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.
With its lavender-hued studio and team of bodywork therapists and fitness instructors, Loughner Massage and Yoga 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.
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.
Adrenaline Barre Fitness's new, upscale fitness boutique hosts dynamic classes designed to shape both mind and body. Using a ballet barre for support, students perform small, isometric, dance-inspired movements to tone the body from head to webbed swan toes. Separate showers and changing areas are available.
Lifelong athlete Scott Umberger's love for fitness developed while he was working toward a Division I scholarship to Robert Morris University, where he competed in track and football. After going on to train award-winning and Olympic athletes, he decided to open his own gym, and paired up with Pepsi Hutton. Pepsi relies heavily on fitness to feel good as she battles cystic fibrosis, which ultimately led her to become an AFAA-certified personal trainer and kinesiology professor to help others learn how to feel good. Together at Fusion Workouts, they helm a team of certified trainers who strive to help clients of all abilities reach their fitness goals at their own pace.
With a functional approach to fitness, they draw from boot-camp classes, personal-training sessions, and circuit training to develop their ever-changing total-body workouts. They motivate their charges to slim their waistlines and boost their strength by swinging kettlebells, hurling sandbags, and flipping tires end over end until they agree to go back and chase their true passion—life on the road. Taking into account each client's health and fitness history, they customize each exercise to accommodate beginners, seasoned athletes, and new mothers alike.