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
"Our brain is designed to realize what we wish, without any minor errors," says Dahn Yoga founder Ilchi Lee. "If you want success, it will create success. If you want happiness or health, it will create them. Anything is possible, as long as negative thoughts and emotions don't interfere."
To make this challenging, yet hopeful, philosophy accessible to all, Lee combined the Eastern concept of chi energy with his own brain-management system, developing a distinctive program that unlocks inner peace and sweeps up brain clutter caused by the daily stress of always having to find Waldo. This focus, shared by Body & Brain Holistic Yoga and The Life Yoga, forms the basis of the studio's classes and consultations. Warm-up yoga maneuvers awaken muscles before 30–40 minutes of breathing, stretching, core practice, and meditation—including a signature brain-wave vibration technique that aims to calibrate mental and physical energies. Cooldown exercises ease the body back into quotidian functionality before a 10-minute teatime invites socialization among participants while bolstering pinkie endurance.
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.
Larry Lentz understands how to take fitness goals to the next level of achievement. On top of his own accomplishments, which include century rides, marathons, triathlons, boxing titles, and Ironmen competitions, he has helped others find their most fit selves by serving as a U.S. Navy Command fitness leader and a head coach to the ASU boxing club. Today, he and his staff—all of whom are former military or former boxing champions—at Toughman Bootcamp put their experience to use by helping clients obliterate calories and build muscle in bootcamp, boxing, and kickboxing programs.
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.