Today@Sam Article

Pilates Class To Bring Community, Students Together

Jan. 25, 2016
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

Please note that this article was written by Hannah Zedaker. 

pilatesTwo students in the Sam Houston State University Department of Dance will “stretch” the relationship between the university and community by offering a free, six-week-long Pilates course at the Huntsville Public Library.

“Pilates for Everyone” is part of SHSU’s Academic Community Engagement program and will be led by junior musical theatre major Jonathan Robinson and senior dance major Sara Aguirre-Valdez, both of whom are students of Betty Nicolay, an adjunct faculty member who serves as the Pilates instructor for the dance department.

The classes will meet every Tuesday between Jan. 26 and March 1 in the Huntsville Public Library Community Room, from 5:45-6:45 p.m. Classes are free and open to the public.

“[Pilates for Everyone] is meant to really reach everybody in the community,” Nicolay said. “We’re going to tailor make it to something that can be right for everyone.

“The great thing about Pilates is that you can modify it for whatever is going on in that particular person’s body,” she said. “So you can either ease back and go to a simpler version of an exercise for a person, or you can really crank it up to be more challenging.”

Nicolay, who has practiced Pilates since the 1980s, has certifications through the Pilates Center of Austin, the Pilates Method Alliance, and Balance Body, an organization whose manual will serve as the curriculum in “Pilates for Everyone.”

Pilates is a method of body conditioning that combines practices in yoga, martial arts and other methods of physical training, while focusing heavily on the idea of body control, awareness and movement.

According to Nicolay, Pilates has been known to significantly improve posture, eliminate lower back pain, enhance athletic performance, and even serve as a form of physical rehabilitation.

“I’m a strong believer [in Pilates], myself,” Nicolay said “I was a dancer in my past life and Pilates helped me through a hamstring injury. After I got through physical therapy, it served as my source for continuing rehab. I found the benefits of Pilates to be so much more than just rehab—they also helped me to progress in my dance training. So I was using Pilates at both ends—for rehabilitation and for progression as an athlete.”  

Robinson was first introduced to Pilates through one of Nicolay’s classes in fall 2014 and has continued the practice ever since.

“Pilates has completely changed my life,” Robinson said. “It's redefined fitness for me and has shown me a venue through which a guy like me can be healthier, feel healthier and live healthier on a daily basis.

“I never did much working out before I started Pilates, and I felt really unfocused and behind the curve during dance classes at the college. A large part of the problem was a lack of body awareness,” Robinson said. “Every semester that I take Pilates I grow in confidence, strength and understanding of my own body. It really has changed how I live my everyday life.”

Pilates has impacted Robinson’s life so positively that he said he has even considered making a career as a Pilates instructor after graduation.

Robinson said the students in “Pilates for Everyone” should expect to learn how to build strength, flexibility and muscle tone, while improving mobility and applying those skills to everyday life.  

The class is just one of the ways Nicolay’s students will fulfill their criteria as an Academic Community Engagement course, as they are planning to partner with dance students at Huntsville High School later in the semester.

“I think the whole idea is that students should get accustomed to and see the value in giving something back to the community—especially when they’ve got something really great to offer,” Nicolay said. “It’s the way that our students are giving back to the community while also getting an opportunity to practice and share their new skills and all the talents that they have from their years of dance training.”

Nicolay has exemplified this community outreach initiative through her coordination with Huntsville Public Library Literacy Coordinator, Mary Kokot, to make “Pilates for Everyone” happen.

To register, visit or call 936.291.5471 for more information. 

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