Los Angeles pilates favorite Ashlee Carignan is giving the City of Angels something new to get excited about: more room in her studio for small group classes! Up until recently, she only held exclusive privates in her bespoke and stylish space. But now clients will have the option to work together, creating even more Pilates power through PWA, Pilates With Ashlee. Ashlee has even created the “buddy system,” a tailored approach to pairing clients together to ensure work at everyone’s optimal level.
This energy has been brewing a long time for Carignan. She was always extremely athletic growing up, playing competitive soccer, along with participating in karate, ballet, and basically any physical activity she could jump into as a kid. Originally from Boston, she moved back and forth to Minneapolis, creating even more fuel and energy, which she released on the field.
Fitness made its way into her adult life when a client owned one of the first group Pilates studios in L.A.. Even though she didn’t know what the method was, she was smitten immediately. Now, more than a decade later, her immense knowledge of the approach and unique, sparky way of communicating with clients and tailored tweaks to the tradition are garnering even more attention. Read on for more!
SBS: What was your first Pilates experience like?
AC: It was incredible and unlike anything I’d done before. I was always in shape and had always done classes and spin. I went in thinking I was in shape, but it kicked my ass. I remember coming out of my first class, and as I drove, I was shaking on the gas pedal. I immediately signed up. I was a student for a year, and my body changed drastically. When I used to have aches and pains from soccer, they suddenly were gone. My posture got better, and I also gained all the perks Pilates aesthetic.
Mentally, it also changed me. I wouldn't say I was a negative before, but I wasn't as positive as I am now. Pilates made me feel good, empowered, and made me feel ok with my body. As women we struggle with that.
SBS: When did that interest turn into a career?
AC: Because I loved it so much, I decided I was going to research how much I could make and what could I do with it in terms of certifications. I ended up doing an apprenticeship through a woman who owned her own studio. She saw how passionate I was, and she offered to train me if I worked at the studio. That took a year and a half, and I was able to learn and do my hours simultaneously which is rare.
SBS: What was your favorite part of Pilates, as well as the most challenging?
AC: The most challenging part, and I’ve heard this from other people too, is the sense of being overwhelmed with all the information thrown at you at one time. I felt like I would never remember it all! There are over 5000 exercises you can do on the reformer alone…without the Cadillac and chair. I felt challenged and wondered how I would remember it all. I was even taught without colored springs.
My favorite part was truly learning the ins and outs of the technique. I started at a studio that used The Lagree method with a megaformer, which is a different type of Pilates. Then, learning classical Pilates, it became a real shock comparing the two. It was interesting to learn the actual movements, the form and alignment. I remember how I started out using note cards for the first year, and then finally, there was the day I didn’t need to anymore. Now I’ve been teaching for 10 years.
SBS: How did you learn about having your own business?
AC: Betsey Parker of Parker Pilates who trained me, taught me the business model and how to actually make a living. She explained how doing it out of your home, versus teaching classes or managing a studio, allows you to avoid overhead. I have a studio behind my home. It’s detached. There’s a lemon tree and a lawn, and my clients love it.
SBS: How would you describe your personal teaching style?
AC: I consider it cardio Pilates. Vibe wise, it’s a relaxed studio. I’ve spent the last year and a half branding PWA to reflect that: Our logo is a tattoo, sort of. It’s rogue! That’s because I don’t fit into the category of a classical, traditional teacher. We take everybody. Sometimes, you go to studios that can feel cliquey. We’re not that. We are the studio that takes everyone. We’re the misfits in the best way, because really, there is no one kind of person for Pilates. I train everyone. My pricing is lower because I don’t have overhead. And unlike many other teachers, Pilates is my full time job. It’s rare in California to find a Pilates instructor that’s not an actress!
SBS: How do you blend traditional Pilates with more modern methodology?
AC: I always incorporate correct form, modifications and classic names. But there are small tweaks and changes I’ve found throughout ten years to make the work more effective. For example, when the legs are in straps, most instructors teach it in parallel, but I do turn out more often. That’s specific to me, and I find it to be better work.
SBS: Recently you expanded your studio from privates to group classes with three students. What provoked the change?
AC: The last eight and a half years I just did one and ones, and I’ve made a living doing so. But I needed a challenge, so I expanded my studio, including branding. I said let's go all the way. Now, I’m PWA, and I love being an entrepreneur doing it all from my specials, emails and building my website. It’s a full wrap-around. My group classes are three people at a time on reformers.
Ashlee’s Cali Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Crossroads Kitchen
Splurge Restaurant: La Condesa
Fitness Studios: DR Pilates, Claudia Martin Studio, The Body Pilates, Sweat Pilates, Flywheel Sports
Athletic-wear: Terez, Alala, Alo Yoga, Running Bare, Contrology, All Fenix, Nimble Activewear, Fire and Shine, Noli Yoga
Athletic Shoes: Nike
Nightlife Activity: I always look forward to a good flick at IPic Theaters.
Fun Activity: I love hiking and, of course, I do Pilates any chance I get. I also surf the net for new music and shopping. Lately I’ve been writing a lot in my spare time, and I write for a couple blogs, including Balanced Body’s
Calming Activity: Massages
Online Resources: Instagram, Youtube, Pilates Anytime, and Pilates Style's blog
Ashlee’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind. I believe in the golden rule: Do to others what you want them to do to you. It takes up to 10 times more energy to be upset, mean and spiteful than to be kind and positive! I've also learned that my energy is very strong and powerful. I'm constantly doing random acts of kindness and the universe always brings it back to me tenfold. And, my PWA mantra is: Pilates isn’t just about a long, lean body. It’s about perfecting the mind, body and soul.
The best, zaniest part of being Ashlee: My dramatic, animated storytelling! I consider myself a very good storyteller because essentially that's what I've been doing with my private session clients for the last 10 years: They love coming every week to the studio to hear the latest ‘Ashlee Story.’ Of course I embellish, but that's what makes it fun and amusing. They want to take their minds off what's going on with them, whether good or bad. Just freeing your mind for one hour does wonders!