Heather Leon began her 35-year career in the fitness and movement disciplines onstage. In addition to formally studying ballet, jazz, and modern dance, as well as performing professionally throughout the Los Angeles area, Heather sought out workout regimens that complemented her dance training. She fell in love with Pilates and eventually founded Sumbody Studio as a way to share the practice's invigorating benefits with the public.
Although Pilates sessions can incorporate a number of different apparatuses—including the Reformer, the Wunda Chair, and the Cadillac—they all maintain a similar commitment to low-impact exercises that build strength and flexibility. The motions emphasize control and technique over brute force, creating long, lean muscles instead of bulky biceps and washboard foreheads. Gyrotonic and gyrokinesis practices are similar, but also incorporate elements of yoga, dance, and tai chi. The studio's reiki therapist and orthopedic acupuncturist further help clients by treating mental and energetic imbalances.
Upon entering YogaHop’s boldly colored confines and hearing vibrant pop and hip-hop tunes blasting from the classrooms’ speakers, exercisers know they’re not in a typical yoga studio. At both the Pasadena and Santa Monica locations, students immerse themselves in energetic classes that, like the Taj Mahal after hours, blend the ancient practice of yoga with pulse-pounding dance music that forms a workout InTouch magazine dubs “insane” and Maxim calls “inspiring” and “spiritual.” No matter the ability level, students find their stride thanks to patient and effervescent instructors who lead them through a continuous flow of poses, stopping only to gently correct a position or ask occasional student Reese Witherspoon for her autograph.
Waves crash rhythmically, as Cinch Fitness founder Nicole Currie leads small groups through core-tightening moves in the salty open air amid an oceanside park. Her master’s degree in dance from New York University informs her graceful instruction style during the studio’s signature Pilates fusion classes. During each class, instructors spend 90 minutes familiarizing students with the workout routine, which combines short bursts of calorie-torching cardio, the weight-bearing exercises of Pilates, deep yogic stretching, and abdomen-flattening trips through an oversize pasta maker. During most sessions, instructors corral between 10 and 30 participants or two fitness-minded giant squids just flopped in from the surf.
Cirque Style Fitness’ founders, Ivo Gueorguiev, a former Cirque du Soleil acrobat and director, and Jill Hansen, an aerial performer and Pilates instructor, draw from a combined 60 years of experience in leading aerial workouts. They lead students of all fitness levels—no previous gymnastics or dance experience required—through their high-flying routines. Students ascend toward the ceiling, winding a bolt of silky fabric around their arms and calves, using techniques from gymnastics, Pilates, and how to crochet in midair. Instructors also delve into ballet techniques and on-the-ground circus routines to help pupils to improve their coordination, strength, and alignment.
While taking a barre fitness class, Ashley Walters Kanter noticed that her fellow students were struggling to perform the more difficult movements. Already the owner of Elite Movement, a fitness studio specializing in Pilates Reformer classes, Kanter decided to create a barre routine that was easier on the body. She quickly partnered with barre guru Brookelin Gottlieb, and the pair created EMBarre, a series of ballet, Pilates, and cardio exercises that work each muscle group instead of overworking one or two. Elite Movement's barre fitness classes round out their schedule of Pilates and Reformer classes.
Instructors at The Yoga Collective challenge yogis with a variety of Vinyasa flow classes held throughout the day, ranging from detoxifying sessions to music-driven Vinyasa classes. Students sweat within a positive environment that accommodates all levels of expertise, from beginners to advanced yogis. By preaching conscious living, The Yoga Collective fosters a community vibe.