What’s The Point Of It All?!

September 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm 9 comments

Do you take a moment before each session, even before each exercise to remember the goals?  Let’s do that right now and recall that the goals in Pilates are to use each exercise and ultimately the entire session to help teach actions that work to bring your client toward a more balanced body and mind…and all that goes with that, not to match each body up to the photo image of the ideal shape of each exercise.

Within each exercise, let’s find the correct version of that exercise for that particular day or point in your client’s (our your) development.  We often have to “work towards” the ideal and aren’t just simply there automatically…let alone every day.  Some days, The Hundred is with legs 2 inches off the floor…The Ideal.  Other days, for the same person, The Hundred has legs at 45°.  Some days, Stomach Massage on the reformer, you’re sitting with your pelvis all the way against the edge of the carriage, practically sitting on the springs.  Other days, you can barely keep your pants from sliding down on Stomach Massage Reach Back.  We must make sure we teach and do for the day and progress each exercise over time.  Nearly no one is the photo ideal of an exercise on session 1 or even session 101.  So…figure out what the point of the exercise is; what we’re trying to develop through that exercise and make sure that is achieved.  That is the goal!

Make sure the goal of the exercise is achieved no matter how modified you need to get.  Do the least amount of modification necessary to get the desired actions.

Let’s look at the classic Teaser.  What’s the point of doing Teaser with straight legs if your client’s action with in the exercise lacks opposition, space in the spine and legs drop below 45°.  Sure she has straight legs!  Sure she looks like the photo “pose”…sort of…but what’s the point?  Look at the heart and soul of each exercise and determine are we actually learning from the exercise and training this body into the actions of the exercise or a snapshot of one point of the exercise?  The Teaser strengthens the abdominals, with opposition stretches open the lumbar spine, strengthens the multifidi in the effort of lifting the lumbar spine, challenges the hip flexors by keeping those femurs up at 45°.  So…bend the knees if you have to!   Keep those femurs up, keep the pelvis in a posterior tilt so the client has an opportunity for opposition from the abdominals vs. the base of the pelvis and lift of the lumbar from the multifidi.  And, let’s not forget it’s the effort on the way up into the balance and the way back to the mat that is essential in the Teaser.  Not just the balance. The photo snapshot of the middle of the exercise will come in time…and if it doesn’t…who cares?!  It’s the action of each part of the exercise that matters and working to achieve the correct actions…not the correct photo.

Your client is doing Standing Chest Expansion and can press the bar all of the way to her thighs, but in the effort to do so, rather than working to open her collar bone/expand her chest…she presses her ribcage forward.  Well, the goal of the exercise is to use the roll back bar for opposition so that the client can find support from her abdominals and multifidi to lift her vertebrae away from each other while challenging the stability of the torso and of the scapulae, all the while both stretching the neck and strengthening the back of the arms.  Does any of this happen when the bar goes so low that she can’t maintain torso stability and in lieu of opening her collar bones and stabilizing her scapulae she forces her chest out?  Right.  So, remember the goals and work to achieve those.  Keep the torso stable while open the collar bones only so much as the torso doesn’t move…press the bar less, lift more.  Maybe next week or next year or 20 years from now (or never), that bar will go lower…and everything else will be stable and lifted!

When I had my studio in Beverly Hills, I didn’t have mirrors.  OK, one in the bathroom and where people put their bags, etc., but none in the studio space.  Why?  Because I didn’t want clients looking in the mirror to see if they made the shape of one part of an exercise.  I wanted them to have a physical experience, not a visual or intellectual one.  Their personal progress was based on a deep inner ability that developed over time and had nothing to do with what an exercise looked like.

I often say “Teach!  Don’t be afraid to teach!”  Please, give a small modification that will allow your client to actually do the action of the exercise.  Then challenge her when she has developed the strength.  (Remember, we mustn’t keep our clients in modifications if they are now strong enough to move on…)  And do this for yourself in your workouts.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing Pilates for 20 years.  There is great no shame in using a modification.  We have to make sure that we encourage this in our clients and ourselves.  Most of the time, I don’t let my clients know they are getting a modification because that word, alone, makes our clients get competitive and want what they don’t need.  So, if you try a version of  an exercise that doesn’t work and you’ve given some cues to make it better, but it still is not happening, then say “Try this version…it will get you deeper into the exercise”.  Avoid any phrases like “this will be easier for you”, “that way was too hard for you”.  Please try not encourage rather than diminish.

Another tool you can use to help your clients within their appropriate version of an exercise…is…NOT showing exercises.  Please use your words, images, hands-on cues.  Please don’t show exercises.  They will see the outward shell…the moving picture, but not the effort on the inside that creates those pictures.  Let them have the opportunity of achieving over time, with effort, often times going from a modification to an eventual ideal version of an exercise.

So, give your client the Half-Roll Down if he needs it because his abdominals pop out and his back is stiff and his legs lift on The Roll Up.  Give your client Teaser with bent legs and thighs still (always) at a 45° angle  if when he rolls up, he lacks opposition with his abdominals, can’t balance behind his tailbone and his legs want to drop.  Do only the parts of The Tree that your client really needs.  Etc.  Etc.  Remember what each exercise is for…what the actions of the exercise are meant to develop within the client.  Then give the appropriate version and appropriate cues for those actions to happen…and both you and your clients will be very pleased with the positive results…indeed!  As your client gets stronger and stronger within each exercise…start to challenge even closer toward the ideal version.

Enjoy teaching!

****Thank you for taking the time to read this post and continue your education in this way!  If you have any questions, comments, etc…please drop me a note in the comment section.  Then read below about workshops coming your way or sessions.  Thank you, again!****

September 16-18 
I’m teaching on Saturday, September 17 from 1:30-4:30pm
Mr. Pilates’ Archival Mat and Standing Exercises
There are many more versions of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today.  Variations, modification, combinations of multiple exercises in one!  Fascinating, challenging and all the rest!  These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago.  They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need the modification or challenge!  Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!
For more information and registration, go to:  https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/education/pilates-on-tour/new-york.html
September 24
NYC – Real Pilates
Archival Exercise:  Beyond The Everyday – 3-6pm – $120
(3PMA CECs pending)
Joseph Pilates created somewhere between 500-600 exercises. You know some of the repertoire…it’s time to learn more. In this workshop, you will learn you rarely seen and immediately useful exercises on multiple apparatus (Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Standing Arm Springs) all created by Joseph Pilates. You’ll leave feeling confident in the purpose and technique of teach exercise, have time to do exercises, practice teaching and ask questions. You’ll walk away with your own special archive of exercises for your strong intermediate clients…and yourself!
To register go to www.realpilatesnyc.com  
October 20
CHICAGO – Body Endeavors/Chicago Pilates Collective
Sessions:  Privates and Semi- Private Sessions
More information to follow, but plan on afternoon and evening sessions and classes.
Contact Liv Berger for more information at LBERGER31@CS.COM
or call 312.202.0028
October 21-23
I’m teaching on Saturday, October 22 from 1:30-4:30pm
Mr Pilates’ Archival Mat and Standing Exercises –
There are many more versions of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today.  Variations, modification, combinations of multiple exercises in one!  Fascinating, challenging and all the rest!  These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago.  They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need the modification or challenge!  Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!
For more information and registration go to: https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/education/pilates-on-tour/chicago.html

October 2 
Rhinebeck Pilates
Semi Private Sessions
Creative Spine Corrector Workshop
The Spine Corrector is one of the most underused yet extremely versatle pieces of equipment designed by Mr. Pilates. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to transform your Spine Corrector into one of the most useful pieces of apparatus in your studio!  You will learn how to do and teach an entire flowing workout/ session on the Spine Corrector as well as how to use just a handful of exercises to enhance a full workout.  With over 40 exercises, there’s a lot to work on and discover.  You will also learn how to organize the exercises, how to position the clients on the apparatus and where to be spot and cue the exercises as the teacher.  It’s surprising how special and important you’ll find the Spine Corrector.

Dates, times and rates coming soon!

Go to www.RhinebeckPilates.com for more informaiton

November 5
Enhance Your Teaching Skills – 2:30-4pm
(3PMA CECs pending)
The more you teach, the more you need.  Great Pilates doesn’t come from more and more exercises.  Mr. Pilates created a set number of exercises in the classical Pilates Method.  We work within those exercises.  Great Pilates is about digging deeper and deeper in to the physical understanding of the Pilates Method.  In this workshop, Shari will teach you to see more of what you need to cue in your teaching.  We cue precision and stabilization in layers.  Develop your eye and your understanding.  If you do this, you will always be able to challenge your students as well as yourself for a lifetime of Pilates!

To register, contact Emilie at Re:AB at 212.420.9111 or by e-mail at center@reabnyc.com

November 13

Madison, CT – Pilates Barn

Pilates for Seniors – 11am-1:30pm – $100
2.5PMA CECs (pending)
Working with an aging population is great, but we must understand their special needs.  What are the common conditions of the agin client?  How do you drive a workout at his/her level? What are some modifications or new exercises to do?  What are some great tools to use.  You’ll leave this workshop feeling more confident that you know what to do and what not to do with your senior clients.

Teaching Tower Class:  How to Create and Actively Teach 
2p-4:30p – $100
2.5 PMA CECs (pending)
Apparatus classes are a big part of our growing Pilates world.  You teach them, but you were never trained for them.  In your tower classes, there are people of all levels, many who have never seen or been on the tower and then there are some who are pretty advanced, as well.  How do you create a class that takes care of them all?  Let’s take the time to learn how to create really safe, strong and challenging classes on the tower.  There are special guidelines and progressions you can follow and great ways to make a fantastic class for everyone…including you as the teacher!

To register, contact Lori at Lori@PilatesBarn.com or 203.214.3213

December 9-11
Boston, MA – Atelier Pilates (Somerville, MA)

Friday, Dec 9
Trios 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30
Cost: $60.00 per person
Saturday, Dec 10
Workshop:  Flow and Rhythm: Use your voice  to drive and command the session – 10a-12n
Cost: $80
Class/Workout:  Mat with Archival Variations
Cost: $25.00 per person
Workshop: Archival Mat and Standing Exercises – 1:45p-4:45p
Cost: $120
Sunday, Dec 11
Workshop: Shoulder Girdle: A Delicate Balance – 9a-12n
Cost: $120
Class/Workout: Reformer on the Mat
Cost: $25.00 per person
Workshop: Great Groups and Sensational Semis – 1:30p-4:30[
Cost: $120
To register or questions:
There’s plenty in the works…but on the books already:
June 2012 – London, ENGLAND – more information to follow!
***Please share this information and tell your Pilates teacher friends and colleagues to come on over for workouts and workshops that will get your Pilates-teaching-juices flowing.***
Again, these are not your typical workshops where you might get just one useful tidbit.  You will leave full of new teaching skills and ways to look at Mr. Pilates work.  You will have a new perspective on Pilates that will enliven your teaching and your own workouts!
Shall we set up something at your studio or the one you work at?  Clearly, I travel to teach and enjoy it!  Read below for more info!

Workshops in Your Studio:
If you are interested in my teaching workshops and/or semi-private sessions for your teachers at your studio, please contact me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com  I’ll be thrilled to put together a program with you for your needs!

While my vocabulary is classical Pilates, the principles behind my teaching and workshops apply to every style of Pilates.

We have countless topics to play with within technique workshops of classical Pilates and teaching skills workshop that apply to all!

If you’re in NYC and want a Pilates session e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com
And I’m at Purchase College (Near White Plains/Westchester, NY) on Thursdays.

If you’d like a workshop and/or semi-privates at your studio, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com  I travel all over the world and would be thrilled to come to you!

If you’d like to set up a meeting on the phone or in person to ask questions about teaching or building/maintaining your business, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com

Enjoy!- Shari

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First Things First… Curl Your Chin To Your Chest? No Thank You!

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jodie  |  September 25, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Such a great post, I really enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to help us. I appreciate it.

  • 2. jodie  |  September 25, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I have a question, what do you think about offering free sessions? I don’t agree with it personally because I think it “cheapens” the profession. People don’t expect a doctor or any other professional service they are visiting for the first time to give them a free visit/session. Now I am not saying that for regular clients I may not have an incentive for them and offer a free session.
    I am just curious what you think about this. Thanks

    • 3. theverticalworkshop  |  September 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Hi, Jodie,
      It’s good to hear from you!
      This is an interesting question…thank you for asking. It’s important that we run our business as a business. No other business gives things away for free. You are correct. I’m really, really big on encouraging Pilates teachers to take themselves and their work seriously and not diminish themselves. Sometimes, though, “Free” is a great way to break down the wall of reluctance and get people in the studio. However, my experience is that most people who either come in with a discount or free session don’t turn into full-paying clients. Because people who can afford Pilates don’t care about discounts. Still, there are some circumstances when it is a really useful tool:
      1 – Offer one free group class off-site if you’re trying to encourage a specific group of people to come to your studio. For example, Mommy & Me groups, athletic groups/team sports, an office that has an exercise program and space in the facility. If you go in an teach one special free class in their own space…that is often an incentive for people to come to you the next time. Even so…if you went there and charged a fee…you’d still probably get those same clients…you’ll just have more in the class if it’s free. Just going there is the incentive they need.

      2 – Offer a free trial on the apparatus. Maybe a limited number of slots a week for a 30-minute session. You can’t do this all of the time because your time is precious…but maybe Mon and Wed you have 2 30-minute slots available? (I don’t know…I just created this idea on the spot…but it seems like a possibility.) If someone haggles you on it and asks you if you could do another time…the answer is “I’m sorry I can’t, but we can schedule a full session at that time”. Remember that you’re giving this as a gift.

      Your time and skill is valuable. Do not spend it all on free sessions. People who want free rarely pay for sessions in the end. But as a rare incentive…to break the wall of fear down…it can sometimes be really effective.

      What do you think? Let me know!

      – Shari

  • 4. jodie  |  September 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks Shari. You are so right, most who want free sessions never become clients. I like your 2 points, Appreciate the response.
    Oh, and I just love your blog. Great tips and I have been implementing your suggestions. Thanks again.

    • 5. theverticalworkshop  |  September 26, 2011 at 3:48 am

      And thank you, Jodie! I love writing this blog and getting to chat back and forth…like this! I’m so glad that you’ve been able to put some of this stuff to the test! Thanks for letting me know!
      – Shari

  • […] What’s The Point Of It All? […]

  • 7. M  |  February 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    “Other days, you can barely keep your pants from sliding down on Stomach Massage Reach Back.”

    This is most days for me. 🙂

    • 8. theverticalworkshop  |  February 18, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      Some days we lift…other days we slide! Every day we have to make the choice of wearing very nice undergarments just in case it’s a slide day!

      Thank you, M, for your honest comment!

      “Enjoy” more stomach massage!
      – Shari

  • 9. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    […] What’s The Point Of It All? […]


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