With so much emphasis placed on women’s health issues this month, it’s only appropriate we feature two women who are tireless in their efforts to provide their clients services that allow for a balanced, personalized approach to getting healthy. Luci Crow and Mary Ann Stuart, through their business, ALIGN Wellness Studio, integrate mindful practices with nutrition advice, Reiki, Pilates, massage, yoga and meditation. They have one goal in mind once a client walks through their doors: to help that person feel empowered to feel better. It is with great pleasure that we introduce Luci and Mary Ann as today’s FACES of Nashville.
Can you tell us why you got into the business of helping people feel healthier?
Luci: Having struggled with my weight and body image as a teen, I became a registered dietitian, and later an intuitive eating specialist to help clients achieve a happy, healthy weight without the constant struggle of dieting. After the birth of my son, Sam (16 years ago), I began practicing Pilates as a means to rehabilitate my body after pregnancy. Amazed by the changes in both my strength and the silhouette of my body, I became a Pilates instructor, so that I could assist others in benefiting from the practice of Pilates, regardless of their age or physical restrictions.
Mary Ann: My education was in English and studio art, with an emphasis in drawing and painting. Oil painting is my favorite medium, but I love graphite drawing and watercolor as a drawing medium. I have two grown sons, Graham and Christopher Jernigan.
I started taking private Pilates lessons in 1998 and have been teaching since 2004. I have been meditating for 35 years. I became a Reiki Master Teacher in 2010.
Can you explain to us your vision of Align Wellness Studio and what benefits you bring to your customers?
Luci: The joy of good health comes from the commitment to truly care for yourself. We wanted to create a studio that offers a nurturing environment for mind-body exercise, intuitive eating with a focus on anti-inflammatory nutrition, and stress reduction through Reiki and mediation. I’m a Certified Leap Therapist, and we offer food sensitivities testing, which is especially useful for IBS, fibromyalgia and migraines.
Mary Ann: From the beginning, ALIGN has been unique in Nashville. I think care and attention to the needs of each individual is what drives this business and makes it successful. The studio is intimate, so there really is a feeling that we are all in this together and we have fun doing what we do. After five years, we have evolved, and will continue to do so. We are excited about what we have learned along the way, where we are today and how we can continue to offer the very best experience to all of our Align clients.
When someone decides to “check themselves in” to get healthy, what are some common misconceptions around the process?
Luci: One size does not fit all when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Any one particular way of eating does not meet the physical and emotional hunger needs of all people, nor does one exercise program. It’s futile to coach a person to eat or exercise in a way that isn’t enjoyable to them, because eventually they’ll just throw in the towel. It’s about persistence, not perfection. It’s about balance … Eat and Exercise for Energy and Enjoyment, that’s our mantra.
Mary Ann: To get healthy and stay healthy, it is vital to look at the entire process from a holistic point of view and take one day at a time. Most of us have wished for quick solutions to problems for which there are no fast fixes. At ALIGN, it’s our job to say, take a deep breath, and take it one step at a time.
Women, in general, suffer from a host of health issues that aren’t commonly recognized. For example, heart disease is the number one killer of women. What advice do you have for women when it comes to understanding some warning signs?
Luci: Get in touch with your body and listen to it. We often ignore pain and discomfort and hope that it will just go away. Knowing your numbers and risk factors (cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, smoking, diabetes and family history) are crucial to managing your health and risk for heart disease. Making just a few small changes in the way you eat can make monumental improvements to your health and risk factors. Focus on eating a diet with meat as a seasoning in plant-based meals that are rich in vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and fruit. Find an exercise program you can look forward to practicing most days of the week.
Mary Ann: Heart health education for women is first on my list. Exercise, proper nutrition and stress management are vital in the maintenance of a healthy heart. Women with heart attacks can — and do — have different symptoms from men. We all may recognize the classic appearance of sudden severe chest pain, but all heart symptoms are not so intense or obvious. Unexplained muscle soreness, heartburn, inflammation/swelling in your limbs or abdomen, loss of appetite and/or weight gain, and even unusual fatigue or weakness can be warning signs of heart disease. Our bodies have built-in alarm systems. Pay attention!
Do you have a little nugget for women, something that they can do every day that will make them feel better and live healthier?
Luci: Start your day off with a positive action that you can dwell on even if the plans for the day go astray. Drink a warm glass of lemon water with a touch of cayenne pepper to detox and refresh every morning. Eat a healthy breakfast. Learn a 10-minute exercise routine. Read a daily inspiration. Take a walk around the block.
Mary Ann: Do something you are passionate about! Be the best you can at any given moment, and love yourself for it.
Who was an early mentor to you?
Luci: My father was — and is — my mentor, my friend and an advocate for women and people of all races and financial means. He owned a car dealership where I worked during the summers. He treated everyone with the same respect whether they paid in cash for a car or financed one for $5/week. I am also very fortunate to have a fabulous, supportive husband, Ken Kraft, and group of close-knit friends that keep me balanced and laughing.
Mary Ann: My grandmother. She laughed a lot and was not a chronic worrier, even in difficult times. She enjoyed moments. That’s mindfulness. Also, my clients are my best teachers. My greatest joy comes from their successes.
Is there an event coming up that you are looking forward to attending?
Luci: Generous Helping. It’s Second Harvest’s signature food and wine tasting event supporting Middle Tennessee’s Table, a grocery rescue program. Nourish, which is a dinner and auction to benefit The Nashville Food Project
Mary Ann: In September of this year, I am having my first art opening at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. I am thrilled and grateful to my friends that made this possible for me. And I can’t wait to see Ryan Adams at the Ryman in April.
Is there a recent meal at a local restaurant that has wowed you?
Luci: I love all the new plant-based menu items appearing on menus around town, but it’s hard to resist any of the meatballs at Moto.
Mary Ann: The ramen at Two Ten Jack is addictive and out of the ordinary.
Where in town do you go when you’re looking for an inspirational boost?
Luci: The streets of Nashville. I love to walk our beautiful neighborhoods, parks and college campuses. I look forward to my “mental health walks” to release stress, restore balance and awaken my creative thoughts.
Mary Ann: Radnor Lake. The energy there is sacred. I love hiking the trails and, if my dog is with me, just a walk around the lake always gives me a fresh perspective.
What books are on your bedside table?
(SB Tip: All of these titles are available locally at Bookman/Bookwoman.)
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Luci: Mexico Beach, Florida. It’s just a small fishing village that’s not for everyone, but I find it to be relaxing, peaceful, unpretentious and nostalgic. And, I’d love to go back to Capri.
Mary Ann: My vacations are about beautiful natural places and getting away from crowds, although I adore New York City.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
- Walking. It’s my meditation.
- Coffee, water, wine, more water … in that order, daily
- iPhone — I hate it, but I love it. It keeps me connected to who I love and where I am supposed to be.
- My creative ability
- My dogs
Thank you to Luci Crow and Mary Ann Stuart for sharing of yourselves with our readers today. Align Wellness Studio is located at 4544 Harding Pike, Ste. 215, Nashville. Learn more at (615) 383-0148 or visit alignwellnessstudio.com.
And thank you to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs. See more of Ashley’s work at ashleyhylbert.com.