Joseph Pilates: quotes from a genius
"...beginning with the introductory lesson, each succeeding exercise should be mastered before proceeding progressively with the following exercises. Make a close study of each exercise and do not attempt any other exercise until you first have mastered the current one and know its routine down to the last detail..." -- Joseph Pilates
One of the most challenging elements about the art of teaching Pilates is knowing how and when to progress clients. How can we keep them challenged, interested and excited about coming to the studio while training them in a way that truly "develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit".
I was so intrigued by this quote that I had to dig a little deeper into Mr. Pilates words and marinate on them. He said that each exercise should be "mastered"...
To identify whether or not a client has truly "mastered" an exercise I generally look for the following clues:
Yep, I ask myself whether or not they're applying good ol' Pilates principles to each exercise in their session? If not, I ask myself what I have to do as a teacher to give them this true Pilates experience?
Something else I try to remember is to make each exercise increasingly challenging by layering my cues. For example, once clients have mastered the ability to initiate the Footwork Series on the reformer from their powerhouse and sustain their scoop through each repetition, I shift the focus to working with a neutral pelvis. Once they can keep their powerhouse scooped and pelvis in neutral, I add the detail of "hugging your midline". Once they can "scoop their powerhouse", maintain neutral pelvis and "hug their midline", I add cues for their shoulder girdle. I love it when clients have little "AHA!" moments because they're experiencing the same work with much deeper connections.
Also, when I focus on the details, clients are less inclined to beg for "harder" exercises. They get so much satisfaction out of mastering what they know. Once they've got the "heart and soul" of Pilates in their body (the beginner system) it's so much easier to "progressively" add intermediate exercises to their session because they have such a strong foundation to build upon. Plus, all of that work serves as a magnifying glass to see clearly what their body needs next from Pilates. I ask myself which exercises I can add that will help bring uniformity to their body? Based on the way the way they move, I look for exercises that might increase lumbar flexion/ articulation, thoracic extension, pelvic/scapular stability, spinal rotation, leg strength, arm strength etc. etc. I believe that critical thinking is the key to make intelligent choices while training our clients; choices that will change the way they look, feel and move in their bodies. It should never be as easy as picking an exercise out of a hat.
As Pilates instructors, it's helpful to create lesson plans for our clients, just as school teachers do. Then, their training isn't haphazard. It's a strategically planned program designed specifically for them that enables them to develop proficiency in the work and move forward in gradual stages.
Rock Your Powerhouse!