Pilates Teachers' Manual

Special Guest - Stephanie Neal

December 14, 2023 Olivia Bioni Season 7 Episode 21
Pilates Teachers' Manual
Special Guest - Stephanie Neal
Show Notes Transcript

Stephanie Neal of Pilates HQ joins me on the podcast today. She shares her Pilates journey, her experience learning and integrating Pilates as a physical therapist, finding balance between running a studio and making time for herself, and some incredibly relevant advice for new teachers. 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*

Email pilatesteachersmanual@oliviabioni.com with your feedback.   

Show Notes:

Steph is a Pilates teacher, mentor, and physical therapist. She's based in Australia, but since Pilates HQ exists online you can hang out with her from anywhere in the world. Check out her website and her Instagram!

Listeners of Pilates Teachers' Manual are invited to try a 30 day free trial of Steph's Pilates HQ app using this link: https://app.arketa.co/pilates-hq/pricing/checkout/zNgcCxnt8TyyzBKtBmho Enjoy! 


Support the podcast:    

Visit https://links.oliviabioni.com/affiliates to take advantage of some sweet savings!

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 
https://www.youtube.com/NoCopyrightSounds

Support the show

[00:00:00] Olivia: 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 visit buymeacoffee.com/Olivia podcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.

[00:00:39] Olivia: Hello. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Very excited today to be joined by Stephanie Neal of Pilates HQ, a company, an app, a studio that she founded. She's based in Australia, but because she is online and it is a fabulous global online community, you can hang out with her from wherever.

[00:01:17] Olivia: So I am so excited to have her on the show and hear all about her Pilates journey. Thanks so much for coming on, Steph. I'm so glad you're here. 

[00:01:25] Steph: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I've listened to the podcast, um, before I sort of chatted to you online. So, um, yeah, it's really cool to be chatting to you. And I, I think I've only done one podcast before, so. 

[00:01:38] Olivia: Well, now to look at you go, podcasts are the future for sure. Um, so. Tell me, tell me, how did you get involved into the wild world of Pilates? What was your first Pilates experience like? 

[00:01:52] Steph: So I, um, really didn't know anything about Pilates. I studied physiotherapy and then we didn't [00:02:00] really touch on any Pilates in my course.

[00:02:02] Steph: Um, and then my first job, I I think I might have come across it when I was doing a placement and got to use the equipment a little bit. And then once I was in my first job, the workplace I was at, they wanted someone else to take their classes because they didn't want to do them anymore. Um, so they made me do a course and yeah, and I didn't want to do it.

[00:02:24] Steph: So I was like, I don't know what Pilates is. I don't want to do this, but I was like, you know, when you're new at anything, you kind of go, well, I better, better do it, take the opportunity. And, um, yeah, so I did like a four day, I think it was a four day course. So it was whatever course they'd done. And then I just got thrown in like the next week to teach their classes.

[00:02:44] Steph: So I kind of was like, didn't really know what I was doing. I had to kind of work on the fly, which is a lot of. What I've done, um, throughout my whole kind of Pilates and, um, physio career. But, um, yeah, I'm very grateful [00:03:00] now that I, um, did that and that they made me do that course. Cause, um, yeah, it's brought me to where I am today.

[00:03:07] Olivia: A couple notes on that. Um, first of all, uh, love when physical therapists do- uh, we call them physical therapists in the US but physios in Australia- love when they have reformers that is like. Such a happy point when I get clients or students in classes who are like, Oh, well, I did a little reformer stuff in PT. So I'm always like, yay, yay, more physical therapists using reformers. 

[00:03:30] Olivia: Um, and also, gosh, talk about a trial by fire. Like here's a course and now you've got classes. Um, so. I imagine it was a very fast adaptation kind of thing. I can't even imagine. There's like, do you even have time to be nervous if you're teaching classes like the next day? That's crazy. 

[00:03:50] Steph: Yeah, I just kind of had to wing it. I think I, and the course that I did was very, it's very different kind of course. I don't know if you've heard of it. It's, um, a physio based cause it's DMA [00:04:00] and it's so it's not even, um, they don't necessarily take you through all of the repertoire that will take you through. It's a, it's like a, um, it's kind of like McKenzie technique in physiotherapy where it's like extension bias, flexion bias, and so they take you through a few exercises and so not even, um, The full repertoire. And so then I was there don't even know what this exercise is that this person's doing. So I just had to kind of work with them and, um, basically go from knowledge that I had of exercise and then do a hell of a lot of, um, research and Googling and yeah, as much as I could.

[00:04:40] Olivia: Yeah. It's, it's so funny. Like what you're describing seems to be almost the reverse of what happens with a lot of Pilates teachers, where they first find Pilates, they fall in love with Pilates, and then they want to learn more about movement and more about, you know, maybe biomechanics or anatomy, and so they sort of deep dive.

[00:04:58] Olivia: But you started deep, and then you [00:05:00] were like, okay, let's like, make this happen in a Pilates way. That's so cool. 

[00:05:05] Steph: Yeah, so I definitely am not one of those people that did Pilates and like fell in love with it. It was more like I found using it in a clinical way. So it was very clinical the way I was using it in the beginning.

[00:05:16] Steph: And then I was just like, this didn't cover, it didn't explain stuff to me. And so I really wanted to try and dive deeper and understand more. And then I had to kind of make my own methodology really like. You know, how do I do an assessment on someone? So I would do like a physio assessment and then do some exercise assessment and then put it all together.

[00:05:35] Steph: Cause the, I guess when you do a course like that's a PD course based on that you've got prior knowledge, they kind of can skim over some parts and then go, well, you know how to do an assessment generally. And these are some exercises, whereas I was like, Oh, there's just this bit missing that took me a while to kind of try and figure out what that was and, and how to.

[00:05:59] Olivia: Was that [00:06:00] the end of your training journey? Did you do additional Pilates training after this initial Now You've Got Classes surprise that you did? 

[00:06:09] Steph: No, so this is the very start. It's like, I was like, it doesn't make sense. Like, I don't know why I'm doing that exercise. And so my brother is also a physio or physical therapist and he was in the UK at the time. And so he was doing a Pilates course over there. And they'd only just started bringing more Pilates courses out to Australia that you could do as a physio. Um, and so then I went and did another one and again, it was clinical and that was on Mat, Reformer, kind of all the equipment and that helped to fill some gaps for me in that clinical setting.

[00:06:43] Steph: So it was still very much not the advanced repertoire and they would take some exercises out and have leveled exercises. And I still thought at that time that it was a like rehab, form of rehab. That's what I [00:07:00] understood Pilates as, and I never, still really never done a lot of Pilates. I didn't have an injury, so I was like, I don't really need to be doing this at the moment, and yeah, so I kind of went down that track for a while, and then I started to get the, like see that there was like reformer classes and mat classes that were more fitness based and I was like there's something else here. And I'm like I'm missing something here. 

[00:07:25] Steph: Um, so I went and did some more like little courses to try and see what was what was there and I then went and did some mentoring sessions with Heath Lander before, I think he was still doing some stuff with Breathe but um, he was very much doing his own mentoring things and then I sort of started to see that there was all these exercises that I just hadn't even known existed and yeah, that there was a fitness and more of, yeah, more of a fitness and a practice method that I hadn't been exposed to.

[00:07:58] Steph: And, um, I [00:08:00] really started to, like, like that aspect of it. And the way my brain works is like trying to figure it out and go, okay, well, well, we can do this. So then, like, how do I help people build themselves up to that? So that kind of was quite a big chunk of my Pilates journey. 

[00:08:16] Steph: And then, and then I also did a classical Pilates course. So I was like, there's definitely more, there's some things where like, there's connecting pieces and I see people talk about it all the time, but there's something that I'm not quite getting. And so that really helped to join all the dots for me, whereas in the start, I think it was like more going over similar exercises that I already knew, but there was something in there that was missing that was connecting the pieces.

[00:08:42] Steph: So I've kind of done lots of different courses, and now I feel like I kind of combine them all in the way that I teach and depending on the setting that I'm in, as well as like a rehab kind of focus, depending on the people that are in front of me. 

[00:08:58] Olivia: A lot of what you're saying is resonating with [00:09:00] me. Um, my training program, I guess would have been considered to be more rehab focused, but it wasn't necessarily because it was a rehab program, but the studio I was learning at had a lot of older clientele. So, um, same thing, like we didn't really go over the advanced exercises because you weren't going to teach them very likely. Um, even though a hundred percent you could, there's pieces and there's always parts, even in like the most complicated exercise that every person can work on. Um, but the likelihood of getting to those expressions was less, so it was also eye opening. 

[00:09:37] Olivia: And huge shout out to Heath at White Dog, um, because incredible teacher and I take classes with him all the time, but I like what you're saying about, you know, having to kind of muddle your way through different programs and seeing like, okay, well, I get this, but how do these things go together. 

[00:09:56] Olivia: And like mad props to you as well for [00:10:00] um, recognizing that there was, you know, things that were missing and then continuing to look for it. I think a lot of, uh, new teachers when they're just out there, you know, you're so thirsty for information and you're thirsty for, you know, the answer. And as you look for the answer, you kind of find your own methodology.

[00:10:19] Olivia: Like you said, that is really specific with who the, who you're working with, what type of studio you're working at, that Pilates is so many things to different people in different places. And so really finding a way that's, you know, not only authentic Pilates, but authentic to you as a teacher that, you know, really resonates with you. I think that is really, really awesome. 

[00:10:44] Olivia: Tell me in your training programs, and you've done a bunch, so it could be any of the training programs, what were some of the favorite parts of training programs or what are things that you think your training programs did really well that you'd like to highlight?[00:11:00] 

[00:11:00] Steph: Yeah, I think, um, my favorite parts were like connecting with other people that were like like minded. So there's other people that were there for the same reasons and that they had that same shared passion. I found that really enjoyable. 

[00:11:14] Steph: I think I liked pieces of each of them, like the way they did different things. I found that the classical one was really all about like experiencing it in your own body and being able to experience all the exercises and as well as you could try and do all of the exercises and in the courses I've done prior it was less about being able to do them and experience them and more about learning how to kind of cue it to someone and then go away and practice it in your own room, in your own time, but you don't necessarily have to because you don't do an exam necessarily where you tested on your repertoire. 

[00:11:57] Steph: So, but and then I think the stuff [00:12:00] that Heath really filled in for me was that teaching aspect of like, um, some of those things that get missed in the middle where no one really said, you know, when you're teaching to a group, you know, I'm not sure exactly the things, but there's those like elements that you kind of are missing in the other ones.

[00:12:18] Steph: So I think the classical one really highlighted how things connect, but then when it's like teach it to someone and they didn't tell you how to teach it. So, and I think a lot of them miss that, that little element, which, um, Yeah, it's been a long time since I've done a teacher training, so I'm not sure if they now incorporate that, but I think that was something that I found would have been so helpful, which I probably just kind of learnt along the way, and might have already had part of that skill set because I had to teach people exercises for like home exercise programs and understand the change in language to give, but yeah, I think having like all of those elements in one would be very helpful for anyone that's going through a teacher training program.

[00:12:59] Olivia: [00:13:00] When you did the first training and they threw you in and it was just like we need you to teach these courses. So do that, please. What about Pilates made you say? Okay, I'm gonna go back and do another course and I'm gonna do another course and now shift your entire career into Pilates. Was there a moment or a conversation or something like that?

[00:13:25] Steph: Um, I think there's probably a few different moments and different elements and, and probably a lot of it was that in the physiotherapy setting, I was just seeing a lot of people for manual therapy. So hands on treatment, that sort was a lot of back to back clients. And I found that for myself, that was really draining. And I found that really hard. I also found that people came to me to want to get fixed. And then I found it hard when I was like, but there's so much else that they need to be proactive in that aspect. 

[00:13:57] Steph: But when I was teaching in the [00:14:00] Pilates classes, they were coming because they, they'd got to that point where they wanted to start to be proactive. And so I really enjoyed helping them be able to manage their injuries and aches and pains and help them see how they could use exercise in that way. And then I also throughout that time, I think I just, whatever it was, but I really liked the teaching aspect and the interaction with probably multiple people in a class.

[00:14:29] Steph: So getting them to be able to, um, kind of interact with each other and create a bit of a nice environment for them. And I found that gave me, I left feeling really good and happy. And even if I was having a day where I felt, felt like I was really maybe a bit low going in and doing that felt really good to me.

[00:14:48] Steph: So there was that aspect that I was like, I want to feel more of that and less of that drained feeling that I get when I'm like back to back patients. And then there was this element where I'm [00:15:00] like, I just actually don't really know what, um, like, I've learnt a few exercises and I was like, I need to know more so that I can actually give them more.

[00:15:10] Steph: And I think, for whatever reason, when I teach Pilates, I just feel really good. So I want to feel that more, and then I would love for the people that participate in that to feel that same feeling when they walk out. So, I think I wanted to have more of that joy, so I kind of shifted towards doing that more.

[00:15:28] Olivia: I think you've really hit on something with the agency of Pilates and really empowering people to, you know, make choices and, and do things for themselves and not that you're doing it to them. Like you're not fixing them, but you're giving them tools or an opportunity to get stronger. Not because you're making them stronger, but you're just creating the situation where they can get stronger for themselves. Um, I also really, really love that. 

[00:15:57] Olivia: And the group dynamic is just [00:16:00] great. Like it's man, like I feel like the entire podcast is just like, I love teaching Pilates, it's really fun, but like, it really is really fun. Um, the people are cool. It's, it's like, it's nice being the highlight of people's day that like people look forward to this and they set aside this time for themselves. And it's this like really special time and to just like be the good guy. 

[00:16:22] Olivia: It's also fun because like physical therapy, like my mom had a hip replacement back in April and like physical therapy is hard and it's painful and you're seeing people at their lowest, it's like they're coming right out of surgery. They're coming right out of trauma and they need help and it's like, it is such a valuable thing that physical therapists do, but it's also, I am sure, really difficult to work with people who are not, you know, at their best. So, so, so valuable, but it's, it's, it's not, um, it's not always [00:17:00] fun. 

[00:17:00] Olivia: So, I, uh, I like that in Pilates, we can be a little bit of a gap-filler ourselves in terms of like transitioning from PT back to sport if they're, you know, going back into other things or just exercise in general being good for you and just now that you have regained mobility and some strength like we can just keep pushing that envelope. We can just go as far as you want to go. I think that that's excellent I love that. I love that. 

[00:17:30] Olivia: So tell me how your teaching has evolved. And it could be from that four day training program to now where you are in a lot of ways teaching other teachers. You are very much an expert in Pilates and, and biomechanics and all delightful things.

[00:17:50] Olivia: How did it go from, if you can think to like that first class that you taught to maybe how you teach now? 

[00:17:58] Steph: Yeah, so [00:18:00] I, I've changed so much, like, so the way that I teach is so different now, and even the way that I, like, I look back and I often talk to teachers when they're first starting, and I think, like, when I was first a physio and how much I was like, I can't believe someone's going to come and see me like, like so much changes in that time, but you have to go through that start part otherwise you can't ever get to where you are. 

[00:18:23] Steph: I think it's interesting. And I haven't actually, to be honest, thought about it until you just said it then, but the first course that I did was very minimally focused on different cuing. Like it was like just doing the exercise, the exercise will help you for whatever, for whatever their reasoning was.

[00:18:40] Steph: And then, and in that time, like time when I was learning, it was like, no, you like, I need to know exactly what's happening. Like, what are the muscles, what are all the things? And then. And then it's like, you need to switch this on and you need to be in this position. And so I think I was, I was actually for a stage, I would have cued so many things like [00:19:00] put your neck in this position and your ribs in this position and contract to this. And I do that now, and I'm like, I don't think I could move anywhere if I was like in that position, like I'm stuck. 

[00:19:10] Steph: Um, so I think that way that I teach in that way has definitely changed. Like, so now I try to just get people moving and making the shape and then I watch them and then I'll cue what I notice that is different about maybe what I would like them to see what shape I would like to see, but it's not necessarily that it's just that maybe I wanted them to do it in a round back and they're in a flat back. And so I'm definitely a lot more relaxed in that way. And I don't cue very much in terms of like what muscles you're using. Um, I might say, you might feel this somewhere in this area and, but I don't necessarily direct them as to what to activate.

[00:19:57] Steph: And I definitely have [00:20:00] changed in the way that now that I've taught for a while, I can, um, I definitely use more personality in the way that I teach. So I would, like I said, I would get them moving. And then I like might have a bit of a chit chat as they're going, cause like they're doing it fine. It's challenging enough for them. I don't need to be telling them a million things to do, but I might go over to one person and be able to give them like a little bit of feedback instead of telling a full class the same thing. 

[00:20:28] Steph: So yeah, I definitely think now I'm more about, now that I have a, kind of a good understanding of how to get people into exercises and how to progress them and what springs to put on it and I'm not really thinking about all those things now. It's more about creating an environment for the people that are in the class so that they're enjoying their time there and, um, creating like a community for them and an experience. 

[00:20:55] Olivia: I think that's where the real fun of teaching Pilates [00:21:00] comes in, is when you can be yourself, when you can, um, let your personality shine. Um, I tell jokes a lot, I sing occasionally, it's, it's, but it's those kind of things that help you connect with the people in your class, and that's really key why people come back to your class because they could do Pilates on YouTube. They could do Pilates at any studio anywhere in the world, but they're there with you and it's because it's you. 

[00:21:23] Olivia: And also about talking less. Um, I think a really big change that happens is I think when we start teaching, we're just looking at ourselves and we're so nervous about. And then you turn what you're looking at to the people that you're teaching, which I mean, ideally should be there the whole time. But again, it's a process, like it's a journey we're going from point A to point B that you can see what people are doing and then. You end up talking less because you don't have to tell them things they're already doing. If they're already doing it, then you don't have to say to do it. Or if they're doing what [00:22:00] you asked, you don't have to keep saying things. They're doing it. Like success, victory. We're here. We've arrived. Um, so I, I absolutely love that. 

[00:22:09] Olivia: And then I think we really get to teach because we see, like you said, okay, I cued a round back. I'm letting them move. Looks groovy. That's what I want, except their back isn't round. So that's what I'm going to say, but I'm not going to say other things that they're already doing, if the carriage is already moving or their shoulders or where you want them to be, whatever. So I think that that's fantastic.

[00:22:31] Olivia: And, and really the fun bit for me as well, because, you know, every class should be unique to the people who are there to what you're seeing. Otherwise it would just be like a recorded class that, you know, you're not, you're not getting that feedback. So I love that. I love it. 

[00:22:49] Steph: I think other, I think one of the things I come across is people finding that like they get, they get really bored with their teaching because it's the same thing all the time. But for me, I feel like, cause I'm, cause [00:23:00] everyone in the class is different. I could teach the same beginner exercises, but if that, if that's the right level and challenge for them, there should be enough things that I can kind of help them with or um, watch out for it with those people that there's, it's a different, like you said, it's a different person. It's a different environment that you're in. 

[00:23:19] Steph: So sometimes, yeah, I think it's about looking at the people rather than the necessarily the exercises that you're teaching and using that as a way to kind of make it less boring. 

[00:23:28] Olivia: It's so interesting because I was contemporary trained, um, in Pilates, but I came to Pilates from yoga and the style of yoga that I did is very similar to classical Pilates and that it's the same exercises in the same order for the same amount of breaths every single time that you do it.

[00:23:47] Olivia: And I don't know what it was about Pilates that I was like, Oh, well, I don't want to do that for Pilates, but like in yoga, like, you know, that if you do the same thing, it's different if you do it, you know, day to day. And [00:24:00] so as teachers, like sometimes I'll jokingly tell new teachers, like, what you really need to do is get good at cuing footwork because you are going to teach a lot of footwork.

[00:24:09] Olivia: And if you do that, it's like 10 percent of your class. Amazing. Um, but. You're going to teach the same exercises. And even if it's not the same exercise, like our body only moves so many ways, our elbows only bend in one direction and our knees only bend like this. And you can only, you know, it's only so many spots on the footbar you can do footwork in. 

[00:24:30] Olivia: But when you're really looking at the people in your class and, you know, you connect with them, you know, what's going on in their life, you know, what's going on in their body a little bit more. And you can do those like little changes for them. Someone's saying, Oh, you know, I've been having terrible foot cramps. And you're like, Oh, I know that that's been happening. So we're going to do this little extra thing on arches or like bird on a perch or something, give you a little extra foot stretch. And then, you know, you build a community. 

[00:24:57] Olivia: Like there's so many [00:25:00] things that come out of really looking at people. And the first thing you have to do is stop looking at your notes. And I know that the notes are like a very important stage where you have to write everything down. But like, once you look up and you look at the people and like, what's landing, what's working, what are they getting, are they just nailing this? Do we need to go further? Like if they progressed.

[00:25:19] Olivia: So yeah, don't feel trapped by the exercises or the repertoire, because even with it, if you did the same thing every day, it would a hundred percent be different. 

[00:25:30] Steph: Yeah, 100%. And I think I've been doing a mindfulness course just for myself. But I think a lot of that, like I've like had these moments where I'm like, Oh, it makes so much sense. Like that. It's that thing where you're just internally focusing all the time on, you know, what queue is going to come next or, you know, what's going to, what you're going to say that you then can't focus as much externally on what's happening around you in that moment. So sometimes I think the more you teach the same things, the less you have to focus internally. And the more that you can [00:26:00] take that focus outside and enjoy actually that moment that you're spending with the people around you.

[00:26:06] Olivia: I love that. I, I've, I, the way I think about it for myself is I think about it as like the back burner or like autopilot. It's like already there. And the way it gets there is you just have to do it a ton. And so you have to teach footwork a thousand times, but then you don't have to worry about what you're going to say because it's all there. And it, I think, especially for new teachers, I think we set like a really high bar for new teachers that we like expect them to like be, yeah, professional experienced teachers when they're inexperienced teachers, you know, like that's just part of the, that's where you start. But that act of doing it repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, struggling to find the words, but then doing it anyway and just continuing to do it, that's how it gets just back there and then it's just there. 

[00:26:58] Olivia: And I've been trying to think [00:27:00] about, cause I've, I've got an episode that's actually coming. It'll be the episode that comes out before this episode that is about, you know, preparing to practice, teach, and, you know, tips and tricks for practice teaching, and I'm just thinking. You just got to do it. Like you just got to do it and it's going to be messy and it's going to be, um, not your finest time, but the way you get to your finest time is through that muddling.

[00:27:25] Olivia: It's the baby giraffe phase of like wobbling around. I don't know. Maybe giraffes are awkward the whole time, but things that are not awkward. Like, I don't know a lot about giraffe mechanics, but, uh, I can imagine. 

[00:27:39] Steph: Yeah, I think it's like that. Um. Yeah, it's the thinking of yourself as that beginner client that comes in, like you don't ask them to be as, um, proficient as an advanced client, but yet you expect that of yourself as a teacher. So you like, I just think lower the bar a little bit and kind of expect that you're going to make [00:28:00] mistakes. You're going to say the wrong word, but then it gets better the more that you do it. 

[00:28:05] Olivia: I love it. Lowering the bar. I honestly, if you're saying words and they're doing things. You are nailing it. That is, that is it. That is the thing. Um, and it just, it gets better. It gets better. And you learn how to ride the nerves. I think a little bit, like, I don't know about you. I don't get super nervous when I teach anymore. The thought process is not, Oh my gosh, I'm going to teach. It's more like, Oh, what pieces of equipment do I want to use? Or is there something I want to focus on today? But it's not like hyping myself up to do it anymore. Um, I still have hype up playlists, but it's, it's not worry about teaching as as much.

[00:28:53] Olivia: Hi there. I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break too. [00:29:00] Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit Buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. There you can make a one-time donation or become a member for as little as five dollars a month. Membership comes with some awesome perks, including a shout out in the next episode, a monthly newsletter, a monthly zoom call with me and more.

[00:29:22] Olivia: 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.

[00:29:51] Olivia: I, I do want to hear about your business and Pilates HQ and the app and the studio and all things. How did that come about? [00:30:00] 

[00:30:00] Steph: Yeah. So, um, once I, uh, still worked in a few studio physio practices and then moved more to doing the physio. the pilates side of things. Um, sorry, getting all my words muddled up. And I just felt like that was what I wanted to be doing and because of some of my own health issues, I wanted to be able to do it for myself because it meant that I had more control over kind of what hours I could work and I could have breaks when I might need them. 

[00:30:30] Steph: So I worked then on building a small home studio, like from doing some mat classes in the town hall and then doing some stuff from home. And I think I kind of thought that's where I would stay, doing that and then a little bit of physio. 

[00:30:45] Steph: And then I thought if I didn't go and try to make it like a bit of a bigger space, I would regret it. So I ended up having a studio. So reformer and clinical Pilates or studio Pilates, depending on what you call it. [00:31:00] And I did that for around probably five years and I had teachers that worked for me. 

[00:31:05] Steph: Um, and I just realized the things that I liked and the things that I didn't like as much. So I love teaching Pilates. I love the community and the space. I loved all the people that worked for me, but I hated, like, I didn't like being their boss. Like, I don't like being the one that has to say, oh. I don't, you know, can you do it this way? Or like, it just didn't, I didn't like that feeling and lots of, lots of other tasks that I had to do. And I ended up just kind of burning myself out in the process. 

[00:31:34] Steph: So Pilates HQ, that, that was what my business was called. And in the original kind of phase of the app, it was. Pilates HQ Academy and it was meant to be the things that I was teaching to the new teachers that came to my studio. I was like, well, these are the things that I keep teaching to them all the time. So like, surely there's other people that will need to learn those things. And I thought that could be a way to kind of [00:32:00] offset my have a bit more income coming in and maybe I could reduce my workload a bit at the studio. 

[00:32:06] Steph: And then COVID hit and, um, I launched this program for Pilates teachers and all the studios closed. So it was like the worst time you could ever try to do something like that. In a way it was good because I just realized that, yeah, how burnt out I was and how tired I was and that I needed to kind of stop what I was doing and kind of recalibrate. So I ended up closing the studio and another studio took it over. And, um, yeah, and then I took a bit of a break because it was that time when everyone could take a bit of a break. 

[00:32:40] Steph: And, um, yeah, I realized that I wanted to try to make this, um, online thing a go so that I could, because I really love the teaching side of it and teaching other teachers and, um, I started out just doing that, but then I missed that interaction with people.

[00:32:58] Steph: So, now I'm at a place [00:33:00] where I still do some stuff in person, and then the app has, I've only just had an app, kind of six months ish. Um, and it's just been, it's just been a process, and I feel like any business really, it's just been a change based on what people were using, what people wanted, um, what people needed help with, and I'm sure it'll change a million times in the future as well. 

[00:33:26] Steph: Yeah. So now where it's at is that it's an app that has a program in there. Um, and of course to help people with planning their classes. So building that confidence and teaching like they're kind of go to exercise clusters is what I call it. So it's like the ones like the exercise you learn in your course, the things that you feel most confident teaching so that you can build the confidence teaching that and then starting to add variety onto it. And then there's a library of exercises to help you add variety to your classes. And there's lots of other stuff [00:34:00] mixed in there as well. 

[00:34:02] Olivia: That's awesome. I love, I love the way you were able to identify what parts of teaching you really loved and what parts of your business you loved. And you were able to create something that had all of the things that you love in it. Like that's the dream, honestly. 

[00:34:20] Olivia: Um, because I I've come. Up about like up against this wall myself because it's like, Oh, should you open a studio? But running a studio is not the same as teaching Pilates. They are different skill sets. There are, uh, different things involved in both of them. And what you love about teaching Pilates does not necessarily exist in the, I can only imagine running payroll and paying rent and utilities and, you know, being responsible for people and equipment and things like, it's very different. And I think that a lot of [00:35:00] teachers can make that jump to be like, well, I'm going to have my own studio and then.

[00:35:06] Olivia: Realize and then push themselves, I think, way too hard because then you're doing everything because then you're teaching a bajillion classes, way more classes than you probably want to, and then balancing all of these administrative duties on top of it. And it's just a lot. So it is a story that's come up with multiple teachers in the podcast. That they were like, yeah, and then they were like, Oh no, Oh no, actually, or there's parts of it that they really, really loved. Like you said, like working with new teachers is something that you loved that, um, you know, that group class dynamic teaching classes, that was something that you loved, but not necessarily the being everyone's boss part. 

[00:35:44] Olivia: So I love that you were able to find, um, a way to balance it. And I have actually checked out the, uh, Pilates HQ app. It is so cool and so organized and so neat. Um, and really a time saver if you're. In the part of your teaching journey [00:36:00] where you're like, Oh my gosh, what am I going to teach? Um, so many great ideas and really great teachers and, um, helpful things on that app. Steph's also offering a free introductory offer for the app. So that will be included in the show notes of this episode. I want to make sure that if you're listening and that sounds cool or sounds like something that would be helpful to you, that you give it a go because. It's pretty cool. It's pretty neat. 

[00:36:26] Steph: Yeah. Thank you very much. That's what that means a lot for you to say that. And yeah, there's a 30 day free trial, so, um, you can usually get a seven day free trial, but, um, yeah, just extending it a bit so people have a bit more time to have a look around. 

[00:36:42] Olivia: Awesome. Awesome. Um, I am excited also that you shared in your story that what you wanted to do. Maybe when you first started teaching Pilates is not what you're currently doing, like what you wanted changed over time. And I think that it's important [00:37:00] to continue to say out loud like it's okay that if you came to Pilates and you thought it was going to be one thing and then you know it changed for you. Or you know what you wanted to make of it changed. That you don't have to feel stuck if you said like, Oh my gosh, I want to open a studio. And you're like, Ooh, actually that's not what I want to do. Like, it's totally fine. Um, like what we need for, as you said, you know, you might have health issues or you might have, you know, other things going on in your life and Pilates can really change, not just when you're taking a class and you're like, Oh, do I want to do this version or this version of bridge, but like, as a teacher, what you can get out of teaching Pilates and how you can teach Pilates can change as well.

[00:37:46] Steph: Yeah, absolutely. And I think for a while I, I didn't realize that I felt like, well, this is what I've done and I'm going to have to keep doing it. I was like, so, uh, but I, I think it was just that permission that, you know what, you, [00:38:00] you came to this for a reason. And I try to do that whenever I'm at like a bit of a crossroads or I'm feeling like, um, you know, lacking motivation. I sort of go, what was my. Like I'm very big on kind of setting goals and kind of trying to reach towards them, but also knowing that you can change the goalposts. So what was the reason that I initially started this, you know, for me, it was to have more freedom, more time to do something I love and to have a better, um, healthier life.

[00:38:30] Steph: Um, and that sort of changed over time. And so when I was went back to those things and like the reason, but I was doing it, I was like, Oh, I think I have to change something like something's changed along the way. Um, and so I think for teachers, it's really important to go. Why did I? Why did I do this Pilates course? What was my reason behind it? Um, why am I teaching at this studio? Why? What is it that I want to be doing? And if you're feeling like there's not a, there's a mismatch there, it's okay to kind of reassess and go actually, [00:39:00] this might not be the right place for me to work, or I might need to cut some of my hours down, or I might need to change the types of classes I'm teaching. Like, you don't have, you don't have to feel like you're stuck. 

[00:39:10] Steph: You're the one that's in charge of your teaching and your life. And, um, there's always ways. to kind of change where you're at. And it's scary when you're doing it, but, um, it's definitely possible. 

[00:39:25] Olivia: I've said it before on the podcast, but I'll reiterate. Um, it was very lucky for me that COVID happened, or I would have definitely been a Pilates teacher who jumped into Pilates with both feet, was teaching like 30, 40 hours a week. And had been doing it for a couple of years and was just about ready to like, explode. Like loved it, but was not, you know, setting boundaries for my own health and my own time.

[00:39:55] Olivia: And that forced standstill of COVID really [00:40:00] allowed me to realize that I was absolutely running on fumes and that this was not sustainable. And it was just like too much of a good thing is, is a really bad thing. And you've got to, you've got to cut back. You've got to pick your spots. Um, I know for me, I don't have a car, which is wild. Um, but I don't have a driver's license. I just take the train. Um, and so like the travel time between studios was absolutely, was absolutely like ending me. I would be commuting for, and I was teaching yoga as well. And so I was, I'd be commuting for like three, four, five hours. And you just like going out somewhere to teach one class and then going somewhere else to teach one class. And it was just not sustainable. 

[00:40:50] Olivia: Um, so like you said, like, we don't need a COVID to like stop and be like, is this actually serving me? Is this, [00:41:00] you know, what I want it to be because, you know, inertia is really powerful and, you know, making a change is really difficult and can be really scary because there's an, an, there's an unknown factor, but you don't have to, you know, keep going the way you're going forever and always like it is highly adjustable, um, because, you know, what time you have, the energy you have, like it, it all changes. Like I look at, I look at my teaching schedule before and I was like, I don't think I could do that again. 

[00:41:35] Steph: No, no. I definitely, I looked at it and I was like, when I had the business, like there's no way I could do, if I tried to do that now. I don't know if I'd wake up the next day, I mean, I was late for a few days, I think.

[00:41:46] Olivia: I saw a TikTok that was like, I can't believe I used to commute to my job, work my job, commute home, and then do things. And So much, oh [00:42:00] man, it's, it's so much, it's so, so much. 

[00:42:02] Olivia: Um, so tell me, Steph, what other adventures, what is cooking up in Pilates HQ or for you personally, like what is next in Pilates land for you?

[00:42:14] Steph: Um, so I've just brought on some amazing new teachers in the Pilates HQ app. That's really exciting for me. Um, again, I was, I just thought that I had to do it all and then I was like. No, you don't. Um, so I've got some great teachers. So I'm working on, um, yeah, the content that they'll be putting in, maybe getting them to do some recorded classes that they can add into the app as well.

[00:42:37] Steph: And it's really just for me, just again, resetting that goal and sort of going, okay, well now it's like, it's okay for it to just like chug along and, and to get to where it needs to be. It's not like a big corporate business. So I'm just working on slowly trying to get it out there. Um, and I just, I just want it to be something that helps Pilates teachers see that, you know, [00:43:00] they doesn't have to be as stressful to, you know, plan their classes and it's okay to take their time and take their way through that journey. And, um, hopefully that it can be something that helps them along their way. 

[00:43:12] Steph: For me, yeah, I sort of, I do that. And then I also work in a physio clinic. So, um, I just like, I like doing some clinical studio parties, classes and, um, something that I'm interested in at the moment because of the population that I work with is like more of the senior population and working with them.

[00:43:32] Steph: So keen to just keep learning about different ways that I can work with them and also, um. upskilling in like an invisible illness kind of area. So working with people with chronic fatigue and long COVID, that sort of thing. So yeah, just things that keep me kind of my brain ticking over and, um, help get a bit of, yeah, education and ideas and keeps things a bit mixed for me. So. [00:44:00] 

[00:44:00] Olivia: That's incredible. Um, I didn't want to ask. So about that physio degree that you went and got, and then you're like not using. So I'm glad that, um, that you're using it. And I'm also so glad that your Pilates clients have access to your physio brain and that your, Physio clients also have access to your Pilates brain because, um, physical therapy exercises are not the most interesting thing to do. They are very important and not interesting at all. So I love, I hope that you're able to kind of infuse those two together, um, to meet your clients where they are and also, um, help them get where they want to be. 

[00:44:43] Olivia: Uh, we've. Spoken a lot about, because we both work with new teachers a lot. Um, so we've spoken a lot about, you know, our advice for new teachers, but if you had some words of wisdom that you wanted to share with new teachers, what would they be?[00:45:00] 

[00:45:01] Steph: Um, I think, yeah, I think it's really just about not putting so much pressure on yourself to, like, for whatever reason, I feel like a lot of Pilates teachers have this perfectionist mindset, and it's like they have to be as good as, you know, someone that's been teaching for 10 years or five years or whatever it is, um, and just kind of taking yourself back and reminding yourself, you know, you're at the start of this process, so you only know as much as you know now, and that's okay.

[00:45:28] Steph: And to, kind of allow yourself to go through that growing process. So it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to not know at all. No one knows at all. And yeah, lower that bar of where your expectation is and use each class that you teach as a way, as a learning experience for you. 

[00:45:48] Steph: And not every class that you teach has to be perfect. No one's is. You don't have to follow exactly what you thought you were going to plan. You know, just, just kind of taking that pressure off. And, [00:46:00] um, making things as simple as they can so that the, yeah, the expectation isn't as high and allow themselves to grow over a longer period of time, instead of feeling like they have to know it all now.

[00:46:12] Olivia: I think that growth mindset part is so, so important because like, if you were already there, you wouldn't be in a training program. You know, if you were already an excellent teacher, then you wouldn't be going through this process. Um, and yeah, I. I was that perfectionist and I was just lucky that I did yoga teacher training before I did Pilates teacher training so I was able to like go through the panic and everything of like speaking in front of people and saying the right thing, um, in the yoga teacher training program. So I, it was not fair going into Pilates training because the speaking in front of people I had already done. 

[00:46:55] Olivia: Um, but yeah, just. [00:47:00] It's, I, I've used the analogy before of, you know, making one perfect pot versus making a hundred pots, like random story that's like, there's a professor and he's like, all right, this group is just going to make one pot and your whole grade is this one ceramic pot that you're going to make in this class.

[00:47:18] Olivia: And then the other group, they said, you have to make a hundred pots and each pot is worth one point. And the people who made a hundred actually grew as potters, or in ceramics because they had the opportunity to practice their skills and not do a perfect one. They just have to make 100 of them, but they got better. But the people who spent the whole term working on one perfect thing, it just wasn't as good because they didn't get to practice. 

[00:47:46] Olivia: Like it really is, it is an art. And if you think of all of the teachers that, you know, you love who are your favorite teachers, like they've all been where you were, like they've all [00:48:00] mixed up their right and their left and their feet and forgot the word for straps and didn't change the springs for an exercise. Like they've all been there and you know, like, like you've said, it's. You get there by, you know, working through the stages. You can't hop, skip and jump. That would be amazing. My gosh, if there's a way to hop, skip and jump, share. But, um, you just have to, you know, little by little. 

[00:48:26] Olivia: Um, totally random and unrelated, but related. Um, when I came to yoga, I was a soccer player first and I played soccer for like a decade as a youth. And I couldn't touch my toes and I remember coming to yoga after a soccer injury that I was obsessed with touching my toes and like that goal was like it, but then through doing yoga and then through doing Pilates, I realized, like, this is so fun that I can't tell you when I touched my toes because the goal wasn't [00:49:00] that end game of like being that perfect teacher. It's just Teaching is so fun and what we're doing is so beneficial for people's lives. Along the way, I became a better teacher, but you realize like the real goal is, is maybe not being a perfect teacher, but really being yourself while you're teaching or whatever. 

[00:49:24] Steph: Exactly. That's right. And all the things that happen along the way, all the things that you've been through before you were in your teacher training, that's what makes you. You, your own unique teacher, like your personality, your experiences, the teachers that you come across, the people that you teach, like if you were to skip all those steps, you wouldn't be the teacher that you could be in the future, I think. 

[00:49:49] Steph: Yeah, so I think it's really important, and I still, like, say the wrong words, and I still, um, like, muck everything up, and my students used to be like, Ooh, I really like coming to your class, because I never know [00:50:00] what is going to come out of your mouth. I was like, Well, I'm glad.

[00:50:05] Olivia: I love that. I love that. Sometimes I'll come home and I'll be like, Oh my gosh, I said something so funny. And my partner will be like, what was it? And I was like, I can't even remember. It was highly contextual, but it was really good. 

[00:50:18] Steph: And I think it gives, I feel like, well, I have to feel like this cause I muck up my words a lot. So I feel like it gives people permission in your class to not be perfect. Like if you're not there being perfect, they've got permission to give something a go and not be perfect at it either. Um, so it's okay to just be human and just be yourself when you're teaching. 

[00:50:39] Olivia: Oh, yeah, I've definitely like gone to cue like a kneeling arm exercise and we still got the same springs on his footwork and you go to pull and you don't go anywhere and you're like, Oh, right, everybody turn around.

[00:50:49] Olivia: Let's take off some of those springs. But it's like, I think what people will. Potentially what new teachers are worried about, they think that's going to happen. And then like the [00:51:00] world's going to stop spinning and everyone's going to be like, Oh my gosh, that was the worst moment ever, you know, but if you can laugh about it and just keep going, like no one is fixating on it.

[00:51:13] Olivia: Like our clients, like, it's not about us as teachers. It's not about, you know, it's not about us at all. It's about, you know, our clients and the experience that they're having. And so if they, if you forget the words, it doesn't, you know, that's not the important part of the teaching thing. Um, it's the, it's the keeping going and keeping everyone moving and all of that stuff.

[00:51:38] Steph: Yeah. And I think kind of coming back to what we have said throughout this chat, it's that taking that focus off yourself and going, what's the experience I want to give to these people? How do I want them to feel when they walk out? And if I can kind of, yeah, infuse that and make them feel that way, then that's what. You know, a successful class looks like it doesn't necessarily have to be about all the exercises [00:52:00] in there. 

[00:52:00] Olivia: Yeah. I'd even, I'd even go so far as to say like, that's a perfect class. Like if that's the end date, like if everyone leaves feeling good and smiling, like honestly, perfect class, like gold star. Amazing. That's awesome. 

[00:52:14] Olivia: Is there anything else that you want to bring up or share or anything that we didn't touch on that you wanted to touch on, uh, before I let you go? 

[00:52:22] Steph: I didn't think so. No, I think, I think, I mean, I could probably sit here and chat to you for ages, but, Oh my gosh, sorry. At the risk of spending hours here, um, no, I think, I think we've covered most of what I wanted to chat about in, um Yeah, some good messages there for teachers, I think. 

[00:52:38] Olivia: Definitely. Well, thank you so much for taking the time and for coming on the show. I Appreciate you. I appreciate the work you're doing in the industry and I think that apps like yours are really creating a space in a community for teachersTo continue to grow and to support each other. And that is the type of [00:53:00] Pilates community building that is important to me and what I think is of great value to our industry.

[00:53:07] Olivia: So thank you so much for all you're doing. Um, and thank you so much for being on the show. 

[00:53:12] Steph: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This was lots of fun. 

[00:53:20] Olivia: 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.

[00:53:39] Olivia: For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. The adventure continues. Until next time.