Life Enrichment
An interview with Pilates instructor and Body Awareness Studio owner Leslie Clayton

An interview with Pilates instructor and Body Awareness Studio owner Leslie Clayton

Leslie Clayton of Body Awareness Studio talks about her beginning in Pilates

How did Body Awareness Studio and the inspiration for it evolve?
It was a gradual process. I didn’t even have a business plan. Many different things happened to set it in motion. In 1992, I was in a car accident where I fractured my pelvis, scapula and clavicle. Just a few weeks after my physical therapy was complete, I had the opportunity to work on a Pilates reformer and was able to experience the benefits from it. A year later while I was teaching adult ballet, one of my students asked me if I had ever heard of Pilates and if I would be willing to learn it and come back and teach it to her. So I went to train in different workshops in New York, California, Colorado and New Mexico, learning from different teachers. In the beginning I didn’t think I was starting a business, I thought I was just learning a new skill for these ladies who wanted to learn from me.

What do you feel you are able to offer through Body Awareness Studio that is unique and valuable?
I learned to appreciate the details of alignment and foundations for beautiful organized movement as a young dancer. I can remember what it feels like to be unsure about taking a step forward. I love to provide people with a safe way to build strength and certainty as they move forward in life. Pilates with body awareness is my favorite way to help people connect to their inner alignment and personal power.

How has your dance background contributed to your work today?
I grew up in Atlanta dancing with local and regional dance theatres. I love dance and it will always be a part of my life. My ballet teacher, Fiona, inspired me a lot. She taught me about hard work and integrity to details. Dance helped me to develop my business -- it gave me confidence, structure and the desire to create.

What are some of the practices that you teach?
Pilates, resistance stretching, inner smile activation, breath empowerment and the conscious wellness program. Breath empowerment is a powerful practice that moves blocked energy through the body and promotes spontaneous healing and cellular renewal. And the conscious wellness program is a step-by-step assessment and redesign of the way that you are feeding your body, mind and emotions.

Who most inspires you?
My mom and my business mentor, Lisa Michaels. These two women stay true to their dreams and life purpose even when others cannot see their vision.

Who are the people and professionals in your life that help you be your best self?
My clients and my fellow Body Awareness instructors. I want to do my best for the people that I am teaching. As I work with some of the most brilliant, health conscious students and professionals, it’s important that I take good care of myself too. I sometimes struggle with dips of fatigue, but when I remember all the people counting on me, I pull myself together and make better choices for living in balance.

You just celebrated 18 years in business. What can you attribute to your longevity?
We love what we are doing here. We actively look for new ways to be in touch with our clients’ needs and provide them with creative and challenging Pilates and other modalities to look good and feel great.

How has the business changed over the past 18 years?   
The biggest difference is that in 1993, it was rare to meet someone in Atlanta who had heard of Pilates and no one was really teaching it in the community. Now there are studios in every part of the city. My studio now has Pilates enthusiasts of all levels and we are the Georgia host site for Balanced Body® teacher training programs.

Can you offer guidance for going into the process you call “Inner Smile Activation”?
1) Find a comfortable seated or standing position.
2) Bring your attention to your spine and feel the distance from the top of your head to the tip of your tailbone.
3) Begin breathing through your nose using a rhythm of four counts in and four counts out. Focus on the breath moving into and out of your body. Stay focused on the sound of the breath at first.
4) Gently stretch the corners of your mouth out to the side and turn them upward until you feel a soft lift in the upper palate of your mouth.
5) Next, breathe while sending that lift up into your central brain. Look for the sensations of opening in your head and sinuses.
6) Keep breathing gently and send the sensations from your brain down into your chest or heart center.
7) Let the energy build in your heart and send it out into every cell in your body as you continue to breathe for the 12 minutes or as long as you choose.