IT seems quite a stretch to transform from an industrial chemist to a Pilates instructor, but it's one Laura Mason has made easily.
The 33-year-old worked for Orica in the Hunter and then as a pharmaceutical company in Sydney before she fell in love with the exercise discipline when she took a class at her then workplace.
"I didn't like being stuck in a lab or indoors all day, then I discovered it," she says.
That was eight years ago and now Ms Mason, who has a diploma of professional pilates instruction, has opened a small studio at the back of Dudley cafe Maxy + Mimi.
Ms Mason, who has two young sons, relocated to the Hunter in 2016 and within a year was running a studio from her Whitebridge home. Offering a mum and bubs class, she realised how mums were keen to strengthen their bodies after giving birth but had limited time.
Ironically, she and her husband saw the vacant site on Ocean Road and thought it had potential but weren't ready to tackle a project. When Jemma and Rod Darling opened cafe Maxy + Mimi at the same site, Ms Mason approached them about having a pilates studio in the separate room out the back.
Unwind Pilates opened in March and is growing its user-base, with Ms Mason focused on making it as flexible as possible for mums.
"I really want to make a community and I lean towards new mums because I found it really isolating when I had my first son," she says.
"When I went to mum and bubs classes people would chat to those they knew and then leave. I wanted somewhere where you can have a coffee and form a group of mum friends, find women who you have things in common with."
Ms Mason enjoys empowering women to embrace pilates without any pressure to feel fit: "Everyone can do pilates and I want to teach old and young, elite athletes, normal mums and business people that if you make it a part of your life it will make you feel better."
Unwind Pilates has standard and "express" classes on the mat for mums and bubs, with a focus on regaining strength in the core and pelvic floor. It also runs classes on the studio equipment.
Participants are encouraged to have a coffee afterwards at Maxy + Mimi, with a small discount offered.
Ms Mason has an initial private lesson with participants so she can assess posture, introduce them to the studio equipment and determine what they would like to achieve in her studio.
Personally, she says pilates has helped eliminate pain in her neck and lower back, and simply clears her mind: "You are focusing on very small muscles, you sort of get in the zone and you can't think of everything else going on in your life."