Just 10 days after giving birth to a baby girl, dancer and Pilates instructor Jennifer Morley took on a full-time position as director of the Drexel Pilates Program and assistant teaching professor of dance.
How did she do it? Her own Pilates exercises were the key, she said.
“I really do have the Pilates method to thank for my physical and emotional capacity to take on these responsibilities just over a week after the birth of my second child,” Morley said. “During the pregnancy, the use of the Pilates breath techniques allowed me quiet time to connect to the baby. The use of the prenatal exercises allowed me to maintain stability and strength during a time of great flux in my body.”
That allowed her to continue practicing Pilates after her daughter Adelaide was born, she said, and then move right into her new position at Drexel. Adelaide, meanwhile, stayed with a babysitter nearby, and Morley was able to see her and nurse her throughout the day.
A year later, as leader of Drexel’s program, Morley is helping other people realize the benefits offered by Pilates. In addition to a Pilates instructor training program, Drexel Pilates offers classes and private sessions open to anyone, including Drexel faculty and professional staff. In fact, faculty and professional staff can take advantage of a special promotion this summer, valid through the end of August, and get three mixed equipment classes for $20. Registration is available online.
The benefits of Pilates have long been known to practitioners in the professional dance community: core strength, increased flexibility and lung capacity, both physical and mental coordination, great circulation and positive body awareness. Much research has been done that supports these findings. Over the past 15 years, Pilates has become a standard in fitness classes, physical therapy offices and luxury spas.
The Pilates method was developed by Joseph Pilates, a former boxer and self-defense trainer who created what was originally called "Contrology," an exercise regime to strengthen, lengthen and balance the body. It focuses on core postural muscles, breathing techniques and patterns, and the awareness of alignment of the spine. The method was recognized as both a preventive and a rehabilitative system among dancers in New York.
Morley, too, originally found Pilates as an adjunct to her dance training. She had recently graduated with a BA in dance from Hofstra University and moved to New York City to pursue a professional career. Pilates helped her to improve as a dancer, increase her flexibility, and prevent injuries. Little did she know how her journey at Romana Kryzanowska’s Pilates studio would change her plans and life in other ways, too.
“Several years later that same system helped me feel my abdominals again after having a baby,” Morley said. “It helped me build strength to succeed in my job and in my performance life while still being energized and present for my children. The Pilates system served me in reaching my goals in both areas of my life.”
Pilates also helped Morley re-align her posture during and after her pregnancies, she said.
“Our bodies serve our children when we are carrying them, through the birth, and well into our children’s early lives,” she said. “Women with 2- and 3-year-olds often present a ‘high-hip’ side from hiking their toddler up on their hip day in and day out. I think Pilates is a great way to give all people the strength and longevity to do what they love, and that applies to the physicality of mothering as much as it applies to the physicality of dancing professionally.”
A mom of a 4-year-old and 2-year-old who stays busy teaching, instructing and performing, Morley, who also holds an MFA in dance from Temple University, is a recipient of multiple choreographic commissions, artist residencies and grants, and she has an extensive performance background. She teaches yoga, modern dance technique and introductory dance courses to Drexel students while directing the Drexel Pilates Program.
Recently featured in Pilates Style magazine and in the upcoming October 2014 issue of Dance Magazine, Drexel Pilates is an active and growing Pilates community that includes a fully equipped studio, personalized instruction, mixed equipment and mat classes, and its trademark 450-hour Instructor Training Program. Drexel Pilates is run by the Dance Program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, and as a result, the instructor training program is offered free of charge to Drexel dance majors. Drexel Pilates is housed in the Drexel Recreation Center at 33rd and Market streets. For more information, visit the Drexel Pilates websiteor email Pilates at firstname.lastname@example.org.