Paragon Pilates & Physical Therapy

Smiling woman with arms outstretched teaching pose to another woman inside Pilates studioDecember 2023 – Paragon Pilates & Physical Therapy is a first of its kind for the Twin Cities. As the joint name suggests, this Grandview Neighborhood studio specializes in a whole-body approach toward wellness and recuperation.

Founder and Education Director Cari Riis Stemmler has been teaching Pilates since 1997. She honed her craft at the Los Angeles studio credited with first blending the techniques core to Pilates workouts with the scientific principles and restorative goals of physical therapy.

“Paragon is also a licensed post-secondary school,” Riis Stemmler added. “We offer Pilates teacher training workshops, as well as continuing education courses in anatomy, physiology, and how to work with various injuries.”

She returned to her native Minnesota in 2009 and set up shop in the commercial complex anchored by Jerry's Foods.

“Even before taking this path, I’ve always been involved in the wellness space, including as a yogi and a professional dancer,” Riis Stemmler explained. 

“In the wellness field, it’s not just about the body; rather, the focus is on overall wellbeing. That requires taking care of the spaces around us and in which we live, every bit as much as our bodies.” 

Consistent with that mindset, Riis Stemmler is a strong advocate for sustainable lifestyle choices. “I’ve been an environmentalist since college … and you can even say [it’s in] the family.” Her grandfather operated a sustainable tree farm and played a role in organizing Minnesota’s first-ever Earth Day celebration.

“I learned a lot about caring for our planet from his example. By the time I opened Paragon, adopting sustainable procedures felt a totally natural extension of my everyday practices.”

Those practices start with Paragon’s meticulous cleaning regimen. In place of commercial products, many of which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and manmade chemicals harmful to our ecosystem, studio staff mix their own cleaners. 

“We wipe down equipment with a solution made from tea tree oil, lavender oil and water,” Riis Stemmler shared. “It does the job well, and also offers a little aroma therapy while we’re cleaning.”

Two women facing each other work on poses in space surrounded by Pilates equipmentParagon purchases its equipment – including Pilates chairs, reformers and accessories – from a well-reputed California company named Balanced Body. 

“A large part of Pilates equipment design is the frame. [Balanced Body] uses only wood from sustainably managed North American forests, and their manufacturing facility is designed to operate on a low carbon footprint,” Riis Stemmler said. 

Specialty machinery notwithstanding, Riis Stemmler prioritizes local vendors wherever possible. In addition to supporting the economy of which Paragon is a part, buying local allows the studio to avoid the packaging materials and shipping emissions associated with online shopping. 

“We each can only do our part, impacting our own microcosm of the larger world,” Riis Stemmler said. “However, when we all start to agree on similar practices, you begin to see a ripple effect. That’s when it starts to [feel] empowering: like you’re part of some larger solution, rather than just looking at the obstacles and choices of daily life.”  

As a means of stoking that “ripple effect,” Edina’s Energy & Environment Commission recently created a Green Business Outreach Program (GBOP) to recognize area businesses which prioritize sustainability. 

Hometown Hero Cari Riis Stemmler made sure that Paragon Pilates & Physical Therapy was among the first to apply. Earlier this year, the business was recognized as a Silver Green Business.