Nicole Howard and Cara Fraser

Nicole Howard and Cara Fraser

Nicole Howard & Cara Fraser are co-owners of Align Pilates Center of San Juan Capistrano, focusing on quality of movement, not just quantity of exercise. Align Pilates is located at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano. For more information visit

Nov 29, 2016

Return To Life…

Born in 1883, Joseph Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. Due to his poor health as a child he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength.

Pilates believed that the "modern" lifestyle produced bad posture and inefficient breathing, which lay at the roots of many health issues. The correction of these various physical ailments was the main focus of Joseph’s studio and his book, Return to Life Through Contrology, published in 1945. Today, his message and teachings are more relevant then ever.

Due to the advancement of technology and the industrialization of our society we have become a nation of wanting more and getting it faster. These characteristics are bleeding over into our more modern exercise methods, where we make great demands on our bodies to go faster, harder and heavier with no mindful application, often resulting in injury and bad body image. Yes, technology is an amazing and has allowed us to live easier, but it does also have some major consequences to our overall health. Including stress, obesity, postural deviations and more. We have become a society so disengaged with our bodies that we need service mechanics like we do for our cars.

There is hope! Pilates and yoga is the antitheses to all of this. They’re the vegies or vitamins to exercises. Through the application of mindful movement one can change the body and the mind for the better. Giving one the strength and mental clarity to approach this stressful life and restore the mind, body and spirit.

Pilates and yoga teachers provide one with the skills to become aware of stress, to think about posture, to utilize breathing techniques to achieve focus, and to achieve a more balanced body. One of the first exercises done in a Pilates and yoga class is breathing, and for most this may be the first real breath taken all day.

After a completed session most people will remark, “Wow, I always walk out feeling taller and way better!”

At Align we strive to make a community that embraces kindness and mindfulness for yourself and others. Thus come try a class, escape the crazy world, and return to life.

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit

Check out the Align Blog- See Videos on how Pilates is Your “Everything” Training

In the medical and science field research is finding the act of mediating contains a multitude of health benefits. These studies are discovering that the many forms of mediation drastically offset the effects of stress and aging at a cellular level. So much so that some doctors and scientist are proclaiming meditation could be the future of medicine.

For example, a study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, looked at 201 people with coronary heart disease and asked them to either take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or one on Transcendental Meditation. Researchers followed up with participants for the next five years and found that those who took the meditation class had a 48 percent reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death.

Another landmark study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found in as little as eight weeks of meditation people experience decreased anxiety and greater feelings of calm; it also produced growth in the areas of the brain associated with memory, empathy, sense of self and stress regulation.

Many more studies like these are being conducted and continue to prove the benefits of mediation. The best part is that mediation is easy! Anyone can do it. Any preconceived ideas about meditation should be forgotten. Meditation is a practice that helps us take a break from the hectic pace of everyday life. It doesn’t require a specific spiritual belief, even a few minutes of meditation helps, and you don’t even have to be sitting in an awkward lotus position to start soaking in the positive vibes.

There are many different forms of mediation backed by doctors and scientists, including Mindful Meditation and Transcendental Meditation. These same doctors and scientists also recognize mindful movement like tai chi, Pilates and yoga as mediation. In the end, all types of mediation result in taking us beyond the noisy chatter of the mind into a place of stillness and silence. It is here where the brain and the body can begin to heel and create a better quality of life. Come and combat aging, release stress and mediate with us at Align Pilates and Yoga Center.

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit
Check out the Align Blog- See Videos on how Pilates is Your “Everything” Training

One could state, “pilates is core, as crossword puzzles are to the brain.” But have you ever thought about “pilates is to the brain” instead?

Surprisingly, Pilates goes beyond a good muscle burn and reaches into the neurons of the brain, and science is proving this to be true. By emphasizes precision, concentration, and memorization of patterns, scientists proved this leads to enhanced brain function just as much as body function. The mental power of Pilates starts at the heart of the method’s own principles. During a quality Pilates session, one is applying these principals to produces mindful movement that purposely leads to an all-encompassing workout, not only for the body but for the brain too.

The principles are:

  1. Awareness/Control- knowing exactly where the body is in space at all times.
  2. Concentration- having complete mental focus on the body, and being fully present to that action.
  3. Breath- coordinating your breath to movement. Each movement of an exercise is timed with exhale or inhale.
  4. Flow- threading movements together so the body is in constant motion with full control.
  5. Precision- every movement and position has a goal and purpose; execution needs to be precise so that goal is met.
  6. Centering- movements start at the core of the body, relying on and creating proper body alignment.

Putting all of theses principles together produces a mind-body connection that goes beyond just a typical workout. Hence why there have been many recant studies to find out the benefits for the brain while doing mindful movement like Pilates. In a recent case, participants did Pilates for ten weeks while studying their brain’s activity. The results showed an increase of what is called Alpha Peak Power in the brain. Alpha Peak Power is found to enhance neural network activity, memory performance and cognitive functions. These findings suggest that Pilates is a valuable intervention for people with brain degenerative disease and cognitive dysfunction. Plus helps produce positive affects in learning, memory, and thinking.

Through the principles of Pilates, mindfulness is at the heart of the method. With science proving cognitive benefits do lie within mindful movement, you can now relish in the fact that at your next Pilates session you are not only stronger, but a whole lot smarter too.

“Get smarter this fall at Align Pilates and Yoga Center!”

New Fall Schedule with over 60 Classes a week. 

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit

Check out the Align Blog- See Videos on how Pilates is Your “Everything” Training

Aug 30, 2016

Teen Core

Nearly half of Americans ages 12 to 21 years are not vigorously active enough. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that participation in all types of physical activity declines strikingly as age and grade in school increases.

According to their study, inactivity is more common among females than males, and worse among black adolescent females compared to white females.

As physical activity is cut from school budgets and fingertip technology takes the place of actually getting outside and playing, it’s more important than ever to promote exercise for the youth. This is the inspiration behind Align’s Teen Core prorgram. The American Heart Association recommends that children ages two to 18 should participate in at least 60 minutes moderate to intense physical activity every day. It should be developmentally appropriate, varied and enjoyable. A majority of American kids are exposed to mainstream sports such as soccer, basketball and baseball, which is great, but mindful types of movement like

Pilates and yoga have been proven to create an even more positive impact on a child’s wellbeing.

The main principles of Pilates and yoga go beyond just moving. They provide teenagers with effective, life-changing tools that set them up for a highly successful and healthy life. Both methods of movement promote balance, control, concentration, breath, precision, awareness and harmony of the “mind and the body.”

These attributes are what make Pilates and yoga such amazing activities. By simply adding Pilates or yoga twice a week to your child’s schedule has proven to help provide them with the tools to combat the negative effects of inactivity. Benefits include reducing the risk of heart dieses and diabetes, better stress management, correction of postural deviations and much more.

At Align we believe in using the Pilates and yoga methodology as the heart of our Teen Core program. Our goal is to help guide teenagers to use mindful movement to establish quality, lasting habits that promote a positive physical experience. Along with health benefits, psychological wellbeing is also a huge piece of the puzzle, and mindful exercise in teens establishes more self-confidence and higher self-esteem. Pilates and yoga is a win-win for the youth of today, look for new Teen Core classes this fall at Align.

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit

As much as Pilates has become a household word, most people today still don’t fully understand what it is. So the question is, what exactly is Pilates?

As much as Pilates has become a household word, most people today still don’t fully understand what it is. So the question is, what exactly is Pilates?

A simple, short answer is always best. It is your “everything” training. Pilates is weight training, cross training, flexibility training, cardio training, postural training and much more. Pilates is one of the most efficient and effective ways to workout.

Here are four ways Pilates can be your “everything” training:

1. Weight Training: All Pilates apparatuses use springs and pulleys to generate resistance. From the Reformer, to the Cadillac, to the Wunda Chair, and many more pieces of equipment, no muscle group is left behind or forgotten. They will all be put to test against the springs to generate strength. Plus, the beauty of each piece of equipment is they operate as a complete gym, allowing one to enjoy a full-body workout no matter what equipment they’re on.

2. Postural and Cross Training: Pilates sessions are led by certified instructors whom have a working knowledge and understanding for the human body. Utilizing the extensive Pilates repertoire, instructors have the power to hone in on areas of weakness within the body. They can help correct postural deviations and over worked muscles. In turn, overall balance is created in the body producing better posture and functioning.

3. Cardio Training: The apparatus called the Reformer has an attachment piece called the jump board. With this equipment you can do a jump sequence with an added bonus from the springs. 30 minuets of this and BAM! The heart rate is raised and a very aerobic workout is achieved.

4. Flexibility Training: This is one reason Pilates so unique compared to traditional weight training. At the hardest phase of an exercise, when springs are maxed, the targeted muscles and joint are in their max range. Resulting the body to not only become more flexible, but gaining the power and strength to support that range of motion.

These are four great answers to the simple question of what is Pilates? It truly is “everything” training. We invite you to come into Align Pilates Center and find out how we can be your one-stop workout shop.

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit

Check out the Align Blog- See Videos on how Pilates is Your “Everything” Training

Aerial yoga creates a unique and fun twist to many methods of mindful movement like yoga and Pilates. Aerial yoga uses silk hammocks like a prop to support the body against gravity, creating a unique approach to any classic yoga or Pilates repertoire. Also the hammocks take a difficult pose to perform on the ground and make it surprisingly easier to do in the mid-air.

Due to the supportive nature of aerial yoga the health benefits are endless, including decompression of joints, building strength, flexibility, and balance. It is also very versatile to the styles of classes, from floating mediations to intense strength conditioning. Aerial yoga is suitable for beginners to advance students and we promise it will take your mindful movement to a higher level.

Here are 5 reasons to try Align Aerial Yoga today:

  1. Improves Strength and flexibility: Suspended yoga strengthens the core, increases spinal and shoulder flexibility, which aids athletes to gain more stamina and recover faster. The hammocks also help one to move more freely with less effort by counteracting gravity, and this releases tension on the bones and muscles to gain flexibility. In aerial yoga almost all the body parts are forced to move and stretch. Muscles are toned and redefined, and joints are regenerated, strengthened and stretched due to these movements.
  2. Improves balance: While going against gravity is exciting it helps with balance and stability that relate to daily activities, plus helps maintain a good balance both inside and out.
  3. Heals back problems: It gives you the chance to hang freely, allowing your spine to lengthen and create traction in the vertebrae and joints. With less strain on your back while doing the exercises, it eases tension in the body to heal.
  4. Puts you in a great mood: Another key benefit of doing aerial yoga is that it gets your adrenaline going while going against gravity. It also releases “happy” hormones like serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, which boost your mood and help you feel more energetic.
  5. Psychologically beneficial: Just like almost any other workout, aerial yoga helps rebuild your emotional system because it clears the mind and relieves stress due to its meditative state.
Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit

This isn’t about a six-pack of beer from the store, this is about saying no to six-pack abs. Today’s media has led us to believe that a strong, healthy, and in shape person must have a stomach like an old-fashion washboard, a.k.a. a six-pack.

The idea of this being the poster child for strength, health and beauty is scary and misleading. And in most cases the images seen have been digitally enhanced to make the abdominals appear chiseled. To truly achieve this look is unrealistic to the average person, and is definitely not a marker of health.

Having a strong, stable core is definitely necessary to supporting the body, but it doesn’t have to be visible. The actual muscles of the six-pack are called the rectus abdominis, and are a small superficial fraction of all the muscles comprising the stomach and core. For the core to properly support the body it needs every muscle surrounding the spine to be equally balanced in strength and flexibility. Consequently, when the rectus muscles are overly defined it is a sure sign of muscle imbalance and week core. The training involved to achieve a six-pack is at the expense of overall core strength and leads to back and neck pain, rounded shoulders, bad posture, and pelvic misalignment.

Perfectly defined abdominal muscles are usually the result of extreme leanness, not increased functionality and strength. A six-pack becomes visible at about 10 to 14 percent body fat for women, and 6 to 12 percent for men. Unless you are an Olympian or professional athlete, these percentages are very hard to reach and sustain. Body fat this low results in issues such as depression, eating disorders, infertility and an interrupted menstrual cycle in women. According to the American Council of Exercise, 17 to 24 percent body fat is a healthy range for men and women.

So let the guilty feeling go for not having picture-perfect defined abs, and feel empowered to know strength and health lie in a balanced body. Choose a fitness program like Pilates and yoga that emphasizes a balance of mind, body and spirit and you may start to feel better…not just look better. Plus, you can still enjoy a beer here and there.

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn, feel and see the power of a plank. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit
Mar 29, 2016

Plank Power!

One of the best things you can do to create overall strength, balance and posture is a simple exercise known as a plank. To plank, one holds their torso off the ground via hands, feet or knees depending on fitness level. While holding this position the ultimate goal is to maintain a straight line from head to heal. It’s this simple action that packs a powerful punch of health benefits. Here are five reasons why one should plank on a daily basis:

Easy to Modify- Depending on your fitness level a plank can be adapted to any ability. For example, a beginning variation would be to hold the position on the elbows and knees. More advanced option would be to balance on one leg or arm. This versatility allows anybody to reap the benefits of planking.

Overall Core Strength- The action of having the torso horizontal to gravity creates a co-contraction in the core muscles. Meaning that the spinal muscles and the abdominals have to contract at the same time to achieve the straight line desired when in a plank position. When executed well, this action has been proven in many health studies to reduces back pain and improve overall spinal strength.

Better Posture- Not only the core, but the whole shoulder girdle, hips and legs are working very hard to maintain the position. Resulting in correct “whole- body” alignment; where the ears, shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and heals all line up when standing.

Increase Flexibility- Planks are a great way to stretch the backside of the body, especially the hamstrings, feet, toes, and muscle groups that are often stiff from prolonged sitting. It’s a simple move that provides the best of both worlds, stretching and strengthening.

Balance- Since planks can be done in so many different ways, makes it’s an excellent option to improve balance. Such as doing a plank on the physio ball small intrinsic muscles that stabilize joints are triggered to engage and strengthen. In the end overall better balance and stability are established in the body.

Come in to Align Pilates and Yoga Center today to learn, feel and see the power of a plank. Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit

“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young,” Joseph Pilates once said.

At Align Pilates Center, we strongly believe that the spine is a window into our bodies and its youthfulness.

The human body is a very remarkable structure, and at the center of it is the spine. A very complex anatomic structure, the spine is the scaffolding for the entire body. It is comprised of 33 bones, unique joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and highly sensitive nerves, all designed to work harmoniously to support the body, protect the spinal cord, plus effortlessly move you through space.

For those that have ever experienced a back issue, the pain can quickly dampen your outlook on life, giving you a major reminder of how important the spine is.

“Over 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives,” reports the web site “Low back pain is one of the most common complaints in medical offices today, and causes many people to miss work and be unable to participate in daily life activities.”

Problems can arise in the back from many factors, including aging, fitness level, diet, heredity, and a variety of diseases, including tumors and infections. And according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disease, the most common reason for back problems is due to lack of physical fitness. Weak core muscles that do support the spine properly will cause dysfunction and result in pain. “Those who make moderate physical activity a daily habit statistically have way less spinal pain and issues,” explains their report.

By simply adding quality movement to your life you may finally be able to do away with that nagging back pain. And Pilates is that perfect option of a daily activity. The main focus in Pilates is on the muscles surrounding the spine and ultimately achieving balanced core strength. Repertoire of Pilates Method is specifically designed to address these imbalances and develop the muscles evenly throughout the torso. Once this achieved, the spine will work efficiently and properly perform its functions, resulting in a more youthful mind, body and spirit.

Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit
Feb 01, 2016

Fitness is Caring

What is the point of exercise? This seems to be a pretty easy answer, but it can get skewed quickly. Especially when the old adage of no-pain, no-gain, go-hard or go–home mentality still thrives. But let’s be honest, is this really the point of exercise? NO!

One of our goals at Align Pilates Center is to shift that way of thinking. Exercise is CARING! Caring for your mind, body and spirit. Not beating it up, not punishing it, or scolding it for not going fast enough, flexible enough, strong enough, or as thin as you would like it to be. If that’s the approach then exercising quickly becomes a numbers game—a constantly growing list of dissatisfactions. When does the concept of “no pain, no gain” stop? And what is the real end goal? It is definitely not meant for you to critique and over scrutinize yourself, or even injure yourself striving for some arbitrary goal. Exercise should feel good. It should give you the tools to take care of yourself for the rest of your life.

Feeling good through movement is at the heart of Align. We strongly believe that exercise is meant to be corrective, not corporal punishment. When guiding principles such as mindfulness, awareness, precision, control, efficiency, balance, breathing and concentration are applied to a session, the workout becomes about caring. And ultimately having the intention to create better self, not killing it. In the end the same benefits are gained; strength, flexibility, stress reduction, heart health, and less injuries just to name a few. Don’t worry, you will still get a great workout that includes a little sweat and that feel good burn.

As the nitty gritty of your New Year’s resolutions sets in, consider digging deeper to understand the real the reasons you’re exercising. Are you truly caring for your body? If not consider adding Pilates and yoga to your fitness regime. Both are fun, feel good and are full of substance. They’ll give you ample self-care tools to gain a higher quality of living that will last a lifetime, not just another New Year’s resolution.

Connect with the Align Pilates team by calling (949) 481-3577, stop by the studio at 26850 Ortega Hwy., Suite K in San Juan Capistrano or visit