On Tuesday afternoons, Elon University group exercise instructor Katie Kane is usually leading students through several apparatuses in the Needham Pilates Studio at the Koury Athletic Center.
“Pilates is all about lengthening your muscles. A lot of people think that it is the same thing as yoga but harder,” Kane said. “Essentially, Pilates is all about stretching while strengthening at the same time and focusing on that mind-body connection.”
The studio came to life through the work of Campus Recreation & Wellness and the Department of Performing Arts and was inspired by the direct benefits that Pilates provides to dancers.
As a dance major herself, alumna Alyssa Needham ’19 said she has used Pilates as a technique to help improve her athletic capabilities throughout the years.
Following her graduation, her parents donated $50,000 worth of Pilates equipment for the studio, which opened its doors on Nov. 1, 2019, during Homecoming Weekend.
Lauren Kearns, professor of dance and chairperson of the Department of Performing Arts, also said she has used Pilates as a form of cross-training for years. As a certified instructor in the practice, she took on a big role in the actualization of the studio.
“The Pilates method has always held strong footing in the dance world, with dancers gravitating toward it as a means to rehabilitate injuries or to cross-train,” Kearns said.
Kane agreed with Kearns about the use of Pilates as a form of physical therapy.
“A lot of athletes will come to utilize machines because it’s low impact. The whole point is to relieve the excess muscle tension that we don’t need,” Kane said. “They come in and everything starts to feel better because they are lengthening, stretching, they’re engaging all of those muscles that help everything feel better.”
After training with Kearns over Winter Term, Kane and three other student instructors are now leading classes in this space. These classes give all students, regardless of dance experience, the opportunity to benefit from the studio.
“Dance majors will benefit from immediate application of the Pilates method to their technical and creative training,” Kearns said. “All students who participate in the classes will benefit from a system that places equal emphasis on physical improvement and overall mindfulness.”
Though there is no current requirement for taking a class, Elon group exercise instructors recommend taking 10 mat Pilates classes before getting into the studio. This way, classes can run a bit smoother as students will already have been exposed to some of the Pilates terminology used during classes.
“Having a little Pilates knowledge is super helpful in these classes,” Kane said.
Currently, each class allows a maximum of four people to enroll. However, as the instructors become more comfortable with the equipment throughout the semester, they said they hope classes will increase in size.
Students are eligible to participate in these classes after purchasing one of the $20 exercise passes available in the Campus Recreation & Wellness. Students can then sign up for Pilates on Elon’s Fitness page through IMLeagues online or in-app. Classes are offered at varying times throughout the week.
As the program evolves, Kearns said her long-term goal for the studio is to “offer more experiential and theoretical equipment-based courses, ultimately leading toward offering certifications in Pilates for interested Elon students.”