Since Exhale first opened its doors more than six years ago, the spa, now with 15 locations, has developed a cult following. The faithful flock to Exhale’s Core Fusion class, created by Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito. We spoke with Halfpapp on the occasion of the opening of Exhale’s latest location, in the Epic Hotel in downtown Miami.

OCEAN DRIVE: How did Exhale come to be?
ELISABETH HALFPAPP:
It was the brainchild of our CEO, Annbeth Eschbach. She had a vision of developing an urban oasis where you could come for inner- and outer-body transformational experiences, including spa services, nutrition, acupuncture and the core program. She wanted to marry all those disciplines together and give them high-quality attention for urban markets, to create a place where you could go and literally exhale when you walk in the door.

And you all knew each other from Lotte Berk? Yes, Fred and I taught there for 22 years, and Annbeth was one of our students. We had highend guests from all over the world and knew that we needed this type of class in other cities. But the owner, who lived part-time in India, wanted to keep it a small business, so it came time for us to move on.

How is Core Fusion different than Pilates? We fuse disciplines of all types of core conditioning, including Pilates mat, ballet-barre work, and yoga for stretching, breathing and meditation. In Pilates, you just work the core and abdominal flexibility. In Core Fusion, we incorporate more body parts—your thighs will be shaking, your butt will be burning. We shape the body in terms of inches— to get long and lean, a high butt and washboard abs.

I’ve noticed there are a lot of men in the classes. We’re getting more men than we’ve had before, especially in Miami and Palm Beach, which are both very athletic communities. But they have to check their egos at the door when they come to a Core Fusion class because they might be next to a woman who moves through the class effortlessly.

To what do you attribute Core Fusion’s cult following? We certainly do have a lot of dedicated guests. People come back because they see results. Word of mouth is our best advertisement.

And you’re popular with the celebs, too. We try to keep Exhale low-key so they feel comfortable. Lately we’ve seen Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn, Mario Lopez, Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron, who would come with her boyfriend.

The new location, at the Epic Hotel, really is pretty epic. We have 12,000 square feet spread over two floors with views of both the Miami River and the ocean. It’s probably our biggest location with spa and mind/body combined. There are 15 therapy rooms and the hammam. This location is an example of how we’re taking Exhale to the next level, and it’s amazing.

TOP: Elisabeth Halfpapp

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