A classically trained instructor with an eye for form and a knack for taking students to the edge of their edge, Elaine Hayes' light, bright SoMa studio is not the place you'd expect your core to be on fire so much you sweat through your Lulu. After a challenging Saturday morning reformer session that somehow flew by, Elaine shared the history of Mint, her SF wellness secrets and the only workout tool you need to bring on vaca.
The Mint Studios Pilates method is equal parts technique and athlete, how did you put it together?
It was my ballet teacher in high school who first introduced me to Pilates after I’d been dancing for 13 years to keep myself injury free and reinforce alignment. I was taking a mat class once a week, but even that helped my dancing form. Once I left for college at UC Berkeley I stopped dancing but I stayed with Pilates, taking classes at studios all over town, and discovering the reformer.
Even after I finished school, while working in finance and through law school I was still taking Pilates and ended up getting certified to teach. My cert is in a classical format, which I loved because I learned about biomechanics, anatomy and rehabilitation, but the stronger I got the more I wanted a more intense workout from my traditional classes. What I had been doing started feeling a bit slow so I started taking athletically geared classes, but I was getting injuries and my form was compromised.
This is where the seed for Mint was planted. I started incorporating athletic elements into my reformer classes to see how I could challenge my clients further. My classes became known for being extremely effective by focusing on proper form, fluid movement, and including athletically-geared moves to offer a full body, killer workout. These classes gained a popular following at my home studio, and I was having to turn away new clients for lack of space in my schedule. When that happened, I realized I needed to open a commercial space, which lead to Mint Studios opening in August of 2013.
What’s your history with the Bay Area?
I was born in the Bay Area but I grew up all over. Part of my childhood was spent on a tiny island in Brazil, then we moved to London and eventually my family came back to the Bay to Grass Valley which is about two hours outside of San Francisco. I went to college in Berkeley, came to SF after I graduated, and just last year my husband and I moved to Menlo Park for his work. I’m still in the city nearly every day to teach and meet with colleagues and friends.
You live in Menlo Park - where do you eat and work out in that part of town?
I’ve discovered Sprout Cafe on University Ave. They have these huge salads that you can throw protein on for the most reasonable price. I do that a lot. Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto is also great. I love going for lunch and ordering their Quinoa Crunch Bowl. Sometimes for a coffee I’ll go to Caffe Borrone in downtown Menlo Park. SoulCycle in Palo Alto is my favorite cardio class when I can get to it. I love the Pressed Juicery freezes that they serve at Pressed Juicery Palo Alto, they really taste just like ice cream!
Do you have any favorite wellness spots around the studio?
My favorite esthetician in SF is a woman named Marion Pernoux, who owns the nearby Ensoma spa. She gives the most incredible facials. She calls them cosmeceutical facials and you feel so well-rested afterward. She’s my go-to gal. For nails, I always go to Zaza because it’s near the studio and they’re so nice and friendly. For hair, and this is the thing people ask me about most, I go to Richard at Population for cut and color. He’s so talented and sweet, and a genius at what he does, and anyone I send there falls in love. I don’t think I should even share his name because I don’t want to risk not being able to get in for an appointment!
Where do you work out when you’re not in the studio?
Whenever I’m in Brazil, my aunt and I take Pilates together with her trainer. It’s all in Portuguese and aside from the language so different from how I teach my classes. When I’m home and not in the studio, I’ll do my own yoga/Pilates practice at home in my office slash yoga studio where I’ll also meditate. In the city, one of my favorite yoga teachers is Mark Morford who teaches at Yoga Tree and has been so inspiring with his contemporary approach to meditation. It’s not strict and regimented. He encourages you to let it be your own, even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes at your desk.
When I can get away for a weekend, I love going down to Esalen in Big Sur. It’s an amazing, magical place to reset and be in nature. Further south, I did my yoga teacher training at White Lotus in Santa Barbara with Ganga White and Tracey Rich. I like to revisit every couple of years. Before my teacher training I never thought I could meditate, but they encourage creativity and teach that it doesn’t have to be so traditional, like sitting in a totally blank room for two hours. It’s a beautiful place and the energy is so calming. The nature is stunning.
We hear you’re a runner. What running routes do you take around SF?
Sometimes in between classes I’ll run down Brannan to Embarcadero toward the Ferry building. I love running along the water and think it’s a great way to clear your head during the day. In Menlo Park I run outside. In class I’m always talking and instructing so it’s really nice for me to plug in my headphones and zone out for a little while. Sometimes I take my puggle Zoey with me when I run, too, which she loves.
What other Pilates studios anywhere inspire you?
There’s a studio in New York called New York Pilates that is so different from us in terms of esthetic, but they have a very cool New York vibe. Even outside of the studio I love what they do on social media! A former Mint instructor moved to New York and I encouraged her to check them out and now she teaches there! In LA, there’s a studio called The Studio (MDR). They have megaformer classes and a great community. It’s actually where one of my sisters-in-law goes and she raves about it.
What is your workout when you travel?
When we travel, I usually bring a resistance band in my bag. I always call in advance to see if the hotel we’re staying at has yoga mats. Some great hotel groups like Auberge Resorts provide them in-room. My usual philosophy is that if I can devote 30 minutes a day to just maintenance then I will feel good and won’t worry about it. I’ll usually get in 15 minutes of Pilates, 10 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of stretching. Then I’ll get cardio in by running or swimming. I don’t really worry about it but I also don’t feel my best if I don’t get it in. My husband is the same way so we’ll normally workout together on vacation which we don’t normally get to do when we’re home. And I love kicking his butt with a tough Pilates workout!