Clients often tell me my sessions are really challenging. Yesterday I taught a reformer class all essential reformer. The basics, nothing fancy. After class, I asked if the students had enjoyed what I perceived to be my more gentle class. One of the students said, “It was really hard.” I was shocked because I had tried to tone down the challenge a bit. The student added, “You correct us so much we can’t get away with cheating.” Ah haaa!
People talk about Joseph Pilates as a demanding and deeply committed teacher. So don’t ignore your passion for form and eye for detail. Instead, embrace it!
Of course if you are a brand new teacher, just get people safely moving and get the words out. But if you’ve been teaching for a while and want to challenge your clients within the essential level exercises, I can help.
Correcting form is of the utmost importance. Form will ensure that your clients get an effective and safe workout. And it’s what will get them to really feel the work. You will need to use all your skills — variation in your voice, tactile hands-on and say the same correction hundreds of ways! Be careful that you correct without expecting perfection.
Use Your Voice. A strong voice will let the client know that you are in control. As a result, this will foster a sense of safety for them and understanding what is expected during the session. Tone of voice can convey intensity, purpose and direction which will keep clients on task. If you speak in a loose informal manner, they will respond by practicing in a loose, informal way. Excessive talking beyond the scope of Pilates is a bad habit and will detract from the client’s ability to stay focused. It’s a balance between being yourself and being a task master. Finally, a syncopated speech pattern will keep clients moving in unison. How you speak will help guide the client on how to move.
Use Your Hands. Touch and tactile cues can enhance understanding. If the client’s shoulders are up by their ears, drop a hand on a shoulder while saying “soften your shoulders.” Assisting the client with your hands may help the client feel what the movement or position should feel like in their body. Then hopefully they will be better able to recreate it. You can also have the clients do their own hands-on. If their pelvis is rocking during an exercise, they can put their hands on their own hips and slow it down until they can maintain control.
Seek Understanding. Don’t give up when someone isn’t understanding your correction. Simply try to communicate the idea in a different way. If a client is allowing the rectus abdominis to take the brunt of the abdominal work in an Ab Prep and can’t understand the cue “cinch the waist,” maybe they will understand “pull navel to spine” or even “imagine your tightening a belt or corset.”
Another approach is through the progression of an exercise. Starting with Ab Prep on the mat or foam roller. Get your client to practice and understand a proper abdominal connection. After all, if they’re not performing an Ab Prep correctly, they will not be able to progress to Hundreds on the Reformer. Later in the session, remind them or repeat the Ab Prep connection before diving into Hundreds. This will allow clients to build from a foundation of understanding and repeat repeat repeat that understanding by linking back to the basics.
Yet another place to practice this is in footwork and feet in straps. Both are easy for clients to tune out (“nap time” as one of my clients calls it). If you can get them to feel all the core muscles and details of these exercises here, you’re set for any exercise.
Remember, I’m not suggesting you slow down until something is perfect (yawn!). I’m suggesting you keep flow & pace while getting the client to feel the subtle work. Not an easy task for even a seasoned instructor but with practice I know you can do it!
Good luck! Keep working towards greatness!