October 18, 2017
You’re the Expert: Be Brilliant Every Day!
By Clare Dunphy Hemani
In every profession, Pilates included, the most effective teachers are the ones who can communicate in simple terms, so the subject matter easy to understand, appropriate to the level of the learner. Elegant simplicity is an art, ideally considering the whole person – their goals, mindset, physical and emotional state. It sounds like it should be easy, but for many of us, it really isn’t. Like developing any skill to a higher level, teaching with elegant simplicity requires self-awareness, focused practice, feedback, and refinement.
Let’s back up for a moment and look at possible reasons a teacher might feel obliged to provide more information than necessary during a Pilates session. First of all, it seems that the more we know, the more we usually feel compelled to share. Without being aware of it, we can get drawn into habits of over-cueing, over-teaching, and over-stimulating our students. Here are some questions I ask myself to keep my intentions on track:
- How much information is enough for my client today to get them moving and in their body?
- Did I insert myself to the right degree to let the work do its work?
- Am I cultivating awareness of my teaching and creating a learning environment where the door is open for growth?
- When can I tell if my teaching style isn’t working and might need adjusting for an individual or situation?
If we start by understanding why most people come to Pilates in the first place, in most cases, it’s to get in shape and feel better for their daily life, sports or recreational activities. People want real results, and they want to see and feel progress. They want to gain strength, flexibility, and endurance; reduce back pain, neck pain, knee pain, and hip pain – in general, they want to feel better. They need to move! By the end of an hour, we should be able to simply ask, “Did you get a good workout?” And the answer should be “YES”, regardless of their fitness level, issue or age.
Sure, we can help pinpoint movement problems. For example, squaring the shoulders and hips, noticing asymmetries in the body, and the other corrections we give. These things may be important to improving performance and yet, how often do we find ourselves going down the rabbit hole of over-explaining, analyzing, and focusing too much on what’s wrong with a movement? Let’s turn the perspective and focus on what’s right with the movement, build on that, and create a positive atmosphere where students can grasp and learn the work. Let’s remember that Pilates is a practice, not a perfect. Teachers that are continuing to grow can always improve how we craft our sessions, through our word choice, exercise choice and our own personal attitude, so people feel good about themselves while they move.
I know I am probably preaching to the choir here. However, I am amazed at how many articles, blog posts, workshops, etc. continue to feed us information in a manner that pulls us away from our ultimate goal of keeping to the philosophy of the work, just giving a good solid workout and a positive experience. The media bombardment of what “healthy” and “fit” means is nothing less than astonishing. The Pilates philosophy to “Return to Life” is built on a strong foundation of excellent alignment, fewer reps, and a whole lot of variety. Nothing is overdone, the whole body and mind are engaged. Contrast that to Barre, Boot Camp, Crossfit, P90X, and all the latest HITT trends where harder is better, reps are king, and burn baby burn! Oh, that’s so 80’s! Didn’t we learn our lesson? So friends, ask the questions and align them with your principles.
Thank you for taking the time to let me share my thoughts with all you amazing teachers!
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Clare Dunphy Hemani is the founder of Progressive Bodyworks, based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Her roots in the field of human movement began at Northeastern University where she earned a BS in Physical Education in 1985, and holds certifications from PMA, ACE, and the Pilates Guild. In 1995, Clare began her Pilates studies under Romana Kryzanowska (first generation Master Teacher) and has since studied with several other teachers. Clare is a presenter on Pilatesology.com and filmed with Pilates Anytime March 2015. Clare hosts two free video channels on vimeo.com for students and teachers interested in supplemental learning to keep the work vibrant in their practice. As co-author of the Peak Pilates Comprehensive Education Program, she mentored many teachers and teacher trainers between 2001-2013. Clare’s studio is a unique space where students and teachers around the world come to hone their technique and study the art of teaching. Committed to preserving the authenticity and tradition of Pilates, her approach is refreshing, energetic and supportive. Clare is excited to bring her talents her new program Pilates Avatar, launching late Spring, a comprehensive audio program designed for students, teachers and studio owners. Clare’s gift is her willingness to share knowledge generously and her ability to explain concepts in simple, clear ways. Her mission is to support the potential in all students/teachers and to keep the spirit of Joe and Romana alive in her work. Follow Clare at www.progressivebodyworksinc.com.