Gretchen Johnson started gymnastics and moved to competitive cheerleading in high school.  After graduating from UT Knoxville, Gretchen ventured to New York City to study Pilates at The Pilates Studio of New York, the most famous Pilates school. Gretchen devoted herself to her practice before returning to her hometown to open Absolute Pilates in Brentwood, Tennessee.  Her love for this method of exercise keeps her motivated and her clients see the results in her classes and in their bodies.

What interested you in Pilates?

I was always standing on my head or on the monkey bars as a kid. Gymnastics was my first love, and I competed until the age of 15. In High School I did cheerleading and became really interested in working out to stay fit. When I was in my early twenties, my sister worked at a clothing store where the owner also had a Pilates studio. I saw the flyer for the studio and became very inquisitive about the method. One of the instructors offered to give my sister and I a free lesson and we jumped on it. I had no idea what to expect, but I loved it. It reminded me somewhat of gymnastics, and the instructor told the owner that she thought I was a good candidate to become an instructor. It was fate because I thought at the time that I wanted to become a personal trainer, but this method was so much more interesting. So, I immersed myself into Pilates private lessons and classes until I was ready to audition at The Pilates Studio of NYC.

What training did you undertake to become a certified instructor?

I had to undergo many hours of private lessons and classes before I could audition at The Pilates Studio of NYC. Once I got in, I moved to New York were I attended a 12 day intensive course followed by 600 hours of apprenticeship requiring practice teaching, lessons, classes, observing, practicing with other students and testing throughout. I completed the program in 2003 and moved back to Nashville and started working right away. Top trainers from my original school were involved with another organization named Power Pilates. I liked how organized and passionate they were about Pilates. They recognized my certification, but in order to receive their certification I had to attend several workshops and test out at the end. I completed this training in 2007 and have kept up with continuing education through Power Pilates. I feel like I continue to learn everyday teaching clients and through my own Pilates practice.

At what point did you decide to open your own studio?

I had been working for someone for one and half years and she had two studios. The partner she had at the studio where I worked had to move so she wanted to move both studios to a central location. I had already built up a clientele in the area I was working so it just made sense to open my own.

What are the most common requests clients have when they come to you?

Most people come in because they want to shape and tone their bodies, become more flexible and to relieve pain.

What are the benefits of Pilates versus other forms of physical activity?

Pilates works the body from the core creating a stable base before putting stress on areas that are too weak to work. It teaches you to work from the inside out in a supported way, while stretching, toning and aligning the body.

How do the core principles of Pilates differ from yoga?

Pilates focuses more on initiating from the core with more equipment involved. Pilates is more active in nature and less meditative. Every Pilates move has a stretch involved but the stretches are not as bendy as yoga and there is no music when you practice Pilates.

What are some of the misconceptions people have about Pilates?

That it is easy. Pilates takes a lot of concentration and it is like learning a new language in your body. You have to be patient and learn the method correctly so that you are not just going through the motions. When learned correctly Pilates is very challenging.

Can you tell us more about your experience with Kinesthetic learning?

I learn through movement. I relate every aspect of movement to life. I believe the way we move is the reflection of how we are living our lives. If I am tight and rigid, or I am experiencing aches and pains this indicates to me that something is off. I try to use this to help me clue into what I can work on to become my happiest, healthiest, fittest, self.

How does practicing Pilates affect other areas of your life?

Because I learn through movement, Pilates clues me into when something is off. My spiritual practice involves meditation and helps me figure out how to manifest positive changes I can make to get me back on track. I believe that spirituality is the center of everything, so it basically effects all areas of my life.

What projects are you working on that you can share with our readers?

I am in talks with Power Pilates to become a host training site for possible continuing education and teacher training at my studio. I also have a goal for my next studio to be in a health and wellness center connected to other like-minded individuals who are passionate about what they do.

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