The balance between school, homework, a part-time job, family commitments, a social life and – somehow – eight hours of sleep a night leaves little time for anything else, especially caring for the body. To combat all of these extra responsibilities, a lot of teens turn to social media on their mobile phones or other devices to organise their home and school life on one platform. But with this comes yet another problem, one that founder of Body Organics studio, Carla Mullins, is only too aware of.

“Portable devices distort posture,” says Carla. Devices like tablets and mobile phones have poor ergonomic design and can cause neck pain, migraine pain, forearm pain, and stiff joints.

Operating in West End for over 15 years, Body Organics has always had a focus on personal fitness and working with clients, driven by Carla’s passion.

“In 1993, when I first started pilates no one knew what it was, my mother thought I’d joined a cult,” she laughs. “Different people are going to find different things that work for them. When you find it, you have to commit. For me, pilates just worked.”

Body Organics started organising classes specifically for teens to meet rising demand. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that on average Australian teens are spending 18 hours a week online, with most of that time being spent logged into social media. The use of handheld devices and hunching over computer screens is thought to play a key role in the increase in posture and repetitive strain injuries being recorded in teens.

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“A lot of people don’t know the appropriate stretches,” says Carla. Many people, adults and teens alike, use static stretches rather than dynamic stretches which explore a complex range of movement. Others simply don’t stretch at all. The classes teach teens appropriate exercises they can perform at home when using devices that put strain on muscles and posture.

“We have to be careful when development is occurring to prevent damage to joints and ligaments.”

Pilates may not be something typically associated with young people, however the physiotherapist designed classes at the West End studio are specially catered to the needs of attendees. Classes for teens are often shorter than those for adults, running from anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour to reflect their different needs. There are also fewer students per teacher to ensure that the teens are getting the individual attention throughout the session.

Body Organics has classes for teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 16, as well as classes for teen boys and child classes from as young as 5 years of age. They also have classes for elite teen athletes focusing on training safely as the body changes.

Beyond the physical benefits, classes are also helping to combat mental health issues like poor body image, lower self-esteem and anxiety, which have also been on the rise in the digital media age.

“We are always careful of the language we use,” Carla says. “It’s not about weight loss. It’s about being healthy, not being thin.”

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Body Organics makes sure to promote a healthy image of body, with teachers monitoring negative language in classes and promotional material depicting a range of body types. Beyond the physical benefits, students are also reporting increased levels of concentration and focus, both from the relief of pain and from the mindfulness principles behind the program. Of course, the students all have fun during the sessions, all of them now firm friends though many of them started off as strangers.

“They want to take responsibility for their own health, they’re learning how to do that.”

Body Organics has studios in West End, Chelmer and Annerley. Teen classes run each week. For more information contact Body Organics on (07) 3846 0800 or see their website.

Words by Sarah Neilsen
Images supplied by Big Splash Communications