Pilates Teachers' Manual

Caged Lion - Learning From Joe as a Teacher

October 01, 2020 Olivia Bioni Season 3 Episode 4
Pilates Teachers' Manual
Caged Lion - Learning From Joe as a Teacher
Chapters
0:00
Welcome
1:31
About the Book
5:04
The Importance of Knowing Who Joe Was
7:05
The Evolution of Pilates
12:59
What Can We Learn From Joe?
17:32
The Magnetism of Pilates
Pilates Teachers' Manual
Caged Lion - Learning From Joe as a Teacher
Oct 01, 2020 Season 3 Episode 4
Olivia Bioni

After reading Caged Lion by John Howard Steel, I had some thoughts about Joe as a teacher, how Pilates evolved, and what the intrinsic "it" factor of Pilates is. If you haven't read the book, there are spoilers ahead! 

I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and follow the podcast on Instagram and Facebook @pilatesteachersmanual. Full show notes, episode transcription, and chapter markers 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 [email protected] with your feedback.

Show Notes:

Check out Caged Lion for yourself here: *http://bit.ly/CagedLion

I talked about the myth of Joe's history is Season 2 here: *http://bit.ly/PTMs2e8* There are so many new things to take into consideration after reading Caged Lion! 

Support the podcast:    

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

Episode Music: 

This episode uses NCS music in compliance with https://ncs.io/usage-policy

Track: Tobu - Good Times [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/YHSH9k9ooZY
Free Download / Stream: http://ncs.io/goodtimes

Track: Tobu & Itro - Sunburst [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/4lXBHD5C8do

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/oliviapodcasts)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

After reading Caged Lion by John Howard Steel, I had some thoughts about Joe as a teacher, how Pilates evolved, and what the intrinsic "it" factor of Pilates is. If you haven't read the book, there are spoilers ahead! 

I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and follow the podcast on Instagram and Facebook @pilatesteachersmanual. Full show notes, episode transcription, and chapter markers 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 [email protected] with your feedback.

Show Notes:

Check out Caged Lion for yourself here: *http://bit.ly/CagedLion

I talked about the myth of Joe's history is Season 2 here: *http://bit.ly/PTMs2e8* There are so many new things to take into consideration after reading Caged Lion! 

Support the podcast:    

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

Episode Music: 

This episode uses NCS music in compliance with https://ncs.io/usage-policy

Track: Tobu - Good Times [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/YHSH9k9ooZY
Free Download / Stream: http://ncs.io/goodtimes

Track: Tobu & Itro - Sunburst [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/4lXBHD5C8do

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/oliviapodcasts)

[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 @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.

Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the [00:01:00] podcast. Today, I'm going to be talking about Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates and His Legacy, a new book out by John Howard Steel. The book came out a little bit earlier in 2020, and it's all about Joe from the author's point of view. The author, John, took class with Joe in the early sixties and knew Joe both personally and professionally, as a Pilates student, until Joe's death in 1967.

So what you're getting in that book, should you choose to read it- and I really recommend that you do. It really does put a more human face on Joe and helps you navigate and understand the evolution of Pilates as well- but should you choose to adventure down that book adventure, you'll be getting a mix of John Howard Steel's memoir, where he's talking about his part in the Pilates evolution [00:02:00] from taking Pilates classes, becoming a really devout Pilates student. And then after Joe passed what he did to keep the gym running, to keep Pilates going all the way through the trademark lawsuit and pretty much to current times. 

You'll also be getting a little bit of a hypothetical biography from Joe, which is a lot more realistic than the kind of legend that we we've all learned of Joe: that he was a circus performer and he was in England performing with his troop. And then he was captured during world war one as a prisoner of war and held in an internment camp for five years. And, you know, he developed his reformer ideas from springs on the bed. Like it's a little bit too neat and it's a little bit too consistent to be like a real history. 

And that's something that John points out in his book, is that everyone says the same thing, because the only story they have is what Joe told them. And so where did Joe come from? Where did [00:03:00] contrology and then Pilates as a system come from? So all of those questions aren't necessarily answered, but they're definitely explored. It's a really fun read. It's really interesting read and really worthwhile reading if you are an enthusiastic Pilates teacher.

As I said, I did get a chance to read the book and I also tuned in for parts of the author's book publicity tour, where he did interviews. I got to watch his full interview with Benjamin Degenhardt and just really cool to hear from someone who knew Joe, who learned Pilates from Joe. 

And something that's kind of interesting about the author is that he never became a Pilates teacher. He was passionate about Pilates, so passionate that he took really an integral part in continuing the gym's existence and really the existence of Pilates. We wouldn't have Pilates at all without him because he played such a huge role in terms of like the business administration, and kind [00:04:00] of lack thereof, but just keeping the gym going.

But yeah, he never taught Pilates. He took Pilates and did Pilates for his entire life for, you know, more than 60 years, but never became a teacher, which I think is kind of cool to like always be a student, really expressly, always being a student. 

So the main things I wanted to cover in this episode, and I briefly touched on them on an episode in season two to the brief history of Pilates from the perspective of a Pilates teacher, but I do want to touch on again with this kind of new information, these new stories, what the implications are for Pilates teachers to be teaching a system of movement that has a real person's name and like a real person's life attached to it. And then also just looking at the evolution of Pilates, how it has grown, how it has changed, and then also discussing this it factor of Pilates that maybe it's the reason you became a teacher. I'll share a little bit about the reasons that I became a teacher. [00:05:00] And just diving into the mystery of Joseph Pilates. 

As we know, Joseph  was a person, and I don't think I would have been friends with him. I don't think that Joe wanted it to be friends with people from the stories in the book and also just other stories from other elders. He seemed like a rather brusque individual. He was definitely a gifted teacher, even without words, you know, that his English language was not perfect, but he was able to get students to do what he wanted them to do to perform these exercises, using whether it was touch cues or just giving them the space to figure things out.

So I think in terms of teaching, that's something that we can really learn from Joe. And I think especially now when we're teaching virtually a lot and all you have is your words that maybe we don't want to overexplain things, but the fact that [00:06:00] Joe would only say these really short, simple cues, and then it was up to you to figure out what to do. Like he would say something like push the carriage out. He wouldn't say like, extend the knees and lengthen from the backs of the legs or whatever. 

The author, John, I'm just going to call him John, John the author said that, you know, Joe never referenced the body using anatomical names. He would really just give these curt directions and then it was on you. Joe definitely knew how the body worked. Even if he didn't have the names for the muscles or names for body parts. 

Still blows my mind that he didn't know people's names. And that's something that during one of John's publicity tours and they're like, you know, what was he like as a teacher? You know, he didn't know people's names, but he knew their bodies and he did care deeply for them and he wanted them to be healthy and he wanted them to be strong. Like you can really hear, you know, whether it's from Joe's words, from John's accounts. I mean, from Your Health, from [00:07:00] Return to Life, that Joe was really passionate about contrology being able to heal people.

And I don't think that that has changed. The care of people is still there. And that's something that John mentioned during one of his publicity tours as well. When people are asking, you know, what has changed about Pilates? What has remained the same? And he said that Pilates teachers just care so deeply about their students.

One of the reasons you become a Pilates teacher is because you want to help people. You want to share this Pilates method with people in order to improve their lives. And that's really still a core tenant, I think, of teaching Pilates, of doing Pilates, is this element of care. 

So while that hasn't changed a lot about Pilates has changed because we don't have a written account of the exercises, especially the equipment exercises. We have Return to Life, so we've got a good picture of how the mat exercises work, but in [00:08:00] terms of the equipment exercises, we don't have that same account. What we have is people's, whether it's elders or other students, his assistants that he had working in the gym, we have their accounts and what they've passed on to their students. 

But we know from just the elders in the different schools of Pilates is that everyone has a little bit different take. And I don't think that any of those takes are necessarily incorrect, because John says that Joe would change the exercises based on the body in front of him and find a variation that fit the body's needs the same way that we do now.

But if you are Ron Fletcher and you're taught the exercise one way, and then you're Kathy Grant and you're taught the exercise a different way, you're Romana, and you remember being taught the exercise a different way, and then you each start your own school of bodies and you say, you know, this is Pilates. There's going to be some differences, whether it's in how you remembered it, or literally how you were [00:09:00] taught the exercise. And I don't think that that negates the importance or the benefit or the lineage of the exercise necessarily. If anything, it gives us a more robust experience of Pilates as well.

Some things that have changed a lot, you know, choreography definitely, but also the studio experience, I think, has been a really big change. When John is describing the gymnasium and what a session was like with Joe. I mean, I don't think I would've gone back if I had the same first experience in Pilates that John had. I don't think I would have gone back. Any form of exercise that makes me vomit the first time is not really a form of exercise that I want to hop back into. That doesn't sound pleasant. 

But just the fact that the gym was dimly lit, was largely silent, that, you know, teachers aren't talking to the students, there's no music playing. These are all things that are kind of normal parts of a Pilates [00:10:00] experience now, that your teacher is going to talk to you, and maybe there's music playing, maybe there isn't, but there's going to be a little bit more connection, interpersonal, instead of just internal, your own experience. 

John recounted in that interview that I saw that the silence was really important and that once you learned the exercises from Joe, you were really on your own. And that there was a bigger sense of independence and responsibility to do it for yourself. That really reminded me of the style of yoga that I practice in addition to Pilates is called Ashtanga yoga. And just like classical Pilates, in Ashtanga, you've learned the sequence then there are styles of classes where the teacher doesn't lead the class. The teacher is there and you do the practice because it's the same exercises, you know the exercises, you just do them at your own pace. 

Hearing that that's what Joe's gym was like that you [00:11:00] come in, you don't make an appointment. You just show up, you do your exercises. Maybe Joe comes in and gives you a variation, maybe Clara is there and hears you doing something that isn't quite right, comes and gives you an option. But that the teacher held space for you. 

And I don't think of Pilates as something where like you're holding space necessarily, that's like a very yoga thing to do. But I do think that in Joe's own way, he was holding space for you to have this physical experience for yourself.

Our group classes, and oftentimes our private sessions, aren't always like that. You might be holding space, but there's a little bit more direction, a little bit more dependence on the teacher to give you some new choreography or some new thing to do. So I thought that was really cool and really interesting comparison. 

Coming up after the break. I'll talk a little bit about the continued implications for Pilates teachers, the it factor, and key takeaways from the book.

[00:12:00] 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. Membership comes up some awesome perks, including a shout out in the next episode, a monthly newsletter, a monthly zoom call with me and more. 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.

I do [00:13:00] think that as a Pilates teacher, that you're doing a system that has a person's name and was developed by a real person who had a real life, that I think it's worth knowing something about the system that you now teach for a living. I think historically it is good to know where things come from, especially things that you love and things that you're passionate about.

I don't know if the, you know, "never meet your heroes" thing comes into play necessarily, but I think we can all agree that Pilates offers something valuable to our clients otherwise we wouldn't be teaching it. We wouldn't be doing it for ourselves. 

I think we can learn from Joe as a teacher. I don't think everything we're learning is what we should do. I think we are learning a little bit what may not be the best thing to do, especially when they talk about studio management, that you're just like giving someone $5. You're showing up at a random time. Maybe you show up and there's not a reformer available and so you have to leave. It's not [00:14:00] really great business advice. We're definitely not going to take business advice from Joe. 

But in the first part, when I talked about letting you figure it out for yourself, John said, Joe didn't want you to hear the words "sit up." He wanted you to feel, "sit up." And I think that that's something that we can take into our own teaching, that we can give students the space to feel things without telling them this is the muscle that's working. This is where you should feel it. This is what it should feel like. This is what you should do, where we micromanage. 

And of course there's a time and place for that. When you're working with a beginning student, and same thing with Joe, like he would give you more to work with when you were just getting started. But when your students are familiar with the exercises, giving them some space to experience and really learn it for themselves is important. That's what I'm learning in my continuing education course about motor learning theory is that you have to give students some time and space to process it without jumping in and correcting things all the [00:15:00] time.

I really love what John wrote about Joe's positive way of teaching and not positive, like "you did a great job" way of teaching, but positive in that he didn't cue things as "don't do this" or what you shouldn't be doing because John said, there's no wrong exercise. If you're moving, you can't be wrong. Is there a better, more efficient way to do it? Yes. And I'll guide you to that. 

So I love this idea that you're not negatively reinforcing or saying what they're doing wrong, but you're always giving options to move differently. That's something that you can work with with students of any level, really that you can offer suggestions and guidance instead of pointing out all of the things that aren't right, because that's also a more positive experience as a student that you're not hearing, Oh my gosh, my shoulders are bad or my shoulders are wrong, but you're being given an action to do without needing [00:16:00] to judge what you're doing as bad. Exercise, especially, can be a really difficult thing for people. And if all you're hearing is what you're doing wrong, you're not going to want to keep playing the game, you know. 

I also think that this book is really important to the work that we do because we are all as Pilates teachers, part of Joseph Pilates legacy. That every student that we teach we're fulfilling his dream of contrology healing people. I think the book offers a deeper appreciation into really the sacrifices that Joe made that Joe and Clara made in their life, that they really dedicated their entire adult lives to this system of exercise. And it hurts to know that Joe didn't get to see the expansion of Pilates and the popularity of Pilates the way we know it now. That as an old man, that he was so frustrated that doctors [00:17:00] weren't listening to his system, that regular people weren't listening to his system. And like part of that might be with you not welcoming people into your gym, Joe. 

But the fact that Pilates has grown so much, when you see the expansion of Pilates into hospitals, to physical therapists offices, it's really reached this mainstream status. You'll be watching show on Netflix and they'll be like, Oh, my mom's at Pilates. And everyone's like, Ah yes, we know what that is. That's a really cool thing that's happened. 

And I think that really speaks to this it factor of Pilates, that a system that was very small in one little gym in New York City is now in, I would say every city, there's some form of Pilates movement happening. So when I think about that intrinsic factor of Pilates, that makes it so desirable and something that you want to do and something that you want to keep doing [00:18:00] throughout your life. I mean, the author, John, has 60 years of doing Pilates experience. You know, I met Mary Bowen at the PMA conference in 2018 and she said, you know, she does Pilates and it's different Pilates than, you know, what she did when she was younger, but that this is also something that she's committed to for her entire life, that Pilates can meet you at any age. 

There's something about it that you want to take with you. In the book, John talks about this total absorption, this mental focus, what Joe talks about as the complete combination of mind, body, and spirit, that this mental component, this total engrossing concentrated movement system, that you turn your mind off and you just turn into yourself and that you have this deeply personal experience. That's what he attributes it to. 

I agree with that up to a point. And I think that it could be really personal. Why you do Pilates could be very different from person to person. I think for [00:19:00] me, it's a movement system that allows me to tune into myself and really get to know myself on friendly terms in this deeply compassionate and really caring way. And that's the way I try to teach my classes. And that's the way when I do Pilates for myself, I always do it. I want to have a conversation with myself and the way that I move in, the way that I breathe. And that's what keeps me coming back to Pilates. 

I do think that Pilates has gone beyond the strictly physical biomechanical components. As we heard from Beth last week, that there is an interpersonal relationship. There is a whole person who is coming to you and they have an entire lifetime of experiences. And how do we validate that person and honor that person's journey? I think it's great that we're adding that into an already [00:20:00] incredibly beneficial movement system.

Overall, the book is an amazing, amazing read. It will give you lots of stories and information to share with your students while you're teaching if you like to sprinkle in some historical tidbits on occasion, just some really great stories that are hilarious and weird and wonderful. Highly recommend that you read Caged Lion, Joseph Pilates and his Legacy by John Howard steel. It's available on Kindle and Amazon, of course. If you can buy it from your local bookstore, even better. 

As always, huge thanks to my supporters on Buy Me A Coffee. I appreciate your donations. They go right into the podcast to helping it run smoothly. Thanks so much for listening and for your support.

Have a great week and I'll talk to you again soon.

Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your [00:21:00] guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram @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.



Welcome
About the Book
The Importance of Knowing Who Joe Was
The Evolution of Pilates
What Can We Learn From Joe?
The Magnetism of Pilates