Dominique Ponko sits at the head of the class, leading yogis through muscle-lengthening postures with the steady flow of her deep, rhythmic inhales and exhales. It’s been a long journey for Dominique. She first sought out yoga at the age of 26 to help her cope with life-threatening seizures and a slow-growing brain tumor. Yoga comforted her through three difficult years, welcoming her into a space for healing spiritually before she was able to find the proper medicine to help her heal physically. Though still a little shaky, Dominique has triumphed and opened four yoga studios—voted Best of the ‘Burgh in 2010—to inspire her students to ease their ailments, build strength, and find inner peace.
During her studio's heated Vinyasa-flow classes, an enthusiastic and supportive instructor guides students through a series of strengthening postures that work to increase flexibility and build muscles. Warm, balmy air courses through the studio, pricking beads of sweat on brows to help detox bodies and loosen stiff muscles into deep, soothing stretches.
When Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he imagined a much-coveted golden ticket that granted access to myriad wonders and unveiled the inner workings of an entire industry. MetaBody created a real-life version of that ticket with the MetaBody Yoga & Fitness Pass, though it applies to fitness instead of candy. The pass grants access not to a single gym but to classes at a variety of local studios, specializing in everything from yoga to boot camp. With the freedom to move from location to location, students can sample different regimens, instructors, and styles of exercise to cobble together a program that fits their needs and goals. MetaBody's nutritionists supplement class packages by coaching clients in healthy eating, recipe cooking, and speed-reading nutrition-fact labels.
With its serene studio and team of bodywork therapists and fitness instructors, Move Yoga and Fitness is a well-rounded wellness destination. Yoga and Pilates classes?available for groups or individuals?accommodate a variety of skill levels. Premium yoga classes include indoor stand-up paddleboard yoga, a class that makes use of the Indo Yoga Board, specially designed to recreate the experience of standing on a board inside a yoga studio. The board is built with four rockers on the bottom, which allow students of all experience levels to move through poses on an unstable surface, strengthening the core and improving balance. All of the yoga instructors are registered through the YogaFit school, which features a less-intimidating style of yoga that interjects traditional postures with common fitness moves such as pushups, sit-ups and squats.
Move Yoga and Fitness believes that movement isn't just essential to physical health, It's also critical to spiritual health. That's why they've purposefully chosen a collection of fitness classes that strengthen the body-spirit connection. Classes like hot yoga, flow yoga, and Pilates may help stretch the muscles and align the spine, but they also challenge the mind to push past limitations and encourage participants to exist in the moment instead of worrying about outside stress. Special small-group classes are also available for emotional and physical trauma survivors, such as military personnel and emergency responders. Meanwhile, dance-based classes such as Zumba make getting fit feel a lot more fun, and indoor stand-up paddleboard yoga classes allow curious exercisers to try the trendy sport without asking them to get in the water or bring their own bathtub to class.
Rebecca Rankin and Lisa Lau came out of college prepared to be an architect and an engineer, respectively. Today, they own Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill. Their goals haven't changed much, though—Rebecca specializes in the architecture of the human body, and Lisa studies its engineering, teaching students how to bend and breathe during each 90-minute class.
These classes are held in a studio heated to around 105 degrees. But newcomers to the practice needn't worry—as the space's website says, "The heat is not there to make it tough, it is there to help." As participants move through the 26 asanas, or postures, of Bikram yoga, the heat loosens up their muscles and encourages a detoxifying sweat, allowing for deeper stretches and a smoother post-workout slip-and-slide ride. Rebecca, Lisa, and their fellow instructors limit their class sizes to better personalize their guidance, and welcome guests of all skill levels to attend any session.
At Yoga on Fremont, confidence and self-knowledge spring from ancient poses and breathing exercises. Encouraging instructors explore the yogic spectrum through several different disciplines, including gentle, relaxing yoga nidra and sweaty, athletic hot power yoga. Each instructor draws upon at least 200 hours of teacher training, helping beginners build a foundation as sturdy as a cast-iron exoskeleton.
From time to time, the studio hosts workshops that cater to the needs of kids, families, and cancer survivors. A rousing hula-hoop workshop pairs yoga’s bends and balances with gyrations that help slim and strengthen the core.