For Claire Diab, director of The American Yoga Academy & Studio, yoga isn’t just a matter of stretching, balancing, and breathing. It’s a way of being that promotes peace and transforms lives. In addition to teaching backbends and sun salutations, Claire and her team of instructors show students how to extend their practice beyond the mat. In her more than 25 years as an instructor, she has led yoga and meditation classes with Deepak Chopra and the popular Zen and Yoga course at Seton Hall University, where she’s a professor of Asian Studies. Hatha poses and Eastern philosophies guide the studio's teaching during classes such as yoga basics and power flow, which help yogis build enough strength, balance, and focus to rescue a bobcat from a sky-high redwood tree. Known as Modern Day Yoga, this system also informs her teacher trainings, in which students of all levels can become Yoga Alliance–certified yoga teachers or convincing Sting impersonators. Between classes at her studio in the Wilshire Grand Hotel, pupils can pose with Claire via several instructional DVDs and mp3s.
Inside Boone Studio, exercisers follow the lead of energetic instructors as they bend, bob, and stretch their way to stronger, more flexible physiques. During barre workouts, participants alternate exercises that build long, lean muscles with the help of body weight, weighted gloves, and resistance bands. These workouts can also take place in a room heated to 85 degrees, which helps loosen muscles, flush systems, and improve the deep isometrics and contractions of each session. The ballet barre also plays an important role in many of Boone’s other classes, helping yoga and Pilates students emphasize alignment as they bend, breathe, and grind their skateboards.
Sharron Miller has devoted her life to dance. She attended the Juilliard School and worked with the director of the Garden State Ballet. After completing her training, she danced as a soloist for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and appeared in seven Broadway shows. Sharron also taught at Renaissance Middle School for 13 years, where her dance and drama program for youth was praised by the State of New Jersey. Today, as the founder of Sharron Miller's Academy for the Performing Arts, she shares the skills she acquired throughout a lifetime in the arts with students from all walks of life.
SMAPA is a not-for-profit organization that provides classes in jazz, ballet, tap, and modern dancing for students of all ages. SMAPA's skilled faculty members teach hundreds of students every year and conduct outreach to the community, engaging youth in the arts through school programs and impromptu performances in the daydreams of teenagers.
For the past 25 years, Starseed Yoga & Wellness has provided a space for guests to get in shape and relieve anxiety through yoga and meditation. The staff understands that starting yoga can be overwhelming, so they offer more than 25 classes each week to suit students with different levels of experience or rebellious students who refuse to salute the sun. Students can participate in vigorous Vinyasa sessions or gentle restorative yoga, or head to mind-body workshops held at different times throughout the year.
Speed Weight Training Fitness Center's Michael Johnson and Paul Davis’s resumes are just as impressive as their muscles. They certainly didn’t come by their chiseled physiques over night: Johnson put in 33 years of Army service—as an Army drill sergeant and front-line soldier—and boasts a quarter century of law enforcement experience, and Davis is a decorated police deputy chief and champion bodybuilder. Drawing from their fitness-heavy backgrounds, they developed their Speed Weight Training technique in 2001, motivating students to simultaneously burn fat while building muscle through a fast-paced workout regimen.
During high-intensity boot camps for adults, Sgt. Major Johnson pushes students toward fitness and reduced waistlines with positive encouragement, never intimidating them with threats of latrine duty. The trainers work with the needs and goals of each client during personal-training sessions, measuring their potential through body-fat, endurance, and strength tests, whose results they use to draft a nutrition and exercise regimen.
For Jagadisha Peter Petrovic, yoga lessons came early and often. What began with a simple stretching exercise on a family vacation blossomed into a lifetime of yogic learning, including stints at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and certifications from global masters including Dr. Jeff Migdow and Bikram Choudhury. Now, he puts those experiences to use as the founder and head instructor at Be Evolution Hot Yoga, where his team of experienced yoga instructors flush away toxins and increase muscle flexibility for deeper stretches during targeted stretch sessions. The center operates two studios side-by-side: one heated to a steamy 106 degrees for traditional hot yoga, and one warmed to a balmy-yet-manageable 78 degrees for less strenuous sessions. After class ends, students can also pop into the center's brand new boutique, where racks of new gear and practice materials await.