One way of teaching Pilates teaching shapes as the building blocks for Pilates exercises. That's a useful strategy for teaching, but do our clients care about making shapes? This episode dives into some different reasons people come to a Pilates studio, and how making shapes can help clients meet their goals. Tune in!
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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 visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.
[00:00:56] Hello. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Today's episode is a little bit of a tangent, but I'm totally okay with it, um, because I was chatting with someone on Instagram and they asked me a question and it really got me thinking, and then I wrote them an essay as a response and I was like, wow, I had a lot to say about this. I would love to make this an episode. So here we are.
[00:01:19] What was the question? The question was, do our clients care about making shapes? Because we talk about in Pilates, this idea of making shapes and taking exercises and breaking them down. And you've heard my personal opinion on exercises, which is that all exercises kind of exist on a spectrum, and all exercises have common denominators in how we can link exercises together. I've talked about that in seamless progressions or simplifying your programming, things like that.
[00:01:52] And I think that this is a really valid question because I- we always wanna loop back what [00:02:00] we're doing to our client's bottom line and what's important to our clients. Because when we're building a therapeutic alliance, if our clients really wanna do a pushup and that's their goal, and we spend a lot of time doing things that aren't, to their eye, meeting their goal, they're not gonna see the value in it, and then they're not gonna be our clients, which is lame.
[00:02:20] So we always want to kind of have in the back of our mind how does this matter to our client? How can we help our clients see the value in this if it's something we really think, or how can we adjust our Pilates program when we're working one-on-one with someone, but also in a group? Like are we meeting our clients and our students' expectations of Pilates when they come to class?
[00:02:44] It's a good, you know, question to have always in your mind. So I got to thinking about this and I was like, do our clients care about making shapes? I think about some of the most foundational things that I teach in Pilates, and it's [00:03:00] things like shapes of the spine. It's that, you know, you can do a side bend, you can do a forward fold, you can do a back bend, you can rotate, and then how can we put those shapes together? And then how do those shapes show up in exercises?
[00:03:12] Does it matter to our clients? The answer that I came up with was, I think some people do care about the shape as the shape sometimes. Uh, people who've been doing Pilates for a really long time, who are trying to nail this specific exercise, whether it's teaser, whether it's rollover, whether it's snake on the reformer, those people are very interested in that particular shape and they wanna learn it. Ooh, pull ups on the chair. One of those exercises where you know it, maybe you consider it a peak exercise, or it's just like a really cool or really hard exercise, and they wanna do that exercise. And so they'll come and they'll work with you in a group class, in a one-on-one, and their goal is to [00:04:00] make that shape.
[00:04:00] So for that person, if your style of teaching is about, you know, pointing out the commonalities between exercises and, you know, finding the simplest way to make this shape and then adding complexity to that shape until it layers up to that peak exercise that is gonna resonate really well with that person who wants to make that shape. That's their goal. I wanna do that exercise.
[00:04:28] But clients have different reasons for coming, right? Our clients are not a monolith. Even if you're in an area where a lot of people are in the same, you know, socioeconomic standing, or they are kids that go to the same school, like still every client is gonna have their own personal reasons, and not everyone's is shape related.
[00:04:50] I was thinking that some clients come because they have a movement goal. So it might [00:05:00] be to pick up their grandchild. It might be to climb stairs without their knees hurting. It might be something like, I wanna be able to play golf and not have my back hurt. You know, there, it's a movement goal, but it's not making a shape necessarily.
[00:05:19] So I got to thinking about movement goals and all movements, even the most complex, crazy, wild, challenging version of an exercise in Pilates, but also crazy challenging movement- like something I'm kind of playing with is being able to go from an L sit to a handstand like. Obviously extra. Um, very, very complicated. But even those movements have shapes in them, and one of the ways we get stronger is by adding load [00:06:00] to a shape. So in my goal of pressing from an L sit to a handstand, there's still pieces that are shapes that I'm working on. I'm really working on spinal flexion and that compressed shape and being able to lift my legs and lift my hips in an L sit, so I'm repping L sits a bunch. Um, being able to lift into a handstand, that's a complicated movement, but being able to lift my legs overhead happens in Pilates exercises. It happens in other places, and so there's ways that I can practice it for.
[00:06:32] Someone who has a different movement goal, like picking up their grandkid. Well, what happens when we pick something up? You know, we have to bend our knees. So that looks like a squat to me. We have to, you know, lean forward. We have to pick up something that has weight. So we could practice that in Pilates, even though, you know, you might say like, oh, well, squats or, you know, lifting heavy things isn't Pilates.
[00:06:57] Well, isn't it though, like [00:07:00] isn't picking up heavier things like in Pilates, especially mat Pilates, we're picking up our body weight. On the reformer, we can add spring resistance so we're using our arms in a way to pick up something that might be, I dunno if it's ever gonna be more than our body weight, but if you're picking up a grandchild in there, you know, I don't know, 50 pounds, like 30, 35 kilos. I don't know how heavy children are. Um, We can definitely build up to that. And I know a lot of Pilates classes do incorporate weights into class, whether you're doing like a cardio style class or you're doing a circuit class.
[00:07:32] So there are ways that even in a group class, even if you weren't planning this whole class for this person, you could still draw links to what you were doing. And even footwork, which is squatting, lying down, which isn't gonna be as load bearing, eventually we wanna stand them up so that it's a little bit more related to their goal, but we can still see as teachers that the shapes that we make in Pilates are still gonna help this person. We [00:08:00] can tell them that, if that's your style of teaching, I'm not telling you that that's how you have to teach, but it can still connect with people.
[00:08:06] And whenever at the beginning of a class you ask people and you're just like, Hey, is there anything you wanna work on? Or, Is there anything that that's really interesting you, or something you wanna dive a little deeper into today? And of course, only ask that question if you genuinely mean it and you actually want to make changes to your program. If you don't want to, that's also fine. You can teach your class and it's amazing. But when you can make that link to your clients and acknowledge, Hey, I know this is important to you. You told me it was important to you, and now I am doing something because I recognize that it was important to you. And so we're doing a little something there.
[00:08:43] Like that is a great way to connect with clients and really personalize your classes. And also keep it interesting for you as a teacher. A tangent to a tangent because I think part of the fun of being a teacher is not knowing all of the people in your class and what's going on with them. And so when [00:09:00] they give you that information like, oh man, my shoulder's so sore cuz I was on a fishing trip, and you're like, oh my gosh, I got some shoulder exercises or some shoulder stretches or some stuff we can do that's gonna be really good for your shoulder. I think that that's really valuable and something that I think makes teaching Pilates really fun.
[00:09:18] But to put a little bow on the person who has a movement goal that isn't necessarily a shape, it's a more complex movement. I think that the foundational aspect of the least common denominator of the exercises, that is the shape that their spine is making. It's like, what are their legs doing? What are their arms doing? It does happen in Pilates and working on that shape is going to help them accomplish their goal, which is then going to be very valuable to them and make them wanna continue doing Pilates.
[00:09:51] Coming up after the break, we'll talk about people who have a perhaps even more vague goal that isn't even [00:10:00] necessarily movement related and how making shapes can still be a great way to teach that person and to help them reach their goal, vague as it is. That's coming up next.
[00:10:20] 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 one-time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.
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[00:11:16] The last group of clients, and I have arbitrarily made these groups, but the last group of clients are clients who have a vague movement goal. Maybe not even a movement goal, just a very broad goal. Like, I wanna be stronger, I want to have a better posture. I want to, you know, have less back pain.
[00:11:40] So, that's pretty broad, right? Um, but we do have clients who come in and sometimes if you do intake forms at your studio or maybe you're just chatting to the client first thing and you say, Hey, what brings you to Pilates? Like, how'd you hear about us? Like, what made you come in today? And they'll say like, oh, well I heard Pilates was like, good for my posture.
[00:11:58] And you know how I feel about [00:12:00] posture and Pilates, but posture in general that it is not fixed. It is variable, it is situational. It is dependent on your energy level and your emotions, and a lot of things impact our posture. But on the flip side of that coin, one of the things impacting our posture is our confidence in ourselves and how we feel in our body. And Pilates is a great opportunity to feel really strong and feel really capable and do really cool stuff, which tends to make people stand a little bit taller and carry themselves in a way that they, to others may, you might say, oh, they have great posture, but in my eyes I'm like, oh, they really feel good in their body and they carry themselves like they feel good in their body. So, Side note on a side note on posture.
[00:12:51] Um, but clients have goals like that, and we wanna meet our clients where they are. If posture is important to our client, [00:13:00] then we'll talk about posture and how Pilates can help them with that. But I still think that making shapes is going to benefit that person. And even like I talk about shapes, so maybe this is an entire episode of me justifying the way I teach, but I do think that breaking exercises down is an, is a nice approachable way to learn the exercises.
[00:13:27] And just through general exercise- this isn't even Pilates specific- but just the general effects of exercise and the benefits of exercise include a lot of things that will help those people meet those goals. And it's also possible to talk with that person and get a little bit deeper into their goal. Like when you say you wanna be stronger, like what is a strong person able to do that you aren't able to do that If you were able to do, you would recognize that you are stronger because although that can [00:14:00] seem like an awkward question, and maybe I wouldn't exactly phrase it the way I just did.
[00:14:03] But a lot of times people have a very clear picture in their head. They say like, I wanna have a strong core, but what they mean is I wanna be able to do that minute of yogi core in hot yoga where they make you do one leg stretch for a minute and I get tired when I do it. And I think if I could do it, then I would be strong.
[00:14:21] So sometimes it is specific underneath the broad kind of amorphous goal of, you know, I wanna be stronger. But I still think that shapes are gonna help them do that because even if you didn't say shapes and you just took them through a Pilates class where they did Pilates exercises and the shapes are in there, but you didn't talk about them at all, they are going to get stronger from doing Pilates. They are gonna get more flexible doing Pilates.
[00:14:49] Exercise in general, but Pilates specifically, does reduce inflammation. It does reduce stress levels and help you sleep better and help [00:15:00] you move better. Like all of those things happen. So I think even if the words and the language they were using was very far away from the shape-based way you think about Pilates potentially, you are still going to teach them Pilates, you're still gonna do Pilates in that class, and they are still going to benefit from that.
[00:15:21] We have so many great opportunities in Pilates for to introduce people to themselves, to where they are, to the possibilities of where they can go. My absolute favorite thing to do when I'm teaching is set up a situation where a client can take an exercise as far as they want to go, and they surprise themselves by how far they're able to go. And that's physical sometimes. There's a strength or a flexibility component. Sometimes it's mental, in that it's a coordination challenge, or mental in that it's a kind of [00:16:00] scary thing, like short box series where you're sitting on the box and leaning backwards. Like that can be really scary for people and having the courage to try and to trust themselves and that safety strap, for sure. That is incredible. Like that's amazing. That's where growth happens.
[00:16:18] And when people are motivated by the positive changes that they're seeing, they wanna come back. They wanna keep doing Pilates, and I call them Pilates evangelists because they are so passionate about Pilates because of this amazing, incredible, positive impact that it's had in it their life. And they tell their friends and they tell their partners and they tell their neighbors. And suddenly all of these amazing people are coming into your studio and you can do Pilates with all of them, and it's good for everyone.
[00:16:49] I do wanna throw in a caveat, and that is something that I know I've said before, but I'll say it again, and that's that not everyone's teaching style is a match for [00:17:00] everyone. So if the way that I teach or talk about shapes, I see in a class that someone is really tuning me out and just like not vibing with me. That is okay. I always check in with that person after class and say, Hey, thank you so much for coming today. You know, you did awesome. I specifically loved your, and I try to give a specific example of something they did that was great. And I said, you know, I'm here on Monday nights, that's when I'm teaching. There are so many awesome teachers who teach in a different style. So if you enjoy Pilates, but maybe my way of teaching and my comedy standup that I kind of do while I teach isn't to your liking, there are other teachers and I hope that you give them a try and you keep doing this Pilates thing.
[00:17:44] Cuz it's good when you frame it that way and kind of take the personal, uh, like you don't take it personally that that person doesn't like your class. You can let go of a lot of, uh, [00:18:00] baggage emotionally about like not feeling good enough or whatever. Like there's a teacher for everybody. And if your style of teaching isn't that style, that person's style of learning, that's okay. Like there- that's why there are so many teachers, you know, well, there's definitely gonna be someone who will click with you.
[00:18:17] To wrap up this adventure, big takeaways are that clients come to us for different reasons and we often teach in a particular way, but we do change what we say, how we say it for the people in the room. And we can use, if you think about shapes, the way I think about shapes in Pilates, we can use that to help our clients meet their goals and not be worried that it isn't valuable to them.
[00:18:50] Because sometimes the shape itself is valuable for the client who's trying to nail that super hard exercise. Sometimes the shape [00:19:00] is a piece in meeting their movement goal of being able to get up and down off of the floor. You know, we gotta practice those movements that go together to make that movement of getting down to the floor and then getting off of the floor. Right?
[00:19:15] And then for people who come in with that really broad goal of like, I wanna be stronger or I wanna lose weight is another really broad goal that people come in with. Pilates is a form of strength training. You're gonna build muscle, muscle burns more calories. Pilates can definitely be a piece in someone's weight loss plan. Even for that person doing Pilates is great.
[00:19:40] We make shapes in Pilates and it all comes out in the wash, right? Pilates itself works. So shapes is how I think about it for myself and how I relate it a lot to clients. And I really appreciate your question, Anne-France, because do clients care about it? [00:20:00] I think clients care about meeting their own goals. If we can help our clients meet their personal goals through Pilates, I think they will appreciate it. They will be sold on it and they will come back. So thank you so much for your question, Anne-France, that was awesome and it really got me thinking.
[00:20:20] Big thank you to all the supporters on buy Me a Coffee. I appreciate your support of this project so, so much. Huge shout out to Mo and Rebecca for their contributions most recently. Um, thanks for coming along for the ride. Look forward to having a coffee chat and, uh, sending out that newsletter that went out earlier this week. So I look forward to meeting with you, chatting with you. Have a great couple weeks. And I'll talk to you again soon.
[00:20:53] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates [00:21:00] 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.
[00:21:16] The adventure continues. Until next time.