21 years ago, Ellie Herman worked as a professional dancer and choreographer, running her own company in San Francisco. She loved her work, but she had bills to pay. So, naturally, she took on a side job; she became the professional wrestler known as "Ruth Less." As soon as she began tossing fellow wrestlers around, she incurred a serious knee injury that threatened to end both of her careers. Luckily for her, the nearby St. Francis Hospital of Dance Medicine offered surgery-free rehabilitation through Pilates. Ellie did the workouts for months, and returned to her company an even better dancer than she'd been before her injuries. Later, as a masters student at NYU, Pilates once again helped her recover from hip pain. She discovered an ability to innovate within the bounds of Pilates, and resolved to become a teacher.
She opened the aptly named Ellie Herman Studio, where she continues to teach today. True to her inspiration, she uses Pilates as a basis on which to innovate better forms of corrective movement. So far, she's written nine books on the subject. She invented her own piece of equipment, the Pilates Springboard, which compresses the size and cost of the more traditional Pilates wall unit. She also developed a blend of Pilates and gait training, to help people stave of injury by becoming conscious of the way they move their legs in every day life, which helps to prevent things such as rolling ankles or randomly kicking strangers.
Jill Dailey McIntosh has always been intrigued by the human body and how it moves—so much so that she graduated in 1991 with a kinesiology degree and soon thereafter decided to open her own Pilates teaching studio. But it wasn't until years later that this curiosity would manifest itself in a single question: "How can one aggressively transform the shape of their body while still maintaining proper alignment of the spine?" Eventually Jill began to examine her diverse fitness background, pulling low-impact movements from ballet, Pilates, and even orthopedic-exercise routines to create the basis for her fitness style, The Dailey Method.
Now, more than a decade later, Dailey's fitness routine has ballooned into studios sprawled across more than 10 states and gained praise from Self, Allure, FitPregnancy, and InStyle magazines. Regardless of the location, instructors remain true to Jill's mission of offering a diverse series of exercises that focus on toning and lengthening the body while lengthening the spine and building strong core muscles.
Tony Carr was something of a renaissance man, simultaneously holding degrees from UCLA and UC Irvine, working on a vaccine for Alzheimer's, and preparing for a sailboat race to Hawaii. His regatta ambitions, however, were unjustly cut short by a debilitating lower-spine injury. Despite this twist of fate, Tony persisted, and took up Bikram yoga at the Bikram Yoga College of India as just the latest endeavor of a man with diverse ambitions. Within one month, his symptoms had been alleviated, and within four months they had almost vanished completely.
Tony had found his new passion, and he immersed himself in it with enough enthusiasm to lose 30 pounds—the average British child's entire net worth—and transform his body in the process. He traveled to India and studied personally with Bikram Choudhury, the father of Bikram yoga. Tony became certified to teach in 1998. Now he leads classes at Bikram Yoga College of India, where he guides students through the 26 postures in the hopes that they, too, can transform their lives.
Flying Yoga owner Laura Camp draws on her experience with contemporary dance, circus aerials, and various yoga modalities to create her studio’s curriculum, incorporating elements from a number of strength disciplines to ease students into a new practice or push seasoned exercisers to the next level. Laura cultivates a noncompetitive, judgment-free atmosphere where guests can feel comfortable trying their hands, arms, and legs at Ashtanga- and Vinyasa-style yoga poses, engaging Zumba dance steps, and muscle-sculpting body-weight exercises while hanging safely from a TRX suspension system.
Throughout each class, instructors encourage pupils to modify techniques or utilize the center's posture-aiding blocks and straps to accommodate physical limitations or injury. Inside the recently renovated and expanded studio, instructors keep students engaged in workout sessions by playing music during class or ratcheting the temperature up to 90 degrees, which helps to purge bodies of toxin-laden perspiration and parasitic ice sculptures.
Monkey Yoga Shala's attentive instructors help students hone energy, balance, and strength with individualized instruction in a variety of specialized yoga classes. The studio's signature Isometric Monkey yoga melds aspects of dance, martial arts, and Ashtanga yoga to create an exhilarating low-impact workout. Additionally, resistance stretches lengthen limbs as instructors personally assist students in finding their most comfortable pose. In Vinyasa classes, aspiring yogis harness deliberate breathing to flow through asanas and backbends with the grace of a swan performing downward-facing dog. New mothers gather for 90-minute Mom & Baby sessions, toting tots through a series of mind-body exercises designed to increase energy and facilitate more focused baby-bottle juggling. Monkey Yoga's flexible roster of early-morning and late-night classes beckons participants to the spacious studio, which glows with natural light and hardwood floors polished well enough to reflect the radiance emanating from students’ auras.
Alison Roessler, the owner of and an instructor at Urban Wild Fitness, and her Pilates- and ACE-certified trainers, who speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Vietnamese, help everyone from advanced athletes to novice exercisers carve lean muscles with boot-camp sessions, personal training, and body-sculpting classes. They teach their students to have a positive relationship with food and view it is a source of fuel for a healthy body, rather than a source of anxiety or ammunition in a fight. During outdoor boot camps, which train 20–25 participants to work their abdominals and strengthen extremities, Roessler tailors workouts to fit individuals. Her personal-training sessions further personalize exercises with athletic-performance training or extreme weight loss. Roessler also volunteers her expertise to train young Costa Rican athletes and middle schoolers, who typically run laps while memorizing Judy Bloom passages.