Ecstatic Breathwork, Goat Yoga, and a Founder Known as 'The Machine': America's 15 Favorite Local Fitness Businesses Across the country, people wanting to move and get in shape are looking for new experiences, and personalized attention.
Entrepreneur asked Yelp to dig into its data, to reveal which ones America loved the most. Together we created America's Favorite Mom & Pop Shops, a list of 150 local, independently owned and operated businesses across 10 categories — including, yes, fitness and instruction.
To see every category, as well as the methodology behind the list, click here. Below are the 15 companies included in the fitness and instruction category.
Note: Some businesses may have multiple locations. Only one location is listed for each.
1. Maui Goat Yoga
Though the concept may sound silly to those not in the know, goat yoga is very much a thing. And the concept is exactly as uncluttered as the phrase suggests: one simply engages in a yoga session with these lovable ungulates milling about, or, as Maui Goat Yoga more puts it, "relish the psychological benefits of animal-assisted therapy while exercising and challenging your physical and mental capacity."
In any case, its daily 45-minute classes, with surrounding views of Haleakala and the Maui coastline, are terrific. There's also Animal Therapy sessions on hand, a brand of interaction that can reportedly boost emotional and cognitive functioning. Private events are welcome, too. One Yelp reviewer packaged things neatly in saying, "I'm telling you, there is no better place to relax and breathe than that place."
2. North Mass Boulder
Climbing is perhaps the ultimate full-body workout — using upper body, lower body and core muscles in unison, and easily pushing the heart rate to between 120 and 180 beats per minute. There are approximately 8 million climbers in America alone, and the number of associated gyms has quadrupled since 2000. So in conceiving of North Mass Boulder, co-owners Elliott Steward, Zach Donovan and Colt Reichart knew that numbers were on their side, but were also at pains to create a diverse and community-inclusive experience.
In addition to a wide variety of climbing terrains (and tools), the facility includes yoga and fitness studios, social and work spaces, classes, a health-oriented café and a 14-tap bar. Events include a Queer and Trans Climbing Night, a Cornhole Madness tournament and a Woman Crush Mondays Climb with sport veteran Mei Nagasako.
3. The Little Giant Muay Thai
Falls Church, VA
A core tenet of this facility, just a mile or so south of Arlington, is that martial arts have the power to improve self-defense skills — but also, perhaps even more importantly, they can enhance self-respect, general fitness and focus, and inner peace.
The Little Giant's programs may center around Muay Thai — also known as Thai boxing, which involves the combined use of fists, knees, shins and elbows — but community is the real focus. Instructors regard members as being on individual journeys, with unique goals. They nurture people's progress accordingly, and the result is, as one Yelp reviewer phrased it, "an extremely friendly and positive vibe." Both individual and small group adult classes are available, along with instruction for kids.
4. Blue Buddha Collective
Detailing founder Karin Fellman's yoga chops would require an extended entry, but here are some essentials: She has amassed more than 16,000 hours of instruction, founded Hot Yoga University, and has studied with gurus such as Amrit Desai, Sangeet Kaur Khalsa and Mukunda Stiles.
In pursuit of what she describes as a "new concept for wellness," Blue Buddha Collective combines a variety of instruction (including Hot Yoga at the Blue, Blacklight Hot Yoga and Infrared Hot Yoga, along with non-heated sessions) with the locally famed Espresso Café, and a commitment to offer a venue for and champion local artists. All classes are $15, which is simply a steal.
5. Recess Fitness Club
"Best gym in Dallas. Hands down," was one Yelp reviewer's brisk assessment of this Stonewall Terrace neighborhood staple. "Taylor and Evan are some of the nicest guys you'll meet," referring to co-founders Evan Duncan and Taylor Metzger. The former served for eight years in the Marine Corps as a fitness and martial arts instructor (among other qualifications), while Taylor brings more than 13 years of training experience, holds a certification from the Cooper Institute as a personal fitness specialist and is an Eagle Scout, to boot.
"[Their] vibe, work ethic and integrity is passed along to the staff and trainers," added another reviewer, "and that is easily and happily felt by the client/members." Personal instruction is offered, and classes include Boarding School (akin to Pilates, but makes use of a HEROBOARD), Bad & Booty, and Detention, a "full-body bootcamp sweat session to torch fat and build lean muscle."
6. Kintsugi Yoga
Las Vegas, NV
In a city where grounded thinking and inner vision is uniquely needed, this studio and meditation center, founded by Jess Molasky and Adam Daudier, focuses on breathing techniques, meditation and natural movement as much as they do pure form. The goal was to build a "space for people to grow both physically and mentally," and whether the choice is Hot Yoga, Yin or Vinyasa Flow classes, expect them to be led by among Clark County's finest teachers.
In the thin air of Vegas, the Ecstatic Breathwork class — a combination of conducive ambient sound and ancient rhythmic breathing techniques — is particularly healing. There are also community events sponsored by the center, including Full-Moon Meditations, Reiki and Sound Healing.
7. All-Pro Taw Kwon Do Studio
Los Gatos, CA
Precious few martial arts facilities in the nation can match the chops of this center's founder, Los Gatos native Andrew Fanelli. A 7th Degree Black Belt Grandmaster, he has been teaching Tae Kwon Do for no less than 36 years, and designed All Pro's classes and disciplines to incorporate both traditional and modern forms of the martial art (its name roughly translating to "the art of kicking and punching"), as well as karate, Muay Thai, cardio kickboxing and general self-defense.
Be prepared to bring everybody, because kids, teens and adults alike can boost their fitness level, yes, but also mental and emotional well-being. As All Pro's mission statement puts it, the broader goal is to foster "an understanding of the universe within the individual… to unlock their true potential."
8. The Training Lab
New York, NY
The class names at this fitness studio — which include Training Day and Boot Camp — are a nod to founder Ruben Belliard's background. A Lower East Side native, he served in the Marine Corps from 1997 to 2004, including a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After founding and running Warrior Fitness Boot Camp in the city until 2016, he dreamt of a new operation that emphasized rigorous training (of course) but also flexibility — recognizing that change needs to be addressed from various angles. The Training Lab, then, injects the unexpected into instruction, with one Yelper observing that, "there's a variety of equipment and the instructors are creative enough to where you'll never do the same workout twice... Even if you make it back for a second class in the same day."
9. Salt Spa & Yoga
Not just in the heart of downtown, but at a key point on its most bustling strip, is this wellness spa and boutique yoga studio, which is woman-owned and founded in 2016. With an overall goal of providing "affordable, approachable wellness," its range of treatments is considerable, including a variety of massages, facials and full-body treatments and reiki energy healing, with facilities highlighted by an infrared sauna, meditation table and space enough for group parties.
Yoga classes are similarly diverse, embracing Vinyasa, Power Flow, Restorative and Yin to Vin among its goals/approaches. "I almost dread vacation massages because the therapist knows you may never be back," wrote one Yelp reviewer. "This place was the complete opposite. Amazing attention and great technique."
10. Sari Weis Personal Training
Sari Weis has a nickname: The Machine. She's a Chicago native who kicked corporate life to the curb, became a personal trainer, and has a particular talent for hooking clients on weight and other resistance training, kickboxing, cardio intervals, core training and nutrition essentials. It's how she boasts a devout following.
"We always do a mix of boxing, other cardio and strength training in a way that never gets boring," observed one Yelp reviewer, with another adding that Weis is, "positive, upbeat, and… a wealth of information. Every session is packed."
11. Bristlecone Company
Cedar City, UT
Bristlecone Company's motto is "Coffee, Yoga, Connect." We'll add one more word to that: Fuel. Why? Because this diverse operation also features a killer café, whose lattes and juices are high points, along with dishes like Apple Nachos, the Bird Dog (baked sweet potato with egg, cheese, fried spinach and bacon) and Tuscan Bagels, served with turkey, parmesan, pesto, arugula, tomato and pickled onion.
But back to yoga: Classes are meant to be especially inclusive and customized to each person's requirements, goals and challenges, and count Hot Yoga, Candlelight Yoga, Sound Bath Yoga, Hot Vinyasa and Gentle Flow among the options. Launched in 2020 by business partners Joann Stevens and Chelsee Robinson, this is a terrific option for locals and Zion/Bryce trekkers alike.
12. Ambitious Athletics
Carmen Sturniolo is the owner of this unique facility just four blocks north of The White House. He found a passion for health and movement in the process of helping his dad recover from a stroke and an aortic dissection, which required essentially teaching him to walk again, in part by reinvigorating nervous system pathways. Vexed by a lack of fitness options that weren't either needlessly doctrinaire or cash grabs, he founded Ambitious Athletics, to, as his site puts it, provide "one-of-a-kind group training program[s] to help others move, look and feel like an athlete at every age."
This includes accessible and ongoing coaching, movement therapy and traditional one-on-one sessions, and always with in-depth customization. "[This is] a different model," as one Yelper observed. "You sign up for training, not a gym… They observe you, hear your goals and prepare a training plan," which includes nutrition. "Trainers are pros," he added, "…and provide critical structure to your training. You are set to achieve better results. Plus, the place is local, not a conglomerate. It fosters a great friendly community."
13. Convergence DBC
Owner Carter Maier, who has been trained over the course of a quarter-century in various forms of ballroom and social dancing, is just one of several seasoned professionals at this 5,000-square-foot studio — not least its director, Roxanne Maier, who is herself a coach, choreographer and certified Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis instructor. Together, they offer a whirling range of instruction for adults of all levels, with styles including ballroom dance, salsa/Latin, Argentine tango and swing.
"My fiancé, in particular, was always the last person to get out on the dance floor," reads one Yelp review, "but because our teacher ROXANNE IS AWESOME, [he] will now get out there, feel comfortable with his feet and have fun! And this was only after 6 classes."
14. Portland Yoga Collective
"We move about our day, our lives, in autopilot mode," explains Jess Fadale, owner of this Downtown studio just next to the Old Port district. "What I love about [yoga] is that it asks us to shift out of that… and into presence."
Her airy, partially brick-lined studio is host to Vinyasa, Restorative, Yin, Slow Flow and Power Yoga classes (with private and special event sessions available), among others, and the organizational structure is unique in that Fadale emphasizes training new instructors as much as attracting regular class attendees. There's a 150-hour Yoga Student Training program offered, for example, along with a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training option. "My students are finding space, mentally, emotionally and physically, to open up opportunities for themselves," she added. "So yeah, when I walk in the door, it feels like my own dream is coming to life."
15. Vail Stables
"Every wish I ever made before blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, or on a shooting star, came true all at once in 2003 when Vail Stables became a reality," owner Kym Luck explains in this business's Yelp page. A wonderfully strange mash-up of horseback riding, "goat activities" and beer garden, it's just a mile from Vail, but seems like another world.
Anyone 5 and older can saddle up and course along trails that start at 8,500 feet, then go up. Those less adventurous can take the house Goat Yoga class (the usual moves, with four leggers both eyeing the action and often getting involved) and/or shimmer off the Goat Happy Hour in the beer garden, with its local brews and "20 baby goats, a few ponies, a sandbox and toys for the tiniest of kids."