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.
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.
The proud and pliable recipient of a yoga mat's worth of accolades, Amazing Yoga spreads its limber arms to embrace all practitioners, welcoming stretching sophomores and savants alike. Talented, passionate instructors lead an array of classes over a flexible schedule at each of Amazing Yoga's four studios. Clients can frequent the studio of their choice and stack their chakras in classes such as the Basics, a beginner's power-yoga class that emphasizes foundation postures, helping practitioners build up a strong foundation to withstand floods, high winds, and tickling attacks. Amazing Yoga recommends bringing your own water bottle and a mat to classes, though rental mats are available for $2 per class.
Yoga Matrika offers classes to suit every lifestyle and skill level, including those of expecting mothers, harried mail carriers, or horse trainers who use the "natural" technique. Newbies can ease into downward dog, warrior, and wicked vizier with a yoga foundations class or a nice, slow Matrika flow. More advanced yogis and yogi bears will prefer anusara yoga or the core challenge flow, while the adventurous might want to try special temporary classes such as zhong dao (Chinese yoga). The studio also offers prenatal yoga, Pilates mat, and mom & baby yoga, so your little one will be stretched to NBA-worthy lengths by kindergarten.
Ever since he suffered a life-threatening accident at age 7, Ignacio Filippini has lived with orthopedic challenges. It took him until his 20s, but he finally found relief in Bikram yoga, a simple, yet challenging exercise technique that helped him ease his chronic pain while boosting his physical and mental fitness. The rest is history?Ignacio began studying with senior instructors who taught him not only the basics of teaching yoga, but the intricacies of working with those of all ages, backgrounds, and mental and physical abilities. To develop his ability to help women ease the pain and stress of pregnancy, he also trained with Rajashree Choudhury, a yoga expert who has created a modified form of Bikram yoga for mothers-to-be.
At Bikram Yoga Mt. Lebanon, the studio that Ignacio now owns and leads, students master 26 poses and two breathing exercises in a welcoming atmosphere that opens minds?and a high-temperature environment that cleans out the cardiovascular system. A team of certified instructors guides pupils through the flexibility-boosting movements of Bikram yoga in a spotless, spacious studio.