After spending even just a few moments with Julee Jones, one is able to grasp her loving, caring character and the immense joy she receives from helping others. Take the calming drive out to her Bellevue studio, The Pilates Place, and enter an oasis that seems miles away from our fast-paced lives in Nashville. Whether you are there for a group class, a one-on-one session or just to chat, as I had the pleasure of doing, the environment Julee has created is comforting and welcoming. Housed in a historic residence, the studio feels more like returning home than stepping into an exercise studio. Julee sat across from me in a living room setting and shared stories about her work with cancer patients and her journey as a Pilates teacher. After being in the hot seat, Julee turned the tables and displayed her true talents as a teacher by giving me a brief introduction to the art of Pilates. While our conversation shone light on who Julee is, working with her on the equipment, in her comfort zone, was even more telling. Read on to be motivated and humbled by Julee and the work that she does.
What brought you to Nashville and when did you arrive?
I have lived in Nashville since 1992 and relocated because of work. I feel like I am from the South; I have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else.
Why did you choose to open your studio in Bellevue?
Bellevue has always been a quiet place … I transitioned from the commercial sphere because of the environment that I wanted to be in all day, selfishly, and I wanted to have more control over the environment that I offered to my clients. I opened my studio in 2002 with one client, and things have grown from there. At this studio, we offer three modalities: yoga, Pilates and barre. I would describe the spaces as intimate.
How did you enter the world of exercise, and what led you to become a certified cancer exercise specialist?
I found Pilates to treat my neck and spine after an automobile accident. I had to find an exercise modality that could strengthen the core muscles of my body and the core muscles that wrap around the spine—to support my head and my neck. A lot of women carry their tension in their neck and in their shoulders, and what we teach in Pilates is to control and move through the core muscles to support the structure of the body—instead of just relying on the neck and shoulders to hold you up.
So, on a side note, I have people come in and we do a postural assessment. This is for clients of all kinds. I work with clients’ neck and back issues, scoliosis, fibromyalgia … a multitude of issues. The traditional gyms are not going to offer them what they feel they need—that is not only in the modality work that I do, but in the environment space that I offer. A lot of people come in for one-on-ones, and when I work with them, we have to pick and choose what is going to strengthen that body and what are they able to do when they come in that day. Not everybody who comes here is looking to lose weight. People just want that feeling of centeredness and strength. I have worked with professional golfers, triathletes, show riders and cyclists—people who are very physically active, but need to do exercises for the weaker parts of their bodies so they feel more balanced. Also, so that the body can be balanced so that it coordinates with itself. Centering, control and coordination are three very important principles of Pilates.
I first worked with a client who had been diagnosed with Hodgkins. but was cured of it. She has been working with me for several years and wanted to keep her body strong. Joanna Montgomery was the first one who had an existing cancer diagnosis that I worked with. We worked on body strengthening and controlled movements. It was important to connect the mind, body and spirit. Those going through chemotherapy and radiation need to move in an atmosphere without toxic cleaners and germs and I wanted to provide that. (Editor’s Note: Joanna Montgomery, featured as a FACES of Nashville in 2014, passed away in July of ovarian cancer.)
Joanna was quite a remarkable woman, and she inspired me to learn more–she encouraged me to take the path to get certified. I realized all I didn’t know, and I wanted to understand cancer better—how it works, how it affects the body and all of the different types. My objective is to have an understanding of diagnosis and treatment, have an understanding of surgeries, and to understand signs and symptoms.
What are the direct benefits of Pilates?
Weight loss, balance, strength. This is a place to be free. It is an intimate, comfortable experience where you can be comfortable with what is happening with your body. Pilates, created by Joseph Pilates, is based upon the six principles of control, concentration, centering, breath, fluidity and precision.
Benefits of Pilates include improved concentration, coordination, balance, release of muscle tension, improved flexibility and joint mobility, enhanced posture and endurance, and a stronger powerhouse (abdominal and lower back muscles). Those who practice Pilates also notice a better body awareness and stronger, sleeker muscles without bulk, as well as a greater energy and confidence.
How has exercise and your work with cancer patients impacted your life?
I just marvel at the courage of people who make the choice to strengthen their bodies through treatment. I have such an appreciation and level of respect for them. I am grateful they have sought me out in their journey. I am just the helper; it is their choice, and they do the work. It is courageous and admirable.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
And the Good News Is …: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side, by Dana Perino. I love to read books in which women share what they have learned and what they love. Dr. Oz’ You: The Owner’s Manual and Pilates for the Dressage Rider, by Janice Dulak—she explores the movement between her and her horse.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and who gave it to you?
I trained under Romana Kryzanowska, who was a student of Joseph Pilates, and she told me I would have to teach for five years before I would really learn Pilates. There is so much to learn, and I have to remind myself [of] that each time I am working with a brand new body and person; people change with each visit. You never know who is walking through the door. As a teacher, I cannot assume too much, and I must be present, working with that body because each time is a new experience.
Do you have a favorite local restaurant?
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
My Kangen water machine, fall weather (leaves turning, fires burning, the smells, cooler weather), and the ocean and white sand.
Thank you, Julee, for the work you’re doing to improve the quality of life of our fellow Nashvillians. And thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful images. See more of her work at ashleyhylbert.com.