Positive Cueing – Teach What To Do, Not What Not To Do!
“Don’t arch your back!”
“Don’t bend your knee!”
“Don’t lift your shoulder blades!”
Don’t Don’t Don’t! I hear a lot of Don’ts in studios all around the world. Where are the Do’s? Where is the teaching? You’re job as a teacher is to teach what to do, not what not to do!
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or even a quality teacher to see what’s wrong and point it out. This goes for Pilates or anything else in the world. It doesn’t even take any ability to say what would have been right. What makes a teacher; what separates a real teacher from just another instructor is the one who can tell a client what to do and how to get there! True teaching is a positive art form.
If I have an ounce of quality in me, I’d better get to teaching you how, right about now!
As I always declare, you must know the Pilates method so well in theory and in continual practice on your own body and on clients that when you teach a Pilates session you can figure out what your client needs to actively do to approach achieving the ideal of a Pilates exercise. Remember it’s not important that your clients actually do each exercise in its ideal form. It’s not important that your clients get it “perfectly” (that is impossible). What is important is that your clients are working appropriately toward an ideal of an exercise because in that journey, she will develop the stability, strength, stretch and stamina to create a healthier more balanced body and mind.
If you know this method so very well, when your client requires cues either of precision or stability, then you will be able to tell your client what to do. Yes, that is the job of a teacher…tell what to do: teach.
When a teacher instructs by using “don’t” there is rarely the follow up of “do”. It’s common to teach in negatives. It’s easy to see what’s going wrong. Most of your dance teachers, sports coaches and more told you what not to do and then left it up to you to figure out what you’re supposed to do. It’s only natural to teach the way that you’ve been taught. So, teaching in negatives is a common habit. But why should the non-expert (the student/client) have to figure out what to do when the expert (the teacher/instructor/coach) ought to have all of the answers. When we teach our clients, the purpose of the session for them is not critical thinking (that is how we teacher trainers teach our apprentices). When we teach our clients, the purpose of the session for them is a physical endeavor. Mental, too, but not an intellectual endeavor of a teacher.
Here is an example:
Your client is on the mat doing Single Straight Leg Stretch/Scissors in the Abdominal Series. If you say, “Don’t bend your knee!” Your client now has to figure out what to do. She knows what not to do, but she has to go and expend the extra effort of figuring out what to do. You might think that it’s absolutely obvious what she ought to do. She’s got to straighten her leg. Then I wonder…why didn’t you say that in the first place? Why did you make your client need to figure it out for herself when it is your job to figure it out for her. Tell your clients what to do.
Here is another example. Perhaps one that is less obvious:
Your client is doing “The Round” on the Short Box. As your client is rounding backwards you see that her lower back/lumbar is arching. You say, “Don’t arch your back”. Again, I say that this is not teaching. You must tell what to do. She doesn’t it again and you say, “Round your back”. That’s better! Sure! Far better, but I bet you can do better than that. I bet you can really teach. What if you say, “Lift your abdominals in and up to lift your lower back. Then curl your tailbone forward as your round your lower back backward in opposition.” WHOA! That’s a lot of effort…for both of you! That effort from you is quality teaching. The return will be quality movement from your student! Her body will change in the manner in which she wanted and everyone will be satisfied!
You’ve got to invest yourself in your teaching. If you find yourself saying, “Don’t…” in your session, then finish your phrase, but immediately follow it up with “Do…” and effectively teach your client. It’s pretty simplistic. It just takes a little bit of effort. Ultimately, you give yourself and your clients the gift of a lot of effort by truly figuring out exactly what needs to happen to make the exercise work for the client…or make the client work for the exercise!
Do teach! Do make the effort! “Do” is so very encouraging and empowering for both client and teacher! None of us like to be told “don’t”!
****Thank you for reading! Please add your comments, ask questions and/or request a future blog in the comment box below! Your input is important to me! Have fun teaching Pilates!****
Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: cueing, fitness, Joseph H. Pilates, Los Angeles Pilates, New York Pilates, Personal Training, Pilates, pilates instructor, pilates teacher, Shari Berkowitz, shoulder blades, the vertical workshop.