It would be hard for Holly Furgason to have more dedication to Pilates. She opened Blue Sparrow Pilates in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood last year, has studied Pilates for 16 years, writes for Pilates Style Magazine blog, and also has her own blog, Fit4real.com. I met Holly one morning and was instantly captivated by the studio’s crisp and beachy feel – sun poured in through the front windows, clean white walls surrounded me, and the floors mirrored driftwood.
Read on for a few things I learned, and to see how 24 East readers can Give Yourself or a Friend a Little Love and get a FREE Pilates class for Valentine’s Day!
24 East: Why the name?
Holly Furgason: There’s no one reason. It was sort of the idea of the sparrow as this bird of homecoming and I was thinking about homecoming in your body and the idea of a journey. Sailors used to get the sparrow tattoo; the sailors always knew they were close to home when they would start to see sparrows. This idea of a journey through your body.
When I started teaching, Pilates was much more about developing a mind/body connection and mind/body fitness, and people used to really talk about it in that way. I think that it still is mind/body fitness, meaning it is not exercise that you can do without thinking and both your body and your brain are involved in the training.
24E: How did you get into Pilates?
HF: I was a contemporary dancer. I went to the University of Michigan for dance, and I danced my whole life. My college professors kept saying, this summer you should try a bunch of Pilates or get into something that builds a lot of core strength or deeper strength. I went to a summer-long dance intensive in New York and you have the choice of picking another ballet class, even though you already had one that day, or yoga or Pilates, and I was like, oh, I’ll try Pilates!
At first, the mat-based exercise method seemed easy to me because as a dancer I could make all the shapes. But it was easy because I wasn’t doing it properly. I wasn’t using the right muscles to perform the exercise. But as the summer went on, I began to deepen my understanding of how to do the exercise and I really began to experience my body in a new way.
After I graduated college, I was moving to New York and literally the week before I moved, I had my car packed up, was 9/11. Moving to New York as a dancer, right when 9/11 had just happened didn’t seem like the right thing to do. So I was a little bit, honestly, lost. I ended up moving to Southern California and working at a college [in graphic design at Riverside Community College]. They had a huge, innovative dance program, and a Pilates program.
I took Pilates every day and once I started using the equipment, that was when I was like, oh, I know, I need to become a Pilates teacher.
24E: What brought you to Northern California?
HF: I had been working in graphic design and needed to move my body. I loved the work but couldn’t sit all day. I knew I needed to get back to dancing full-time so I applied for graduate school. I ended up choosing Mills College in Oakland here. I have my MFA from there, in choreography and performance.
24E: Why did you choose Oakland for your newest studio?
HF: Oakland is rapidly growing and has so much energy. I wanted an opportunity to reach a wider network.
24E: What is the best thing about doing business here?
HF: It is really important to me to build a business that connects people. Oakland seems to be a place where people really are hungry for connecting to one another in the community.
24E: What is your hope for this studio and how would you define success?
HF: My hope is that I can help people begin to appreciate journey and process with regards to their body and health. To help people feel better in their bodies. Bring out the best in each individual. Educate them about their bodies. Help them to be more pain and tension free, so they can live a better quality of life.
Life is so fast and immediate. For me, the things I care most about in life are not instant gratification. They are made over time. They are cared for and nourished. I hope to help people enjoy the process of becoming stronger.
What gets me up in the morning is knowing I get to share this huge legacy of Pilates (Joseph Pilates lived and developed his method from 1883-1967) while at the same time, incorporate all the modern principles of alignment and biomechanics that have been created since his life.
What I think Blue Sparrow Pilates’ biggest success is, is creating a continuation of the story Joe started.
For the class schedule at Blue Sparrow Pilates, visit them online.
5095 Telegraph Avenue, Suite C
Oakland, CA 94609
WANT TO TRY A FREE CLASS?
To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Blue Sparrow Pilates is offering 24 East readers a FREE! class. Give yourself or a friend a little love. Register for a class at Blue Sparrow Pilates Oakland and enter promo code “heartpilates” at checkout to receive a free group class.
Valid: February 8-14, 2016