After only one year of serving as a destination for alternative fitness options, Houston Press named Ekam Yoga Center the Best Yoga Studio in its "2010 Best of Houston" issue. The health-conscious, eco-friendly, ghost-free studio lets prospective students sign up for a bevy of mind-body courses, including the calorie-burning Latin rhythms of zumba, the mind-clearing, tension-melting of meditation, and the muscle-bendiness of a yoga class such as hot yoga, gentle yoga or prenatal yoga. If you are a new student, you get a free Intro to Yoga course, offered weekly on Wednesday nights, to help you acclimate to poses and ready your mind for an episode of Criminal Minds. Almost 20 courses are offered weekly and classes begin as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 7:30 p.m.
While many neuroendocrine physiology scientists are up to their elbows in hypothalamus, Sara Turk uses her scientific credentials to foster a more holistic approach to wellness. She traded in her lab coat for a pair of yoga pants and spent the next phase of her life studying under celebrated yogis such as Anusara yoga founder John Friend and Sadhana Yoga Chi guru Doug Swenson. Boasting an understanding of yoga's many forms as well as a penchant for mediation, nutrition, and cross-training, she became a teacher and opened Cherry Blossom Studio with her sister. Turk's hard work and passion eventually earned her the opportunity to serve as a yoga ambassador with the popular athletic-wear company, Lululemon.
Turk and her seasoned team of instructors cater to students from all fitness levels within a spacious studio replete with gleaming hardwood floors and tranquil, green walls. Patrons who'd like to extend the peaceful notions discovered during their yoga practice can swing by the studio's boutique, where they'll find ecofriendly soy candles, eye pillows, and organic cotton leashes for spirit animals.
Sunlight streams into Rising Hearts Yoga Studio through the floor-to-ceiling windows as Hanif Hekima leads a group of familiar faces through an 80-minute class. Hanif, equipped with almost 40 years of yoga experience, has created a peaceful studio in which dedicated yogis further their practice and leave their home-entertainment systems lonely during six-week sessions. Students may attend up to five classes per week, and each session is tailored to students of a similar experience level, creating communities of yogis as they flow through the classes as a group. The studio’s six-week sessions are also punctuated with retreats and workshops that whisk students away to idyllic rolling hillsides and meadows full of bluebonnets for intensive meditation and deepening of yoga forms.
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.
Jennifer Buergermeister is very flexible. She not only moves from job to job—she's an entrepreneur, independent filmmaker, spiritual healer, and app designer—but also from pose to pose while teaching yoga. She has created two yoga DVDs and has a third coming out in November. She's also the owner of Jennyoga, where she works with a deep bench of fellow yoga teachers, offering a variety of classes for all levels. These include Sunrise and Awakening, Hatha Flow, and Deep Relaxation and Restorative yoga classes.
The team at Jennyoga strives to make coming to the studio easy. They built a Jennyoga app for mobile devices that allows students to schedule classes on the fly. And they run an in-house store, where visitors can pick up any yoga gear they might need before heading into one of the studios. They even made a short film to inspire attendance, a sort of narrative commercial about the beneficial effects of yoga in our noisy, modern world where neighbors rev motorcycle engines and fire alarms scream in delight whenever you get home.