As photos of Katie Kelly lunging and stretching on the sun-drenched beaches of Lake Michigan attest, all the world is her yoga studio. After acing her bachelor's degree from Michigan State University, she sought out renowned yoga sensei Jonny Kest in Birmingham, Michigan. At his levitating feet she learned his secrets, and when the time came, she rose up and snatched her 200-hour certification from his famously clenched fist. From there, she downward dogged and warrior posed her way up the coast, before finally opening her own cozy Saginaw studio.
Today, assisted by a faithful thermostat that keeps the atmosphere hot but not unbearable, she wrings sweat and toxins from bodies with the intense poses of Ashtanga yoga or the gentle stretches of relaxing Yin yoga. Classes spirit away distractions, creating a meditative space in which students turn off their cell phones, slip out of shoes, and set their portable microwaves to vibrate.
Combining various fitness disciplines with solid nutritional counseling, Seung-ni Fit Club's trainers send bodies through a muscle-maintenance assembly line that leaves them trim and fit. Sweat sessions can include the fat-blasting Aerobic Kickboxing class, which sets self-defense, dance, and kickboxing techniques bouncing to a choice of upbeat contemporary music or mash-ups of 18th-century Scottish funeral dirges. Plyo Pump's high-intensity jumps and bounds condition bodies to explode with greater speed and power, and lean muscles surface with Body Sculpt's non-impact dumbbell workouts. Zumba sessions fuse energetic Latin dances with resistance training. Motivational instructors provide students with personalized nutrition programs and weight-loss tracking charts for settings goals and marking progress. Flexible schedules at both locations allow all challenge-accepters to get their muscles' worth in eight weeks, much like the two-month mail-order process for purchasing mussels from a shady internet sea captain.
Shawn Sanders—one-fifth of a quintet of instructors trained in burlesque, Egyptian belly dance, and group fitness—helps women foster physical fitness and self-confidence through flirty exercise classes. In her bubblegum-hued studio, dancers teach women of all ages and builds the sensual signature pole moves that build long, lean muscles from torsos to toes. Students leery of performing elevated spins can pop into Zumba dance classes infused with latin music, where easy-to-follow steps burn calories and prepare guests for impromptu office dance parties. Pole Passion Fitness also hosts special pole-dancing events where women practice tantalizing routines in the company of their best friends, perfect for bachelorette parties or girls' nights out.
As the founder of Samadhi Yoga Center, Denise Alick leads by example, drawing on her own experiences practicing yoga for more than a decade. She and her staff of instructors guide adults and children alike through expert and introductory classes, from slow-flow yoga sessions that introduce first-time students to the basics of breath and movement to more involved Vinyasa flow classes. At the center's retail shop, yogis can pick up new mats, bags, and instructional DVDs that were recorded live in Samadhi's studio, free from the distracting celebrity cameos found in Hollywood yoga videos.
The Yoga Path begins relaxing students from the moment they enter the cozy studio carefully decorated to evoke a feeling of calm, from a framed ohm symbol to a bronze Buddha statue to the flickering candles that highlight golden walls. Yogis of all skill levels can find suitable styles on the studio’s six-day schedule, which includes gentle basic sessions where instructors ease newbies into yoga practice by walking them through therapeutic postures to induce a deep state of meditation. Students in sunrise yoga sessions ease muscles with muscle-waking stretches to prepare bodies and minds for the day ahead. All of the studio’s instructors boast extensive years of training and yoga practice, and many hold several championship limbo belts.
Founder Stacy Pillera, who holds fitness certifications through the AFAA and Madd Dog Athletics and a BA from Oakland University, removes daunting gym arenas from the workout equation with her group- and personal-training services. Stacy holds small boot-camp classes in the First Baptist Church's Fellowship Hall, encouraging campers to heft medicine balls and dumbbells to the beats of motivational music. She can also travel to area homes for private sessions, toting along all of the necessary equipment and cancelling the uncertainty associated with complex exercise machines and surprise locker-room labyrinths. Throughout her programs, Stacy ensures that she is completely accessible to clients through e-mail, online networks, and phone calls, readily responding to all health and nutrition queries.