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Yves and Carmen Get our Bodies Balanced

Owners of Body Balance on East Blithedale talk about their love for each other, their town and their practices.

If you've ever spent a Sunday afternoon on the , chances are you have seen Yves Lavenne.

Yves walks to Sausalito from his home in Sycamore Park every Sunday. Yves and his wife, Carmen Zeni, met in 1993 when they worked as massage therapists at the recently shuttered . Today, Yves, who is French, and Carmen, who is Swiss, share space at 158 E. Blithedale. Carmen is the owner of Body Balance Pilates studio and also a reflexology practitioner. Yves practices a unique system of Orthopedic Massage.

Mill Valley Patch: It's too bad Tea Garden Springs closed.
Yves: Yes, when they opened they were the first day spa in Marin.

MVP: Did you meet in the massage room?
Carmen: No, we were introduced in the atrium.
Yves: We met as friends first. We were not in love as soon as we saw each other. The beauty of it was that we were really friends and colleagues for a long time. 
Carmen: It was a nice place to meet. Mill Valley gave us luck. It's a special place.

MVP: How did you end up living in Mill Valley?
Carmen: We decided one day while we were driving to work in the rain on the freeway to avoid the commute. I had seen the neighborhood and loved Sycamore Park. I just went out during a break at work and there was a home for lease. It's been seven years and we love it.
Yves: Mill Valley is a special place for people who share the same ideals about life.
Carmen: The location at the base of Mount Tam, between the ocean and the bay, the mountain and the trees, it's really a sacred place. Also, the people here are careful and care about the environment. Just the other day Yves and I were walking by the creek and we noticed how clean and clear the water was, how fresh the air is. There is no trash. People here are careful and they teach their children to be careful.

MVP: Carmen, how did you shift from massage to Pilates?
Carmen: I started Pilates in 1997. I was working with some chiropractors who also had a Pilates instructor in their office. She had clients from Beach Blanket Babylon who had injuries from carrying those big hats. I saw the great improvement after just a few Pilates sessions. That's how I became interested, and now I am passionate about it. I like that you can use it for different modalities and people. Older people, kids, athletes, even people with psychological problems can benefit because it is meditative, it centers you and gets you to breathe.

MVP: When you're sitting around town and you see someone walking by with horrible posture do you think, 'Boy, I could help her!'?
Yves: Yes, but there is a Chinese saying, 'The teacher opens the door, but the student has to walk in the room.' Of course I think of all the things I could do for this person, but I would never interfere. I think nowadays modern healthcare is teamwork. Both people have to be ready.

MVP: What kind of clients do you have now?
Carmen: All kinds! I have three or so people who are over 80. I have a contractor once a week just to keep his body in check. I have very young people, 10 years old, and all classes.
Yves: I have one woman I've known since before she was pregnant. Now I have her daughter, her mother and her husband.

MVP: When did you open this studio?
Carmen: I came here in 1998 and in 2001 I took it over and bought it.
Yves: I came two years later. There was an opening and so we decided to work together.
Carmen: We think in the future we will work together.  We'll be in the same room, with privacy but also integration, so a client can come in and we can both consult.
Yves:  People come to me with an injury or pain. I help them to a place where they can move without pain. Then they can go to Carmen and exercise and strengthen so they don't get injured again.

MVP: What do you say to people who complain about getting older?
Yves: A line I've heard several times. Always when someone comes in with knee pain I ask if they have seen a doctor and they'll say, "Well, yes, the doctor says I'm getting old." I say to them, "Well tell your doctor your left knee is the same age as your right." Age is a factor, but not the cause of the problem.

MVP: Any bad clients?
Yves: We must not forget that someone who is not nice is not nice for a reason. Sometimes they are in pain and they are tired of the pain, and emotion comes with it. If you bypass the emotion of it and don't pay attention to their words you can see through it and help.

MVP: What do you do when you're not working?
Carmen: We walk. We walk to Stinson, to Fairfax, to the city, to all the towns. That's our passion. Hiking is great and we can talk, empty our mind and unwind in the beauty of nature. It's a great way to get exercise. It's great for mental health and the nervous system. The air is so clean here, it has been cleaned by the ocean and the bay. Yves walks to Sausalito every Sunday. We love to walk into town and go to the movies. We can go shopping, go to work -- everything without a car.

MVP: Do people ask you at parties or other places, "Could you please look at my back?"
Carmen: Yes, and we don't mind. We had a massage table at the block party. We are totally fine if the neighbor has shoulder pain or knee pain. Come over, we'll check it out.
Yves: To be available to people is very important. I take clients at seven in the morning and sometimes at seven at night. People appreciate that. They can call and I can see them the same day. I love my work and I hope I do it all my life. I even plan when I am 90 years old to specialize in foot and cervical work because I can do that sitting. I will do my work all my life. It's like a musician. You never stop playing.

MVP: Final question. Are you going to stay in Mill Valley forever?
Carmen: Yes, we are very happy here.
Yves: For a long, long time. No plans to leave. Everything is here. We don't need to go to France to get good cheese.

Thea Pijpers February 05, 2011 at 06:33 PM
I am living in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, and Carmen is my niece. Therefore I am extremely happy to read this article. I am a great admirer of Yves and Carmen
MV Res February 05, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Thank you so much for introducing me to Yves & Carmen. I've been looking for a team who can help me and share my philosophy on health & healing.
Tracy H. May 06, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Both my husband and I have had fantastic experiences working with Yves. He helped us recover from old injuries that were still painful and limiting our range of motion. A true healer!
Tracy H. May 06, 2011 at 11:46 PM
For an idea of another person to interview: I would love to know more about the crossing guard at the south end of the Tam High field near the Sausalito path along the marsh. She is so dedicated to her important work of keeping bikers and walkers safe from cars when crossing at that crosswalk.

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