Holly Holland admits that she didn’t embrace yoga until later in life; and, she started teaching, more or less, by accident. “I was enrolled in a yoga class of about 30 or 40 people, and one day the substitute instructor didn’t show up. People looked at me and said, ‘Holly, why don’t you teach it?’ I remember saying, ‘Well, I can lead the class, but I’m not a teacher.’” Not yet, at least. Inspired by continual learning, she went on to finish hundreds of hours of certification training, traveling back and forth to Cincinnati to do so. What started as a hobby quickly developed into a passion.
“I remember pouring over all the manuals and materials and sometimes feeling close to tears thinking I would never be able to learn all of this,” Holly shares. She recognizes that feeling of frustration in many of her students now. “Children need 20 to 30 times of repeated exposure to learn something. For adults, it is even more difficult because they also have to get rid of all the bad habits that they already have. With this process, you have to give yourself some grace and learn it at your own pace.” Her love for yoga had led her to try Pilates and she admits that because it was so challenging for her at first, she didn’t return to a second class for six months.
Holly started the process of renovating her basement to accommodate for a home studio, both so that she could practice and develop her skill personally and so, ultimately, she could teach from her home. In addition to mirrors, a contractor advised her to lay a sub floor so, in the event of flooding, it could be taken out, dried and (relatively) easily reinstalled. The space also needed to be multi-functional so that large Pilates equipment could be moved to make space for a group yoga class. She experienced some reservations at first: “I didn’t know if people would want to come into my home for classes, but I quickly realized that they loved it. They loved interacting with my dog and they loved it when I was cooking vegetable soup and they could smell it,” she laughs.
When Holly’s sons moved from home, she gave them the furniture from her living room and decided to use that now-empty space as an additional studio to make room for her two Cadillac systems, two Reformers, chairs, Ladder Barrels and Spine Corrector Barrels. Pilates equipment can be quite expensive running into the thousands of dollars per piece. “I used to scour Craigslist to acquire equipment and then upgrade,” she says of building her equipment inventory. “I even had my nephew drive a piece up from New Orleans once.” Her business method was to build a business around the demand rather than invest in a pristine studio and then feel the pressure to sustain it.
Her business eventually outgrew her home (though she maintains her studio), and one year ago, Holly purchased Pilates Village in St. Matthews – Louisville’s largest Pilates studio with 15 teachers. For those that were used to taking classes in her home, they have quickly embraced the communal atmosphere of a larger studio and the opportunity to learn from multiple teachers. Her work can be very personal and very intimate. They teach people with Parkinson’s, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and post-surgical pain and are the only studio in Kentucky that teaches Buff Bones, a medically endorsed system of movement for bone and joint health, safe for those with osteoporosis. “We have to know how to adapt the exercises for each issue,” Holly says of her staff of teachers. “We see a lot of tears from people. There is a lot of release and a lot of relief when people have lived their life with pain and movement dysfunction. It’s a real privilege to get to help them through that.”
Even though Holly no longer teaches in her home studio, you can still schedule private sessions at Pilates Village or pair with someone else for a semi-private class to control cost. There are Reformer classes, mat classes, jump board interval training and opportunities to use mixed equipment among other course options. Regardless, when under the instruction of Holly Holland, you are sure to feel right at home. VT
Pilates Village is located at 4160 Westport Road, Suite D. For more information, visit pilatesvillage.com or call 502.409.4200.
Photos by Tim Valentino.