There was an unusually lackadaisical, drawl-like start to my summer. I had grand plans of swims in the ocean, marine layer switchbacks on runs. During the pandemic I craved more comfort and consequently moved less. Ordering new footwear only encouraged temporary strides towards getting out the door, and soon after that came the feather flick of a thought: “‘this is not doing it for you right now.” I’d blame my lack of motivation on the weather.
One evening as the sun was tucking in for the night, I noticed a warm light glowing in one of the new businesses in town. The paper on the windows curled back in the heat to reveal a pilates studio brewing. It’s how I met Lacy Rae Harbour, who let me know she would announce their soft open on Instagram @awenpilates. One Instagram follow led to a purchase of a month’s worth of unlimited classes, which amounts to part splurge, mostly investment, and I am always particularly enthused to support women-owned businesses. Using the MindBody App, students purchase classes individually or in bulk. I went for the Inspire package, hoping I would find handfuls and heaps in this new discipline.
Lagree Pilates is a high intensity Pilates, with the same fundamentals as classical Pilates. Awen offers the XFormer pilates reformer with a slight learning curve for beginners with modifications offered when needed. My first Lagree class group was a pleasant mix of people. A mother and daughter, a couple of women, noticeably dedicated to the reformer. And there was also an MMA fighter. I reached for the ropes and handles, wondering where we would all land in terms of our stamina. We alternated between intentional breathing, controlled lengthening movements, fluctuations in directions we faced in the room.
Together we trembled and sweat and hissed with our breath. There were occasional large sighs, but none trembled as hard as the MMA fighter. After my first class I was flabbergasted and slightly out of body. I had looked forward to the walk home, but faced unfamiliar fatigue in my legs. I felt as if I was levitating. My body hummed all over like swarming bees. I met the mother and daughter in my class as we exited. She shared she was happy to do something for her body, with her daughter, as she battled cancer. A wobbly MMA fighter expressed to our instructor his joy to discover Awen pilates. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “In community—heaps and handfuls.”
I wanted to know more about Awen, so I met again with Lacy to chat by the olive trees at Pine Tree Circle, her pup laying at her feet.
Lacy was born in Alaska and moved to Los Angeles nine years ago. It was a coin toss that settled her move between San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Los Angeles won,” she said.
She landed at a friend’s boat in the Marina. It added a softness to the transition to a new city. She found work as a personal assistant, and commuted from Marina Del Rey to Topanga.
Lacy was drawn, like us all, to the tangible magic of the canyon. “After Covid, I think everyone just kind of reevaluated where they were at and what they were doing,” she said. “I knew I wanted to make a career shift, but I wasn’t quite sure what that looked like necessarily.”
Lacy explained that her idea for Awen Pilates Studio came from a vivid dream. “It was in this town center,” she said. “I woke up from this dream and I felt the need to drive down to Pine Tree Circle and just see if there’s any spaces available. And Unit 111 was available, which is an angel number of mine.”
“From that moment it’s all really just fallen into place with so much love and intention. Even building out this space. We had to tear down some partitions, some walls, but as a whole, it’s a pretty simple space.”
Lacy shared that the place is what it is because of the instructors. “I want them to feel like they have the freedom to express themselves, whether that’s through movement or the way they teach a class,” she said. “I’m excited and so honored, honestly.”
I thank Lacy for her time and walk home after class around the bends and up the hill, wobbling like a day-old fawn. I smile through the fatigue, knowing I put in some hard work. Some days are like long-steeped bitter tea that can only be sweetened by moving our bodies; a walk, a stretch, a roll. After taking this group class for four weeks, and with gratitude to every instructor’s guidance—Samantha, Sonya, Ariane—I appreciate feeling less tension and more space between my shoulders and ears. My digestion is better, my sleep is longer. It’s not as challenging to have a positive inner dialogue through the sticky parts. I look forward to seeing flushed familiar faces, every day we get a little bit stronger, holding our chins a little higher.