How Studio Qila Founder Bridget O’Carroll Prioritizes ‘Form Over Ego’ on and off the Mat

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The signature method of Bridget O’Carroll’s Studio Qila is supposed to be a challenge, and O’Carroll encourages students to sit in that feeling, not ignore it.

But while inhabiting struggle is a central part of the high-intensity, low-impact Pilates-style classes, O’Carroll says what a Studio Qila challenge looks like should vary from person to person, and even day to day, based on what your body needs when you hit the mat. That’s why she always includes different variations of her exercises, and instructs her students to practice “form over ego”: Choosing to do what you can execute most effectively, not a “should” based on an external factor like competition or achievement.

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“Yes, my method is designed to be really tough, but I try to really pair that with the contrast of being kind to your body and taking modifications when you need them,” O’Carroll says. “I encourage you to notice how things feel and when you need something, you take that modification because that's what's actually going to be most effective for you in the long run.”

But just because something is not the most advanced-seeming iteration of a move doesn’t make it not difficult, O’Carroll notes. Whatever you can do while maintaining good form is going to actually work your body in the most powerful way, whereas if you’re reaching for a variation that’s not right for you in that moment, you’re going to compensate in ways that make a move less effective. For example, if you take a push-up on your toes when you’re already fatigued, you run the risk of dumping that work into your lower back, instead of focusing on your chest and core.

O’Carroll has Native Alaskan roots, which makes Studio Qila, founded in 2021, the first Native-owned online fitness platform. The idea of “pushing through discomfort in order to create change” is a core tenet in Studio Qila’s fitness classes, along with building community, doing self-work, and supporting BIPOC groups. Donation classes and a share of profits go toward charities, and this year Studio Qila launched a blog to help share further ways the community can give back to Native causes.

O’Carroll brings the philosophy of “form over ego” from her fitness classes to everyday life—and hopes her students do, too.

“You can take that mentality when things get tough in the studio, but you can apply that mentality outside of the studio in your day-to-day life as well,” O’Carroll says. “Like allowing yourself to be challenged, allowing yourself to find some acceptance in that, and allowing that to help you grow stronger.”

As both a product manager at Google and the founder of Studio Qila, O’Carroll says she is invigorated and inspired by the challenge of running her own business and working in tech. At the same time, rest days (often spent snuggling with her dog) are key to maintaining that energy. To support this sort of balance, Studio Qila recently launched stretch classes, and has integrated these sessions as well as total rest days into a New Year Challenge.

Choosing “form over ego” might feel particularly hard in January, when all the messaging around us is telling us to push, push, push. But fully acknowledging the capabilities of our bodies, whether that’s in a modification, a high-intensity day, or a rest day, can help us navigate the new year, and beyond.

“It’s a balance,” says O’Carroll.

Studio Qila's New Year Challenge kicks off January 9. You can sign up here, and if you are a new user, you'll get 40 percent off. Another holiday gift from Bridget: Use the code WELLANDGOOD at checkout for $10 off, which is the equivalent of one free class. If you're mulling it over, try this 18-minute workout Bridget O'Carroll made for Well+Good to see if sitting in the feeling and prioritizing form over ego is for you.

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