Yoga studio owner serene about new location in Carmel Valley
Yogi Alex Arias has extended her Women’s Elite Yoga studio from La Jolla to a new Carmel Valley location.
The yoga studio on Carmel Valley Road had a soft opening in December 2014 and celebrated a grand opening with a week of free classes starting Jan. 26. Seeing classes full of women was very exciting for Arias.
She said she is so happy in Carmel Valley she almost wishes she had opened her doors there first.
“I find that here it’s more of a community,” Arias said. “Women want to stay and chat here. It’s a fit for me; I absolutely love it here.”
Arias was a professional ballet dancer in Latin America from the age of 16. Originally from Ecuador, she traveled and danced across Europe before moving to America to get an education.
She earned a degree in international relations and Latin American studies, and after joining the National Exercise Trainers Association, she taught aerobics, spinning and step classes for several years.
All of that dancing and 15 years of teaching took a serious toll, and at 40 years old her “poor body” was worn out. She was unable to do many forms of exercise and her weight began to creep up.
In 2009, she moved back to La Jolla after living in China with her family for three years and was determined to get back into shape. She decided to give yoga a try. Throughout all of her years of fitness, she had never tried yoga, as she didn’t believe that it could have an impact.
“After my first class, I could not believe how relaxed I was and how good my body felt,” Arias said. “I had no idea the mental strength that it takes to practice yoga — it’s crazy.”
Through yoga, she said, she lost the weight and surprisingly became stronger than she’d ever been.
“I’m more fit and flexible now than I was when I used to dance,” Arias said. “I’m pain-free, nothing hurts, nothing aches and I’m so much stronger. I thought, ‘I’ve got to help other people through yoga — I have to help people heal their bodies and be well.’”
Arias became certified to teach all levels of Vinyasa, Yin, power yoga, hot yoga, restorative yoga and yoga with weights. After teaching, she set her sights on opening her own studio and opened Women’s Elite Yoga in La Jolla in April 2014.
Coming to Carmel Valley became a no-brainer after women continually asked her to open a studio here.
“Carmel Valley women kept telling me the area would have the best clientele in the world, and I agree with them,” Arias said. “These women are amazing. They are supportive, friendly and have a strong focus on health and fitness.”
At Carmel Valley, WEY offers a full schedule of classes throughout the week, the earliest at 9 a.m. and the latest at 7 p.m.
Classes include several levels of Vinyasa yoga, which links body movement to breath. Poses flow from easy to difficult and the breathing helps to decompress.
Yin yoga is very popular, featuring no more than four active poses using bolsters, blankets and blocks.
Power yoga is just as it sounds.
“The ladies love planks and the push-up and press-up movements,” Arias said. “They want the big ‘guns’ — it’s so adorable.”
Clients have told her they like the boutique style of the studio, where classes are small enough that people aren’t tripping over each other and teachers can give students lots of attention and adjustments.
While she does offer some co-ed classes, the women’s-only aspect is also a draw.
“We’ve had over 800 people come through La Jolla in a year, and for maybe 100 of them, it was their first-ever yoga class because it’s women’s only,” Arias said.
The studio is kept “spotlessly clean,” and she rents clean mats for $1 as well as sells them — she manufactures her own yoga mats to have them to the high standard she desires (hers are more cushioned and anti-microbial).
Arias still teaches many classes, but she is hoping to cut her teaching by half to keep up with her young business and her busy family life.
She is a mother of four children: Josh, 21, attends Point Loma Nazarene; Paulina, 18, is a senior at Santa Fe Christian; Tana, 14, is at Bishop’s; and Jake, 6, attends the Gillespie School.
The Ariases adopted Tana from China when she was 10 months old and the experience was life-changing for them. They saw so many children in need and were moved to do something to help.
She and her husband Jeff founded the Arias Home of Hope in India for children living with HIV and AIDS. The home has cared for more than 331 abandoned children since 2001, providing support, food, medicine and an education.
The home inspired a documentary called “Blood Brother” about Rocky Braat, an American who gave up his life to go to India to run the orphanage.
Arias’ passion across the board is to help people — whether internationally or locally, helping women improve their health and discover a mind-body connection.
Women’s Elite Yoga Carmel Valley is at 13857 Carmel Valley Road.
For information about class pricing and memberships, visit womenseliteyoga.com.
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