Michele Mangione thought she might never dance again after a car wreck smashed her skull and fractured four fragile vertebrae. By practicing yoga, she regained her mobility and acquired a new passion: helping others find health and happiness through movement. To this end, she eagerly studied the mind-body connection, earning a PhD in the topic from Ohio State and an advanced teaching certification from the Yoga Alliance. Armed with extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and philosophy, she founded WiseWays, a studio that blends Hatha yoga with healing arts, such as tai chi, structural integration, and the Feldenkrais method of somatic education. Here, students of all skill levels build strong bodies, centered minds, and spirits as buoyant as the studio's suspended-wood floor. Yoga instruction takes place in one-on-one sessions and small-group classes, where pupils hone poses that gently unlock hips, shoulders, and safes filled with middle-school-era diary entries. As strength and flexibility increase, students progress to sun salutations that cultivate balance, focus, and a pervasive sense of calm.
History pulses through Lemko Hall, a turreted brick building in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. Over the past century, it has served as a saloon, a ballroom, and a movie set where stars Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken filmed a scene for The Deer Hunter in 1978. Nowadays, one of the space's tenants, Studio 11, channels an even older legacy: the yoga tradition of ancient India.
The studio's seasoned teachers impart moving meditations that have been passed down from generation to generation via careful instruction and epic games of telephone. Classical Hatha poses help yogis of all levels cultivate strength and flexibility as they learn to center their minds and control their breath. Students steep their minds in yoga's meditative qualities during flowing, breath-focused Vinyasa routines or explore the practice’s athletic side during Ashtanga sessions teeming with dynamic poses and vigorous thumb-wrestling bouts. Those seeking a more private yoga experience can engage in a Thai massage, in which a trained practitioner guides the body through assisted poses and stretches.
Yoga-inspired Pilates sessions revolve around centuries-old isometrics that promote balance and help chisel the core. Students seeking a full immersion in yogic history can enroll in studio-sponsored trips to India, which pair yoga classes with sunset meditations and spiritual discourses.
In the heart of Cincinnati’s business district, work ends and play begins. Here, at The Yoga Bar, bodies and minds bask in a vibe that’s both festive and calming, like a piñata brimming with ocean waves. Helmed by Rachel Roberts—an instructor who has trained in India, Bali, and Europe—this studio explores international yoga traditions such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Yin. Teeming with bends, balances, and other physical challenges, classes fill students with energy rather than draining it away. Healthful beverages such as kombucha and coconut water flow from a mahogany bar, hydrating drinkers as they take on ancient yoga poses and modern, Pilates-inspired movements. On Friday nights, classes blossom into yoga socials where live music, tarot-card readings, and fashion trunk shows punctuate deep-breathing exercises. In addition to shepherding students toward metaphysical wellness during group and private sessions, Rachel leads yoga retreats in exotic settings such as Bali’s beaches and the moon’s bowling alleys. Between classes and retreats, Rachel makes mantra-inspired jewelry and serves as a community ambassador for Lululemon Athletica.
While teaching jazz dance in the 1960s, Judi Sheppard Missett decided to step away from tradition by offering an experimental class that allowed her students to simply dance without the judgment of mirrors or the constraints of rigid technique. In these sessions, she began infusing popular dance moves with specific fitness workouts to forge a distinctive blend of cardio exercise, strength training, and dance instruction. Little did she know that this “just for fun” class was the prototype for what would become the national fitness sensation known as Jazzercise.
Today, Jazzercise takes its aerobic techniques from a variety of sources that include jazz dance, hip-hop, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing. The class formats, which vary according to different toning goals, are just as diverse as the program's move set. Two-time Dancing with the Stars champion Cheryl Burke is a big fan of the improvisational routines, although her advanced skills aren't needed to get the most out of classes. Instructors cultivate a noncompetitive atmosphere where all exercisers—with the exception of those marked as cursed by jazz-hand palm readers—are welcome regardless of age, build, or fitness background.
Inside The Li'l Yoga Shop's powder-blue studio, students strengthen muscles, flexibility, and mind-body connections under the guidance of certified yoga and Pilates instructors. Instructors spread themselves across three levels of yoga classes that vary in difficulty to accommodate practitioners of all abilities, easing beginners into the practice with fundamental poses and breath work and challenging decorated warriors with advanced strengthening and balancing postures and flawless 21-sun salutes. The Li'l Yoga Shop's resident meditation specialist and spirit-animal tamer, Eden Kozlowski, leads peaceful meditation sessions to help pupils calm minds and enhance body awareness. Pilates and Yogilates instructors focus on pushing students through rigorous workouts to build up core strength, alignment, and flexibility through efficient floor exercises that isolate specific muscle groups across the entire body.
Professional Latin dancer and certified Zumba instructor Tabra Tacuri embraces the link between dance and fitness: her dance career with longtime partner Anthony—an award-winning dancer certified by the National Dance Council of America and Arthur Murray—has helped her maintain an enviable shape. Together, they lead others in slimming down while strutting their stuff on the dance floor with a combination of ballroom dance and dance fitness classes at Fit 4 Life Ohio. The pair leads group and private dance lessons in ballroom, Latin dance, and Argentine tango and works with betrothed couples to perfect their first dance for their big night. Shifting the focus to fitness, Tabra once again calls upon her Latin-dance training to help dancers of all levels shimmy their way to narrower waistlines during her high-energy Zumba and Zumba toning classes.
She further motivates clients to reach their fitness goals with in-home personal training and nutrition coaching. In her e-fitness program, she leads personal training and group fitness classes via webcam and Skype, allowing clients to get in shape at home or on a crowded commuter train. The e-training sessions also include personal assessments and interviews to ensure that clients stay on track.