Ann Kamhi Toran credits Pilates practice with saving her dancing career. After a major back injury threatened her ability to continue performing, Ann devoted herself to Pilates, and the exercises helped rehabilitate her body so effectively that she was eventually promoted to soloist after recovering. Although she stopped professionally dancing more than 20 years ago, Ann still practices Pilates daily.
Ann’s husband, Dr. Errol Toran, also is a believer in the rejuvenating capabilities of Pilates, and he suggested it to his chiropractic patients, incorporating the exercises into their physical rehabilitation. Together, Ann and Dr. Toran decided to create a studio that shared these benefits with the general public, introducing the time-honored exercise techniques that improve posture and build lean, toned muscles.
The studio boasts four locations throughout the New York area, each featuring an arsenal of traditional Pilates equipment. The signature apparatus, the Reformer, generates gentle resistance with a system of springs, pulleys, and miniature black holes. Students push and pull against this resistance while performing sequences of relatively simple movements that require unwavering mental focus to maintain the ideal technique and alignment. By emphasizing controlled, quality movements over flailing your body against a boulder, Pilates exercises can evenly tone muscles across the entire body, with a particular emphasis on the core muscle groups.
Ann and Dr. Toran encourage their instructors to take initiative when leading classes and tailor the pacing or sequence to accommodate students, but each studio does host sessions for particular skill levels. Introductory and Level 1 classes work to develop form and technique, whereas the more advanced sessions begin to include modified exercises or long-division flashcards to ensure a more challenging workout.
In 1820, before the dawn of New York's public library system, a group of city merchants began a circulating collection of books. Now part of The Center for Fiction, that collection has grown to include more than 85,000 titles of classic and contemporary fiction, as well as literary journals and magazines.
Though readers can enjoy these works in the quiet of the eight-story building's second floor reading room, The Center for Fiction is far from a simple library. Authors, critics, and professors encourage guests to embrace reading's social aspect through reading groups on contemporary and classic works. More than 60 yearly literary events also dot the center’s schedule, inviting more than 100 writers to read and discuss their craft. Afterward, intimate, informal receptions afford readers and writers a chance to casually chat about their work or discuss the latest experimental punctuation marks.
Along with stimulating fiction readers, the nonprofit supports fiction writers with a slew of resources, from studios on the building's top floor to fellowship opportunities for emerging New York talent. Evening workshops invite writers of all levels to study MFA-level topics under seasoned faculty and bestselling authors, who cover everything from structuring stories to crafting a stronger narrative voice.
Runny tofu. Limp lettuce. Bland steamed vegetables. That's how a lot of people view vegan food, and The Seed: A Vegan Experience's founder Harvey Fung was no exception. But that opinion changed in 2011. That's when the avid muay thai practitioner and owner of 82Mercer saw the documentary Forks Over Knives, which set him on his path to veganism and led him to discover that vegan cuisine can be hearty, satisfying, and, most importantly for a foodie like him, decadent and delicious. In fact, it's not unusual for him to have a slice or two of moist chocolate layer cake that leaves him "sated and happy" and able to walk past traditional patisseries without licking the window.
After realizing that his discovery couldn't be kept to himself, Fung decided to share his love of vegan fare with The Seed: A Vegan Experience, an endeavor to reach out to vegans, omnivores who really like tempeh, and vegetable skeptics all at once with inspiring talks, cooking lessons, and samples from NYC restaurants and earth-friendly vendors. The proceeds from the event will benefit two nonprofit organizations: The New York Coalition for Healthy School Fund, an organization that works to improve the health of New York's students statewide, and Mercy for Animals, a national organization dedicated to preventing animal cruelty.
The nonprofit Asphalt Green keeps children, teens, and adults in shape with an array of fitness, swim, and sports activities and programs. Members enjoy full access to a 15,000-square-foot duplex fitness center lined with Precor and Technogym equipment, including treadmills and ellipticals with built-in TV screens. In the gym's weightlifting area, patrons can take a breather between reps as they gaze at picturesque views from the gym’s adjoining roof deck. Swimmers of all abilities glide through the 50-meter Olympic-sized pool, once home to Olympic bronze medalist Lia Neal and currently the home of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Those opting for fitness classes can choose from 80 different sessions weekly—from Zumba and Pilates to martial arts to swimming. The gym also offers training programs and seminars for triathletes, a variety of community outreach programs including adaptive swim for veterans, and kid-focused summer and sport camps to keep young ones from making bad decisions, such as using chewing gum to plug up holes in dams. Patrons can also take advantage of the center’s babysitting services, which are open to children ages 6 months to 6 years.
Robert Brace—a celebrity personal trainer who's danced as a soloist for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet—may be from London, but he wanted to create a workout perfect for time-crunched New Yorkers who want to see results. And that’s how NYlean25 was born. Today, he and his team challenge clients with 25-minute workouts that incorporate interval training and constantly changing drills to keep bodies engaged. The instructors also help students maintain good form throughout the workout to ensure each exercise's effectiveness. Additional support, such as meal planning, speeds clients toward goals such as losing weight, becoming more toned, and passing the arm-wrestling portion of job interviews.
The trainers encourage their clients to push themselves and make the most of every minute—but they're not afraid to have a little fun, either. In fact, Robert helped comedian Mark Malkoff achieve six-pack abs in 28 days, and he taught the crew at PIX11 how to get fit even while they wore their nice work clothes, instead of the leather pants and corsets most often seen at the gym.
The Sanskrit word “yogamaya” means potent inner power, or, in another translation, all-doing capability. The West 20th Street studio aims to guide its students toward this ideal not just through postures but also through spiritual teachings and melodic kirtan chants.
As for the physical practice, the instructors lead Vinyasa flow classes, which link breath to movement. The dynamic sequences increase strength and flexibility while developing a moving meditation, one in which students focus on nothing but monitoring the alignment of every movement. Though every level of class incorporates a range of asanas, such as standing poses and inversions, advanced sessions introduce deeper holds, centering breathing exercises, and yogic philosophy.
Regardless of the difficulty of the class, the instructors maintain a warm environment by dispensing advice, offering specific adjustments, and furrowing their brows when someone tells a sad story. New York magazine commented on the empowering benefits of this personalized guidance, claiming, "even beginners are pleasantly coaxed into positions more difficult than they might think they could accomplish."