Making your way through your Pilates Teacher Training program is an exciting and overwhelming time. There is an incredible amount of information thrown at you all at once, and you are expected to retain it all in a very short period of time. At minimum, the beginning part of your training that provides you with the basic qualifications to begin teaching is often completed with the same Pilates Institute, method, and even Teacher Trainer. While the overarching Pilates method is the same as designed by Joseph Pilates, every Pilates Institute has its own approach to teaching, and its own cueing techniques and verbiage for describing each exercise. When a group of students complete any particular program, they often sound much like the Teacher Trainer that taught them, and very much like many other instructors that have graduated from that same Institute.
When we are given a script to memorize for teaching the complex Pilates repertoire, we can lose our connection with the method, the movement, and the client. Movement is dynamic, and so must be our teaching. Sometimes there is a level of comfort found in regurgitating the same words over and over when you know that it works to get everyone moving in the same direction at once, and for the most part, looking the same. What is missing though is your personal touch, the passion, and the very reason that you love teaching Pilates in the first place.
As an Instructor, the learning really starts once you begin teaching. You are working with a variety of personalities, and people from an array of backgrounds. They are all different and so are their bodies, so we have to be fluid in our teaching to reach each client and keep them coming back. The way we cue an exercise for a young and fit client is quite different from the way that we would cue the same exercise for a less active or senior client, and more importantly so is the choice of exercises. The greatest challenge but the most valuable skill is to find your own voice as a teacher. Your voice is an expression of you, who you are, and what you offer to those who you teach. A sense of caring and compassion for your clients does not come from the description of the exercises, but the part of yourself that you add to those cues.
When I teach my Teacher Training students, I assign them two important tasks. The first is to make a list of qualities that they want to possess and portray as a teacher, and the second is a separate list of all the positive words people would use to describe them. They are then challenged with how they are going to express these qualities in their teaching. As they play with this, the difference is miraculous, and immediately they become a more personable and confident teacher.
What makes us unique as teachers is our ability to adjust to meet the needs of our clients. They do not need to come up to our level, rather we need to meet them where they are on any given day. Pilates is meant to be all-inclusive, and to offer a way for every body to move with grace and freedom. Finding your own voice for your specific clientele will keep them coming back again and again.
Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute
Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
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