ABOUT KATHLEEN AU: Training and Teaching Philosophy
My Personal Pilates Journey—a “Return to Life”
Like many people, I did not try Pilates until I was in terrible shape. At age 49, after two decades of desk work at the San Francisco Public Library (plus lots of after-hours reading and writing), I had become one of those bent and painful urban specimens that Joseph Pilates addressed in his aptly named little book, Return to Life Through Contrology. Although I had enjoyed an active California childhood and youth—riding horses, climbing trees, running, swimming, hiking, practicing martial arts, walking San Francisco’s hills and dancing in its clubs—by the time I discovered Mr. Pilates’ book I couldn’t safely perform any of the mat exercises described in it. I was in constant pain and my doctor was threatening spinal surgery. But—thanks to the Pilates studio equipment and solo sessions with an inspired teacher—I was not only able to avoid surgery, but was completely pain free within a few months, and a few years later I was able to demonstrate and teach those same mat exercises, often modifying them, so that my students could access the correct muscles to perform the exercises successfully.
My Teaching Lineage
Luckily for me, the San Francisco Bay Area was and is a center of Pilates education. I found a wonderful teacher, mentor and eventual colleague in Jennifer Moulton, co-owner of Studio 74 Pilates in Emeryville. Jennifer's approach was "classical" -- having first studied with Alan Herdman when she was a student at the Royal Ballet in London, and later completed her teaching certification with Ellie Herman in San Francisco. After I had completed a year of solo Pilates, Jennifer suggested that I become a teacher. She guided me to BASI Pilates (then Body Arts and Science International) for comprehensive teacher training. BASI is considered a "contemporary" approach to Pilates; while still very rigorous, BASI emphasizes a functional, client-centered approach to the Pilates Method. Over the years, I've drawn on both these approaches in my teaching, as appropriate to the client's condition and goals.
The Necessity of Ongoing Inquiry
People are infinitely various, complicated and interesting--and our lives are both beautiful and difficult. To be a serious "mind/body" teacher therefore requires ongoing inquiry.
After completing my Comprehensive Pilates Teacher Certificate with BASI, I began to take courses in Pilates for Rehabilitation with the dynamic teacher and choreographer Lizz Roman, then at Ellie Herman Studio in San Francisco (now EHS Pilates).
For the next five years, while simultaneously teaching solo Pilates at Montclair Physical Therapy and Wellness, and mat classes at the Berkeley YMCA, I was privileged to continue my studies with three wonderful teachers. At Montclair, I worked closely with the dedicated physical therapist, Ginny Kelley, PhD and with the Pilates teacher, modern dancer and BASI faculty member Liz Fong, whom I was lucky to count as teacher, colleague, mentor and friend. During this time, I was also privileged to study in San Francisco with Elizabeth Larkam, who profoundly changed my understanding of the body and transformed my teaching with her months long course in Pilates applications of the concepts in Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Anatomy, a book by Structural Integration Therapist/Rolfer Thomas Myers.
Eventually, I returned home—both to my first teacher, Jennifer Moulton, as a teaching colleague at Studio 74 Pilates—and simultaneously began teaching private clients in my own home studio in Berkeley. During these last years in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was able to consult often with the brilliant kinesiologist and Balanced Body equipment designer Jean-Claude West in his home studio in Mill Valley. I often brought clients with difficult physical problems to him and he never failed to help them, teaching me so much in the process.
As I return to teaching after a move and a two year sabbatical here in Eugene, I am indebted to Lori Gholson of Philomath, for her precise, light-hearted and always inspiring teaching of Iyengar-based hatha yoga. And, I’m particularly indebted to my wonderful colleague, the keen-eyed Vicky Schneider, who has given me the opportunity to join the local Pilates community by teaching in her studio, “Bodies by Pilates,” when I am not teaching in my home studio. I’m grateful to continue to practice and “trade sessions” with her—it always helps to have a well-trained eye on one's alignment!
To all of my teachers and colleagues in this life-changing work, I am profoundly grateful, and look forward to sharing what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) here in beautiful Oregon.