Body & Brain Holistic Yoga's classes incorporate yoga, tai chi, meditation, martial arts, and signature breathing postures to forge a mind-body exercise that helps students to awaken their inner ki energy. The one-hour sessions attempt to improve flexibility, strength, breathing, and energy sensitivity, which contribute to holistic health. Much like a dive-bombing red-winged black bird, classes often vary their approach, ensuring a more dynamic experience from session to session
Tressa Thomas has a résumé most performers would envy. She launched her career on stage with dozens of performances throughout Chicago as both a solo singer and band member. She landed a role in Robert Townsend’s film about 1960s R&B music, The Five Heartbeats, which led to a duet with the legendary Patti LaBelle on the film’s soundtrack.
This was all before Thomas turned 13.
Since then, her momentum hasn’t slowed—it’s just swerved in a few new directions. The Columbia College grad was cast in other movies (including Flatliners and Message in a Bottle), produced three independent shorts, and worked on a fourth that came just short of an Academy Award nomination. In the midst of her cinematic endeavors, she also pursued plus-sized modeling, eventually appearing in Ebony, Jet, the LA Times, and other national publications.
Given that she first started singing publicly at age three, when most children can’t yet tell the difference between music and the sound the vacuum cleaner makes, Thomas has never had an issue with confidence. But she realized that as a successful African-American, plus-sized female performer, she was a rarity. And so she decided to share her confidence with other women. She founded ThYck Troupe, a group that started modestly as a “modeling interest club” and grew into a nonprofit organization that creates performance opportunities for other plus-sized women.
Today, ThYck Troupe has gained the support of Secretary of State Jesse White and Governor Pat Quinn in its mission to enrich the Chicago arts community. In addition to mentoring young women and promoting size acceptance, the troupe produces an original web series, organizes fashion shows, and showcases performers in theatrical and musical productions. The company members represent nearly every medium of the creative arts—there are singers and dancers, poets and songwriters, models and actresses, journalists and radio personalities. With the Thyck and Fit Initiative, they broadcast a message of health as well as confidence, giving full-figured women and men the tools they need to achieve good exercise and nutrition habits at any size.
Named for the main river running through Venezuela, Orinoco Fitness is a studio that aims to be as relaxing as a day out in nature. Owner Ana Santos Gitzinger, a native Venezuelan, styled the studio in a way that evokes the beauty of her homeland. The walls of Orinoco Fitness are splashed with images of South American waterfalls, mountains, and rainforests in order to help clients “shake off the Midwestern wintertime blues.” Above all, Gitzinger wants her clients to achieve fitness in an environment that’s fun and relaxing. In keeping with the stress-free atmosphere, students are encouraged to relax with a cup of tea in the lounge area after each yoga, Zumba, or Pilates class.
Fitness 19 welcomes exercisers into its pristine workout facilities lined with Life Fitness cardio machines, free weights, and fully staffed childcare rooms. A personal trainer works with fitness seekers to create motivating custom workouts, helping members set goals and chase them down with the precision of a saint bernard leading a search-and-rescue mission in an inflatable-ball pit. Heart rates rise and calories evaporate during jogs on treadmills and pedaling sessions on stationary bikes. Dumbbells and barbells encourage lifting and curling, and Smith machines help bodies perform squats safely and effectively. Make muscles ripple with plate-loaded strength-training equipment, an eight-station crossover cable, or high-intensity deadlifts with a complimentary water bottle.
Fit Body Boot Camp's inspirational instructors raise their voices only to offer praise and motivation to participants sweating through each 45-minute total-body workout. The boot-camp classes let patrons blast through the doldrums of traditional workout routines by constantly changing exercises, incorporating diverse moves, and peering at muscles through a kaleidoscope. Each session torches calories and stokes metabolism while whittling the core and toning muscles. In order to comfortably challenge each exerciser, Fit Body's gym houses a plenitude of fitness-forging paraphernalia, including battling ropes, suspension trainers, and a joint-friendly foam floor. A personalized nutrition plan caps off the six-week series by elucidating healthy eating methods and feeling satisfied while fueling the body with the energy it needs.