Teaching Mixed Level Semi-Private Sessions – Guidelines
Ultimately, Mr. Pilates wanted his clients to be independent in the studio. In the original studio, there really weren’t private sessions. Every client would know his/her exercise routine, would come into the studio and get to work! Mr. Pilates, Clara or one of the assistants would move around cueing the clients. The closest we get to this are mixed level semi-private sessions.
Mixed level semi-private sessions are wonderful, but it seems that a lot of teachers are afraid to teach them. Most teachers experience is taking private sessions or same level semi-privates. Mixed level challenges both the clients and the teacher!
What’s the value of the mixed level semi-private session?
- Clients learn their system and gain independence. The more independent they are, the more you can cue them in precision and stability and advanced them over time.
- Many clients want the same session time. You can put them together
- Clients save money doing semi-privates. The more sessions a week they can afford, the better for them!
- Mixing levels encourages the more beginner client to work harder because she sees more advanced exercises and allows the more advanced client to recognize her progress!
- The more clients you have in a session, the more you make per hour.
Here are some guidelines on how to teach these sessions safely and effectively…Successfully!
Where to begin:
- Try beginning your clients on different apparatus.
Because they will not be doing the same exercise pattern and will have different cues, you might as well start them off on different paths. This way, you can keep the lessons separate and clear. Even if they both started on the same exercise, the pace and cueing would be utterly different and confusing. Don’t even let that happen. Perhaps you have a beginner (who is ready to be in a semi-private and is only doing beginner exercises with beginner stabilization cues) and an intermediate client together. Start your Beginner on the Mat (very safe and stable place to start) and your Intermediate on the reformer (good challenge to start with).
- SAFETY: NEVER TURN YOUR BACK TO A CLIENT!
You must always position yourself in a way that you can see both clients at all times! It doesn’t matter how much walking around you need to do…you must always be able to see both clients! Accidents happen…easily! If you are not watching your client for even a moment your client can get hurt. What if you didn’t see that she didn’t set her springs correctly? What if she’s doing a overhead reformer exercise like Short Spine or Overhead and doesn’t have her headpiece down? What if…many things! You must never have “what ifs”! You must always know what’s going on at all times with all clients! Never turn your back on your client!
- SAFETY: Foot on Foot bar or Pedal
If you have safety regulations like keeping your foot on the reformer foot bar when beginner clients have their hands on the foot bar or foot on the high chair pedal when a beginner is doing Pumping or Going Up Front, then you must be there before your client gets to the apparatus. Safety rules always apply! Never neglect them.
- Physically stand next to and be hands-on to the client who needs you most.
As the session rolls along, you must anticipate who will need you more from one exercise to the other and then be with the one who needs you! If your beginner is doing Rolling Like a Ball on the mat while your intermediate is doing Coordination on the reformer…who needs you more? Your beginner! If your beginner is doing Footwork on the reformer while your intermediate is doing Up Stretch on the reformer…who needs you more? Your intermediate! If your intermediate is doing Jackknife on the mat while your advanced is doing Mermaid on the Reformer, who needs you more? Your intermediate! You get the picture?
- Individualize Your Cues – Different Levels Need Different Cues
Remember that no two levels receive the same style of cueing. Also, cueing comes in two different packages: Precision and Stabilization.
- Precision: As long as you can see both clients, then you can cue them both in precision. Everyone needs precision cues. Don’t forget to give them.
- Stabilization: Your different levels get different stabilization:
- Beginner: Primary Powerhouse/Abdominals – Scoop your abdominals in and up! Deepen your abdominals in and up!
- Intermediate: Primary Powerhouse and 1 additional stabilizer. Teach your intermediate clients thematically. Only 1 additional stabilizer will help focus the session for both you and your intermediate client. Cue one of the following: Shoulder Girdle, Square the Box, Mid-line or Center-line, Opposition
- Advanced: All stabilizers!
- No Exercise Must Pass By Without Cueing! – Both are there for your teaching!
You mustn’t allow an exercise to go by without cueing both clients. Do not become so focused on one client that you forget about the other. It’s tempting to focus so much on your less advanced client that you neglect your more advanced one. Remember that both clients are paying for a session with a teacher. They are independent…to a point! If they wanted to work out without you, then they would sign up for an “open session” and do just that. Ever exercise must have your valuable input!
- Be Present With Both Clients – Hands-On Cue One, Verbal Cue The Other
Clearly, you must be hands-on with one client and then verbally call out to the other. Both clients must feel your presence at all times!
- Never Make A Client Wait For You – Keeping It All Together
You must know this method and the systems so well that you can keep different sessions flowing at the same time. All teachers ought to be able to do this. Here’s how you help your clients and yourself:
- Say the client’s name before her individual instruction…every time. Both clients ears are open to you waiting for information. If you say the client’s name before the cue, you will avoid confusion.
- Call out the name of the next exercise, number or repetitions, the following exercise and apparatus set up for your client. For example, if your client, Melissa, is about to do Short Spine on the reformer, you say, “Melissa, do Short Spine 5 times then Coordination. Take your head piece down, remove 2 springs from the center and shorten your straps.” Then, make sure you cue during the session! Do this for all exercises!
- While your clients are doing separate sessions in the same hour, you do want to try to tie them together at times.
- Cue shared stability when possible. Why not sometimes call out to all of your clients, “Everyone, pull your abdominals in and up!”
- Finish the session at the same time either right next to each other or on the same exercise. All levels can benefit from The Wall. It’s a great way to end a session united! Perhaps you have 2 clients who are both using The Magic Circle. That’s a great united ending. Maybe you have 2 clients who can both do Standing Chest Expansion off-side of the Cadillac.
It takes a lot of concentration and understanding of the Pilates method to teach mixed level semi-private sessions. Whether it be 2, 3 or more clients at once, but it’s wonderfully rewarding for everyone!
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