Continuing Education: Fast Track or Transformational Track?

by Madeline Black

August 2, 2017

Every year, we all participate in workshops to elevate our work to better serve our clients, to be inspired, and (hopefully) to increase our value. Continuing our education brings us up to date on new research and provides expansion of our repertoire. Education is costly in terms of our time and our money. And it is important to be able to realize the value of that investment by having the ability to implement, effectively and with confidence, what was taught.

I raise the question about the amount of time spent in workshops and weighing the benefits. The benefits are relative to what a teacher wishes to learn. Is it choreography only? Or is it learning a script for cueing? As Eve Gentry said, “Are you a conveyor belt or a teacher?” In a workshop lasting two or three hours, it is not likely the experience provides enough practice time, nor allows for the teacher to embody the work. I am not speaking about a workout session. I am speaking about education that brings the teacher into a different place in their work. This only comes from more time spent with the continuing education provider, practicing with guidance, asking questions, exchanging ideas and having a supportive experience.

To be a teacher, one must be able to see the vast number of possible strategies people perform when moving. It is being able to identify the preference versus non-preference movement patterns. Then using this information to verbally cue, with hands-on guidance to direct the movement and facilitate change in the client’s body – choosing a sequence that best serves the client in that moment because you can see how the body’s tissue tension is inhibiting their movement potential. The movement may appear the same, such as footwork. However, is the sequencing from the feet to the spine a functional one? No two people move the same way. If they do not move the same way, then their musculature is not engaging in the same pattern. Strengthening poor patterns does not serve to impIMG_6532rove the person’s movement potential. Guiding the client to make a conscious shift in the patterning will strengthen a healthier functional pattern. This will actualize their movement potential in life, sports and activities they enjoy. This is the depth of the physical work in Pilates and the magic that transforms people.

Teachers who are aligned with my message know that a deeper experience helps them improve their teaching and thereby increases the impact on their clients. It is a dedicated teacher that searches for a learning environment to enhance their own well-being as well as to acquire new skills. I am reaching out to teachers that tend to have little to no continuing education or that perhaps are not aware of the possibility of receiving more from an educational experience. My advice is to begin the journey of exploration in discovering the endless possibilities of how to powerfully work with the body. This will set you apart from other teachers who are conveyor belts. Stretch and expand your field around you with a different way of learning. Measure what are you receiving from the workshop or intensive with your needs and goals. Expect to receive plentitude!

If you are a teacher seeking to guide, teach, and offer the depth and true function that Pilates offers, the fast track of education is limited. We all start where we are in our lives and passion. I am not one to say any continuing education is better than none. Find a committed, responsible and highly recommended teacher that resonates with you. Spend time, practice and read current movement-based information. Begin to formulate your own perspective and beliefs based on sound knowledge and science.

Walking out of a workshop, my sense needs to be that I can understand it with my brain, feel it in my body and know I can translate it to my clients through my body, voice and hands. Walking away with only one “take away” is not a good use of my time or money spent on a workshop. Be clear if you are choosing to attend an event for camaraderie and networking or if you are spending your time and money where you receive a return for your investment.

I advocate for longer intensives on an annual or biennial basis to fully be transformed by your continuing education. Imagine participating in one full experience every other year versus many shorter courses throughout the year. Take the time to immerse yourself to grow your practice with abundance.

I offer five-day and three-day intensives every year. My next intensives are in London, England, September 1st-5th at the Garuda Studio and in San Francisco, CA, January 2018. Please go to my website calendar for more information.


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Madeline-Headshot2017-683x1024 Madeline Black has distinguished herself as an international leader in movement and exercise education. She has been known as the “teacher’s teacher” for over 25 years. Madeline’s first comprehensive book, “Centered, Organizing the Body Through Kinesiology, Movement Theory and Pilates Techniques”, which defines the synthesis of her approach to movement training was published in 2015. Madeline presents regularly in over 20 countries and for conferences such as Pilates On Tour, and Pilates Method Alliance. She is regular teacher online for Pilates Anytime and Fusion Pilates EDU.

What sets Madeline’s teaching apart is her emphasis on clear instruction. From her lecture demos, to her hands-on work, to her educational and supplemental materials, participants leave her workshops immediately able to integrate her ideas and concepts into sessions with their own clients. She draws inspiration from a vast knowledge of anatomy, fascia research, biomechanics, and energy work, which has lead to an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to Pilates, yoga, and GyrotonicÒ.  Madeline’s accessibility, articulateness, commitment to Pilates, and decades of experience, make her a beloved and sought-after instructor.