Thousands of years before yoga became a fitness craze, healers used it as a preventive form of physical therapy. The yoga instructors at Indra’s Grace still tout the practice’s healing effects through Hatha-style classes. Hatha takes a slow, meditative approach to yoga that links asanas with breathing. The postures stave off stress, pain, and depression as bodies strengthen and participants lengthen from head to toe, as if they were dangling from monkey bars with two kids grasping their ankles. The uplifting practice works best when coupled with holistic-nutrition counseling, which promotes natural, well-rounded eating habits. For those struggling to overcome a specific health issue, private yoga therapy can help alleviate afflictions such as arthritis, headaches, asthma, and the inability to stop barking.
The dedicated coaches at Hot Mamas Fitness motivate women of all fitness levels through heart-pumping classes, customized meal plans, and single-sex workouts. Members and punch-card holders can commit caloric arson during sweaty Old School aerobics sessions or build strength by lifting barbells and stacks of old Spice Girls CDs during Girl Power classes. PiYo combines Pilates and yoga to develop powerful midsections, and Zumba churns up Latin music and rhythmic dance moves for a session of high-energy shimmying.
At downtown Toronto's Fit Factory Fitness, voted Top Fitness Club of 2013 in Toronto by Top Choice Awards, former US Marine Corps drill instructor and Fit Factory co-founder Tony Austin mimics the intense training regimen he completed during his military days. Along with his fellow instructors, Tony uses his 22 years of fitness experience while donning a military-style olive cap to lead exercisers of all fitness levels through more than 120 diverse classes, including personal training, boot camp, and boxing. One week, exercisers might jog with buckets full of water on the shores of a lake or swing sledgehammers into the sand, and the next, they might head indoors to drag heavy bags across the astroturf. With Tony's military background, the exercisers receive training and regiments like those practiced by the U.S. Armed Forces. Instructors also teach boxing boot-camp classes, in which patrons pummel heavy punching bags until they agree to personally train them.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers aged 4 months to 12 years with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents Magazine.
As they enter the training circle at Curves, female guests come face-to-face with the smiles of other women. And just as points on a circle share a common distance from the circle's center, workout participants share the experiences of those nearby by trading stations throughout the 30-minute training session. One minute is spent on a piece of strength-training equipment built for feminine frames and designed to work two opposing muscle groups with a single movement. Exercisers then move on to a recovery station, where they run, jog, or dance to maintain heart rates and keep platforms in place during momentary losses of gravity.
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