Independence: It’s fundamental to Pilates!
Happy 4th of July! I promise this will be all about Pilates…this lead-in sets the stage:
Americans celebrate with backyard pool parties, rooftop beers and barbecues, lakeside picnics and seaside clam bakes all before the spectacle of fireworks lighting up the summer night sky, bringing the stars a little closer for one night. It’s the epitome of American summer. I do wonder how many people remember that it’s actually Independence Day that we celebrate on July 4th. The one concept that ties Americans together as Americans. We are a country of different religions, different motherlands, different races, but we have the same desire: Independence! Freedom to be whoever you wish; however you want, so long as you are not harming another who has the same rights as you in this country.
That’s mighty powerful! Today we officially celebrate our Independence! We can even honor those who actively did and do fight the wars as well as those who packed up everything they had and took a boat, plane or train or even walked or swam to get here! Today is the official day of celebration, but we can celebrate this everyday in big and small ways simply by honoring this for ourselves and everyone we interact with directly or indirectly.
How does this relate to Pilates?! Mr. and Mrs. Pilates emigrated from Germany creating an indirect family of Pilates teachers, instructors and enthusiasts who have great liberties in life. I can hardly imagine another country where Mr. Pilates’ method of body conditioning, Contrology, could have thrived so well as to become an international sensation and stronghold. Perhaps it’s the capitalistic part of our particular democracy that gave it the ability to grow…no doubt…but here we are and I’m grateful!
Aside from this, Independence is a fundamental to Pilates. It was Mr. Pilates’ intention that his students become independent in their workouts and lead physically independent lives.
It’s awfully tempting to work your clients in a way that encourages them to depend on you. As a business owner, you are concerned about losing your clientele and want to make sure they need you. I get it. But…you do them a disservice if this is how you run your business. The more independence you give your clients, the more you actually teach them to do for themselves, the more excited they get about their progress! In fact, they will progress! Human beings are intrinsically motivated when given the opportunity. That means, they will move forward and take on tasks for no other reason than that it actually feels good to accomplish and learn and create! They will stay in your studio because they feel accomplished!
When we teach our clients in a way that makes them more independent, they progress in their sessions making positive physical and emotional changes and ultimately want more Pilates…because it physically and emotionally feels great! You’re developing a relationship with your clients that is built on healthy growth…this is the way to not only have a successful business, but a successful life!
How do you foster independence in your Pilates sessions?
- NAMES: Call out the name of each exercise before you even set them up for it. Once your client starts the learn the names, she will set up and get started on her own, eventually. This makes for smooth transitions, saving time and allowing for teaching within known exercises (refinement of precision and cues for stabilization) as well as teaching new exercises. Simply naming the exercises adds to the independence of your client!
- ORDER OF EXERCISES: Maintain a consistent order of exercises in your session with each client. When we teach classically, we use Mr. Pilates’ order of exercises on the mat and reformer. They are repeated over and over again each session. Sometimes we’ll start on the reformer, other times on the mat, to both challenge the body and mind in different ways, but we always keep the same order of exercises. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that this repetition helps the client become more independent simply by remember what comes next!
- SET UPS and REPETITIONS: Eventually, your clients ought to learn how to set up each apparatus for each exercise and learn the number of repetitions for each exercise. Please, by the time your client has had 5 sessions, start teaching him how to do the springs, footbar, headpiece, straps and long/short box on the reformer. When the wunda chair enters the workout, teach your client how to do the springs. When the cadillac/trapeze table becomes regular, teach that, too! The more your client can do on his own when with you, the more freedom he’ll have later on. Same thing with repetitions. If your client starts to learn the number of repetitions, he’ll be able to do them at home on the mat or solidly in a semi-private session. Briefly explain why there are only 3-5 repetitions or a maximum 10 for some. (If you don’t know…ask me!)
- SEMI-PRIVATE SESSIONS: It’s very tempting to teach private sessions only in your studio. It seems easier to schedule, it even appears profit effective, but it is very controlling and limits your clients ability to become independent. It creates an over-dependence on the teacher. Your clients are economically elite, I understand, and they want what they want which is private sessions. However, you’re the expert and it’s your job to teach them what they don’t know: Private lessons alone are not the most ideal way of doing Pilates. While they ought to start with private sessions and truly learn the foundation of Pilates eventually, they only need a private here and there. Semi-private/shared sessions are where clients can truly progress in the mind and body. We have to remember that Pilates is not just a mindless workout. It’s intention is for a truly mindful workout…a workout of the mind as well as the body. With that, when a client is fed loads of cues (verbal and hands-on) for the entire 55 minutes and never has to think for himself, then we are doing our clients a disservice. During a semi-private, naturally, there are times when one client has more of the teacher’s attention than the other, allowing that other client the time to work on his own a bit. A tremendous sense of accomplishment comes over a person when he can do something on his own!
- OPEN STUDIO: When a client has achieved a strong intermediate level knowing the order of exercises, set ups and actions of each exercise, safety of each apparatus and actually knows enough of this to competently do a 55 minute session, allow your clients to do an Open Studio session. At a reduced rate, let your clients sign up to work themselves out. You ought to already have a card system that notates what exercises your clients do. Let your client use that as a guide. Of course, you keep your eye on that client as you are teaching your other scheduled session and make sure that safety measures are observed on each apparatus. That is vital. Your client must not do and Open Studio session when no one else is there or if there is no way that her safety can be observed.
- HOMEWORK: Why not give your client homework to do. Maybe not at first, but after the 3 sessions or so, give your client some mat exercises to do at home. When your client is going away on vacation or out of town on business, give them a list of exercises or a small handout that explains a bit more so he can practice! Did you read the article in the March/April 2010 PilatesStyle Magazine “Inner Strength: How Pilates helped a wrongfully jailed woman stay sane in Iran”?! It’s the story of Haleh Esfandiari who studied Pilates as a client for many years. When she found herself in jail in Iran, she created a fitness regimen for herself. She says that Pilates kept her sane…not to mention healthy! Of course! She remembered enough of her workouts that she was able to use it in the most awful situation! There’s the extreme! Let us never be in that situation, but, instead, find ourselves in a lovely inn on vacation and start each day with some Pilates!
And what’s the point of it all anyway? Well, physical independence in life! Of course! My father’s parents were old at 65. I remember my grandmother with a crutch and doctors appointments. I remember her not being able to lift a box or bend to get a pot from under the counter let alone lift a grandchild or swim in the lake. Everyone had to do everything for her. As a little girl, I was so afraid that that might be my lot in life too! I wanted to find a way to stay as physically independent as possible. I believe Pilates is it!
Surely, there are many people who even with Pilates have physical struggles, but our chances of being able to maintain physically active lives are greater when we do this sort of exercise! Mr. Pilates looked awfully vital through his 70’s and into his early 80’s until the fire that ultimately lead to his death. Our Pilates elders are struttin’ along with strength and vitality…this bodes well for us! I have clients who were growing more and more disabled by stiffness and weakness which in turn made them more and more afraid to move who once they started Pilates as a regular practice became more and more physically adept again and emotionally encouraged! Let’s maintain our physical independence and that of our clients with Pilates!
Did you know that Mr. Pilates created the exercise “Going Up Front” on the High Chair for a woman who could no longer step up onto the city bus’ first step from the side walk? Nowadays, buses “kneel” or tilt towards the sidewalk so it’s easier for older people to get on, but back-in-the-day, this hydraulic action didn’t exist. So, Mr. Pilates created this exercise to strengthen her and now the rest of us to be able to take a huge step up! INDEPENDENCE!
Please, encourage independence in your studio. Teach your clients to do for themselves and let them grow!
****Thank you for reading! Please take a moment to comment on this subject, just say hi, ask a question, request a topic for me to write about! I’d love to hear from you! If you’re in the NY area and would like to take a session with me, contact me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com If you’d like for me to come to your studio, whether near or far, to teach sessions and/or workshops, please, also e-mail info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com Again…Thank You!****
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