amy

Discover – Explore – Awaken

The Pilates Center Teacher Training Programs – Part 1

Amy Taylor Alpers

When my sister, Rachel Taylor Segel, and I decided to open The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO back in 1990, we were sure about two things:

  • We LOVED Pilates and knew everyone needed it – that it could help people heal and thereby help create world peace.
  • We didn’t like the model in which it had been taught to us – a sort of “catch as catch can” style with teachers on the floor assisting clients who were basically working out individually.

Having been dance teachers most of our lives, we wanted to really “teach” and not just “assist.” And we wanted to do it with generosity, kindness, understanding and real depth. We made it our mission to heal the world by helping people heal themselves with Pilates.  We felt that the only way that could happen was by having clients start with one-on-one sessions taught with a complete focus on the unique person and with a compassion that was required for true healing.

Over the years, by teaching in this extremely intentional way, we have developed very good vision into bodies and their struggles; we teach our students to develop their eyes this way as well. We try to help develop the uniqueness of each teacher in just the same way we nurture the uniqueness of each client. As Martha Graham said to Agnes DeMille,

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

Over the years, I have compiled various quotes by wise people that eloquently capture our school’s mission. Here are some that I especially love and that always keep me discovering, exploring and awakening my teaching skills:

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein

“Where is the information we have lost in data? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” T. S. Eliot

Years ago, when I was preparing to teach my first workshop in front of a large, diverse audience at the PMA, I knew I had to get very clear and sure about what my fundamental truths were – not just about Pilates, but about movement and life in general. The community of Pilates teachers I would be facing was filled with very strong, often conflicting ideas. And the prevailing belief at the time, based on scientific information, seemed to be that movement was extremely dangerous and scary and you better be very careful when teaching it!

I felt just the opposite. Movement was natural and right and wise. How do we teach it that way? T. S. Eliot’s words stimulated a powerful journey for me. What is the difference between information, knowledge and wisdom/truth?

How do I – in the face of all the varying data and information other people in the industry seemed to believe – stand firm in my deep beliefs that wise, healthy, true movement completely predates all information and knowledge? The power of movement to keep us healthy was here before mankind learned how to speak or read or write or study, and it was innately right from the start. And the true path to health.

The very first workshop I created was entitled “Seeing the Truth in Movement.” To see the truth in movement you have to turn to nature. So I went back to the beginning of time. Since the Big Bang, our universe has been moving. Everything is moving all the time. That is the most fundamental and essential truth of all. Movement is health. Movement is life. And the main movement that is always occurring is expansion and contraction. Watch birds fly, wind blow, fish swim, cats pandiculate (look that one up!), water swirl, clouds form, tides ebb, flowers bloom, trees grow. All the answers to the truth in movement are there. This to me is the difference between information and knowledge – and wisdom. Wisdom is nature. Wisdom is fundamental truth and it doesn’t care what you think.

Imagine a beautiful healthy pride of lions in the wilds of Africa doing exactly what lions are supposed to do. Now picture a group of scientists sitting around studying them – making note of all the facts and information they think there are to know about lions. Then they compile this into a great book – the world’s definitive study of what it’s like to be a lion! Then they go back to the lions and tell them, “You can’t possibly know what you are doing. You haven’t read our book yet.” This to me is a perfect example of confusing knowledge with wisdom.

Our task as Pilates teachers, therefore, is not to teach people “how to” move based on studies that have been done by scientists, but rather, to enable people return to moving like the wild human they once were, rather than the domesticated one they’ve become. In other words, the goal is natural, normal movement – just as Joseph Pilates said again and again in his writings. The Pilates method is simply the tool box. How we as Pilates teachers enable the body to “return to life” through Pilates, is the art of teaching.  We will explore this in detail in Part 2 of this article (appearing in next week’s Pilates Intel newsletter).

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amyAmy Taylor Alpers co-founded The Pilates Center (TPC) and The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program (TPCTTP) over 20 years ago in Boulder, Colorado. When not traveling the world to teach both foundational and graduate level Pilates teacher education she remains part of the core faculty for TPCTTP, mentors advanced teachers, teaches classes and sees clients. In addition to teaching TPC sponsored workshops, Amy has presented numerous times at the Pilates Method Alliance Annual Meeting, Balanced Body’s Pilates on Tour and Passing the Torch. In 2013, Amy presented at the Shared Traditions Conference for Fletcher Pilates and will present at The Pilates Roundtable.

Amy was born in Youngstown, Ohio where she began classical ballet at age two.
She attended The Juilliard School for Dance, danced with the Garden State Ballet in New Jersey, and received a B.A. in Dance and a M.A. in Dance History from New York University. In addition, Amy taught ballet at various dance schools in New York City for ten years before launching her Pilates career.

Both Amy and her sister Rachel studied Pilates under the direct tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska at the original Pilates Studio in New York City. They received their Pilates teaching certificate from there in July of 1989.  In 1990, after moving to Boulder, Colorado, Amy and Rachel founded The Pilates Center.  The sisters then created and established The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program in 1991. The school has since expanded to include an Intermediate Program, Advanced Program, Bridge Program, Master’s Program, and a Mentorship Program. In addition, TPC now has “Licensed” and “Host” studios established all around the world.

Amy and her sister wrote The Everything Pilates Book, published in 2002.  She was a founding board member of the PMA and sat on the board that created the PMA Certification Exam.  Recently she has also had the honor of filming classes and workshops for online organizations such as Pilates Anytime and Pilates On Demand.

In 2011, Amy, her sister Rachel, and Ken Endelman of Balanced Body, developed CenterLine – a line of equipment designed for classical Pilates and based upon the specifications pioneered by Joseph Pilates.

 

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Discover – Explore – Awaken

The Pilates Center Teacher Training Programs – Part 1

Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed the difference between knowledge and wisdom and how easy it is to confuse one for the other.  Now, in Part 2, we ask you to consider the following questions that build on these distinctions:

  • Are you a Pilates instructor or a Pilates teacher?
  • What’s the difference and what’s the value of understanding this difference?
  • And which one do you really want to be?

By definition, instructing is a more task-oriented job dealing primarily with facts – the black-and-white information, the basic rules and practical “how-to” of a subject. The Pilates method is complicated and large, as we all know, and it can take a while until a client simply knows how to perform the standard choreography of the many exercises. Therefore, instructing on the “how-to” is a necessary element to the job. But many Pilates professionals never progress beyond this. Instructors often continue to expand their repertoire of material to provide their clients with more exercises to do, but they still mainly continue to focus only on the “how-to” of Pilates. Offering corrections, creating basic modifications and variations (and even “new” exercises), maintaining safety, developing a class structure, etc., all fall into this category of “instruction.” And it’s a big category! And an essential one. Teachers much know their tool box!

Still, almost anyone who wants to can learn how to be a Pilates Instructor. It can even be done via book or video today! But this is merely the starting point and does little to truly allow the instructor to assess each client’s unique needs and provide them with the life changing possibilities Pilates so powerfully offers – the potential to truly heal and, thereby, “return to life.”

True teaching requires a profound level of both deeper knowledge of the subject matter and a calling to truly care for the unique nature of each client’s personal journey back to full mind-body-spirit health. A true teacher helps the client explore and understand the deeper theoretical aspects of a subject, the “what” and “why”, the substance and value. Teach your clients the real meaning and purpose of the movements and how essentially intertwined they are throughout the system, so that these amazing exercises can actually heal the body, mind and spirit. Teach them to explore their own body’s innate recognition of how truly wise movement feels to them. Help them better discover and awaken the true, ultimate intention of the Pilates method as a whole. Teach them how to heal themselves with Pilates.

I ask all my teaching students to answer two questions to help clarify this for them.

  1. What is Pilates – in your own words, not someone else’s? Your personal definition.
  2. Why do you – personally – teach it? What made you love it and want to give it to others? Make it your career?

In exploring your thoughts and answers to these questions, you will automatically become clearer about what being a teacher means to you and why you chose to devote your life to it. You must create your own personal answers though. They should not be rote. It should not be anything you heard or read somewhere.  Take a lot of time to get to the real truth for yourself. It must be yours and yours alone. Your personal definition of what you think this method called Pilates really is? And your mission as someone who has chosen this career. What do you really want to make happen through your teaching of Pilates? Each new day then, when you stand at the foot of the Reformer and begin teaching your client, you will be actually serving a personal mission you created for yourself.

Here are my answers to those very questions. I have explored them over and over during the past 25 years of my Pilates career, and now, when I stand there looking at my client, I know exactly what I’m choosing to do.

What is Pilates to me? Pilates is an amazingly unique system of movement that was specifically and solely created to “uniformly develop” (Joseph Pilates’ term) the body – to return it back to its innately right, true, wise, primal, original design. Pilates rids the body of tensions, torques, compressions, tightness, weaknesses, imbalances and more, so that it can breathe deeply and powerfully, and so that its circulation is free and unimpeded by restriction. The body can then distribute all that highly oxygenated blood easily, and the tissues can readily absorb it, cleansing, detoxing and revitalizing itself. The Internal Shower.

Why do I teach Pilates? I believe that Pilates as defined above is the route to healing people, and healing people is the route to world peace!

“No one in the United Nations can do my first five exercises. How can we have world peace?” Joseph Pilates

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amyAmy Taylor Alpers co-founded The Pilates Center (TPC) and The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program (TPCTTP) over 20 years ago in Boulder, Colorado. When not traveling the world to teach both foundational and graduate level Pilates teacher education she remains part of the core faculty for TPCTTP, mentors advanced teachers, teaches classes and sees clients. In addition to teaching TPC sponsored workshops, Amy has presented numerous times at the Pilates Method Alliance Annual Meeting, Balanced Body’s Pilates on Tour and Passing the Torch. In 2013, Amy presented at the Shared Traditions Conference for Fletcher Pilates and will present at The Pilates Roundtable.

Amy was born in Youngstown, Ohio where she began classical ballet at age two.
She attended The Juilliard School for Dance, danced with the Garden State Ballet in New Jersey, and received a B.A. in Dance and a M.A. in Dance History from New York University. In addition, Amy taught ballet at various dance schools in New York City for ten years before launching her Pilates career.

Both Amy and her sister Rachel studied Pilates under the direct tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska at the original Pilates Studio in New York City. They received their Pilates teaching certificate from there in July of 1989.  In 1990, after moving to Boulder, Colorado, Amy and Rachel founded The Pilates Center.  The sisters then created and established The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program in 1991. The school has since expanded to include an Intermediate Program, Advanced Program, Bridge Program, Master’s Program, and a Mentorship Program. In addition, TPC now has “Licensed” and “Host” studios established all around the world.

Amy and her sister wrote The Everything Pilates Book, published in 2002.  She was a founding board member of the PMA and sat on the board that created the PMA Certification Exam.  Recently she has also had the honor of filming classes and workshops for online organizations such as Pilates Anytime and Pilates On Demand.

In 2011, Amy, her sister Rachel, and Ken Endelman of Balanced Body, developed CenterLine – a line of equipment designed for classical Pilates and based upon the specifications pioneered by Joseph Pilates.