It is critically important to begin instilling healthy habits at an early age. That is probably how I would sum up everything I have learned as a teacher and as a father.
I have worked with children for 15 years, and observing their physical, mental and spiritual development has been one of the great joys of my life. For me, the Pilates method has proven itself beyond any doubt as an essential aid in the development of children into socially-integrated adults with full physical and mental skills.
It’s a fact that the brain needs to lean on the physical self as it develops a solid basis for cognitive abilities. An example is the child’s use of the fingers when learning to count. At the same time, a healthy mind-body connection contributes to less tangible, but just as important, skills, including open-mindedness, receptiveness to people and healthy habits of discipline. These, together with a strong pedagogical environment and a healthy family environment, create those important educational values which, unfortunately, seem to be on the wane nowadays.
Pilates is just as important for healthy children as it is for those with motor issues. For the latter, it assists in balancing the imbalances caused by their injuries, improving their muscular tone and building coordination, balance, breathing, ROM (range of movement), flexibility, strength and endurance – all of which are just as important for the healthy child. And, of course, all children need to understand their own bodies and develop self-awareness, control, concentration and discipline. Pilates helps every child avoid the modern evils of a sedentary life and obesity – along with all the problems that they entail.
Physical Education and sports as currently taught at school do not cover all the physical and mental dimensions that are necessary for childhood development. And, in many cases, schools reduce the time spent on these activities is favor of more “academic” subjects. At the same time, the US National Association of Physical Education has estimated that 300,000 people die every year due to deficient physical activity and bad diet. This number exceeds the number of people who die as a result of infections, car crashes and substance abuse.
This is the background to BASI’s Pilates for Kids: Healthy Development workshop, which integrates the Pilates method as an extracurricular tool in order to complete the physical education provided in school and to instill healthy habits into young bodies and minds.
The workshop focuses less on education (or re-education) than on maintenance. Children have a natural, inborn movement instinct which automatically reinforces their musculature and, in most cases prevents them from experiencing serious injury. The objective of the workshop is to strengthen and guide this instinct; to prevent it from falling into disuse, which is what happens with most adults.
The program is adaptable to all children and all phases of development, from psychomotor development at an early age, which enables the child to acquire balance and coordination, through the development of elastic qualities and muscular strength to the development of coordination, fine skills, aerobic capabilities and, finally, maximum muscular strength.
It is important to emphasize that Pilates practice at an early age will avoid – or reduce – potential musculoskeletal problems in childhood or in later life, as a consequence of bad posture, lack of flexibility, inadequate muscular tone, wrong breathing and bad joint mobility.
If parents and educators were aware of the importance of instilling healthy habits from childhood, many common adult diseases could be avoided. As Dr. Valentin Fuster writes in this book The Health Science “heart attacks suffered from the age of 45 begin to develop in childhood. Between 70% and 90% of the time, they are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle acquired since childhood”.
Pilates for Kids: Healthy Development teaches Pilates professionals to both build programs for children throughout the developmental cycle and to lead them through the process of acquiring discipline and healthy habits in a fun and healthy way.