New Pilates studio offers hot-powered approach

A new business in Lexington brings a blend of Pilates and heated yoga to the workout scene.


Pilates students use a reformer, an appara-tus with tension pulleys meant to challenge the body. Photo courtesy of Kevin Remington.

Shauna Muckle

Lexington’s newest business, Electric Pilates, offers something different from other exercise studios: a heated, steamy workout environment. 

Owner Courtney May Cabaniss said that she came up with her heated approach to Pilates a few years ago when air-conditioned Pilates environments weren’t providing what she wanted. 

“I kept going to these Pilates studios where they’re air conditioned and they have the fans on me,” Cabaniss said. “I want to sweat and get these toxins out of my body and feel like I’m working out and that I’m not in some Waspy spa. I wanna get the grit.”

Cabaniss’s studio, which opened to the public Sept. 11, is based on a combination of Pilates reformer and hot Baptiste-style yoga. She had never seen anyone else doing the combination before, she said. 

A hot environment makes the Pilates experience richer and helps push your body, Cabaniss said. 

“Everything opens: your pores, your muscles,” she said. “You can go deeper into your practice. To me, the marriage of hot-power yoga and hot-power reformer just makes total sense.”

Unlike regular Pilates, Pilates reformer uses an exercise apparatus that allows people to use different tension loads and pulleys to push their bodies. Cabaniss said the reformer looks kind of like a bed and can intimidate people at first.

“A lot of people think it looks like a torture device, but the one I have is a pretty torture device,” she said.

Current students, most of whom are completely new to the Pilates reformer, have reacted positively to the experience Electric Pilates offers, Cabaniss said.

Kim Edwards, a mom of three who usually comes in twice a week, said she already noticed a physical difference from her sessions.

“I feel like it’s kind of given me more of a glow, and I feel like that attributes from the heat and steam and stuff,” she said. 

Cabaniss decided she wanted to open her own studio after she struggled to find the right workout environment in Lexington.

“I couldn’t find what I was looking for in terms of a community and a workout facility that felt cool and fun and cute but was still a really hard workout where I felt welcome,” she said. “So I decided to create my own thing.”

After she found a place to rent in town, Cabaniss realized it would take a lot of renovation to create the space she wanted. She started by learning how to make the changes on her own. She exposed the bricks underneath the plaster wall and sanded the floor herself. 

But she soon realized that she would need help if she wanted to open on time. 

“Part of the humbling process is that I thought, ‘oh, I can do all of this myself,’” Cabaniss said. “At one point I was like, ‘I’m going to be paying rent for five years if I do all of this myself, because I have no idea what I’m doing.’”

Cabaniss applied for a grant from the Lexington Historical Society for her signage and hired people to paint the trim on the outside and inside. She said she’s received an outpouring of community support, as well. 

“There are a ton of people in this community that have really shown up for me and wanted me to succeed,” Cabaniss said. “Now, the clients that I didn’t even know before, they are just all-in.”

Cabaniss acknowledged that starting a business while the country is still grappling with COVID-19 was daunting at first. But she believed in herself and avoided the worst of the pandemic. 

“I was like, I am completely insane for trying to do this right now, but I just really felt like it would work,” she said. 

For Cabaniss, her clients are the best part of her work. She said it’s fulfilling when an exercise clicks for someone and they enjoy the strain of the workout.

“You can see it in someone’s eyes when they get something,” Cabaniss said. “They come out of it at the end and they’re like, ‘that was so hard—and I loved it.’ You see it all connect.”

So far, Cabaniss said she’s had customers of all ages, from undergraduate and law students at W&L to moms and older women. 

Cabaniss’s clients said her enthusiasm and the environment she cultivates in the studio keep them coming back. 

“C-May is just an awesome person,” Edwards said. “Her positive and supportive attitude has really helped. She’s pushed me to do things that I typically wouldn’t do myself.”

Jackie Arnold, ’22L, said the studio’s heat, decorations, ambience and music create a vibe that can’t be found elsewhere in Lexington. 

“She has made the studio really kind of feel like an escape,” Arnold said. “I really feel like when I go to the class like I’m stepping out of Lexington.”

Cabaniss said that’s her ultimate goal—to fill her studio with a positive energy that allows people to get out of their minds and focus on their bodies. 

“I spent so much time on that space,” Cabaniss said. “I want people to come in and leave feeling that good energy and take it with them.”

On a more philosophical note, Cabaniss said a heated practice has broader benefits for mental health. She pushed back against the idea that all indoor spaces should be cooled for maximum comfort.

“We’re not meant to go from air conditioning to air conditioning,” she said. “That’s not healthy. As primal beings, we’re meant to be hot and cold and learn to adapt.”

She said working out in an intentionally hot environment sets people up to handle challenges elsewhere in their lives.

“When you purposefully challenge your body like you do in a heated practice, you’re setting yourself up to succeed in all other areas of your life,” Cabaniss said. “It crosses over mentally and physically. Comfort zones are where everything goes to die.”