Dan Baker joins me on the podcast today! He shares his Pilates journey, from a cancer diagnosis, back surgery, and trying a Pilates class on a whim, to running his own studio, writing a book, and beyond. He shares what he's learned in over 15 years of teaching Pilates. his advice for new teachers, and the true genius of Joseph Pilates' method. Tune in!
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Dan is a Pilates teacher based in Canberra, Australia. Check out his studio, Pilates with Dan, and follow him on Instagram @pilateswithdan.
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[00:00:00] Olivia: Welcome to Pilates Teacher's 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.
[00:00:38] Olivia: Hello. Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Today is another wonderful day because I have a special guest on the podcast. This is my friend and colleague, Dan Baker. Dan is a fabulous Pilates teacher, an inspirational mentor to a lot of people in teacher training. He has his own studio Pilates with Dan in Canberra in [00:01:00] Australia.
[00:01:00] Olivia: And it is first of all, amazing that our times have aligned that we can have a chat, um, because Dan lives in the future from my perspective and I live in the past. So thank you so much for making time, Dan, to come on the show.
[00:01:13] Dan: G'day, g'day. Um, uh, welcome from the future. I'm so excited to be here.
[00:01:21] Olivia: Yee haw. Um, so you got the good day and I got a yee haw and, and now we have accurately represented both of our countries. Fabulous. So thank you for coming on. And I'm even more excited. I said this before we started recording, but I'm going to say it again. Like, I don't know the answers to these questions that I'm asking him.
[00:01:41] Olivia: And I think sometimes, you know, you work with people and you don't know what their first Pilates class was like. You just know them as this really awesome teacher that you hang out with occasionally. So Dan, tell me, what was your first Pilates experience? How did you get in the game?
[00:01:56] Dan: It's an interesting question. And, uh, it depends on how far [00:02:00] back you want to go, I suppose. My first experience of Pilates was weird. I was on this weird machine. I didn't know what was going on. Um, things were happening. Uh, so it was a, it was a weird experience. I kind of went on a bet or a dare.
[00:02:21] Dan: Many, many years, many, many moons ago when Dan was much younger, I had cancer and the cancer presented as a tumor in a few different places, but one of them was on my spine. And, um, it, it was such a large mass that it was pressing on my spinal cord. And so I had to have a pretty scary back operation to remove the, the, the tumor. And basically, at that point, I was 27. It was kind of like a life interrupted [00:03:00] a little bit and I really, um, wasn't in a good way. Um, and I kind of like my life ended as far as I was concerned.
[00:03:10] Dan: And, uh, part of the rehabilitation for this major back surgery, so they did what was called a partial laminectomy. Which removed part of two vertebrae, uh, and to relieve pressure on the spinal cord because the tumor had been pressing on the spinal cord and I'd lost function, uh, for my legs. Anyway, so, uh, it was a, a, a very quick, long period of time of rehabilitation because when I look back at it now, it's kinda like a blink of the eye.
[00:03:48] Dan: But, um, part of that work was I was in a back brace for eight months. I couldn't, I couldn't leave my bed without having the back [00:04:00] brace on. So that became my spine and, uh, did a lot of hydrotherapy. And strength training to try and be upright again that that went on for about seven months and, uh, then one, I basically got strong enough that I didn't need the back brace anymore, which was a happy day, a very, very happy day, and I had seen the benefit of exercise in, in, in kind of, uh, rehabilitation. And I, I was determined never to need that back brace again.
[00:04:39] Dan: So, um, I took it upon myself, even though the physiotherapists at the time had said, okay, you're good to go. I felt that I wasn't. So at the end of the day, I was exhausted all the time. I, I just, I just wasn't, um, my usual happy Dan self. [00:05:00] So I took it upon myself to find an exercise regime that would help me. And I decided at the time that swimming was the go, mainly because I had enjoyed the hydrotherapy so much. But I decided swimming was a go because it incorporated a bit of cardiovascular work, bit of strength work with the resistance in the water. I could, I could measure it with laps and time in the pool. So in my brain, it kind of fit, ticked a lot of boxes.
[00:05:34] Dan: So, uh, I started swimming and I was swimming three, four, five times a day, uh, for kilometers and, and, and again, right into it. So I was really, really keen. And my best mate, uh, his wife started swimming as well. She was, uh, postpartum trying to get into exercise again. So she would join me for laps. And we would chat at the end of, you know, [00:06:00] half a case or thing, and just be puffing at the end of the pool and, and chatting away. And she said, have you heard of Pilates? And I'm like, what, what's that? And she said, I'm going to, I'm, I've booked in for a session, um, next Tuesday night. Do you want to come with me? And I think this is my, the, the key pivotal moment of my life was I thought, sure, why not? So I went along. Because what have I got to lose, right?
[00:06:28] Dan: Like it's, I've, this weird, what's this place? I didn't even research what it was before I, I turned up. So I turn up and this is two reformers. It's this little studio in here in Canberra. And I turned up and, and gave it a go and I thought, Oh, that was, that was weird, but okay. And then I was feeling muscles the next day that I hadn't felt for a long time. The teacher was really good. She guided us through. What I know now as a whole bunch of pre [00:07:00] Pilates work and a little bit of work on the reformer, but I kind of like, Oh, this kind of is nice.
[00:07:07] Dan: So I started doing one session a week with my friends. Um, and then that that became two sessions a week and, and so on and so forth until basically I was there every other day, maybe sometimes four or five days a week and, and, um, I just become in love with it.
[00:07:30] Olivia: I think your story puts, um, physical therapy into a really clear perspective that when you're in the midst of physical therapy, whether you're rehabilitating after a surgery or an injury or anything that it feels so hard and so overwhelming and so frustrating and then you look back and you're like, Oh, that was like a few weeks or a few months and you know, here I am.
[00:07:58] Olivia: It resonates with me because my mom's [00:08:00] recovering from a hip replacement and especially this like gap between your physio says- So Australians call them physios. We call them physical therapists in the U. S.-
[00:08:10] Dan: I'm sorry everybody.
[00:08:11] Olivia: No, you're fine. You're fine. Uh, it's totally fine. But, you know, she finished like her, it's not court mandated, but the doctor says you get 10 sessions of physical therapy. And my mom was like, you know, I still can't get in and out of a chair, so I feel like I'm not actually done with physical therapy or I'm not done with exercise. Like I don't feel like I'm ready to, you know, do the rest of the things that I usually do. And so something like Pilates and as you found, pre Pilates can be really amazing in terms of filling gaps for our clients when they. Their physio says, all right, your leg does what it's supposed to do, so you're good. And you're like, yeah, I don't really trust that leg though.
[00:08:54] Dan: It's like these, these benchmarks that they have to tick off don't quite meet [00:09:00] what you actually need, but it's good enough. It's, it's, it's this gap, isn't it? That I think, uh, something like Pilates definitely worked for me. Uh, I'm always appreciative of that dare, that day, that fateful day, that dare to come along to Pilates class.
[00:09:21] Olivia: I mean, I think that's amazing. I think it also shows your kind of like little sense of adventure. You're just like, yeah, all right, I'll give it a go. Like, exactly. Like, why not? I think a lot of us end up in things that we just gave it a go. Like wildly my partner. Like I only went to Korea on a let's give it a go situation and now I'm like speaking the language and married to someone. Life's wild.
[00:09:45] Olivia: Um, so how did you make the jump from being a super Pilates enthusiast to saying? You know, I actually want to teach like I want this to be what I do for work, not just what I do for fun.
[00:09:59] Dan: [00:10:00] Yeah. So I think, um, it g it goes back to my, my cancer. I'm sorry to keep bringing that up, but, um, it kind of changed my mindset about who I was and where do I fit into this universe, you know, so if it wasn't for the cancer I probably wouldn't have said ,why not try Pilates. You know, my whole career trajectory had changed because of the cancer.
[00:10:29] Dan: Beforehand I was I was on the pathway of becoming a researcher in and down that pathway, basically staring down a microscope for the rest of my life, which at the time I was like, Oh, I'm so into this. This is great, but certainly it made me go, well, hang on, do I really want to do that?
[00:10:53] Dan: And because of my own personal experiences with how Pilates had helped [00:11:00] fill that gap, I had, one Christmas, uh, I was talking to my extended family and a lot of them, again, didn't know what Pilates was at all and thought I was a bit weird. But to a person, they're all saying, well, You know, you seem really excited about this thing that you've discovered. Why, why don't you turn that into a career? And so I was reflecting upon that and, and then the studio that I was a serial pest at, which you know, I was doing six classes a week, you know, some back to back classes and things like that. And I basically was hanging out at the studio as a spare thing.
[00:11:47] Dan: They, uh, one of the teachers there sort of said, Hey, dude, we've got this course coming up. Do you want to apply for it and learn a little bit more about Pilates? And I'm a big [00:12:00] fan of the, the universe shows you the way sometimes. And, and that was my moment. I thought. Again, it's kind of like this. My first class, I, I sort of thought, why not, you know, what have I got to lose?
[00:12:15] Olivia: The timing is perfect. Always. Yeah, always. So what was this training experience? Like, I know that people who listen to the podcast have a variety of experiences and teacher training. Sometimes people are looking into teacher training. So just tell me a little bit about how yours was structured and how you kind of moved through.
[00:12:37] Dan: Sure. Choreography and stuff. Sure. Um, I suppose now it looks a little bit old fashioned, but it was a, a model of training that was, from what I could tell, was the way to go at the time.
[00:12:51] Dan: So this is back in the start of 2007, end of 2006, start of 2007. [00:13:00] Uh, the, the model was basically hundreds of hours of observation. intensive weekends of theory, then, uh, a lot of practice, uh, hundreds of hours of practice. So the, the course took probably somewhere in the order of seven to eight months, I think.
[00:13:22] Dan: I have to pull out the old certificates. Um, so, uh, so it was about seven to eight months. And if I remember right, it was somewhere in the order of 250 hours of observation and 600 hours of practice. Yeah. So it was a really intensive model.
[00:13:45] Olivia: So I need to stop complaining about my 80 hours of observation. Holy moly. That's wild.
[00:13:53] Dan: But I mean, if we look back now, it's, it's a kind of old fashioned way of doing it, but. It [00:14:00] did mean that I was in the studio a lot, and I saw a lot of stuff, and I saw how teachers could modify things and adjust things to their clientele. They could sort of, I was enamored by that, that interaction a little bit.
[00:14:20] Dan: And the other thing that I, I kind of realized is that Pilates is more than just what I was doing, what I was doing with, with, um, my own body. It was, it was broader than that. It was, um, a bigger thing and that, that spurred me on to, to complete the course. So, uh, the course started, there was five of us when we started and by the end of that marathon, it was three of us.
[00:14:49] Dan: The great thing about the course for my future was that at the end of it, the studio said, Hey, there's a job here for you if you want. So [00:15:00] it basically meant that I had a very clear pathway into a job. And then straight after being qualified, I had a full time job. I was a full time teacher and it was just like, wow, this is intense.
[00:15:15] Olivia: Yeah. Holy moly. So what, what qualifies as full time teaching for you? Please tell me not 40 hours. Please say not 40 hours.
[00:15:25] Dan: Okay. Um, no, it was, um, it was 30, 35 hours per week.
[00:15:32] Olivia: You superhuman
[00:15:33] Dan: you, um, but, uh, I've since that day, I've always taught at least that
[00:15:41] Olivia: Dan. Dan is another level.
[00:15:44] Dan: Um, so it's, and I do realize that some people look at me as if I've grown a second head or somewhat insane, but it's, I don't know. I thrive off of it somehow. [00:16:00]
[00:16:00] Olivia: I'm jealous because, I mean, I know exactly what you're talking about, like there's that total feel good, rejuvenating, energizing thing, but, and I don't know, like I'm introverted so sometimes the group stuff is like, this is really fun, I would like to go sit in a room by myself for another three days.
[00:16:21] Dan: The irony is that I am also, uh, uh, I've got a mild case of introversion and, um, that I do need, I do need to have that time to recharge the batteries away from people. And, uh, yeah, it's just conflicting. I really love the energy in the space, but I also need that time away.
[00:16:41] Olivia: Yeah, you're like poking holes in all my excuses to be like, oh no, sorry, I can only teach a maximum of 30 hours a week, then I'm just not my best self, Dan's like, 60 hours, here we come!
[00:16:51] Dan: I, I, I have, I have taught was 50 hours. [00:17:00] Sorry, 50 classes in a week. That's the most I've ever taught. And, and that-
[00:17:05] Olivia: I'm just gonna say objectively, that's too many. That is, it is so much.
[00:17:08] Dan: It's, and so that, that, uh, that had lasted for about two weeks. And, and so that point I thought, Uh, I should probably hire a teacher, hire another teacher. And so I did.
[00:17:21] Olivia: I am glad we're getting into this because speaking of your lovely Pilates career, not only did you on a whim, on a bet, go into Pilates land and then fall in love and then be like, maybe I'll do this training thing since it's happening right here in the studio I already love. And then you're working full time at the studio. How did Pilates with Dan, your studio come into being?
[00:17:45] Dan: Well, Pilates with Dan is actually my second ever studio. So, so what ended up happening with the previous studio here in Canberra is that, um, I was [00:18:00] working full time and over the course of probably two, 18 months, uh, I became like the senior teacher in the studio and the studio owner has started to branch out.
[00:18:17] Dan: They, um, built a second studio in Canberra and so there were two studios. And so I was kind of the senior studio in one and she was a senior teacher in, in the other. And. Then I was approached to, well, do you want to buy the studio? After much discussion and, and going into debt, I decided, Oh yeah, that's, that's good. That's good. I'll do that. Yeah.
[00:18:45] Dan: And so stupid little deer in headlights, Dan thought, Oh yeah, I'll do this. And, and, and it's going to be great. And, um, long story short, that didn't work because you can't be [00:19:00] working 30 to 40 classes a week and run a studio and lead a team of teachers and, and it just doesn't work.
[00:19:10] Dan: Um, and so that ended in disaster, but I learned a lesson. And so, uh, so from that, um, I actually took 18 months off teaching. I was really burnt out by the industry. I thought, uh, who are these people that are running the show here? It's crazy. It's not worth it. Yeah, I was not a happy camper.
[00:19:40] Dan: Uh, and we, my wife and I, we were expecting our second child and there was all these different stresses and it was a wild time. And I don't necessarily regret the decision to purchase the studio that I was [00:20:00] working in, but- and the reason why I don't regret it is because I learned valuable lessons. And again, I'm a big kind of universe shows you the way sort of guy. If I hadn't had that experience, I wouldn't have what I have now. So, you know, that's, that's the lesson I learned there.
[00:20:20] Olivia: I was going to say like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Dan, here you are with the
[00:20:25] Olivia: dream.
[00:20:26] Dan: I didn't want to go that cliched route, but there you are. You did it.
[00:20:31] Olivia: It's the only thing I was thinking. I was like, like a phoenix, Dan, say like a phoenix.
[00:20:36] Dan: Yeah. Uh, so like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Um, my wife was really supportive during this time. I was really not in a happy space. And, um, my wife was very supportive at the time. And, um, I had sold off everything, all the equipment, um, and cause I didn't [00:21:00] really want to do this thing anymore. It's stupid and blah, blah, blah.
[00:21:03] Dan: But my wife wisely said, ah, we'll just keep, we'll just keep a reformer. And we'll keep a Cadillac and we'll keep a, a Wunda chair, you know, it was stored in the garage. She knew, um, she's very smart. And so we, we stored it in the garage and, and let dust settle on it for a long time.
[00:21:26] Dan: And as I said, my wife was expecting a second child and, um, she was gently prodding me to say, Hey, I really need some Pilates to help me with this pregnancy. Um, so we, we dragged the reformer out and put it in the lounge room. And so I started teaching her while she was pregnant. And then she had a work colleague who was also pregnant, and so it just gradually grew from there.
[00:21:56] Olivia: Surprise! You were running a studio again, Dan.
[00:21:59] Dan: So, [00:22:00] so, in my, we uh, commandeered the lounge, my lounge room, and we, we just stuffed it full of equipment, of what, what we had, and I just started teaching classes to a select few people. Mostly friends and family and then I got in touch with some old clients of mine from the previous studio and they, they were super keen that I was teaching again and big thanks to them because if they hadn't have started coming up, probably would have not done anything.
[00:22:36] Dan: And then they started coming and I started having three, four, five days a week in my lounge room, which is maybe 30 square feet. I think that's the right terminology. It's about 10 square meters, so about 30 square feet. So it's not a big room, but we could, we could fit [00:23:00] a whole bunch of people in there and, and then word of mouth started happening as it always does.
[00:23:06] Dan: And, um, I taught in, in my lounge room and in a, uh, a gym hall for two years classes. And then I decided, uh, this is getting too small a space. I need a bigger space. So. I branched out and started renting a commercial space and built the studio up from there.
[00:23:29] Dan: And as I said, I, there was a point where I was working 50 hours a week for a couple of weeks and then I decided, Oh, I can't do this forever. Uh, we, uh, found another teacher that I had previously worked with in my other studio. So, and we built it from there.
[00:23:50] Olivia: I think that is the right choice because as much as I'd love to multiply you. Um, not possible. And I think it's also, I hope that [00:24:00] you are not always, you know, seeing the beautiful things about yourself. So I just want to shine a quick little light on like, how incredible is it that the people you had worked with before were like, Oh my gosh, you're teaching Pilates again, can I come? Um, I think that shows that, you know, the positive impact you were looking to make in people's lives, the same way Pilates had made in your life, like you were definitely doing that for people. And I'm glad that you got in touch.
[00:24:26] Dan: Well, I think the mistake I made is I got too caught up with, I kind of had lost the, what was the reason that I was doing it in the first place? And I got caught up with the, Oh, I'm going to be a studio owner. I'm going to teach and lead all this stuff. And we can do workshops and I can do teacher training and it's just like, hang on, back up the truck.
[00:24:48] Dan: I actually started this to, to let people find the little spark that I found. The little fire, like the little fire within [00:25:00] them. That's what I was actually teaching for. And, and you know, when you're teaching and you, you see it in the, in the client's face, that aha moment where they, and we I've, I've talked to many Pilates teachers and they all go, Oh yeah, I know that. I know that moment.
[00:25:16] Dan: That moment, that's what I teach for. And it's just like, that's the fuel that keeps me going is those little aha moments where you see it in the client's face. They go, Oh, you know, it's, it's sorry, this is audio, but I'd made this awesome facial expression where you, you know, it, and any Pilates teacher that has seen it will know that look, you know, and that's, that's what I actually love.
[00:25:42] Dan: And so when, when those clients agreed to come back to me. It's like I realized, Oh, this is why I teach. Oh, not the other thing. Yeah.[00:26:00]
[00:26:01] Olivia: 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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[00:26:58] Olivia: You've shared a lot [00:27:00] how your time management potentially of classes that you're teaching has evolved over, uh, time, but how have you seen your teaching evolve? Because you've worked with teachers, you know, in all stages of their, uh, teacher training and beyond process, and now as a studio owner, again, how, how do you stay connected? Well, that's a separate question. I was how do you stay connected to the spark, but also how has your teaching changed? That's two different things.
[00:27:28] Dan: Okay. So when I was a, a baby teacher, a little neophyte, um, I was very much a micromanager. So my training was a contemporary Pilates, but, um, like isn't Pilates training weird?
[00:27:50] Dan: So, because I only knew of contemporary Pilates. That's all I knew and there was no real [00:28:00] opportunity in, in my city to learn anything else. So classical, I only found out about classical Pilates. When I started the training, I knew it was a thing and there's no there at the time if I wanted to do classical training, it would require a massive apprenticeship in another state, so I'd have to move and do an apprenticeship. It's just like that's not feasible. It wasn't feasible at the time.
[00:28:31] Olivia: I also just want to jump in real quick. States in Australia are like, if every state was Texas, like, they're huge. It's not like, oh, I'm just gonna drive for three hours and hit five states on like the east coast in the U. S. It's like, let me drive for three hours and I'm still in the same state and I can still see the gas station.
[00:28:51] Dan: Yeah. Yeah. So the, the, even more big, even spread out. The, the city I'm talking about is, it's about 500 [00:29:00] miles away. Um, so that's, so Sydney, if, if your listeners know where Sydney is, it's the most famous city in Australia, is about 500 kilometers away from Canberra and, but Canberra is the nation's capital. Just want to put that out there. Sydney is not, um, so where was I?
[00:29:22] Dan: So, uh, there was, there's no option. There was no option to no, no feasible option to do any other training except contemporary and the nature of contemporary. Pilates at that time, and this is, this is with 20 years hindsight now, so bear that in mind, was very much a lot of pre Pilates, a lot of rehabilitation, it's borderline physical therapy training, uh, or physiotherapy training, and there's a lot of safety culture, I [00:30:00] suppose, or like scare stuff on this person's got a disbulge.
[00:30:03] Dan: So we cannot do X, Y and Zed. You must do ABC. And if I, if, if during the training, you are doing X, Y and Zed, you will fail the training, that's a hard fail. And so you have to reset your test out again, sort of thing. So, um, there's a lot of, a lot of, you can't do this if this person has. X, Y, and Z injury. And so I became a master, master of micromanagement.
[00:30:38] Dan: So I was all like in there and, and again, hindsight, 20, 20 hindsight. Um, physical cueing over the top and palpating people and just, uh, movement assessment tests and, um, posture assessments and, uh, and I look back and go, [00:31:00] Oh, but, but at the time I was right in there and, and I became very, very good at telling people what not to do.
[00:31:10] Dan: And I think, I'm not sure, I can't point to exactly when, but at some point in that journey, I mean, you can have as many movement rules as you want, but there's going to be times when it doesn't work on somebody, despite your training saying it will. And... What was happening is that I was, because I was the lead trainer there, I was getting the more complicated pathologies, the people with the most complex pain histories and injuries and things like that.
[00:31:46] Dan: And these movement rules, these, um, what not to dos and what to dos weren't working. They, they simply weren't working. That's started me [00:32:00] on a path of questioning a lot about the training. Which, you know, ends up leading me to other training courses and, and trying to figure out more and, and educate myself on, on different aspects of rehabilitation. And the more, the more you research, the, the more you realize you didn't know the truth, you know.
[00:32:28] Olivia: I had a similar teacher training that was very pre Pilates, um, where the studio was located a lot of the clients were older and had, you know, more stuff going on in their bodies. And it was very much like a gentle, don't go too far, don't do too much, safety culture as well.
[00:32:44] Olivia: And I don't know about your experience, but same thing, learning posture assessments and Uh, movement screens and all of this. And the teacher trainer would be like, Oh, and you can see, you know, this rotation and the shoulder's higher. And I was like, I [00:33:00] don't see that. Like, I don't see that at all. Like what's wrong with me that I don't know that their scapula is dyskinesis thing or something.
[00:33:09] Olivia: And, and, uh, I was like, maybe this isn't for me because I don't have the eye. Like I can't tell. And then you learned that no one can tell.
[00:33:22] Dan: Well, I had this, I had this moment, this, this horrifying moment. Well, I, it was horrifying for my, my ego, I suppose. Um, I was at a, a Pilates conference here in Australia and, um, some, uh, a very famous Pilates person, uh, who has got their own school of Pilates and, and is well regarded and, look, I've, I've been in a class with this person and they teach an awesome class, like unbelievable.
[00:33:56] Dan: Anyway, they, they were running a workshop on [00:34:00] the Wunda chair, I think it was, um, and basically, uh, going through a whole bunch of, for want of a better word, assessment tests on, on how to do movements and, and things like that. And we're split up into small groups. And so everyone is a Pilates professional, uh, well, well regarded and everything. And we're in these small groups and we're, we're doing these exercises and we're being asked to palpate people and, and things like that.
[00:34:29] Dan: And so I think I'm, I think I'm doing the right thing, uh, what, what they wanting to do. Um, this person comes over and just gives me this look and, and, and says, what are you doing? Can't you see that this, this, and this is wrong? And I actually, inside I, I felt really bad. I thought, Oh no. I, I, and then I'd look back and then I think, I couldn't actually see what that person was seeing. Could not for want, [00:35:00] and I'm turning to the other members of our group and, and they're just giving me blank looks.
[00:35:04] Dan: Like they're not trying to engage with me at all. And, and it was the weirdest experience, but it was also an experience that taught me a lot that. Sometimes people see things that aren't there, and sometimes you're being asked to see things that you can't physically see, and it was a humbling moment, let me just say.
[00:35:32] Olivia: Yeah, well, I mean, there's, we know now, because, you know, we've studied more. We've, you know, read more research, but things like visually assessing someone's neutral spine is not a thing. And if you had, you know, a bunch of teachers or physical therapists or whoever's trained to look at spines and say that they're neutral.
[00:35:55] Olivia: Um, it is like everyone sees things slightly differently, you know, as [00:36:00] we're finding, and to limit someone's movement expression because we see, Oh no, your tailbone is tilted or tucked or a skew or floating in space, whatever. Um, like you've said a couple of times that you got really good at telling people what not to do.
[00:36:19] Olivia: And it's so funny that as movement teachers that a lot of us have had, you know, training experiences where you spend so much time telling people not to move things and it's like, wait a minute, aren't we supposed to move? Like, isn't that the goal?
[00:36:32] Dan: It's the irony, isn't it? It's, um, uh, I think the moment that I was able to let that go, I don't know, it made the world a brighter place or something, you know, sunshine and, and, and rainbows were started appearing everywhere.
[00:36:47] Dan: It, it became a nicer experience. It became nicer to teach and, uh, from my client's perspective, it became nicer [00:37:00] in, in terms of the vibe of the studio as well.
[00:37:03] Olivia: I've never liked telling people, you know, what they're doing wrong or stopping them in the middle of doing something because, uh, oh, well, this foot isn't in the right place. Um, bodies are strange and things feel better in places. So when we're looking at things like. Where your pelvis should be or where your foot should be, um, we should let our clients be the guide to some degree. Like if you're doing a lunge, yeah, I want you to bend one of your knees, please. That's what a lunge is.
[00:37:36] Olivia: But how we go about doing that. Because everyone's body does its own thing. You can learn a lot from a client by letting them move and figure things out for themselves. Like what if they problem solve? Like what if they found that for them? Um, so much more like linking back to you finding the spark, like that's the spark for me.
[00:37:56] Olivia: It's sometimes, you know, you tell people to do something and they do [00:38:00] something else, not because they're malicious, but because that's how they understood it. And, you know, sometimes that's kind of cool because we can use that as a jumping off point.
[00:38:09] Dan: And so, isn't that interesting? You can have this moment of either they haven't understood you, which is a communication issue, which as teachers is something we should be really good at. But, but sometimes what you say is interpreted differently by them, and that can open up a Pandora's box of other movement options. And so in that moment, they're teaching you how to teach them, if that makes sense. And so That they're those moments. They're they're the aha moment for the teacher. So you have an aha moment for the student, but the aha moment for the teacher is like, Oh, maybe Cassie's knee wants to go that way. What's let's explore some movement in that direction. Or, you know, that sort of thing. And that's, that's kind of cool. [00:39:00]
[00:39:00] Olivia: Yeah, because stopping them and being like, No, I meant this.
[00:39:03] Olivia: And it's like, All right, well, I just shut a door that had, you know, possibilities behind it. Because, like, we can always circle back, like, it's not like anyone has your Pilates plan and is watching you follow it to a letter. If something else comes up, then we go there. We're allowed to do that. Like, it's just Pilates.
[00:39:20] Dan: It's just some Pilates. So it's, it's kind of like when, when you're in that, uh, uh, stop moment and I want you to do this. Why is it the reason that you want that to happen? Is it because you've been told, uh, the glutes need to work here and the hamstrings need to wait, like, are you being beholden to movement options that are actually archaic and actually don't exist or can you be open in that moment to explore something else for that client and it's I've, I now choose to be open to that experience and that's a choice. I'm not saying that [00:40:00] you telling someone telling someone not to do something is wrong.
[00:40:06] Dan: It's just that you close choices and you shut off choices and that. I think as, like, as I get older, Olivia, um, as I get older, I, I realized that life's too short for too much no.
[00:40:25] Olivia: One of my philosophies, which I've shared a lot on the podcast, is that even if someone is doing something like to your Pilates teacher eyes is like egregiously wrong, you won't be able to show them another way to do it if they never come back to your class.
[00:40:42] Dan: Bingo. Oh yeah.
[00:40:44] Olivia: So if you really want to refine something, no, I want you to bend your knees before your elbows in coordination on the reformer or something like that. If the client is turned off by the experience because they think you're micromanaging or that they're [00:41:00] not good at it because all you're doing is telling them what's wrong with what they're doing, then they don't get to have that you know, liberating, freeing, empowering experience that a lot of us love and look forward to in Pilates.
[00:41:15] Olivia: And like, unlike physical therapy, where you have a set number of sessions, unlike, you know, you see your doctor because you're leading up to a surgery, they come to see us multiple times a week for months and years and decades. Like we have time to refine choreography, but if they don't come back, then-
[00:41:36] Dan: We have a saying and well, sorry, I say we, I have a saying in the studio that each new exercises like a rock and within the rock is a jewel, but we've got the rock to start off with and every time we do it, we're just going to polish that rock a little bit more and we're just going to get and who knows how long it's going to take us to get to the jewel [00:42:00] inside. But we'll get there. It's just that, okay, today we're just going to polish off another layer. And that's, that's. Progress over time.
[00:42:11] Olivia: You have shared a lot how, um, you, uh, you know, took what you learned in your first teacher training, took what resonated with you because you did have a fabulous experience with this Pilates studio, even though their teacher training program had a lot of, you know, must do this, must not do this kind of teaching.
[00:42:33] Olivia: Knowing what you know now with all of your wisdom and years of experience, what is your advice for new teachers who are just getting started themselves?
[00:42:43] Dan: Advice for new teachers. Oh, so much, Olivia. There's so many, like, it's like, there's so many things with new teachers. You just want to give them a hug and say, it's going to be okay. It's going to be okay.
[00:42:56] Dan: Um, I think the, the [00:43:00] biggest lesson that I learned was it's okay to do something wrong. It's okay for you to do something wrong as a teacher. And it's okay for the student that you're teaching to do something wrong. Um, we get so fixated on doing it perfectly where, whereas the messy moments, they're actually the best moments. They're the moments that you learn most from. So, I mean, if you mumble up your words, it's okay, no one's gonna storm out of the class because you said your right elbow instead of your left foot. Um, it's, you can make a joke about it if that's the sort of personality you are, or you can just move on and just... Go to the next thing.
[00:43:46] Dan: And, you know, if, if your student bends their knees instead of straightening them when you ask the other, it's okay, you're just polishing that rock. So I think it's a, it's a [00:44:00] really hard lesson and, and something that some people can do better than others, but don't beat yourself up over the mistakes you make. You're going to make mistakes. It's okay. No one's going to die. People come to, to enjoy movement with you or be shown how to do movement. Um, so if you're too fixated on making mistakes, they're not going to move and that's your job.
[00:44:28] Olivia: It's like, I find, um, and again, with the power of perspective and, you know, hours and hours of, and classes and classes of teaching behind me that I can look and say, you know, I'm making it about me and it's not about me. If I'm so worried about, you know- Like, of course, you want to be professional and you want to lead a class and you want to tell them to move limbs in a way, but like, if it's not about you, it's about their experience and what they're finding and how you [00:45:00] can help them have those aha moments.
[00:45:02] Olivia: And so if you take your, I have to teach a perfect class, like, well, what is a perfect class? It's paying attention to the people in front of me and responding to them and what they're showing me.
[00:45:15] Olivia: Um, so I think that that's nice, but I'm totally seconding that, I think new Pilates teachers need a hug that they put way too much pressure on themselves because like you're learning from teacher trainers. And I'm like, there's a reason they're training teachers. Like they're good at what they do. They've done it for a long time. Like you're not going to be that when you are a baby teacher and that's okay, because you're also polishing a rock Pilates teaching, but it's real.
[00:45:41] Dan: It's really curious as to where this idea comes from, and I'm not sure there's many other industries that put this amount of pressure on new teachers. It's just insane. I'm not sure if, if it's because of the new models of teacher [00:46:00] training out there, or there's not enough time for the young baby teachers to be apprenticed or mentored or something, but yeah, there's, there's a, there's a It's kind of a little broken system. It's not quite working as it should.
[00:46:16] Olivia: Yeah, there's definitely, there's a gap in, in some programs and maybe not even in the whole program, but for some people that when, just like in physical therapy, like I've met the benchmarks, I've tested out, but I still don't feel like I know what I'm doing.
[00:46:32] Dan: Yeah. Right. There's that little gap. We just need to make that little leap.
[00:46:36] Olivia: And, and I try to share with people and exactly what you've shared is that like, it's okay to make mistakes. That it's a process that, you know, you learn the more you do it. And you won't improve as a teacher is if you, if you stop teaching and say, well, I'll just teach when I'm perfect. Cause that's not going to happen. You got to, the only way out is through as far as I know.
[00:46:58] Dan: Yes. [00:47:00]
[00:47:00] Olivia: The last thing I want to touch on and I want to make sure we have time to talk about it is you are writing a book or you've written a book, but there is a book and it is coming and you did it. So tell me all about your amazing book that's coming out.
[00:47:15] Dan: I did. Uh, well, it's, um, we've got a bit of photography to do, but then it's kind of wrapped up, um, which is very exciting. Uh, my book. Uh, fingers crossed in December, uh, it's called a Pilates journey and it actually started- speaking of new teachers. It's actually started as a response for new teachers coming to my studio and, um, getting them up to speed with what, how we do things in, in our studio.
[00:47:47] Dan: Um, and. There was, there was a gap. There was a gap in, in knowledge. There was a gap in experience, obviously, because they knew, but the, the, the interesting thing was the knowledge gaps that. [00:48:00] that I felt after, you know, nearly 20 years of teaching that, Oh, that's interesting. Why? Why don't you know this? Um, so it was actually started as a training manual for my studio so that I could give to new teachers and say, Hey, everything you need to know about teaching classes in my studio, it's kind of in this book.
[00:48:21] Dan: Um, and so That's how it started. And then what was happening is that my, my students, my clients, we call them students, um, became, started becoming interested in, Oh, what are you talking about? And, uh, what's this thing? And so, um, I expanded it and decided, well, just like little Dan back in these first Pilates day, I thought, Oh, why not?
[00:48:48] Dan: I'll just put this together and see, see what happens. So it's a, it's a bit of a dive into the exercises. So it has has the [00:49:00] normal Pilates book stuff of the exercises and how to guide, but it's also the science behind the exercises. Why? Why do we use springs? What's the benefit of using springs on a reformer as opposed to weights? And that sort of thing, physics, and all that jazz, biomechanics. Uh, and also I wanted to sort of demystify the history of Joseph Pilates a little bit and dive into that. So it's got history, it's got science and it's got the exercises. So. It's kind of everything you need to know.
[00:49:39] Olivia: That sounds incredible. Um, and I'm especially excited about the history because Joe's history is not easy to track or follow. Like he is a mysterious dude.
[00:49:49] Dan: Crazy, crazy, crazy. Um, when I was researching the history, it's, it's been, it's taken me ages to do the history research and there are some good [00:50:00] historical resources as Pilates teachers that we can access. There's some other good books. And I'm, I'm not trying to replace any of those books, but what, what I wanted to do with the history is have a look at what we actually know as opposed to the rumors and the what he said, she said stuff. And quite frankly, I think the real, the, the truth what, what the facts are way more interesting than the, the, the stories.
[00:50:32] Dan: So yeah, I don't, I don't want to, I, I know we, we don't have huge amount of time, but it's, um, I, I'm, I'm bursting at the seams to try and tell you all the history, but it's, it's, it's very fascinating as to how he started and where he ended up. And it's kind of like a, the irony is it's kind of like a Greek tragedy, uh, in terms of who he [00:51:00] is and where he ends up.
[00:51:01] Dan: And I think sometimes we get fixated on the exercises that he would be teaching. I mean, as Pilates teachers, many of us have seen the photos or little short films of him teaching and, and, um, I think sometimes that the actual true genius is not the exercises, it's the equipment that he developed.
[00:51:25] Dan: The exercises, I'm going to be controversial here on your podcast is, um, many of those exercises that we know as Pilates, he took from elsewhere, uh, and adapted. And that's, that's the reality. And, and where we are now in the Pilates industry, where people are coming up with new things and being told, no, that's not Pilates. Well, if he evolved exercises and claimed it as contrology or Pilates method, then why can't we, what, what makes, what [00:52:00] makes him so special? What makes the elders so special that they could adapt things? And yet now we can't, that's, that's ridiculous.
[00:52:07] Olivia: That's what I tell students in classes. I say, you know, every exercise was made up at one point. Like that's what we're doing. We're finding, and, and it's not to be flippant and saying like, we're just doing it on a trampoline now or whatever.
[00:52:21] Olivia: But it's, it's not to say like, Oh, we're not thinking about it. We're not caring, but just like we're talking about with our students when they interpret something differently, or they do something differently, or someone comes in like you potentially, who has fewer vertebrae than they did when they started and you're like, Hey, you know what?
[00:52:40] Olivia: My back doesn't do that actually. And not for lack of trying, like lack of bones is actually the issue here. So how can we use the equipment we have, the exercises we have, and then make it work for our person, uh, who's there with us? Because. Again, it's [00:53:00] different.
[00:53:00] Dan: And the other genius of the man is that it's an entire method. It's a, it's an entire way of doing things, not just one exercise here or one exercise there. It's, it's the whole package. So if you look at, I mean, Return to Life is kind of the only sort of documented, uh, times that, that he tells you how to do things, that there's released to the public, um, and you know, the history of Pilates in the 1990s and early 2000s is a whole thing, but Return to Life is, is a time capsule.
[00:53:40] Dan: It's a moment in time where he's giving you 30 odd exercises to do that moves the entire body. That's like towards the end of his life. Anyway, that's the second half of his life. And that's what he sort of refined things down to at that point. But who's to [00:54:00] say in another 30, 40 years he didn't refine things and move things on?
[00:54:05] Dan: Pilates is an ever changing beastie, it's uh, it's ever evolving, and the beautiful thing about it is that it can evolve, it can change, it changes when Mrs. Smith with a sore knee comes in, and she's an 82 year old grandmother, and then Bob Murphy comes in and he's a professional footballer, like, you're not going to give them the same things, they don't need the same things. Give them what they need.
[00:54:42] Olivia: Dan. That was beautiful. I didn't even want to stop. I just wanted there to be a little silence because that was, um, very accurate. Thank you. Uh, I want to keep talking to you, but alas, it is that time. Um, thank you so, so much, um, for [00:55:00] sharing your spirit and your joy and your approach to Pilates.
[00:55:04] Olivia: I think one of the things I love about this podcast is that I get to showcase people who are doing really incredible things all over the world. And I definitely count you among the people out there doing absolutely incredible things. I cannot wait for your book. I cannot wait for December. It's winter in Australia right now. And I was like, well, I don't want to wait till my winter. I want to have it now. But I'm so excited for you and this new chapter of your Pilates adventure that now involves being an author in addition to a studio owner and Incredible Pilates teacher, but thank you so much for just taking the time and sharing yourself your experiences
[00:55:48] Dan: It's been an absolute blast, Olivia, as usual.
[00:55:59] Olivia: Thanks for listening [00:56:00] 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. The adventure continues. Until next time.