Pilates Teachers' Manual

10 Things I Learned From Teaching Pilates

February 02, 2023 Olivia Bioni Season 7 Episode 2
Pilates Teachers' Manual
10 Things I Learned From Teaching Pilates
Show Notes Transcript

It's the 100th episode of Pilates Teachers' Manual! In addition to celebrating this milestone, I share 10 things that I've learned over the course of my Pilates teaching career (so far). Tune in!

I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and follow the podcast on Instagram and Facebook @pilatesteachersmanual. Full show notes and episode transcription can be found on the podcast website here: http://bit.ly/pilatesteachersmanual. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast for updates, and rate and review wherever you listen!  Episodes now available on YouTube: *https://bit.ly/YouTubePTM*

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Episode Music:

Tracks: Tobu - Good Times, Tobu & Itro - Sunburst 
Tobu Official YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/tobuofficial
Itro Official YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/officialitro
Released by NCS 

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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visitb uymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.

[00:00:56] Hello. Hello everybody, and welcome back to the [00:01:00] podcast. Today we are celebrating the hundredth episode of Pilates Teachers' Manual, which is pretty darn cool, and also the hundred thousandth download of the podcast at various episodes, various times. That feels like quite a milestone, both the number of episodes, the number of listens, and I'm pretty proud of our accomplishment together.

[00:01:21] And that's really due in large part to you for tuning in and checking it out and just being generally awesome. That makes me wanna keep making podcast episodes and sharing delightful adventures with you. So huge thank you to you for tuning in and happy hundredth episode. T

[00:01:40] oday I'm gonna be sharing 10 things that I've learned teaching Pilates, and they will probably echo a lot of the guests that we've had on the podcast. You probably also have a pretty good idea of my teaching philosophy that you've listened to episodes and you've heard my thoughts on various things. [00:02:00] So today I've kind of boiled down all of the things that I think, not all of them, it's reductive, but I've come away with 10 sort of key lessons I've learned, uh, from teaching Pilates over the years.

[00:02:16] Number one, I've learned that simplicity is everything. Whenever possible, wherever possible, make it simple. I mean this in regards to choreography in my class or you know, programming, pieces of equipment, props, whatever in class, whenever you can simplify. 

[00:02:40] If you're gonna use a prop, use it for the whole class. If you're teaching a bunch of classes in a row, use that prop for all of the classes instead of trying to plan a new brand new class every single time that you teach. I definitely fell into that trap. I was teaching eight hours a day and thinking that I needed to [00:03:00] come up with a new class for all eight of. Like no one takes all eight of the classes. We can keep the key elements there and you know, teach that. So definitely keep it simple in class programming. That has saved me a lot of stress and worry and allowed me to sleep more, which is awesome. 

[00:03:21] Simplifying your schedule as well if you're teaching at multiple places. There was a point where I was teaching in four different studios across the city and I would be going to all four of them in one day, which was not a great. So simplifying, okay, if I'm gonna be downtown teaching, this is like the downtown teaching time, I will try to get my classes or my private sessions or whatever I'm doing to happen in the same area so that I'm not just spending the entire day going back and forth on the train.

[00:03:50] It might mean that you have a day that you teach virtually. There's a few days a week that I'm a hundred percent virtual. There's a few days a week where I'm in person. And it just really allows you to cut down on travel [00:04:00] time, which is so valuable when you're teaching in lots of places. 

[00:04:05] Simplifying your clients and the studios that you teach at and simplify could mean letting go of places that aren't serving you. I've said goodbye to studios that, you know, I tried teaching at and it wasn't a good fit, or I didn't feel that- we'll just say it wasn't a good fit. Um, same thing with clients. I've sort of fired clients. I've talked about it on the podcast, of people who did not respect my time or my boundaries. Simplifying your clients so that you work with people that you at minimum tolerate at maximum enjoy, really, uh, has made my life a lot easier. I can recommend that whenever you can, simplify. 

[00:04:48] Number two, I would say I've learned the importance of letting people move. As Pilates teachers we're movement teachers, but I definitely found myself in a trap where I would be talking a lot [00:05:00] before I let people move, or if they started moving and I saw something that I wanted to correct, I would jump in and immediately stop them from what they were doing so that I could tell them all of the things that I wanted them to do.

[00:05:13] I guess just something that I've learned over time is we're movement teachers, we've gotta let people move. We've gotta let them figure things out for themselves and try things and fail at things, you know, be unsuccessful in their attempt and then refine, or you know, sometimes I'll even cue something and it's not, they start doing something. It's not exactly what I wanted them to do, but what they're doing is valid. And if I didn't describe it well, then I'll let them do what they are doing. It allows me to kind of play with them and almost reach a mutual understanding of the exercise, um, that I'm learning as much from them as I'm telling them, and just not telling everything.

[00:05:58] You know, we know a lot as [00:06:00] Pilates teachers, our training is pretty extensive and we wanna share all of our information. Like I know I did. And I wanted to tell them a hundred things about the rollup, but I could just tell them to roll up and then expound where necessary or if there's the interest, you know? So definitely, definitely let people move. 

[00:06:21] Three, what we say and how we say it matters a lot to our clients. We know from motor learning theory, we know about building a therapeutic alliance, that we wanna have some mutual trust with our clients. We want them to trust us and our expertise, and we have really some pretty big power to shape how our clients experience their sessions with us, but also the sensations that they feel in their body and their, you know, perspective on their recovery if they're coming to Pilates after some [00:07:00] rehabilitation, and also, you know, what they're gonna think about themselves and their strength and their capability. 

[00:07:08] I think that one of the things that I do tirelessly is use words very carefully that will build people up and make people feel successful and capable and competent and strong, and validate what they're feeling without being afraid of sensation or worried about their body. Like all of those things are totally normal, but if we are going to create a positive impact in people's lives, we really wanna keep in mind the language that we use. 

[00:07:45] Are we talking about people as being broken and needing to be fixed? Are we talking about people, as you know, going on an adventure, having a journey, seeing how things go today, and not, uh, judging ourselves as [00:08:00] lacking or failing, but recognizing that it's a human experience and it's variable. There's no two days that are gonna be exactly the same and Pilates and in life. I always wanna celebrate what people can do and all of the little improvements that they've make, the little refinements, the little victories, because those are just as valuable as nailing the big exercise. You know? It's the little steps along the way that get us there.

[00:08:30] Number four, I've learned through teaching Pilates that we teach whole people, not just an assembly of body parts and muscles and limbs and joints. We really do work with the entire person. One of the things I've talked about extensively on the podcast is pain and the idea that pain is multifactorial, so it's not just tissue damage or even any tissue damage that could be causing a sensation of pain in someone's [00:09:00] body. That's something that I've learned. 

[00:09:02] What is going on in our client's life is impacting their experience in their body, how much sleep they're getting, stress they're in with their family or their relationships or financial stress. Tissue damage is a piece of the equation, but so is diet, so is beliefs, so is, you know, seeing themselves as an agent of change in their life instead of passively looking for a fix.

[00:09:29] So we've got all of those factors going into a person's experience, and then we also know that people come to us for different reasons. You know, it could be a social thing. Like I used to teach a class that was like on Sunday mornings, and it was these same ladies who were probably in their sixties and seventies, and they would come to this class every week. And I know that they enjoyed me and they enjoyed Pilates, but it was also to hang out with each other and catch up. And they knew that they would see their friends there. Like there's a social component to [00:10:00] group exercise in particular. 

[00:10:02] It could be a physical thing, it could be a rehab journey. It could be a desire to get stronger. It could be a desire to do something that they aren't currently able to do because of their current fitness level. It could be for their mental health that they know that when they move regularly, that they feel better mentally, so that could bring them there. And all of those reasons are valid. There's not one reason that you should be doing Pilates. You know, let alone the people who just wanna get better at Pilates and so they come to Pilates, right? So it's all of those things to everyone. 

[00:10:35] And as teachers, I've learned that as much as we're teaching Pilates, we're also holding space and being with other people who are having a whole life beyond what we even see.

[00:10:50] Five, I've learned that our clients and the people we work with are the experts of their own experience. We should definitely a hundred [00:11:00] percent defer to them, that they have the final say, rather, in everything that we do together. I definitely started teaching Pilates and I was very much, you know, I'm the teacher, I know what we're gonna do, we're gonna do this, and it's gonna help.

[00:11:15] And you know, like I came at it from this very top down approach. Like, I've got this, I'm gonna give it to you and you're gonna get better kind of situation. I've learned that we as teachers, can offer suggestions, and we do have a lot of knowledge that we can share with our clients, but our clients have that final say and if for whatever reason they don't wanna do an exercise or there's a piece of equipment that really makes them nervous. 

[00:11:42] Or you know, I have clients who are so strong and so capable and could do exercises standing on the reformer, but there's this barrier for them that they're just like, no, hard no, this isn't what I can do. And you've gotta acknowledge that. I had to say, [00:12:00] kind of put my own ego aside of being like, well, I know you can do this, and really meet them where they were and find challenge for them in ways that they felt supported and challenged and not tyranically told them what to do the whole time.

[00:12:13] You know, another really great thing that I do when I teach Pilates is that I put a lot of emphasis on creating a space during the Pilates class where people can explore and try things that they feel safe to do, that they feel that they won't be judged, or that I'm looking for some perfect performance of an exercise, but it's really an exploration and it's really a place that they can find their own expression of exercises.

[00:12:44] The bodily autonomy piece goes for hands-on adjustments. Some people don't like them, and I don't give them to people who have asked to not have them. That I really always check in with people before I touch them. Even if I've worked with them before. I'll tell them because hands-on assists, especially in [00:13:00] Pilates, are so uh, varied. It can be a very intimate touch or a very casual touch. You know, tapping someone's shoulders versus putting your hand on their low belly. Something like that that, you know, I always tell people what I'm going to do when I do at that hands-on adjustment so that they can decide whether they want that to happen or not.

[00:13:23] Six, I've learned that private sessions are collaborative and this is really building off of number five. Your clients are contributing to the problem solving process when you're doing something in a private session that they are an equal participant in it. They're not just being put through their paces by you. They are really a huge piece of the puzzle. They're bringing their own solutions and their own suggestions.

[00:13:49] And I've found that when I work together with my clients, they're the happiest. I'm the happiest. I'm never wondering if I'm doing the right thing with them because I've asked them about what we're doing and they [00:14:00] feel like it's a good thing and I feel like it's a good thing and we do good things together, you know?

[00:14:05] It also gives you the opportunity to meet your clients' goals and reasons for wanting to work with you, whether it's biological, something physical, whether it's a social need, whether it's a psychological need, there's a mental component to it. You can really work with your clients in a way that has really unparalleled results because you are working with them.

[00:14:31] Coming up after the break, there's still four more things that I learned teaching Pilates and I am looking forward to sharing them with you. That's coming up next.

[00:14:45] Hi there. I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. There you can make a [00:15:00] one-time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.

[00:15:04] Membership comes with some awesome perks, including a shoutout In the next episode, a monthly newsletter, a monthly zoom call with me and more. You can also visit links.OliviaBioni.com/affiliates to check out some sweet deals on products I use and love. Now back to the show.

[00:15:42] All right, just a few more things that I've learned. And actually just going through these, I'm like, Ooh, I could have included that. So a non-exhaustive list of 10 things. 

[00:15:51] Uh, number seven, I've got it's okay to not have the answer. Um, I talked with this about this with Cody on the podcast, uh, a couple weeks [00:16:00] ago, and, I don't know where this pressure came from- I feel like it was internal- to have to know everything and have the answer for every single person's stuff that walks in the door, and I had to have the answer like right away. That's not realistic. It's not gonna happen. So I think coming to terms with the fact that I won't know everything and that it's okay to not know everything, again, huge relief to not be worried about.

[00:16:30] The more I teach, the more people I work with, the more I learn and grow in my own Pilates practice. And then as a teacher as well, I get better at guessing and you know, making suggestions that are useful because I've seen similar things and tried other things before. Um, so you definitely do improve with practice in terms of knowing things or seeming like you know, the thing [00:17:00] to do.

[00:17:00] But in reality, you know, you're gonna keep learning about things and if you don't have the answer for this person, you can do some research and help them find an answer. You can convene with the rest of their healthcare team and see if you can create a plan collaboratively. But this process of working with lots of types of bodies and coming to terms with people's opinions about things, you know, is the magic circle a good thing or a bad thing? Is feet and straps good or bad? Like you just get a clearer picture. But it takes time and it takes practice and it's constantly evolving. So it's okay to not be there yet. There is a moving target. 

[00:17:43] Eight, I've learned teaching Pilates that building your own business is very challenging, but also very rewarding. Uh, we are just gearing up for tax season in the United States, and I'm looking at my tax preparation and all of the documents that I have and [00:18:00] estimated tax payments and renewing business licenses and all of this stuff. It's a lot, you know, processing your own payment is a lot. Scheduling all your own clients.

[00:18:11] Like, there's a reason why studios are nice, you know, because there's someone helping you do all of this administrative stuff that happens in addition to teaching. Um, but as much of a hassle as that can be, especially at this time of year, I still feel like, I'm getting to set my own prices. I'm getting to work with people that I really love. I work at the times that make sense for me, you know, that I can set boundaries around my time and my availability, and it's kind of awesome. I kind of love it. Um, it's so, so, so rewarding. 

[00:18:51] And then just to be so involved in it, like you see like very closely. You see the impact that you have on [00:19:00] people, like when you're your own business and you're really doing everything and then this magic gets to happen, this awesome Pilates adventure, um, it's pretty great and I definitely wouldn't change it. That doesn't mean it's easy, but it does mean that I get to do all of the work that I love all the time, and that's awesome. 

[00:19:20] Number nine, I've learned the importance of finding teachers who inspire me and committing to take class and learn from them. It doesn't even have to be Pilates classes. I mean, I definitely love taking classes from other Pilates teachers, but it could be yoga teachers, it could be, you know, personal trainers or swimming coaches or running coaches. There are so many incredible teachers out there, and it's very important I think, working in this industry that I set aside time for myself to stay engaged with Pilates and physical movement adventures in general, [00:20:00] and really making it a priority to receive all the benefits of exercise that we tell everyone and anyone who will listen, uh, for ourselves so that we can share them with others.

[00:20:12] When I don't make time for myself to move, I am not my best version of myself. It's very hard to give when you're feeling drained. Um, and staying active and just hanging out with cool people who are inspire you is is really great and has helped me avoid burnout. I would say. 

[00:20:36] Lastly, the 10th thing I've learned teaching Pilates is that there is no such thing as a beginner or an advanced. Maybe that's a bit contentious, but I see every exercise as a spectrum of movement that could be dialed up or down in terms of [00:21:00] challenge by, you know, increasing the amount of flexibility required or increasing the complexity of the choreography or adding some coordination challenge, or maybe it's adding a spring so that the strength required to move the carriage is more, but there isn't any exercise that exists in Pilates that doesn't have pieces that a beginner could do and couldn't be dialed up in a way that someone who's been doing Pilates for 20 years would feel super challenged doing.

[00:21:34] A little personal soapbox moment, but I've always been annoyed by class levels because you know you have this beginner class, but I guarantee you that there is someone in the beginner class who could do intermediate or an advanced exercise, or a more challenging version of an exercise. And there are people who are, you know, quote unquote advanced, who maybe they have something going on in their body and they don't actually wanna do go that [00:22:00] far, you know? So I think that as I've gotten more comfortable with recognizing all of the pieces of Pilates exercises and gotten more comfortable dialing things up and dialing things down, then you can really have a class where everyone feels challenged.

[00:22:17] No one feels that what they're doing is better or worse than what anyone else is doing, that they're challenged wherever they are. And I think that that's one of the more fun parts of being a teacher is that we can have fun with the exercises and create combinations or really focus on certain pieces and that allows everyone to enjoy class and grow and do what they need to do in your class without feeling like they're not enough. 

[00:22:55] When I let go of this idea that, oh, this is bird dog, [00:23:00] it's a beginner exercise, and instead looked at bird dog as, okay, what are the moving parts? Could I make this more of a coordination challenge, more of a balance challenge, more of flexibility challenge. Could I incorporate a prop? You know, how could I make this bird dog accessible to my 86 year old grandma? But also, how could I make this bird dog something that the other Pilates teacher in my class who's there for a really spicy workout that really meets them too? 

[00:23:37] I think that's the joy. That's my absolute favorite thing about Pilates and when I saw exercises as a spectrum, it really opened up what I can do in every class. That's why I continue to teach because it's so darn much fun. 

[00:23:54] Huge thank you to all my supporters on Buy Me a Coffee. The newsletter went out earlier this week, and [00:24:00] I'm looking forward to connecting with all of you and hearing how your new year is going. If you wanna get in on those coffee chats, go visit that Buy Me A Coffee page, become a supporter of this project, and you can hang out with me. It's a pretty good time. I hope you have a great couple weeks and I'll talk to you again soon.

[00:24:23] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.

[00:24:46] The adventure continues. Until next time.