“Hey, do you know of any places where my daughter can do Pilates after she is finished with PT?”
“Should my 6 year old do Pilates classes?”
“She has a stress fracture in her back and the doctor said she needs to strengthen her core. I heard Pilates is good for that so I bought her a DVD. Is that ok?”
“I need to do Pilates as conditioning for dance. What should I do?”
I get these questions all the time from parents and young patients. My answer to them has often been “Well it depends.” That is, until recently!
One month ago I had the absolute joy of attending the Pilates Method Alliance® Pilates 4 Youth teacher training in Berkeley, California. What a fabulous 2-day course in the most beautiful setting with the most interesting and brilliantly creative minds!!! It was perhaps one of the most inspiring courses I have taken in my entire PT and Pilates career thus far. It helped that we had a nice view of the San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, the fog, and the Golden Gate Bridge the whole time. I called it my #nerdcation.
The course was full of 60 or so instructors from all over the USA and the world who work with children and adolescents in all different settings: schools, clubs and camps, inner city wellness initiatives, health care/PT clinics and private practices, girl scout troops, and private Pilates studios.
The course was led by Celeste Zopich, Brett Howard, and Dawn-Marie Ickes, who co-authored the course manual and textbook Pilates for Children and Adolescents. These three brilliantly creative master teachers spearheaded the Pilates in the Schools movement, an initiative begun in the early 2000’s in the wake of decreased physical education time in public and private schools. You can read more about Pilates in the Schools and the research project they did with the kids here.
Watch a video about Pilates 4 Youth & Pilates in the Schools here:
I can’t say enough good things about the instructors. Celeste has a wealth of experience teaching in a parochial school. Brett teaches classes for children of all ages and brought a wealth of research and creative cueing and activity design perspective to the group. Dawn-Marie, the PT & Pilates teacher of the book, seems to be leading a life rather parallel to mine on the west coast. She works not only with young clients and incorporates Pilates into PT with them, but also has a special interest in women’s health and is a Redcord Neurac teacher trainer. I can’t wait to continue following these three as the Pilates 4 Youth initiative continues to take off.
See interviews from the book’s authors & course instructors here:
Too often children (especially girls) drop out of sports by age 13 due to burn out from early specialization, self esteem and body image issues, lack of success and fear of failure, or lack of funding from parents or other guardians. Or—on the other hand, children do not become active in the first place for so many cultural and societal reasons (that I don’t have time to discuss in this blog post) and we have even bigger problems of childhood obesity, low self esteem and body awareness, and low exercise interest or confidence.
Perhaps most interestingly, the course taught us about the “magic window” age of 9-13. This is when kids and teens are at the most vulnerable for both physical and psychological injury. The mind-body approach of Pilates targets these problems in a very kid & teen-friendly way. This is the best stage to intervene from an injury prevention standpoint in PT, too.
Favorite video quote from videos above (from a 13ish year old):
“Well I’m a swimmer and doing regular Pilates has helped me a lot with having regular breathing and opening up my shoulders and using my back muscles to move my arms.”
If that quote doesn’t sum up my personal and professional vision for helping my most beloved target clientele, I don’t know what does.
In the course, we learned how to design classes or private sessions for children of all ages and ability levels, from 5-6 year old girl scouts to 18 year old elite Olympians,. We had a great segment taught by Dawn-Marie on program design for children with special needs, or “special opportunities” as she liked to call it. She reminded us that all children and teens have challenges that vary on a long, diverse scale, regardless of the diagnosis or “category” in which they are placed. For youth of all ages and ability levels, it is our duty to determine how best to tap into each of their movement systems, regardless of the challenges and opportunities they face each day.
The Pilates 4 Youth initiative is in a pretty grassroots stage now. So far the course has been put on twice to a total of about 150 people thanks to a grant from a generous donor. Hopefully it will continue to grow in popularity so that we can improve access for children of all ages to Pilates in a non-competitive environment. But we’re not exclusive to Pilates. And we are all over social media!
Stay tuned! I’ve already been incorporating Pilates into my clinical practice for several years, but I’m anxious to start incorporating many of the new concepts I learned into practice and hopefully into group classes in the community soon. I’m excited to exercise my creative juices and have already invested in some fun tools to help me do so:
To learn more about the Pilates 4 Youth initiative, check out the information on facebook.
“First, educate the child.”