To some, visiting another country is a reprieve from everyday life and an opportunity to learn about another culture. To others, it is a life-changing experience. Jennifer Pritchard’s sojourn in Mysore, India cemented the foundation for what eventually would become The Yoga Shala. During her travels, Jennifer was inspired to return home to create a warm and inviting space for practicing yoga, and is one of 14 Canadians to receive teaching authorization from the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. At her studio today, which was voted Best of the City in 2010 by readers of Victoria News, she and her team of instructors uphold authentic yoga principles to help students improve their physical and mental well-being.
The Yoga Shala’s curriculum is rooted in the Ashtanga style of yoga, in which practitioners synchronize their breath with postures to build up internal heat, flushing out toxins and convincing the spleen that it’s vacationing in Mexico. The instructors cater classes to beginning and advanced students alike, encouraging them to work at their own pace, detailing easier or more challenging modifications to poses. Advanced-level courses focus on arm balances, deep hip work, back bends, and solidifying core muscles. On November 8, The Yoga Shala is hosting a show featuring Dave Stringer, a musical performer who practices Kirtan, a form of devotional chanting. The studio also offers teacher trainings each spring and fall and plans a group yoga retreat and a 200-hour immersion to south India in January.
Manager Rhett Wickham unites his 25 years of experience in the guest-services industry and the know-how he cultivated as an amateur bodybuilder into guiding others to fitness achievement. He helms the Winter Park Anytime Fitness, the doors of which are open 24 hours a day. Personal trainers and tanning assistants are on hand to help guests until 7 p.m. Monday–Friday and until 4 p.m. on Saturday. During these hours, they help clients navigate the rich forest of strength training, cardio equipment, and tanning beds.
Inside Rhett’s gym, rich purple and bright-green walls—relieved by huge panels of mirrors—surround sand-colored hardwood floors. Soothing blue carpets grip the bottoms of the weightiest weightlifting machines to prevent them from sliding around. Flat-screen TVs hang above rows of treadmills and cycles to entertain and encourage guests while their legs busy themselves burning calories and wishing that kneecaps had eyes.
Energizing beats fuel each furious workout at F.I.R.M. Fitness Camp as groups move together to shave off pounds and shape stronger bodies. Certified personal trainers start fresh each day with a new workout that employs dumbbells, jump ropes, and the Lebert Equalizer to keep heart rates pumping while building muscle mass. Unlike other boot camps, the trainers motivate through positive reinforcement rather than by yelling at clients or leaving passive-aggressive post-it notes on their fridges. Additionally, each energy-boosting session is held indoors, so students need not worry about sessions being canceled due to rain.
The staff members of Winter Park Health & Fitness have devoted themselves to a simple mission: creating a welcoming space for members to set and achieve fitness goals. In addition to keeping cardio machines and Nautilus strength-training equipment spick-and-span, they're always available to answer questions and help members work out more effectively. Weekday childcare enables parents to stop in for classes that include indoor cycling, three types of yoga, and Pilates. Trainers can also show members how to use the gym's TRX suspension bands to leverage their body weight for workouts during personal-training sessions, which incorporate strength training and metabolic testing that reveals how many calories clients must burn or consume to successfully body-double for Dolph Lundgren.
Melissa McMurray, founder of Bikram Yoga Orlando, passionately practices and teaches the renowned yoga style originated by Bikram Choudhury, who won the All-India National Yoga Competition three times in a row and retired undefeated. During 90-minute classes held seven days a week, Melissa and Bikram Yoga Orlando’s certified instructors cycle through 26 hatha yoga postures and two breathing exercises inside a heated studio. In addition to facilitating safe stretches, the heat expels bodily toxins and improves the cardiovascular effect of each pose. Many students find they can participate regardless of their age, weight, flexibility, past injuries, or past lives as statues.