has its very own nonprofit foundation, dedicated to helping overweight kids discover the joys of healthy habits.
Tranquil Waters Spa combines the refreshing powers of a day spa with the healing prowess of a wellness center to create a haven of whole body well-being. Specialists keep exteriors shiny and new with aesthetic treatments that range from traditional facials and AHA chemical peels to aromatherapy and bath-salt treatments. Resident therapist Dr. Lew Huff flaunts holistic regimens focused on treating the root cause of ailments and not just their symptoms through painless acupuncture, chiropractic care, hypnotherapy, and nutritional counseling. A multidisciplinary assessment can also help determine the path to wellness as a slew of specialists—such as acupuncturists, structural therapists, and aromatherapists—heal from every angle like a Neosporin hot tub. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Massage Therapy School in Houston unleashes its students inside the spa to learn a range of massage modalities, as its interns—all of whom have completed at least half the hours required to become professional spa experts—bring their newly acquired skills to the treatment table.
Bearing the titles of Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman from Professional Photographers of America, David and Ally McKay embody the keen vision and aesthetic prowess that separated good photographers from great ones. They share these skills during classes at McKay Photography Academy, where they train eyes, fingers, and imaginations to work in tandem as a snapshooting dream machine. Their classes help aspiring photographers progress from neophytes to seasoned pros; the Beginning Digital Photography course teaches students to harness the intricacies of their instruments, and the Pro Academy offers inside tips on how to successfully snap wedding portraits, pose recent grads, or tease out candid emotions. When not busy instructing the next generation of shutterbugs, David and Ally also devise photo safaris, which send small teams of photographers to capture shots of famed landmarks including San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; the Lincoln Memorial of Washington, DC; or Yosemite's 60-foot statue of Yogi Bear.