The legend begins with an apple. Perhaps the crux of all legends are apples: Adam and Eve, Snow White, Atalanta and Hippomenes. This apple, however, dropped from a height onto a specific gentleman’s head, thusly and in a flash confirming all of his ideas regarding gravity, inertia and, as he named it, the “drawing power in matter.” Most of my experience with apples does not include a flash of genius - and most of my experience with gravity just helps me explain away the feeling of my body growing heavier with age. Whatever the legend though, the truth of Newton’s laws of gravity ring true still today, and find special purchase in the fitness arena, when you consider that a body in motion (tends) to stay in motion. Cara Fraser and Nicole Howard at Align Pilates and Yoga in San Juan Capistrano couldn’t agree more, and have a method of to keeping their clients in motion through the connection of “Mind, Body and Spirit.”
As a practice, many cannot tell the difference between yoga and pilates. And if you were to compare them apples to apples, many facets of both disciplines come down to joint stability and alignment. Yoga takes you away from your center and opens up the entire body. However, pilates tends to bring you back to the core, with the added benefit of spring weighted resistance. Being California natives and dancers brought Cara and Nicole to CSULB in the early 2000’s, but being constantly in motion brought them to pilates. Dance, as a discipline relies heavily on muscle control, which depends on a combination of fast and slow twitch muscle responses. Training for flexibility, strength, and agility seemed a no-brainer. Enter the apple and its magic flash. “Pilates and yoga made so much sense to both of us from the outset,” says Nicole. “The higher quality your movement, the higher quality of life: and pilates trains for it all.” Back care, pain management, breathwork, scoliosis, special populations - even just your basic strength conditioning.
Emphasizing proper alignment and technique, the team that Nicole and Cara have built at Align includes a staff of highly educated and talented instructors who want to meet you on your level of movement. “We offer a full schedule of pilates mat classes and an array of yoga classes, which are very hard to find in one location,” says Cara. “We are also one of the only studios in the areas to offer aerial yoga classes utilizing a large supportive hammock to deepen and help one’s yoga practice; not to mention it makes things a little more fun.” As children, both Cara and Nicole spent a great many hours in the outdoors: hiking, camping, and skiing. So it’s no wonder that the study and application of movement has become their life’s work. “I recently took up 6 Man Outrigger Canoeing,” Nicole says with a smile. “I just can’t seem to stop trying new things, and each sport takes joint stability, core strength and long, agile muscles. Pilates brings a focus to my everyday practice that I can take with me anywhere I go.”
Both graduates of CSULB and recipients of Master level Pilates Certifications, Nicole and Cara have been teaching for the last ten years. “I started teaching in San Clemente after I graduated college,” says Cara. “Nicole moved to San Clemente in 2003 and starting teaching Pilates that same year at a physical therapy office in SJC. She has been teaching in the area ever since, and truly has found her home here.” Being local daughters of the community has helped them gain a unique perspective on their clients and the special demands of our Southern California lifestyle. “You want meditation? Take Pilates. You can’t get anything out of it if the effort is mindless and sloppy. You want to recover from a surfing injury? Everyone has some form of muscular imbalance from habitual patterns. Pilates helps to correct them.”
Perhaps just feeling like you’re a bit more apple or pear shaped that you’d like to be? Not only has Pilates been linked to mental and physical stress reduction, which lowers cortisol levels in the body, it can transform your physique as well. More and more studies are showing that an improved physical state can lead to increased stimulation and brain function - bringing the body back to its true balance. Overworking already tired and weak muscles leads to injury and strain. But choosing to mindfully engage weak or underdeveloped areas brings fresh blood flow to the body which contributes to healing joints, tissues and correcting postural deviations.
“Our yoga classes are non-heated, which means you warm up your body the natural way, and the concept of following breathing patterns isn’t just some transcendental B.S.,” says Nicole. “Breath is life, and fully using correct breathing patterns can actually increase your lung capacity, invigorating you, and releasing stress and tension in the body, even as you’re working hard.”
Most studios can get to feeling like you’re in an intro to Physics 101 class - lost in huge numbers of students trying to follow along with the textbook because the professor has already moved on. At Align Pilates and Yoga, they have instilled a deep commitment to specialization: and all their instructors have been trained by the top certifying programs in the world. Most have over 10 years of teaching experience, and want to get personal with each client, and each client’s condition. Suffering from any physical ailment can be crippling over a long enough period of time, and if we are to follow Newton’s theory - a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Of course, certain back or neck conditions, for instance, shouldn’t be moved in certain directions to maintain a safe exercise program. But when done correctly, pilates and yoga are a low impact, safe form of exercise. “It’s hugely important before you go into a class to inform the instructors of injuries or preexisting conditions to reduce the risk of further injury. But it shouldn’t exclude you from using your body to its utmost level of capability.”
Whether you’ve had a flash of genius or you’re just feeling the effects of gravity in a new way, there’s no time like the present to stop making excuses for your quality of life, and start making changes. Align Pilates and Yoga will mindfully keep you moving in the right direction for years to come.
Connect with the Align Pilates team by stopping by their new studio at 31986 Plaza Dr., Suite E6 in San Juan Capistrano, call (949) 481-3577 or visit www.alignpilatescenter.com