Mother–Daughter Pilates Teachers

When the family business is Pilates, mothers and daughters share an even deeper bond.

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by Anne Marie O’Connor

When the family business is Pilates, mothers and daughters share an even deeper bond.


Sharifa Sehweil and Nadia SehweilNadiaSharifa

Sharifa and her daughter Nadia are co-owners of Bodytree in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Sharifa: I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi for close to 35 years. Sixteen years ago, I was introduced to Pilates while in the U.S., undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. I had to have major abdominal surgery and Pilates helped me reconnect to my core and strengthen my abdominals. I started out teaching yoga, and then decided to do my STOTT PILATES® teacher training eight years ago at Studio Praxis in Montreal.

Nadia: My mom encouraged me to try Pilates in 1998 when I was in university in Montreal. Coincidentally, a woman named Daniella Moretti started a home studio in the building where I lived, so I decided to try a session. I fell in love with Daniella’s classes and with Pilates. I began discovering things about myself and my body that I had never tapped into.

Sharifa: After I got my certification, I began teaching Pilates in Abu Dhabi eight years ago, initially to close friends and eventually as a paid private instructor.

Nadia: A few years after I graduated from college, my mother and I spoke of the idea of starting a Pilates studio in Abu Dhabi. None existed at the time. We launched our first studio, SOMA Pilates, in 2007 with our great friend and my mentor, Carol Valmy-Merchant, and never looked back.

Sharifa: Then in 2011, we partnered with our close friend Elina Nykanen of Yoga Tree and opened Bodytree Studio. In June 2012, we moved into our new, much larger facility. We have tripled the class offerings and now offer yoga, dance, meditation, pre- and postnatal programs, children’s programs and community activities.

Nadia: Pilates has become incredibly popular here. We work with talented instructors and clients of all ages and nationalities.

Sharifa: Nadia and I have a very special relationship and working together helps us bond even more. We had envisioned turning our place into a full-fledged holistic/community center and we have achieved just that. We strongly believe in empowering women in particular, but also men and children.

Nadia: My mother is my mentor and my best friend. I’m so privileged to see her and interact with her on a daily basis. It has been an incredible journey for both of us to see each other grow both mentally and spiritually, and realize our dreams through our business.


Connie Borho and Carly Borho

Connie is a level III teacher trainer at Peak Pilates. Her daughter Carly works at Connie’s studio, Balance Pilates and Yoga Centers in Bradenton, FL.CarlyConnie

Connie: I’ve been a Pilates teacher for more than 30 years. I gave Carly her first Pilates lesson when she was 12. She started teaching her friends soon after that, so I eventually suggested that she do the Peak Pilates teacher training.

Carly: I first got involved in Pilates when I was 12. I had an awful car accident. My mom was told I wouldn’t walk again but she knew Pilates could change that. She taught me how to walk again on the Reformer. In college, I taught two movement classes a week. When students asked me questions I couldn’t answer, I realized I needed an education. So I went through my Peak Pilates Level I training in 2005.

Connie: I was very excited because I knew she would be a wonderful Pilates teacher. I was also very proud that she could know what she wanted to do at that early age. I certainly didn’t. It was obvious from the beginning how talented Carly was and how great she would be at helping people get fit and healthy through Pilates.

Carly: I’ve worked in other studios and gyms, but I always missed the challenge of working next to my momma. Now, we work side by side at her studio. She is a resource for my learning and she inspires me, much like an athlete practicing with someone far more seasoned. I am excited to continue on my own path to becoming a Peak teacher trainer by attending their next certification camp in the fall.

Connie: It’s amazing to watch her evolution as a teacher and a mentor to other teachers. She observes me teaching and I see her apply her new knowledge the very next time she works with someone. It’s very special to be able to mentor her.


Cynthia Lochard and Tamika WalkerCynthiaTamika

Cynthia opened Cynthia Lochard’s Pilates Method Studio in Sydney, Australia in 1994. Her daughter Tamika has followed in her footsteps. 

Cynthia: I’ve done Pilates for 36 years, starting as a very young dancer in New York. One of my ballet teachers encouraged all her students to go see Romana Kryzanowska and start doing Pilates. I hated it because it was hard, but it didn’t take too long to start feeling how it would benefit me. Throughout my career at the New York City Ballet and beyond, I hardly ever sustained a serious injury! I was certified by Romana in 1994, then returned to Sydney, where I’d been living, and opened Cynthia Lochard’s Pilates Method Studio. My kids were around a studio all their lives, so I guess it was somewhat inevitable that Tamika became a teacher.

Tamika: I remember playing “shop” with my little brother in my mother’s studio, “selling” the equipment to her clients! Around the age of 15, I started taking it seriously as a conditioning workout for my high school sports. Without my really knowing it, my mother had been teaching me Pilates all along. By the time I was old enough to really appreciate it, my Pilates knowledge was quite advanced; I guess I had a secret passion for it even then. I started my training in Sydney with my mother and finished it in New York in 2010 under Sari Mejia Santo.

Cynthia: I insisted Tamika start from scratch like everyone else!

Tamika: Once I was certified, I came home to work off my debt to my mother at her studio as she had paid for my training. But I also knew I wanted to travel, so right now I’m a traveling instructor in Australia, New Zealand and America. I also assist my mother in training apprentices.

Cynthia: Tamika is such a delight to be around. She is great with people and shares her passion and warm infectious smile with all. My only regret is that this talent has taken her away from our studio in the last few years and I’m afraid I’ll have to bribe her big time to come work for me!

Tamika: The best part about working with my mother is that she knows so much and is so willing to share it. I’ve been raised by such a wonderful, caring, passionate woman and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher in Pilates and in life.


Zoey Trap and Kathryn Coyle

Kathryn-ZoeyZoey is a Peak Pilates master trainer and senior program director; her daughter Kathryn is a Peak Pilates master instructor and teacher trainer. Together they co-own InnerSpace Pilates & Yoga in Avon, CT.

Zoey: I was introduced to Pilates back in the late ’70s as a contemporary dancer. I started teaching Pilates in the early ’90s. Our family moved around a lot: I opened my first studio in London; when we moved to Michigan, I became involved with the development of the Peak Pilates Instructor Education program.

Kathryn: When I was in high school, my mom had been telling me how good Pilates would be for my body. But I was a typical teen and thought I knew better. Then I drifted into a class one day and I loved it! She was right again! I immediately asked her to sign me up for her upcoming mat certification. The timing was perfect—I had just graduated high school and was able to teach Pilates part time during college.

Zoey: I was truly excited for her to get certified. Knowing firsthand how important mind-body-spirit practices are, I understood that she was gaining lifelong skills that would serve her not only as a teacher, but as a person on this planet. She got certified with Colleen Glenn and later finished the Peak Pilates System Comprehensive with Clare Dunphy. I have always believed in the concept of “other mothers”—meaning, having strong female role models in her life, women who could share through example how to be strong.

Kathryn: When I finished college, my mom asked me out of all that I had done what I had enjoyed the most. The answer was teaching Pilates. I decided to move to Connecticut and in 2006, we opened InnerSpace Pilates & Yoga.

Zoey: We chose the name InnerSpace because we both envisioned a studio where students could pursue a variety of mind-body-spirit practices—Pilates, yoga, qigong.

Kathryn: I don’t know anyone else who would have put their faith in a 23 year old as a business partner. And I cannot imagine having gone through this journey with anyone else. Our relationship has made our business stronger because we both want what’s best for each other and the best for our studio.

Zoey: When Kathryn was born, I knew that I was holding a great teacher in my arms. Our children teach us so much about ourselves and the world. As Kathryn entered Pilates, she expanded my vision and challenged me to take the work to new places personally and professionally.


Romana Kryzanowska, Sari Mejia Santo and Daria Pace DariaSariRomona

Romana began studying with Joseph and Clara Pilates when she was 17 years old and went on to become one of the best-known teachers of his method. Her daughter Sari and granddaughter Daria also became Pilates teachers and worked together for many years at Drago’s Gym/True Pilates New York. 

Romana: The best part about working with Sari was always having her close and learning from her as well. We lived a block away from each other for 30 years and worked together every week, every day, with trust and companionship. Although it was not always easy, it was the best in every way.

Daria: Since my mom was a single mother, I spent a lot of time at the Pilates studio with my mother and grandmother. I was born with a congenital hip dislocation and got stronger with Pilates. So it has always been a huge part of my life. Then Grandma made a ballet movement class for me and some friends and we did Pilates to strengthen and stretch.

Sari: I wanted Daria to continue her Pilates for her body, but preferred she would be involved in the arts like the rest of our family.

Daria: I decided to do the teacher-training program when I was in college at Emerson in Boston. I finished it right after graduation. Juanita Lopez did all my testing because my mother and grandmother have the highest respect for her and knew she would be professional and fail me if I deserved it. I did not get any special treatment for “who I was” (thank goodness)! In fact, I think they were extra hard on me!

Sari: The best part about working with Daria and my mother was having them near me—and learning from each other and discussing clients with each other. It has been a very difficult adjustment not working with them. [Romana now lives in Texas, while Daria is based in Florida and Sari resides mainly in New York.]

But now, I have a condo in Florida, two minutes away from my daughter and five minutes from our Romana’s Pilates studio. And when I am not in Texas with my mother, I call her every day no matter where I am.

Daria: I can honestly say I used to be so spoiled when I worked with them! Every day I could ask my mother and grandma for their advice about clients and questions on  exercises. Looking back, I was incredibly lucky and will always cherish those times.

Sari : The most important thing I learned from my mother was how important the method is, and if done with consistency and an open mind, how it can work wonders.

Daria: The best part about being around my mother and grandmother [in regard to Pilates] was constantly being around the contagious energy and the enthusiasm that they have put into this work! I can only hope to do a mere fraction of what they have done for people!


Alice Abrams and Elyssa Zion

Alice and her daughter Elyssa work together at Pilates of Boynton Beach, a Pilates and barre studio in Boynton Beach, FL. AliceElyssa

Alice: I’ve been doing Pilates for over 22 years—I even had my own Reformer, Cadillac and Wunda Chair in my home for 11 years (a forced birthday gift from my husband, he didn’t know what he was getting into!). I never encouraged Elyssa to get involved with Pilates, but she saw how wonderful I felt and how flexible I had become.

Elyssa: My mother’s love of Pilates spurred my interest tremendously, so in 1999, when I was 22, I started taking Pilates lessons. I have to admit, I immediately understood why she loved it so much. I got certified two and a half years ago.

Alice: I immediately saw that she was a natural. At the time, Elyssa was considering an alternative to her teaching career that would provide more flexible hours to raise her twin boys. We opened our state-of-the-art studio two years ago. I was thrilled that she would enjoy working along with me!

Elyssa: I have to admit that it is challenging working with your mother, but it is also fun. We have differences of opinion, but always do what’s best for the studio. And actually, we are able to communicate more effectively now. Needless to say, we enjoy working out together and seeing one another more often.

Alice: The best thing about working with Elyssa is bringing the close connection that we have to another level. Our interests and goals for the business are the same. And we set a ground rule from the very beginning that we cannot let our personal lives interfere with the business.

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