It was a highly stressful job at IBM that led Barshop to become obsessed with spas and skin care. She began trying different treatments and surfing the Net for better ways to remove hair and even out pigmentation. “I was fascinated with the technology of beauty,’’ says Barshop, who opened Completely Bare five years ago on Madison Avenue. Her own skin is now flawless, and the casual but trendily dressed Barshop opened a second spa in 2002 and is about to open a third in Barneys. Her focus was originally permanent hair removal and technology to diminish dark spots, but now she offers myriad facials ($135–$450), from a stimulating paprika cleansing to a high-tech polish with intense pulsed light. 764 Madison Avenue, at 65th Street; 212-717-9300. 103 Fifth Avenue, at 17th Street; 212-366-6060. Shizuka Bernstein
When Japanese native Shizuka Ikeuchi, a single mom, took her two young sons to see famed Upper East Side dermatologist Robert Bernstein, she and the doctor struck up a friendship that eventually led to marriage. “The boys were really in need of a father figure,’’ remembers Bernstein. She became fascinated with her husband’s field, and in 1995 she started doing facials at his office, as well as at a spa in Glen Rock, New Jersey. By 1999, she was so busy that she opened a space in New York, a Zenlike setting that reflects her own tranquility. Her original following was largely Asian, including well-known Japanese actors, but a wide range of clients has since discovered her luxurious facials and treatments, including Shiatsu foot, hand, and neck massage ($115), a protein-and-mineral-packed pearl mask ($115), and an aromatherapy-infused body wrap ($100). 133 East 58th Street; 212-644-7400.
Office of Dr. Aron Kressel
Bicaj’s blonde curls and porcelain skin give her an angelic aura a bit at odds with the high-tech machines she operates, like the splotchy-skin-fighting Perfecter ($210), which has improved the complexions of Sofia Coppola, Ivana Trump, and Lenny Kravitz. Before coming to New York in 1992, she taught European literature at university and worked as a cosmetician in her native Kosovo. “Coming to me was the only escape most of these women had,’’ she says. Her first job here was with Biologique Recherche, the French company that pioneered the electronic muscle-stimulation lifting technique. The company sent her to Paris to learn the machine, and now she trains the facialists who come through the program and sees clients in plastic surgeon Kressel’s offices. 629 Park Avenue, at 65th Street; 212-772-6968.
Piercing blue eyes and exotic good looks didn’t keep Djerradine from being dubbed “Mrs. Frankenstein” when she was one of the first to use electric current on Manhattan faces. “People were used to steam and masks; all of a sudden they saw wires,” Djerradine says with a laugh. She began by giving seaweed wraps when she moved here from Paris in 1986 and has been innovating ever since. At her skin-care salon, which has catered to high-profile New Yorkers from Nina Griscom to Jerry Seinfeld, your legs can rest in lymphatic drainage boots, said to increase circulation and prevent varicose veins ($60), while you receive one of Djerradine’s famous facials (from $120). She also caters to post-op plastic- and laser-surgery patients, helping restore movement and reduce swelling. But she isn’t totally high-tech; she still offers acupuncture. “My grandmother was a healer, working with herbs,” she explains. “I think it’s just in my genes.” 30 East 60th Street; 212-588-1771.
After working as a makeup artist for seventeen years, first in her native London and then in New York, Tracie Martyn went to beauty school and started doing facials out of her home in Brooklyn. She built up quite a fashion following, and soon John Galliano, Valentino, and Steven Meisel were coming to see her for her age-defying combination of microdermabrasion and electronic muscle stimulation ($265), or microdermabrasion and oxygen-mist finish ($200). Galliano sent flowers after his session, and Meisel sent Linda Evangelista five times before her big comeback Vogue cover. Martyn opened a salon on Fifth Avenue in 2000, and now that the Hollywood set has discovered her, it’s hard to go for an appointment without bumping into the likes of Renée Zellweger, Meg Ryan, or Sandra Bullock. Gwyneth Paltrow gave her mother, Blythe Danner, a gift certificate for Martyn facials. 59 Fifth Avenue, at 13th Street; 212-206-9333.
Unlike some aestheticians, who speak in whispers and barely have a pulse, Regina Viotto is a bundle of positive energy. Being low key probably wouldn’t have worked in a household with four girls, all of whom went into the beauty field. “My poor father. Our house was beauty central,’’ she says. Viotto got a license to do skin care while she was still in high school and began helping people with problem complexions. She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, worked in the garment district for a spell, and in 1990 opened her own small skin-care center in Soho. But in 1995 she went to work for Paul Labrecque, helping him open his salon in the Reebok Sports Club on Columbus Avenue. Now a partner there and at the location on East 65th Street, she creates all the spa’s treatments. Her signature is a thorough cleansing facial ($125). She has worked in product development for both Estée Lauder and dermatologist Dennis Gross, and counts Queen Noor and Diane Lane among her clients. 160 Columbus Avenue, at 67th Street; 171 East 65th Street; 212-988-7816.
Karla Khouri has always been an athlete. As a child, she played sports with her father, who is Jamaican, Syrian, and Indian. “We had a chin-up bar in the house,’’ she recalls. At first she planned to be a coach or trainer but found, she says, that “I like to ease emotional stress, which people hold in the muscles. For some clients, it’s like a therapy session; they talk about their problems. By the end of the massage, their muscles feel completely different—even their breathing patterns change.’’ Next, she’s planning to become a physician’s assistant in surgery. “I understand motion, and I want to really understand muscles and joint movement. I’m ready for the next step.’’ $75 per hour. 47 West 57th Street; 212-371-4542.
Grace Gao Macnow
If you’ve heard of qi gong but don’t get what all the fuss is about, one session with Macnow will create a memorable understanding. Her shop, tucked away on an unslick midtown block, is decidedly no frills, but the experience is not. As Macnow explains it, the qi, or energy, she and her staff direct through clients’ meridians (central points on the body), as they lie on heated-and-padded tables, opens up the blockages that cause pain. The work is deep and completely clarifying. It’s qi, says Macnow, that gives strength and intensity to kung fu punches; it’s apparently also a force to heal and relieve insomnia, anxiety, and tension. “New Yorkers,” she says with a sigh. “They work so hard.” Her clients come from as far away as Ireland, Canada, and Japan—“lawyers, bankers, TV executives, Kevin Bacon!” she adds, noting, “The good price doesn’t hurt.” $60 per hour. 1097 Second Avenue, at 58th Street; 212-593-9904.
Frozen shoulders. Torn hamstrings. Sciatica. The diagnoses that make many a weekend warrior weep are precisely what Sharpell likes to see on his table. His technique, originally based on Swedish and Shiatsu massage, has evolved to become deep-tissue-oriented and orthopedically geared. (He runs the massage program at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center.) Clients speak of Sharpell’s ability to pinpoint a tear an MRI barely registers—and his knowledge of the tiniest of muscles and their attachments. “The muscle is transmitting information, and I’m getting the info from the sensitivity I’ve developed in my hands,” he says. “It’s not spiritual. It’s functional.” His therapy has kept Patrick McEnroe and Michael Kors coming back for years, and since Calvin Klein execs asked him to set up a table at a show in the early nineties, word in the fashion world has spread. $80 per hour. 716 Greenwich Street; 212-206-9714.
“When you come in here,” says Towers, “you’re not going to fall asleep on the table.” Once a competitive bodybuilder, Towers, who still looks like she could lift a few, gave up the personal-training part of her business thirteen years ago when she realized that massage, a combination of Swedish, Shiatsu, and trigger point, was taking up most of her time. Her clients come in all shapes and sizes, from professional football and hockey players to dancers of both ballet and Chippendales varieties—even opera singers. “The neck is abused in opera,” says Towers. At the end of the month, she is opening a Wall Street location; a lot of stress down there. But you don’t have to be a pro athlete or a pro stock trader to partake of her hands. “People sitting in front of a computer—what doesn’t it affect?” she says. “Neck, wrists, upper back, mid-back, lower back—your entire spine is taking a beating.” $85 an hour. 139 East 57th Street; 212-460-1879; physicalknead.com.
Acqua Beauty Bar
Sam Yoon looks like a football player with the hands of a pianist—hands that have earned him a following for his soothing and rehabilitative mix of Shiatsu and acupressure. Treating back pain and migraines—with an amazing scalp massage—are his specialties. Part of Yoon’s technique is to incorporate a kind of Shiatsu stretch, almost like assisted yoga poses, to increase flexibility and circulation. Treat yourself to a 90-minute appointment, 30 minutes of which are his magical reflexology. $90 an hour. 7 East 14th Street; 212-620-4329; acquabeautybar.com.
After teaching children creative movement for years, Bache now tries to unleash that joy of movement in more mature clients. A dark-haired beauty with amazing muscle tone, she started her career as a jazz and modern dancer and expanded her knowledge of the body with a master’s in applied physiology from Columbia. “I understood how to move, and I wanted to understand why I was moving,’’ she says. Her sessions begin with core strengthening of the abs, back, and pelvic floor muscles, and then she combines weight-training with functional fitness: A row might be paired with a stationary lunge, so that you have to stabilize at the same time you’re strengthening. She ends the hour with yoga and assisted stretching. “Classic weight-training is static, but we are not static in our everyday moves,’’ she says. She requires a minimum of ten twice-weekly sessions, with an agreement that allows the client full use of the Barton facilities. Sessions are $105 each, or $1,900 for twenty. 213 West 23rd Street; 552 Sixth Avenue, at 15th Street; 646-279-5926.
David Scott Cohen
Excelsior Athletic Club
“There are three things you lose as you get older—strength, flexibility, and balance,” says Cohen, whose workout uses a combination of weights, boxing, and an exercise ball to focus on all three areas. Cohen was an illustrator who became fascinated with the human anatomy when he saw Ahnuld in Pumping Iron. He began drawing muscles and bones and then started taking on clients, training them at Excelsior or in their homes. “My goal was to perfect the anatomy on myself or whoever I trained,”’ says Cohen, a Vince Vaughn ringer who won the Mr. New York contest in 1991. $100–$120 per session. 301 East 57th Street; 917-696-5916.
For Duke, training means working on three levels: the emotional, the spiritual, and the physical. Getting her clients, who include Julianne Moore, Mary J. Blige, and Lenny Kravitz, to tell her about themselves, what they love about their bodies, and what they want to change, is the emotional part. “The spiritual part is the ‘I can—believing you can do it,” she says, “and the physical is the doing.” Pumping and then elongating muscles—for example, a knee lift followed by a back lunge—is her technique. Duke requires two or three sessions a week and is famous for her results, from etching six-packs out of chubby torsos to crafting three dimensions in squishy thighs. She herself is built like the rock-hard dancer that she once was, with a flowing black ponytail à la Madonna circa Truth or Dare. Anyone, she says, can have “Jennifer Aniston arms” or “Ashton Kutcher abs” if he or she goes about the work with the right intentions. “Even if you hate your big butt,” she says, “you have to show it love. That’s when you get the best results.” $175 an hour. Multiple Equinox locations; 917-653-0289.
Ari Weller earned his personal-training wisdom the hard way. Ten years ago, he pumped iron and mixed protein-powder shakes and was an incredible hulk—until he tore his rotator cuff, blew out his knee, and suffered a double hernia. His body, he realized, was trying to tell him something. Much like his inspirations Joseph Pilates and Moshe Feldenkrais, he realized, as he healed himself, the necessity of seeing the body as a system. His philosophy of training (he’s worked with P. Diddy and model Chandra North, a 20-year-old marathoner and an octogenarian) is not about isolating muscles but about integrating them. Today, Weller is certified in Pilates and Gyrotonic and incorporates yoga, martial arts, and capoeira-style dance moves, as well as weight work, into his sessions. “If you’re constantly challenging your muscles in different ways, they never get complacent,” he says. “Neither do you.” $80–$100 per session. 137 Fifth Avenue, at 20th Street; 917-576-6683; ariweller.com.
When Cook blew out his knee playing basketball at age 18, he began looking for a type of movement he could pursue without doing further damage. He took up modern dance for eight years, during which time he also started exercising on a mini-trampoline. One day he heard that the trampoline was being used as a new exercise tool, attended a workshop (he was the only guy there), and began developing a group fitness class. Soon he was teaching a hybrid of trampoline and strength training at Crunch, a class that became wildly popular—in part because it’s both a full-body and cardiovascular workout, and in part because of Cook’s cut physique and boyish good looks. He recently moved to Equinox, where he also is teaching spinning. “I like both of these workouts because they are high intensity and low impact, and you get everything in 45 minutes or an hour,’’ he explains. He is now creating a circuit-training class, which will have students moving from one station to the next in intervals of 30 seconds to a minute, alternating between aerobic exercise and core training to increase balance and body awareness and work the stabilizing muscles. Classes are open to members only at multiple Equinox locations; email@example.com.
Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred Devito
Twenty years ago, when feeling the burn in step class was the rage, high-school sweethearts Halfpapp and DeVito were already lengthening and strengthening their clients at Lotte Berk Method. Halfpapp was an accomplished ballerina who answered the studio’s ad in the New York Times and got DeVito, a personal trainer and musician, interested, too. They added flexibility and ab work to a ballet regimen, and the results were famous. Spotting Lotte Berk behinds became a cocktail-party game, and many Upper East Side ladies became so addicted to their classes that they’d sign up for three hours in a row. When Halfpapp and DeVito moved to Exhale in 2002, many of those ladies followed, as did Julia Roberts and Mariel Hemingway. Their new class, called Core Fusion, is similar to the old one, and sprinkled with movements from Pilates and poses from yoga. “It’s an intelligent class,” says Halfpapp. “You’re not mindlessly doing 100 reps. You have to be focused, almost in a meditative state.” $30 per class. 980 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street; 212-249-3000. 150 Central Park South; 212-561-6405; 212-561-6406.
David Barton Gym
After playing football at Princeton, Kahn found himself at law school at the University of Miami, looking for a way to blow off steam that didn’t involve “running into someone with my head.” He discovered Krav Maga, the Israeli Army fighting technique, a combination of self-defense and off-the-charts conditioning, and became so obsessed with it that he traveled to Israel to study with grand master Haim Gidon. Kahn has since developed an hourlong class that begins with modified jumping jacks, followed by work to make you nimble on your feet, and then retzef, or continuous, exhausting, explosive motion for a good five minutes. Next come one-on-one play fights with “weapons of opportunity,” from rubber knives to cell phones to pocket change. “The idea,” says Kahn, “is a seamless transition from defense to an overwhelming offense in response to attack.” Kahn has taught James Gandolfini, gym bunnies, NYPD officers, and Amtrak police. Female clients report a rush of confidence from learning how to channel their lower body strength into a punch or an elbow. “Apparently, one girl was practicing on her boyfriend and broke his ribs,” Kahn says with a sigh. Classes are free for members; $35 for nonmembers. Kahn’s three-hour seminars are $450. 30 East 85th Street, second floor; 212-517-7577.
Reebok and Equinox
Though her sword-wielding Forza class has become red hot since the opening of Last Samurai and Kill Bill, the Florentine knockout has been studying samurai-sword training and kickboxing since she quit college in Italy. “Martial arts was always my passion, but my mother only allowed me to do ballet and swim professionally,’’ she says. “As soon as I was old enough, I took up martial arts, studying four to five hours a day.’’ She still takes class, but now she teaches her famous “Power Strike’’ kickboxing and karate class at Reebok as well as Equinox, and she introduced Forza, which uses two-pound plastic or wooden swords. If that seems light, you try swinging them for an hour. Classes are free, but open to members only. Multiple locations; powerstrike.com.
When Veri, who is five foot six, built like a spark plug, and seemingly in perpetual motion, was in the Marines, he could run three miles in eighteen minutes and do 35 pull-ups or 200 push-ups in two minutes. When he got out of the service, he stopped doing cardio and started eating 10,000 calories a day. At 22, he was 285 pounds and had a minor heart attack. So Veri devoted himself to spinning and kickboxing, and today, at a trim 170, he teaches 25 classes a week and trains 20 clients in between. He crafts rides using a D.J. program that lets him mix beats, or in this case, cadences, to match his intense climbs and interval programs. “I give the class heart-rate guidelines throughout, tell them when they should kick it and when they shouldn’t.” Veri is often sprinting from one Crunch location to another to teach again. Just as often, his students are sprinting with him. Classes are free for members, $24 for a day pass. Multiple locations; 917-620-3157.
Kries took her first Pilates class at 13, three years before making her ballet debut with George Balanchine. In between the School of American Ballet and dancing in Europe, she studied with three of Joseph Pilates’s disciples and certified herself in the practice. Today, she heads up the Pilates, yoga, and dance programs at Soho Sanctuary. Art-world luminaries like Cecily Brown and Jessica Craig-Martin are devoted students, for good reason: Kries, tall and graceful and the artistic director of Contemporary Dance Theatre New York, is a great communicator when it comes to body mechanics. She teaches a fusion of all three disciplines that she calls the Method. “The combo gives you the most streamlined, proportional physique available,” says Kries. “Bodies trained that way, they define time. They defy gravity.” $22 for a single mat class, $125 for a private session. 119 Mercer Street; 212-334-5550.
Power Pilates and Equinox
Bob Liekens is on a mission to teach people Pilates the way Joseph Pilates intended. A former Merce Cunningham dancer, Liekens came to New York from Belgium in 1983 and, like many dancers, discovered Pilates as a way of stabilizing and strengthening his core and increasing his flexibility. He took sessions at the original and much-revered Pilates Studio with Romana Kryzanowska, began teaching there, and soon he was helping clients on the Pilates Reformer more often than he was on the stage. Three years ago, he came to Power Pilates, where he still teaches clients but mostly teaches the teachers. Liekens spends his days surrounded by women, but Joseph Pilates, he notes, intended his method for men. “Pilates was into boxing and martial arts. Dancers have softened it, made it graceful, but if you see archival footage of Joe, it was very percussive and vigorous.” Still, he’s quick to remind his students, “It’s not how well you perform on the Reformer, but how you take Pilates outside the studio and apply it.” Private classes are $62–$120 per hour; mat sessions are $15 per hour. Powerpilates, 49 West 23rd Street, tenth floor; 212-627-5852. Equinox, 521 Fifth Avenue, at 43rd Street; 212-661-9488.
Culen-Rolfe, always lean and athletic, started dancing while in her twenties, trekking all over New York in search of ballet, jazz, and modern- dance classes. She danced every day and performed, too, but eventually life’s exigencies took over: She got a job in PR, went for a master’s in education at Sarah Lawrence, and found she didn’t have enough time to keep up her dancing. Yoga was what she took up in its place. One day the head of the Himalayan Institute, where she was studying, told her she was ready to teach. “I hadn’t even thought about doing that, but I suppose that was just the next step for me,’’ says Culen-Rolfe. She has since become Equinox’s top yoga instructor, specializing in Vinyasa, with constant movement from position to position. By day, she’s a librarian, teaching preschoolers at Christ Church Day School. Classes are free for Equinox members; her private sessions are $120 per hour. 917-309-7926; eastwestpoweryoga.com.
Exhale and Virayoga
Even with the tenure market tight, few academics take the path of Lois Nesbitt, a Princeton Ph.D. in comparative modern French and English literature. These days, Nesbitt is an instructor in Anusara, the style of yoga that teaches innovative alignment techniques, making poses feel new again for even the most advanced students (it’s also rumored to be injury-proof). With her strawberry-blonde hair usually pulled into a neat, long braid, the mild Nesbitt presides over her classes at Exhale and Virayoga, the Soho studio of much-beloved surfer girl and yogi Elena Brower; her instruction is precise and methodical, the fruit of study both in and out of the library. “With all that time writing, I learned to articulate,” she says. “To see people brighten, soften, relax, and leave better than they came is gratifying.” $20 for classes at Exhale, 980 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street. $16 for classes at Virayoga, 580 Broadway, near Spring Street, eleventh floor; 212-989-9874; 917-975-8009. Nesbitt also teaches private classes in the Hamptons and organizes retreats; see blueskyyoga.com.
Exhale and Om Yoga Center
If Susan Sarandon is ever cast as a yoga teacher, she’ll be Susan “Lip” Orem, a soulful yet strictly no-nonsense yogi at Exhale and Om Yoga Center, the Union Square school that teaches Cyndi Lee’s thoughtful mix of Vinyasa (aerobic) and Iyengar (alignment-based) methods. A former Off Broadway actress, “very successful waitress,” and onetime showgirl in the Middle East and Europe with the American Follies Las Vegas Revue, Orem also appeared as Diva the Clown in Barnum & Bailey’s Circus (“I was the oldest female clown, a dubious honor,” she says). In the nineties, she found herself the dinner-party-giving wife of a prominent businessman; she tried out a yoga class at Crunch because her knees were aching from aerobics. “I fell madly in love with yoga,” says Orem. Once she started teaching, her students fell in love with her attention to detail and her constant wisecracking; they call her by her nickname, which she declines to explain. “I felt the dharma had been stamped on my forehead,” she says. “This was what I was supposed to do.” Classes are $20 at Exhale, 980 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street; 212-249-3000; and $16 at Om, 826 Broadway, at 12th Street; 212-254-9642. Orem teaches private classes (from $125) and runs yoga retreats ($350) in upstate New York; call 917-697-0540 for information.
Uma Nanada Saraswati
Though the massive Jivamukti Yoga Center, which has certified most of the trendiest (and, in many cases, the best) teachers in the city, has seen its reputation diminish in recent years, it is still attracting a crop of young yogis who embody the center’s blend of grungy downtown hip and ethereal Hindu spirituality. Among the best is Uma Nanada Saraswati, a 29-year-old former Hare Krishna (she left home at 18 to join) and an ex-wife of kirtan wallah Bhagavan Das (a major character in Ram Dass’s Be Here Now movement). With incense burning and Nina Hagen blaring, Saraswati incorporates serial chants, deft ethical sermons, and sweaty asana (movement) into her classes. “I’m a bhakti, not an intellectual,” she says. “I want to give.” Classes are $17. 404 Lafayette Street; 212-353-0214.
Every yoga studio tries to provide a cozy atmosphere for its students, but free tea and altars to Ganesh canÂ’t compare with the Earth Mother presence (and a face that would make Bertolucci swoon) of Barbara Verrochi. Verrochi, along with talented yogi Kristin Leigh, is co-director of the Shala (it means “home” in Sanskrit), a loftlike studio near Union Square. A sculptor and former art teacher in New York City public schools, Verrochi teaches Vinyasa, a type of vigorous, flowing yoga, as her deep-pitched voice resonates like a gong, reminding everyone to meditate, breathe, and calm the hell down. Classes are $15. 815 Broadway, near 11th Street, second floor; 212-979-9988; theshala.com.