During One of my summer classes, a 6-year-old boy said to me, “My neck always hurts when I do crunches.” What an astute observation! Our necks should not hurt when in proper alignment—if we’re working stomach muscles, then it’s the stomach muscles we should be feeling. It was an important moment in class where we shifted the focus back to proper crunch form. Many adults are continually straining their necks during abdominal work, frequently operating entirely out of form, so it brings me great pleasure to teach children at a young age how to do this common exercise in a way that will help them grow.
What Is Pilates?
The increasingly sedentary lifestyle we live is having devastating effects. When children are introduced to healthy forms of movement such as Pilates, the benefits continue into adulthood. Most of us are now familiar with the benefits of Pilates: lean muscle mass, a strong core, increased flexibility, better posture, decrease in joint and low back pain as well as decreasing pain from injuries. These benefits aren’t just for adults; they are for kids also, and the benefits are unquestionably immense.
Why Pilates for Kids?
Just like adults, kids are now spending more time sitting at desks and less time standing and doing physical activity. Whether it’s in front of video games, computers, or television, our children are more likely to sit and lounge than run and play. This leads to issues such as poor posture, low back pain, and tight, uncomfortable joints. Starting a physical program, like Pilates, which emphasizes corrective movement patterns is especially beneficial at a young age because a child’s body is exceptionally responsive. Teaching children to use their bodies in a mindful and functionally sound way can help minimize and prevent potential aches and pains as well as long-term injuries. In fact, Joseph Pilates wrote a book entitled Your Health in 1934 and discussed the importance of forming good physical habits early in life.
As with any type of exercise for kids, it has to be fun to be enjoyable. We adults suffer from short attention spans when we exercise, and children are no different. That’s why Pilates classes for children need to be innovative and enjoyable to be beneficial and fun. The classes I teach for kids have dozens of exercises and are filled with cues like reaching for pizza, painting colored circles with their toes, and giving their neighbors high fives.
Sports and academics have become very competitive and mind-body exercise programs have been shown to help better handle stress in a healthy way at an early age. Several recent studies have shown that Pilates helps children improve performance in their sports, recover from injuries, increase concentration in the classroom, and even minimize stress. Learning how to deal with stress is a fantastic tool to learn at a young age!
What is a Typical Session Like?
Sessions are exceptionally interactive, high energy, and fun. Moves are often done with a partner to encourage positive working relationships and trust building. At Mauro Pilates, instructors inquire with the children about what some of their favorite things are like colors, shapes, and animals in order to keep the children engaged and having fun. There is often a cardiovascular component involved as well. This is specifically incorporated for children who aren’t drawn to sports so they are able to reap the benefits of cardiovascular activity while having a good time in an environment that isn’t focused on winning. Classes are designed to make each child know he or she is accomplishing something terrific, to increase body awareness, and to build healthy self-esteem, all while having a great time! I have seen children experience differences in as little as five sessions.
General pricing varies greatly. When hiring an instructor, a large class can range anywhere from $10-$20 per child while private and small class settings can range from $40-$70 per child.
Where to Go?
For the most part, these programs are in their infancy. As such, there is a great variability in what is offered and how it is taught. In my classes, I focus on creativity, enjoyment, and building to the perfect amount of challenge.
Mauro Pilates (www.mauropilates.com) offers Pilates on equipment, in schools, and in-home
Ballet Austin (www.balletaustin.com)
Core Power Austin (www.corepoweraustin.com)
Pilates Center of Austin (www.pilatescenterofaustin.com)
Liana Mauro, owner of Mauro Pilates, is a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor who specializes in Pilates for children, weight loss/toning, injuries, and athletic performance. Voted Best Pilates in Austin in 2011 by readers of Austin Fit Magazine, Mauro does Pilates and loves finding unique ways to incorporate cardio and strengthening exercises.