Meet Claire Abuan

This month, SMYs social media director, Janet Paquette, interviews our newest Pilates teacher, Claire Abuan.  For more on Claire, visit her website

What is the difference between Pilates mat and Pilates on apparatus?

The difference between Pilates mat and Pilates on apparatus is the type of resistance used. Pilates mat uses your own bodyweight while Pilates on a machine uses a spring & cable system for resistance. Besides this, the principles and concepts of both mat and machine work are the same.  

Pilates mat lays the groundwork of the entire system and challenges the practitioner to build balance without the assistance of a machine. Beginning with the mat work will create a solid foundation for the practitioner to then add the feedback of a machine once they are comfortable with the basics.

How did you become interested in teaching Pilates?

I became interested in Pilates in 2007 during my Gyrotonic teacher training.  A fellow trainee had just completed her Pilates training with BASI and her knowledge of anatomy and the "core" thrilled me, I knew it was the next step for me. The way Gyrotonic and Pilates complement each other has allowed me to connect, learn and grow with all types of movers.

Tell us about Gyrotonic.

Gyrotonic® Expansion System is a fluid movement exercise which enables full range of motion.  The movement is circular and 3 dimensional, enhancing joint stimulation and mobility.  Taught on unique weight and pulley based equipment this work activates the entire myofascial system.  It feels absolutely delicious and uplifting.

How does a Pilates practice improve one's yoga practice?

A Pilates practice will improve a Yoga practice in many ways. Beginning with a heightened knowledge of the anatomical structure of your body, allowing one to understand Yoga postures on a deeper level. Another benefit is a stronger core, providing a more stable center of gravity to move from, decreasing the risk of injury. Perhaps most notable will be the sense of control and confidence that result from a Pilates practice, directly enhancing your Yoga practice and daily activities.

Do you practice yoga frequently?

Yes, I practice yoga as frequently as I can. I try for twice a week in other teacher's classes.  On my own, each morning I roll out of bed into a downward facing dog, followed by whatever stretches & movement feel good on my porch. This starts my day with some balance and grounding.

You seem fit and healthy.  Have you always been that way?  You must have an athletic background.

Fit and healthy, yes please.  I began moving early with dance, swimming, soccer and yoga. These activities provided me with respect for what my body is capable of, especially when I fuel it with clean food, substantial sleep and mindful movement.

What would you recommend to a student trying mat Pilates for the first time?  

For a person trying mat Pilates for the first time I recommend patience, this is a new body language you are learning.  Concentrate on your alignment and breath to ensure you build a clean foundation to progress upon with your new Pilates mat practice. 

In yoga, we are taught that, above all else, we must remember to breathe. Beside breath, what's most important in a Pilates practice?

Besides your breath, Pilates has a couple other principles that are vital to the integrity of the work: awareness, balance, concentration, control, center, efficiency, flow, harmony and precision. As you practice, these elements will naturally come about and intermingle both on the mat and in your daily activities.

I see from your website you specialize in pre and post-natal Pilates.    How did you become interested in that?

I became interested in Pre/Post Natal work about 3 years ago as I was working with children at a dance school and saw many women's bodies go through incredible transformations.  This work is extremely gratifying and humbling.  Each session I have with a Pre/Post Natal woman my love for this special area of movement grows as I marvel at the strength of the female. 

You've mastered Gyrotonic and Pilates instruction - what's next?

 My next interest lies within the Somatic Movement Therapy realm. I am intrigued by all that fall under that category from the Feldenkrais Method to Continuum to Rolfing and on. I plan on taking classes, reading, researching and diving right on in.

OK, you're healthy and fit and you have a healthy nutritious diet but you MUST have a guilty pleasure!  

Of course I have a couple guilty pleasures and am glad to share them...candied ginger, Whole Foods' vegan oatmeal raisin cookies, reading way past my bedtime, lounging around the Venice boardwalk taking in the sights...that's it for now.

Santa Monica Yoga ~ 1640 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica CA ~ 310-396-4040