I was excited to present my workshop, Aging Strong Pilates® to Pilates instructors from around the world at the annual Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Conference last week in Las Vegas. This is THE big Pilates event for instructors worldwide. I’ve had the honor of presenting my work at this conference over the last 7 years AND I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to learn from other colleagues in the field and share their insights and knowledge with my clients.

In this short video clip, I’m teaching Dennison Laterality Repatterning, also known as Cross Crawl from Brain Gym® which draws on movement patterns learned in early life. This sequence integrates right and left hemispheres of your brain as it improves neuroplasticity (building new neural connections which we now know occurs across our lifespan), coordination, posture, core strength, hip and leg strength, and balance! Give it a try both fast and slow. Performed slowly it mirrors the qualities of Tai Chi. Peter Wayne, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School found that “across multiple studies, Tai chi appears to reduce the risk of falling by 20 to 45 percent and is considered one of the best exercises available for ambulatory older adults with balance concerns”.  For that reason,  I integrate this technique into all my Aging Strong Pilates classes.

For those reading this blog that attended my workshop, thank you for being so open, curious and engaged!  One question I received was why I use ½ tennis balls rather than a full round tennis ball, for the initial phase of myofascial release of the feet. Here’s my reasoning.  First, it’s more malleable and has more compressive give, which is helpful for those with sensitive feet or minimal fat pads on the balls of their feet, a common by-product of aging.  The second, and even more critical reason is that you could trip and fall on a round ball!  According to the National Council on Aging, people over 65 have a 25% risk of falling. For that reason, introducing a fall hazard like a round small ball would be a poor choice to have underfoot, particularly in a group class.

I welcome any questions you still might have that we didn’t get to. I’d also love to hear what components of the workshop resonated for you as a teacher and also what didn’t work. Please share below or email me.

For my dedicated clients/students at Stanford Univ, El Camino Hospital, private clients and BoneSmart Pilates® DVD users, I shared with the delegates the results of what you told me was important for you as an active ager in a Pilates class. The essential elements you shared included:

  • Safety (both physical and emotional)
  • Avoiding pain (use modifications, remain within pain-free ranges)
  • Humor
  • Music for the standing portion of class and for our closing meditation
  • Alignment corrections (it was important to you that you are seen and matter)
  • The use of vivid imagery
  • Branding: don’t ever call it a class for “seniors” or the “elderly” as that’s definitely an attendance deterrent.

Upon reading this, if there are other factors that you feel are important to be included in the survey results that are missing above, please comment below or email me. I’d love to know so I can include your input in future presentations.

Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to really explore for myself, what is at the core of my Aging Strong Pilates class, what makes it unique and why do I love teaching it so much? It hit me like a brick. Having a special needs daughter with autism has opened my eyes in wonderful ways, to the necessity of inclusion and connection and to the pure joy that comes with unselfconscious movement. I realize that my relationship with her is what informs really everything I do and who I am. It is at the core of my instructional focus on connection, acceptance, my integration of techniques that promote neuroplasticity, my use of inclusive circle formations for much of our standing work and at times, if I happen to have a small class, I even configure our mats like spokes on a wheel so we can all see and be connected with one another.

I’m blessed with my 19 y/o daughter who experiences life with unbounded childlike energy and joy. She is kind, does not understand the meaning of evil or a lie and is the essence of total innocence and love. Her existence makes the world a brighter place and the people she meets, kinder, better people. So I wanted to end with deep gratitude during this season of gratitude, for my special daughter Katelyn, my Thanksgiving gift, born on Thanksgiving Day, 1998.