Ashley's Pilates for Kids Class Get to Know Joe and say...Ich mag Pilates!

"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier." -Joseph Pilates said this one year before he died at the age of 87.

As a second grade teacher and a certified Pilates instructor, I have married my two passions...Pilates and teaching children.

Get to know Joe! Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880 and died in New York in 1967. He developed a fitness regime and successfully used it to overcome his disabilities as a frail and sickly child. The system includes elements of boxing, gymnastics, dance, strength training and yoga.

While interning in England during WWI for his German citizenship, Pilates became a nurse. During this time he designed exercise apparatus for immobilized patients by attaching springs to hospital beds. This system formed the foundation for his style of body conditioning and specialized exercise apparatus.

His goal was to create and maintain a structurally fit body without building bulk. Pilates and his wife Clara founded a studio in NYC. His method, which he and Clara originally called "Contrology", related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. The basic principles of Pilates conditioning are to make people more aware of their bodies as single integrated units, to improve alignment and breathing, and to increase efficiency of movement. It is a movement technique engaging your body and mind, promoting physical harmony and balance for people of all ages and physical conditions.

Like a lot of Pilates instructors, I was introduced to Pilates through my study of dance. I have a degree in dance from the University of Alabama. Pilates has been a part of my life for 16 years now. I can't imagine a life without it! I know it helped me in the process of giving birth to my two children, then in getting back into shape after having my babies. Pilates gives me energy as a working mom. Now that I am sharing Pilates with children, it is so rewarding to see them benefit from the exercises too.

I hear comments from the kids like this:

• Pilates helps me with my soccer kick

• I did Pilates last night because I couldn't get to sleep
• I haven't been sick this year because I do Pilates
• Pilates helps me relax before I take a test
• I'm stressed out and need to do Pilates

Kids these days are very stressed! There are a lot more expectations on them today than when we were in school. They have to sit in a chair six hours of the day because so much of what they have to do requires them to be sedentary. With PE every other day; I might as well teach them how to sit properly! Obesity in children has doubled over the past 20 years. I am lucky to work somewhere where the staff and parents are so supportive of my program.

I know there's no one doing what I'm doing and I want to change that! Being a regimented person (like Joseph Pilates was) is a help to me in making Pilates a priority. I find small ways everyday to fit it in to our packed schedule. We have so many transition times during the school day that it's nice having the kids do spine stretch while waiting for the bathroom, doing a roll down in line, the hundreds before a test... I try to make the most out of these little five minute breaks. I also find that if children are misbehaving, a little Pilates can make things right again.

In addition to teaching my 2nd grade class every day, I have been teaching a once a week Pilates for Kids class and a Pilates for Faculty class. Both were after school in the school. Something else that made my program different is that I also taught German in honor of Joseph Pilates being from Germany. The students learned the history of Joseph Pilates and to count and speak some basic German phrases and words.

Ich mag Pilates the kids would say (I like Pilates)! We sing a counting song while balancing. As a teacher, I love the way this adds another element of challenge into the program. I love to work the body and the mind together. Children soak up new and useful information. Things you learn as a child truly stay with you forever!! Learning Pilates, like learning a foreign language, increases a student's skills in creativity, memory, attention control, problem solving and more.

Seen in Pilates Style Magazine

I have become so passionate about teaching children Pilates the last few years. I have found it has an incredibly positive effect on my classes. I have seen my ADHD and autistic kids benefit as much as the children with behavior issues and the struggling reader. These kids that can't organize their papers, can't organize their bodies! Children are more ready to focus and do better work after a series of Pilates exercises. The kids enjoy the routine and challenge. As a teacher, I recognize and appreciate the effect it has on them, promoting calm and concentration.

It was Joseph Pilates dream to have children learn his exercises so they would grow up knowing how to take care of their bodies for the rest of their lives. I know Mr. Pilates would be thrilled to see these kids doing his exercises. My kids from the last few years have retained it and they carry it over into all the other things they do (gymnastics, baseball, hockey, soccer, swimming...) My Pilates for Kids class offers a competitive environment against themselves. It's a positive environment where everyone is successful!!

Dallas Morning News

Why did I offer a Pilates for Kids program for free? The study and practice of Pilates is a part of my life that I would like to share with children so that they may improve and maintain their health on a long term basis. I had about 40 kids in my Pilates for Kids class. I said I was going to cap my class at 25, but the response was overwhelming in just one day! The parents were thrilled to have their children learn Pilates at school. I had several parents say their child was teaching them Pilates at home. What a great way to get the family together!

For people who don't go to my school and are interested in having their children learn Pilates, I would recommend that you find a certified Pilates instructor and work with the school to set up a program. If the Principal gets on board, you've got it made! The parents are all for it! The trick would be to find a certified Pilates instructor to volunteer their time. If you teach the faculty it is even more likely that the teachers could keep Pilates going in every classroom. Teachers have so much on their plates. More curriculum gets added every year and Pilates can be a nice stress release for them too.

What makes my program special is that I'm already a teacher in the school and I know how to work with children. I know from my Pilates Method Alliance Conferences that there are Pilates instructors teaching in schools, but that's happening mostly in LA and NYC (not Argyle, Texas)! If people read about what I'm doing it could spark some interest and who knows where it could lead. Parents care about the health of their children. Childhood obesity is a big issue and Pilates can help with that and more!

Joseph Pilates said, "Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor."

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