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Pilates for Kids and Teens

In a previous issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review, we asked: Do you offer Pilates programs for children or teenagers? How do you address their specific needs?

“I have worked with pre-teens and teens for years as a dance teacher, incorporating Pilates into their classes. I’ve found that a full-out, regular Pilates mat class just doesn’t light their fires, so to speak. There are issues of short attention spans, growth spurts and competitiveness, among other things that make a mat class less than ideal for both the student and the teacher. So I have come up with a different approach: interactive workshops that teach principles of alignment and how that alignment is important to the activities they enjoy. I ask them to identify specific problems they have with a particular activity, and then teach them specific exercises that relate.

“For example, I am also an equestrian and I just held a few workshops for young equestrians (ages 11 through 17) who were about to compete in Lendon Gray’s Dressage Championships in Saugerties, New York. I first asked them what faults their riding instructor had found in their lessons. I got answers such as ‘bad posture,’ ‘sitting crooked,’ ‘legs turned out,’ ‘eyes down,’ etc. I then taught the kids what the human body looks like in proper alignment from the side, front and back. I taught them how to see a plumb line. I split them into pairs and had them look at each other to find the plumb line and identify any misalignment. Then we worked on specific Pilates exercises to correct these misalignments. We also did balance exercises on all types of ‘toys’ like stability balls, balance discs, rotational discs, foam rollers, etc. The riders stayed in pairs and corrected each other (with my approval or disapproval). It was amazing to watch their enthusiasm when they were suddenly empowered with this knowledge. They were so proud that they could identify and fix problems! I found that making the lessons interactive greatly increased their attention spans and kept them active and interested.”

– Julie Peterson, New York City

“I am a physical therapist and Pilates instructor who treats children from ages 5 and 6 through teenage years. With the younger children, attention span is always an issue; therefore, their program must be varied and of interest to them. I find using props (moon box, magic circle, foam rollers, etc.) holds their interest longer. Verbal cuing that they can relate to also helps immensely. With one of my 9-year-old clients, we start each session with the word of the day. Usually, this is a word unfamiliar to her that will relate to how she performs her exercises; for example, ‘ballistic’ or ‘fluidity’ (if her movements are too abrupt and not smooth). She looks forward to that game each session and uses the word in subsequent sessions when she recognizes that her form is off.”

– Carol Council, Redondo Beach, California


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