Inside Simply Balanced, One Of The City's First Pilates Studios

If you're looking for a gentle way to strengthen and tone from head to toe, Simply Balanced might be a good place to start. Nestled above a medical office and pizzeria on California Street, it's one of the first four pilates studios launched in San Francisco.

The studio was founded by Carie Mathias 24 years ago in Pac Heights. Mathias has a background in exercise science and sports medicine, and spent time studying with indigenous healers all over the world. But she keeps a low profile in the studio, she said, preferring to work behind the scenes to support the work of the studio's instructors.

Simply Balanced's second-floor studio offers sessions on the pilates reformers (right), cadillac (left), chairs and mats with a host of pilates props. | Photo: Brittany Hopkins/Hoodline

Like the many pilates gyms spread across the city, Simply Balanced offers a mix of individual sessions and group classes on the pilates cadillac, reformers, chairs and mats.

While the practice at Simply Balanced is rooted in the classic pilates exercise, they don't do any exercises just because they're classics, Mathias said. Much has been learned about the body since the practice was created in the 1920s, and they chose movements that respond to those learnings and their client's goals and lifestyles. For example, they refrain from using the classic pilates movement the Hundred as it actually restricts breathing, tenses and weakens muscles while the exercise is being performed, and mimics the hunching their clients generally do for hours a day over their computers, she explained.

Another thing that sets the studio apart from its growing list of trendy competitors is the culture, Mathias said. Thanks to their mix of class types and levels, prices and focus on individual attention, the studio attracts people of all ages and economic backgrounds. While one-on-one sessions range in price from $80-$95 an hour depending on the package, group mat classes are offered for a more affordable $18-$20 each.

A student practicing mat pilates. (Photo courtesy of Simply Balanced)

But personalization doesn't end with their individual or duet sessions, Mathias said. Group classes are capped at nine students to ensure instructors can pay close attention to each participant. "Some people feel like they had a massage and a workout," she said, noting that all of their trainers bring a hands-on approach to their instruction.

Simply Balanced is also the place for pilates-lovers who are constantly traveling. With a large flat screen in the studio and a telecommunications platform for students to log into while they're away, instructors hold live one-on-one and group classes for remote students daily. 

Another thing you won't find at many other local studios: Indian Club Swinging. Resembling old-school bowling pins, Indian Clubs are an ancient fitness tool brought from India to Europe by the British in the 1800s. Instructor Brian Johnson teaches a class once a week where students swing the one-pound clubs in “circular and elliptical patterns” to improve joint mobility, strength and cardiovascular health.

Video: A demo of Indian Club Swinging with Brian Johnson. Note that the studio's location and class time have changed since this demo as filmed.

Simply Balanced holds individual sessions and group classes six days a week. Visit their website for the full class schedule, class descriptions and pricing as well as an overview of each instructor's credentials.

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Inside simply balanced pilates studios