Student Shoutout/Emily

By Kerry De Vivo

The first time Emily and I met was at the 2013 Classical Pilates Conference in Chicago.  After an inspiring weekend of Pilates workouts, workshops, workouts, events, and workouts (a Pilates teacher’s dream weekend), it was at the airport on the way home that I was able to get to know Emily. In waiting for our flights, a small group of us happened to find each other and had time to talk more about ourselves, our studios, and where we are from. Our meeting was ten years ago, and we have since shared so much together. 

Emily has been a steady attendee at all continuing education workshops offered and hosted by Excel Pilates Annapolis (usually twice a year). 


This photo of Emily was taken in 2014. I remember exactly where I was sitting as I witnessed Emily, seemingly effortlessly, demonstrate handstands with the push-up device. And I remember thinking, “WOW, she’s really strong and connected”.

The Pilates plot thickens in 2015 Emily opened EMJ Pilates in West Reading, Pennsylvania.  In 2021 Emily completed the Excel Pilates Teacher Mentor Program at Excel Pilates Annapolis, and Emily recently completed an additional teacher training program with Chris Robinson of Pilates and Sports in San Diego.  Since the pandemic, every Wednesday morning from Maryland to Pennsylvania, Emily and I meet remotely for her sessions. We have a great time and some A-M-A-Z-I-N-G- Pilates happens! 

I asked Emily a few questions about her Pilates experiences as a student and teacher. Here’s what she had to say…

What inspired you to start Pilates sessions?

During the pandemic, I was suffering physically from a hamstring injury and emotionally from disconnection.  Virtual Pilates came to the rescue!  As an instructor, I believe it is essential to be a student continually.  I hadn’t been a consistent student of Pilates for a while, and my motivation to do my own workouts suffered.  Now on a weekly schedule with Kerry, I have the discipline to continue working on things we focus on during my own sessions alone in the studio. I learn so much from Kerry’s knowledge that I can not only take what I learn into my own body but I can apply it as I teach others.

What inspired you to train to teach Pilates?

I’ve always felt that I am a natural teacher.  I originally thought it would be in the education system, but I quickly realized that wasn’t a good fit for me.  After taking Pilates and teaching mat classes part-time for a few years, I realized that teaching Pilates full-time and owning a studio was how I could combine my love of movement with my innate teaching abilities.  I’d been an athlete, primarily in tennis and soccer, in high school and college, but I had never felt as strong and flexible as when I started Pilates.  I took gymnastics as a child, and some of the Pilates exercises gave me the same playful feeling I had through gymnastics.  There is always a new challenge in Pilates and I love that I can continue to grow and progress, and I love helping my clients do the same!

How has your Pilates practice affected your life? Your activities? Your teaching?

My hamstring injury has healed, but as a tennis player, there is always a new pain lurking.  I’ve suffered shoulder injuries, wrist and hand injuries, knee pain, and tightness I never had before I started playing 5-6 days a week.  Despite these aches and pains, I love that I never have to stop practicing Pilates.  I may need a break from the tennis court to allow things to heal, but Pilates can accommodate whatever is currently ailing me.

In all my activities, I’m more mindful of my movement and willing to try new things.  I recently took up indoor rock climbing which is one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done, but I felt strong and confident enough to try it knowing the stability and mobility I’ve gained through Pilates.  

In life, I’ve gained so much confidence in my relationships with others, in my teaching abilities, and in how I feel about myself and my body.  

From feeling confident as a Pilates instructor, I decided to challenge myself again and recently earned my certification as a PTR Tennis Instructor and teach young children in group and individual lessons on a part-time basis.

What is one of your favorite Pilates exercises? 

I love, love, love Semi-circle on the Reformer!  It makes me feel like a superhero. I love how it makes my spine feel AMAZING, and the range of motion I’ve gotten over the years is a testament to how this thing called Pilates really works!   

How have you progressed in your personal Pilates practice? Where do you notice progress?

Since working with Kerry, I’ve seen incredible progress in really finding the connection to my powerhouse in every exercise.  Prior to our work together, I thought of the abdominals as one unit, and now I can distinguish clearly between my upper and lower abdominals.  As an athlete, I can easily “muscle-through” exercises.  When my arms and legs feel free or when I feel like I’m floating, I know I’m doing it right.  The connection of my arms to my back and using my glutes and inner thighs to give my quads a break has also noticeably improved. 

Thinking back to watching Emily do the handstand in the 2014 workshop in her sessions today, it’s hard to think she could get stronger than she already was. But, this Pilates stuff is for real and so is Emily’s dedication and progression.  Even teachers progress. It is so inspiring to see how Emily challenges herself as well. For example, when given the option to use a more progressed option in Pilates, Emily always chooses that. For example, doing the stomach massage series on the Wunda Chair in this orientation. Impressive, right?  Thanks, Emily for lighting us up with your inspiring story.