Denise Posnak Gaffney joins me on the podcast to discuss developing your unique voice as a teacher, drawing from multiple modalities to teach, and finding a balance of give and take in your business. Tune in!
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Denise Posnak Gaffney has been teaching Pilates for over 19 years. She is a certified Romana's Pilates teacher, holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and is certified in pre and post-natal Pilates. In addition to teaching online, Denise offers in-person studio sessions in Maplewood, NJ. She also offers business consultation sessions for fitness professionals.
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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. I [00:01:00] am over the moon excited to share a conversation with you today with Denise Posnak Gaffney. She is a Pilates teacher, who is the founder of My Bod Wellness in New Jersey. Uh, she teaches Pilates online. She also teaches in studio and offers fitness consulting for other professionals in the field.
[00:01:19] I got to connect with her just a couple of weeks ago. She reached out and I'm so glad she did, because she has a really unique perspective on teaching Pilates, on blending modalities and kind of going beyond Pilates into kind of past the technical aspects that we love and the precision that we love in Pilates, and kind of weaving in some spiritual work, some soul work as well. So I'm really excited to share with you her thoughts on that. Thank you so much for being here, Denise.
[00:01:48] Thank you, Olivia. I'm so happy to be here and I love your podcast and everything you're bringing to our community, and I really appreciate you and your time and this opportunity.
[00:01:58] Thanks, Denise. [00:02:00] The first thing I always want to know is how did you get started in your Pilates journey? Can you tell me about your first experience with Pilates?
[00:02:07] Yes. I came to Pilates. I was 16. I was in an African dance class and I injured my back and had chronic pain. Um, until I moved to Columbia, Missouri, where I was 23. So it was about seven years of chronic pain. But my aunt Janice Dulak, who was a Pilates master, invited me.
[00:02:28] I was actually living in Europe and I moved back to the States and she said, come to Missouri. You can train in dance again at, she was the head of the dance department at Stevens College and she had a Pilates studio and she said, you'll come here. You can dance all you want, you know, have a new American experience, your United States of America kind of experience. And I was from California. And so come here and we'll, we'll get that going.
[00:02:53] And she gave me free Pilates lessons. Okay. And Pilates is [00:03:00] not cheap as a lot of us know. And private Pilates is pretty much a luxury item. So I was gifted that by my aunt and my aunt is one of the best teachers. And I'm not just saying that because she's my aunt, but she really, truly transformed me. And I know no longer identified with the back problem. It was gone. I don't like to use the word healed when I talk with people, because I think that's a very strong promise to make, but I was healed and I was a different person. Um, and my life completely changed.
[00:03:32] So I had to do it. I had to have access to it. And so part of the reason I decided to teach was because I know I knew I needed access to the equipment. Okay. I was like, I'm a dancer, you know, I'm living by, you know, I'm budget friendly. Like let's figure out how to be as resourceful as we can. And so for me to pay for private Pilates sessions, I didn't see it's something I was going to be able to do as a dancer. And so I thought I've got to have [00:04:00] access. So that was my primary reason.
[00:04:03] I love teaching. I am a natural teacher and it worked out as like a beautiful career for me after I laid down the dancing hat and said, meh, we're not doing the dancing thing anymore. And let's just fully do this. So yeah. That's my Pilates story.
[00:04:18] Can you tell me a little about your teacher training? What was it like diving deep into the classical work and doing the Romana's Pilates training?
[00:04:26] Yeah. So it's, it was an interesting time. Let's see, this was 2001 when I was certified. And I remember my, because my aunt was one of, is one of Romana's teachers. So there is a, um, commitment to that form. And there was definitely a belief that what we were doing was Pilates and what everybody else was doing was not right. So at the time it was, "this is straight from the horse's mouth." Okay. And Joseph taught these exercises [00:05:00] and we are learning basically from Joe, right.
[00:05:03] And that the lawsuit around the name was in the nineties. And I remember my aunt talking about that and it was sort of this like, uh, you know, I don't know there was- it was an interesting time to be in the classical world because we did think that we were the best.
[00:05:20] And then I will say over time, because I studied movement at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. I got my MFA in dance there. Things started to shift for me because I started learning all these other healing modalities, like Feldenkreis, the Alexander technique, which took me to a whole other level of healing. I learned release technique, and I started to have to look at how to stay in my traditional roots while bringing other things in.
[00:05:53] And I will tell you that there was a lot of pushback. There is a lot of pushback in the, or at the time and the Romana's [00:06:00] world. If you did something outside of that- it was like, if you had a physio ball in your studio, you would be tsk, tsk, tsk. What is that doing here? Do you do something on a foam roller? Excuse me, that's not Pilates.
[00:06:11] So it was an interesting, yes, I definitely had that traditional work and I, and I'll end with this little note is that the traditional work did heal me. So I have, you know, I know that that worked for me. And so that's where. Also, I think a challenge for me is, you know, staying with that, knowing that it worked for me and knowing sort of what works and also blending in. So yeah, it's interesting.
[00:06:37] I think it's an important, an important, like inner struggle that teachers have, where you have what you learned in your teacher training, and sometimes you learn that what you learned in your teacher training isn't the best way to go about doing something or things change over time as you know, more happens. Or as you are exposed to more things, like you learn more things, and then you [00:07:00] want to share those things with your students as well.
[00:07:02] I mean, even things like I was just in a workshop a few weeks ago with Bre Dumke Helfrich, but she's @movementdesignlab on Instagram and she's a neuro major nerd. She's doing her PhD in neuroscience. And one of the things that came up is like almost a side note was like east centric training for muscles is like the best way to build strength. And that's like straight out personal training land and that kind of movement. And then you're thinking about it in Pilates. And it's like, oh, so like when my teacher told me to resist the resistance, like, so that's what that was. Okay. And now we've got this thing to back it up or that.
[00:07:38] You know, I, I'm a huge fan of props. I'm also a contemporary teacher. So props were never like a no-go. It was more like more props. Like you need a bigger ball. Amazing. But I do want to hear a little bit about, like, how do you personally, like in your studios, in your classes, integrate things, do you keep, you know, the classical Pilates separate or do you bring in things like, how do you find [00:08:00] the balance for yourself? Cause it's probably different for everyone.
[00:08:03] Yeah. I mean, I think that's a really interesting question. I definitely don't separate. I mean, at this point, I have a, it reminds me kind of like a therapy, right? All of the work that you've done on yourself. So you've done energy work. You've done, you know, I don't know if you've had your therapy sessions, you've done, um, Reiki, you know, there's all these tools you have. So you're in a state and you can't, you have a problem. And you just start drawing on what works.
[00:08:33] And at this point in my teaching, it's really about a, having had all of those experiences in my body and then channeling. So a lot of my work has to do with who is in front of me. And I will, you know, I'll say to people, I'm like, your body, you know, I don't ever do this, but your body is telling me to do this, you know? And I just go with what comes up with that particular [00:09:00] body. And I think that the blending is natural.
[00:09:03] I will say in the beginning. And I think this is, you know, it's interesting. Cause the contemporary technique, I studied with a friend of mine who was, uh, or I was one of her like guinea pigs when she was in New York Kelly Kane's studio what's Kelly Kane's studio. Kinesio something. Anyways, they're super contemporary. And that training really emphasized that the teachers were very knowledgeable, you know, without an Orthodox system, and that their creativity was really valid.
[00:09:34] And in my training, your creativity was not really valued. Okay. Your, you know, your commitment to the work. And even again, like I said, you know, there were sort of no nos on certain things. And I think there was a, there was a lot of fear in the classical teachers. Like I need to do what's correct. And so in terms of the blending in, that was a process, right?
[00:09:59] I've been doing this for [00:10:00] 20 years, so I was very much Orthodox and I liked that too. I like having a routine cause I, I feel more comforted. For myself, I have more energy, mental energy when I know what to do and then I do it sort of my way. But adding and blending in, I started to experiment and I think a big, I was able to do it the best when I branched off from a studio and I was no longer working for somebody. Right. So that is, I think, a huge piece of this particular journey for teachers.
[00:10:32] And sometimes you're not allowed to do certain things in studio. You know, um, depending on where you're working. And Olivia, I think I know that you've worked at several different types of studios and you've talked about that. So has that, I, I'm curious in your particular experience, have you gone into studios where they're like, yeah, we know, blah, blah, blah.
[00:10:52] Yeah. It's sometimes there's, you know, it'll be a safety concern kind of thing. Like I teach at Club [00:11:00] Pilates. There's certain exercises, you know, anything with no Springs is a no-no in a group class, anything, you know, short spine massage, inversions where you have spring resistance assisting you in that. And their concern is, you know, there could be 12 people in the room. We want you to be able to watch everyone and everyone to be safe. So you can do those things in privates, no problem. But, so there are certain exercises like that.
[00:11:22] Sometimes it's equipment sensitive, like I've taught in gyms where you have a mat, and if you want to do anything that requires more than a mat, you're going to have to find a way to do it with just the mat. So there's those kinds of limitations as well.
[00:11:34] Um, and I do see the most freedom in my, with my clients who are just my clients, who I see like, just as myself, where there's more of a connection and also when you've worked with someone for a really long time, there's also a level of trust that if you ask them, you know, Hey, like let's grab that resistance band and do, and try this thing that even if it doesn't work, there's [00:12:00] this trust that we're going to try something together.
[00:12:02] So I do think that that opens up the freedom because you don't have the limits of, or I mean, of a class structure, like I've taught at studios that they wanted the class kind of planned in blocks of 18 minutes. Cause they were like 55 minute classes. And so this was the warm-up block. This was the meat and potatoes block. And this was like the cool-down block.
[00:12:22] Or studios where you've got instructors evaluating you as like quality control where you're getting feedback on your teaching, which can be really helpful. But when that's, you know, these points and if you didn't do enough of a sideline exercise or something, you lose a point. So like there's, there's definitely structure.
[00:12:40] There's like pros to being in that structure. But in terms of really finding your voice as a teacher and not- because I feel like when we start teaching as well and other things, we don't have our own voice. We have our teacher's voice. And you're, you're saying your teacher's words and finding your own words to say, like, even when you're talking about the [00:13:00] classical method that you're, you know, I had to teach it my way, like, finding your way to teach is, is a process. And it takes a lot of time. Um, but I do think kind of taking the blinders off a little bit and then like, for some reason I have this like rodeo bull just like letting it out of the pen and just letting yourself kind of like go out and explore and not have those limitations is awesome.
[00:13:26] Yes. I love that. I think that one of the things that comes up is not only are you learning like your voice, right. Regard- giving a certain exercise, but you're learning your voice in combination with who's in front of you, because you might have a voice that works for certain people where you say a thing or you show a thing and they get it, and then you do the same thing with somebody else and the voice has to change. Yeah. [00:14:00] So it's, it really is. I feel a process again, it's a long process.
[00:14:08] The factors that are going to help you, you know, create that voice are being confident. Right. And that's, and confidence often comes by just knowing that you can lead somebody using somebody else's, it's like the chill, you know, your children, your own children. My daughter like does what I do, you know? Cause she's learning life. And it's like, I do what mommy does because that's, I see it, that kind of works. Right. But over time we start to learn what we do and it's the same thing with teaching. And it is that process. Yeah.
[00:14:36] So I think that, and I think understanding the person in front of you is another level of education because that dealing with personalities, dealing with resistance and as to, you know, dealing with physical issues that are different on every body. Right? So the creativity piece, I wanted to note, that's what I was thinking. And now it came [00:15:00] back around to this.
[00:15:00] So I, when I moved to New York city in 2010, I had two jobs. I had taught at a studio there and that is, they started, they were classical, but that's where I saw a foam roller in a studio for the first time. And I was. Oh, this is interesting. This was not allowed in my aunt's studio, you know, so that was interesting. And then they were bringing in different, uh, the Melt technique. Okay. But the Melt technique, there was, it was interesting because, um, people would take that technique and they were sort of teaching it, but they weren't certified in it.
[00:15:32] And this is another piece that I would love to talk about in this particular conversation. So there were some Pilates teachers in the room who were certified in Melt and they were teaching Melt. Then you have other teachers who have every right to use the roller, but they were doing things that looked like Melt, or maybe they were borrowing from the other teachers, but they weren't certified in Melt. And so that came up as an issue within that studio: you don't have the right to teach Melt right? So this was an interesting kind of [00:16:00] moment and it wasn't until I like left there, I was able to kind of blend.
[00:16:04] But in terms of creativity, I also want to know my second job in New York at the same time was going into people's apartments and having to teach Pilates without equipment. And that's what you've noted about the gym. And that's where I got, you know, that's where you start to learn and devise and create. Yeah.
[00:16:20] It made me realize that ultimately, you know, that's what Joseph Pilates was doing. If we're really going to teach Pilates, what did he do? He had a client who couldn't do X, Y, and Z. He built a piece of equipment for them. You know, he was the creator. He was a creative, he was always the best. Morphing and building on the technique. And I don't believe like, had he been alive, you know, through this time, like the technique wouldn't look like it looks now, you know?
[00:16:47] So I think that that piece where I just kinda got to grab that confidence and say, and that is good teaching. Right? Good teaching is alive. It's um, presence. And it's moving [00:17:00] with life moving, right? So it's always going to be a morphing. And also, I think there is something to be said about roots and routine, because I do think if humans who are trying to learn a new movement technique, if it's too much, too many ideas and too many things to think about, they are not going to be able to follow. So I would say, you know, that kind of, I mean, there's a lot to talk about in this particular, on this particular subject.
[00:17:31] Something that I see in my classes every day, if I'm teaching, you know, a beginning class and intermediate class and an advanced class, In the beginning class, I'm really big on options and letting people choose how they want to do a thing with the emphasis that it's not wrong, that they can do it this way, or they can do it this way. And this isn't, you know, better or worse. This is just one way of doing it or a different way of doing it.
[00:17:57] And, you know, I might give a few options on a [00:18:00] few exercises in the beginning class. Where you get to the advanced class and it's, it's very much, you know, You know, your body, you know, yourself, how do you want to do, like, you want to be heavy in the hamstrings when you do feet and straps, do you want to be heavy in the abs when you do feet and straps? Like, how do you want, like, where do you want to work? How do you want to explore this?
[00:18:19] But you can't throw that at someone when they're just learning it. Like you have to build to that. As someone who loves moving enjoys movement, I've made the mistake, or maybe not the mistake, but the learning experience in the past that I have been like, well, you could do it like this, or you could do it like this, or you could do it like this. Yeah. Just like, tell me what to do. Where do I put my foot? What springs, where are we going?
[00:18:41] You know, that's what I think makes movement so fun as well. Is that there's more layers in the more you explore, there's always more coming back to you.
[00:18:50] I love that. And I will say, so my movement journey was, you know, classical ballet, dance, [00:19:00] jazz, um, tech classes, where this is what you do. X, Y, and Z. Boom, boom, follow, follow follow, then Pilates again, in a form that was moved this way. Don't make a move before you do X starting from.
[00:19:15] And that's why I think my aunt Janice, she is a master teacher, because I think she understands how people learn and that's just a natural thing for her. And she doesn't, she gives what can be handled in the moment. Right. And it's like, it's brilliant. And so that building block, like learning a language, you know, and the way that it was taught to me was very, I, it worked for my body. Right.
[00:19:39] And then I did my graduate work at the University of Illinois. And as a dancer, in order to be a full, fully realized dancer, you cannot be controlling everything. You have to be open. You have to be, the body has to be open. I mean, you can dance that way, and that's how ballet a lot of ballet dancers dance. [00:20:00] Right.
[00:20:00] But to have that freedom of movement required a freedom of thinking, and then my education philosophy changed, which was that people, we shouldn't be telling people, you know, how to live and do and blah, blah, blah, but that it should come from them.
[00:20:19] Right. But to your point about when you're delegating, you step into now, what do I do with that Pilates here? I am. I'm telling you what to do, but now I believe that that's sort of effed up and I don't think that's actually very healthy mentally. Right. But now I'm in a room with somebody and I say, you know, I'll say sometimes to clients, what do you want to work on today? Or how would you do that? And they're just like, Rarely, I would say like 1% of the time or 0.1% of the time they tell me, give me an answer. They really want me, they're so tired of having to figure every effing thing out that they need somebody to just tell them what to do. Do you know what I'm saying?
[00:20:59] And so there [00:21:00] is that sort of, and I get it too, because I'm a mom of two young kids that are like, that's insane. Life is literally insane every day. It's different every day, there is no consistency. You know what I'm saying? And then you've got pandemic. You had to learn how to live in a whole new way. And you've got these kids that are changing every day as a whole new way. And not that you can't rely on anything. So when I go into a class it's like, do not ask me to like, like, I don't want open space. Like I want you, I just need a guide. I need a mom. You know what I mean? I need somebody to, I need a boss.
[00:21:30] And I'm my own boss. It's another place, right? Like, no, one's really telling me what to do. So I do think that, again, it's that balance. Right. And over time, once they've had that technique of, okay.
[00:21:42] Now, um, I'll say it reminds me of jazz musicians. I think that there's a process and the jazz musician like curriculum it's like, you learn how to imitate all of the best players, you learn all the standards before you go and just improv on [00:22:00] your own. So I think there's something beautiful about that. Understanding a technique and adopting something for what it is, and then Hey flow. Right. And, and you'll feel the confidence to flow. So I think, I think there's something to that particular process.
[00:22:18] That's a beautiful way of putting it. And I think that that makes sense, you know, as a teacher, as a student, that having that structure, having that foundation, having that there to support you. And then once you know that, then you can make choices like about how this feels. Or maybe I want to do it this way or try it on this day like this, or, you know, maybe I don't do that or what. I love that.
[00:22:42] And I think that this is also speaking to something that I also wanted to chat with you about, of moving from Pilates, which classical Pilates, especially, but contemporary Pilates as well. Moving from this very technical, these are the springs, this is the exercise, to incorporating [00:23:00] deeper work or work from other angles where you're seeing the person a little bit more.
[00:23:05] A whole person and not just a whole body, because even, I mean, I love the phrase, you know, teach the body that's in front of you, but it's the body and the mind and the spirit and you know, how are they, are they sleeping? Are they eating? Like, what are their kids up to? Like all of like, this very complicated human being with all these relationships that we only see for, you know, an hour a week and you know, how do I best support the whole person through this body work that I do, but also, you know, adding some more stuff.
[00:23:35] Yes. So, you know, our culture generally views like the body is separate from the self where we talk about the body. Right. I remember being in graduate school and Becky Nuttall feel was, she was one of the teachers. Like I had a class of students that I was teaching and we were getting reviewed by our professor. [00:24:00] And she said, you say the lift, what did she say? It was something like lift the stomach or, you know, lift the leg. I was using the, uh, in terms of, for body parts and she changed. She was like, it's gotta be my, it's gotta be your. It's gotta be it. Is that it? Like the arm that you have, it is my arm. Right. And my self.
[00:24:26] And when people go to work out, they're generally like trying to conquer a thing, which is their body. This thing that is disruptive, this thing that doesn't look how they want it to look, this thing that gets in the way and gets tired, this thing that gives them back pain, right. Instead of seeing and being in their body.
[00:24:50] And what I've noticed over time is that what started to happen naturally with my students. And I think that in the beginning, this goes back to that process of being able to, to [00:25:00] expand it beyond the technical is like the technical and the physical is enough in the beginning. That's a lot, you know, it's a lot to like, can you try to lift your arm without also lifting your shoulder? Like what, that's weird. Can you like isolate your rib? Like, can you just move your ribs back? Like, you know, that's like a , it's a lot of work. And then they're stepping out of the room and they're thinking about it when they're brushing their teeth or, you know, this is a whole, this is a long time.
[00:25:26] But as my clients, um, my students as we'd, we'd go on in the work and go, okay, they've got the technique down to a certain extent. They've got the, you know, the choreography down, uh, the movements down, then you start to see what's really stopping them. You know, where the fear is. So they're afraid, you're, they're afraid of letting go and their body. They're afraid of settling in, you know, into the mat. They're afraid of what would happen if I like really curled up and [00:26:00] had to look at- this is a main thing for some of my clients who have extra weight, like I have to look at my stomach, right. Like, Ugh, I don't even want to curl up. I feel sick when I have to do that, because it makes me feel like a horrible person.
[00:26:13] So then there's limitations in their movement because there's limitations in their brain. Right. And it's not, and it's like a lot of stuff going on. And so we get to a point where, unless it started for me naturally to just start to, you know what, let's go a little, a little bit beyond this. You know, this is not about your back being tight and you can't get up into teaser. Oh, this is about you not being willing to give in, or you being afraid of X, Y, and Z.
[00:26:41] And then also like energetically, you're coming to your sessions. You have nothing, if nothing to give, right. Why is that? Oh, you're not sleeping. Why is that? You know, oh, you're running around your brain is not here. Why is that? So we have to go beyond. And so what I started to [00:27:00] realize, and I think this is again, that process for teachers. You're going to take, it's gonna take a while for you to even be able to get there and create that or offer that kind of support. Um, it's gonna take a while for you to get there with your clients and for them to trust you, but be starting to understand that it is again, more than the physical. And how do we offer that kind of support in a safe way for us too?
[00:27:22] Cause I will say going back to like you and I talked about different training modalities and what you're bringing in, I am not a therapist. They do not say I'm a therapist. I'm not going to go into that, that particular thing, but anything that's related, right, to the body and how we can maybe start to ask them questions and connect to our, I talk about our core self. So are I talk about the core, then I talk about it physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, um, how we can reconnect to ourselves, whatever that means for you. That's going to help you in your physical expression.
[00:27:55] Yeah, it's, it's so funny that you're saying this because an episode [00:28:00] on Pilates Students' Manual that just came out or will come out in the future, because this is happening in the past was about the roll-up and I'm, you know, sharing, you know, well, you can use a resistance band or you can use the roll-down bar. We can work eccentrically, and just focus on rolling down and not rolling up. And we can build strength there.
[00:28:17] But the note that I ended that episode on was like, there's also a mental component. If you know that the roll-up comes after the a hundred and you hate it because you don't think you're good at it, or you can never get up and you have, your self-conscious. You're having some conversation with yourself about, you know, how terrible it is. You're not going to be able to roll up. And it doesn't matter whether you use a resistance band or your arms or anything that if you have that belief already that I can't do this, you're not going to be able to do this.
[00:28:49] And so I love that you're, you know, taking the time and really seeing the person. Yeah. I know as teachers, we've had people who come into class and you're like, I'm glad you're here, but you are not [00:29:00] here. You are somewhere else. And, um, sometimes, you know, it's just moving, especially in group classes. It's just like some, you just need to like move and that's beautiful that we can offer that for you, but when, especially when you're working one-on-one and you can have that conversation be like, Hey, like what's going on? Like, how can I support you?
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[00:30:12] I do you want to hear about- because in group classes, we're giving, giving, giving, and private sessions were giving, giving, giving, or holding space, which can be very demanding of us. And so can you, you tell me a little bit about how you find the energy balance or do you catch yourself before you've gone too far? I usually end up a little bit too far and I'm like, I'm really exhausted. I should have dialed that back.
[00:30:50] Right. I love that. That is the truth about me. Um, I think that over time [00:31:00] though, I did that so much that I would get really sick. Um, and I'm almost like, like physically ill. I remember when I launched My Bod Wellness as an official business and all of a sudden I went from being a Pilates teacher who was kind of doing it with my, you know, my notebook. I didn't even have, uh, other people had phones at the time, like putting their schedules and phones and like digitizing everything. And I was still writing clients' names down. And you know, so like I had this whole, this is my trade and I'm going to teach whoever, you know, but I wasn't a business person.
[00:31:33] But the moment I launched my online platform in 2012, there was so, oh my gosh. I had to get a lawyer. I had to, you know, set up, um, LLC. I had to get contracts. I had, you know, there was so much, and I remember working like a crazy person. And I got so sick, sicker than I've ever been. And I missed, I missed out on my favorite vacation of the year, which is going to California to my uncles at Christmas and I was sick the whole time.
[00:31:59] And I, [00:32:00] it sounds sort of silly and like, sort of like, oh, you got sick on vacation. No, it was very meaningful to me. And it was so upsetting to me. And so I really realized that that moment: it's not worth it. And my body does, I am very sensitive that way. And I just can't and I hate being, I don't like being sick. I do not like feeling unhealthy. I think it's sort of a blessing and it also tends to make me, I think sometimes, sometimes I don't do as much maybe as I can. I'm not doing it, right, because I, I am preserving my health and I will not do something beyond what will, you know, take me into that place.
[00:32:37] But I will say, I, I, you know, like you said, like stopping before it's gone down that road. I'm 45. Now. I definitely have learned how to do that to a certain extent. I think it's vital for teachers. I had a business coach who said once it's, she's amazing. She said, you know, all right, we're going to look at your schedule [00:33:00] and we are going to look at where you're putting in your vacation now, and you are putting those dates on. They are not changing.
[00:33:09] And I think for us as business owners, or even just, even if you're not a business owner, if you are a teacher and you're, you know, freelancing and you're doing all these things, you have to be really solid and, and, um, confident about, and, and, and know that the white space is, has to be written in and it cannot be changed.
[00:33:31] And then over time, I will say I. Because there's a lot of pressure as a teacher, especially if you're teaching privates, oh, one, somebody wants you. Needs you. They need you for that hour. Right. And, um, it's very hard to cancel or reschedule, but I've gotten much better at saying, you know what, I'm starting to feel. Well now in COVID time, like it's also, that's a whole other thing. It's like, Hey, I have like the sniff, like this beginning of a sniffle and no one's going to work with it. You know [00:34:00] what I mean? It's like, it's whatever. We're, we're in sort of a weird zone right now, but we're talking pre COVID. It's like now I'm putting myself down tomorrow and I will reschedule.
[00:34:09] I think trust has a lot to do with it, Olivia. Trusting that the money's going to come because this is a big thing for us as teachers. We're not just doing this because we love it and we have, we're like independently wealthy. And we can just go ahead and, uh, and just give our Pilates. No, we need a job. You know, like this is, this is work, so we need money and we don't want to lose clients and we're scared of losing clients. So we're going to, we're going to push, push, push. And if we, if we drop out on them, you know.
[00:34:37] So it's about being really smart about taking care of yourself and taking care of them. So what is the offer? I have to reschedule today. I mean, they, you know, whatever, if you have to do it all the time, that's a problem. It's okay. Right. And like, and then being generous with your clients in a way. If I have to late cancel on my clients, they get a late cancel credit from me. Okay. So. I'm saying, Hey, you know, I have [00:35:00] to late cancel you. I'm putting in a late cancel credit in your account because I have to do this on you. So I feel like that balance of taking care of yourself while taking care of your clients.
[00:35:09] I think you need to look at both ends. You need to know, you need to take care of yourself. You also, if you have that, you know, that other piece you'll feel better about it. And so a hundred percent, I think there's- I will add this little note, you know, we give out a lot of energy. And especially if you're going to go into the zone of going beyond the body, cause it's scary, you have to feel confident doing that.
[00:35:31] And you, you, and you have to be also open to potentially some pushback, which is the challenge. And when you're coaching somebody, you know, that's tough, like it's vulnerable stuff. So then it's vulnerable for you. And then you've taken on these, you know, all lot of energy during the day. So like an end of the day ritual, I think is really important.
[00:35:51] I had a, of an energy worker I work with who talks about doing like a sort of mental shower at the end of her workday with clients. So she just sets and she [00:36:00] imagines like the water coming down and washing off all of the energy. And then the same business coach, always talking about the vacation she had, she like created visually like a, almost like a port, like a portal, you know, in her body where she could release the energy. Cause we hold it. So how can we release it? And so those kinds of things I think are very helpful. Um, when you're taking on a lot of people.
[00:36:23] I know that I teach group classes, um, back to back about four in a row and evenings. And so when I'm getting home, it's like nine o'clock at night. And, uh, what helps me is that that's when I choose to like water my plants. And so then I get to like go around my house, stick my finger in some dirt, very like grounding, and water plants. And kind of just, not listen to music. Not entertain anyone. Yeah. Breathe. And like, that's a happy place for me. So like, I'm happy to do that. Um, even though it does seem like it's more giving on top of giving, but it's giving water and then they give back to me.
[00:36:58] It's giving back. [00:37:00] I want to also note, cause you just said that, four back to back and I'm like, oh my gosh, no, thank you. I don't know if I can do that, but at this point, I don't know that I would, but I mean, for classes, like I- here's the other piece of Olivia that I think is important over time, too, as a teacher, experimenting with your energy output within a session and being very aware of that.
[00:37:20] So if you're giving too much, you know, and experimenting with giving just a little less, right? Can you sit back a little less, allow the student to do more? Allow you to do less and that can transition over time. It might have to be a lot of you in the beginning, and then over time stepping back. I think that's another piece of sustainability is in your particular work, how can you check in during your teaching hour? Right. And so, and then experimenting. And if people seem like if it sort of starts to feel like I'm not giving enough, then know, add a little more, turn up the volume, but doing that during a session [00:38:00] is key too.
[00:38:02] For the group classes, even though I'm doing four in a row, maybe the students in my classes know this, maybe they don't, but like I'm teaching a class and then I'm teaching it at different levels. So it's not totally different setup for everything. It's not totally different even planning for classes. It's just kind of dialing up these exercises, dialing down these exercises. And that's something I've learned because. Um, you know, at the studio I teach at it's reformer, springboard chair, Bosu magic circle, jump board, mat.
[00:38:32] Nah, it's just many things. The box of course. And I would be like, oh, I'm going to teach this level one class when use the box, we're going to use the springboard. We're going to be on the reformer. And to teach us 1.5, when you use the TRX, we're gonna use the Bosu and it's like, no, we're gonna use this setup. And it's going to stay there for four hours and we'll put it back at the end of the day.
[00:38:49] So, and those are things that I found through trial and error that, you know, wow. I'm really exhausted when I lift 12 boxes every hour for no reason, when I could just leave them there for four. [00:39:00] So there's definitely this, um, kind of watching yourself, seeing how you feel afterwards.
[00:39:07] Uh, one kind of fun transition that happened in COVID was that, um, students started changing their own springs, where I was changing all of the springs on all of the reformers all of the time. And I would get bruises on the back of my wrist from pulling against the carriage and resting my wrist on the carriage. And I was like, well, this is such a weird little bruise that I have. And I was like, maybe we can offload a little bit of that. And they get to take, be like more in charge of their workouts. Like everyone wins, my wrist wins, your autonomy wins.
[00:39:37] Wow. I love that.
[00:39:38] Um, I also want to hear about, um, your offerings because you offer some really cool programs for both students and, you know, consulting work for teachers and other professionals. Can you share what you're offering the community?
[00:39:53] Yeah. So I, out of this, My experience with the physical and then the [00:40:00] mental, spiritual integration. I created two programs. One was an intensive 30 day program that I have done privately, but I've also done it in a group. And I love doing it in a group because everybody can sort of share. Um, it's called Core Elevate. Just like we have a commitment to our physical. It's easier for us to go to our exercise classes every week for most of us. It's harder for us to do our daily practice. At least for somebody like me. It's very hard for me to actually sit down and yeah, and meditate for five minutes or 10. And 15 is a lot. Right. So like, it's like, especially with again, the little kids.
[00:40:45] So I built a program that created sort of like an exercise routine for that core connection that's mental and spiritual with daily prompts, and accountability of being together as a group and really a [00:41:00] focus on 30 days of like, what is your core self? Like, how are you connecting to core?
[00:41:05] So when I teach, I do teach connect from the center and move from the center out in my students. And so it's the same philosophy for your life before you get on that phone call with your boss to talk about something challenging before you. Yeah, go off on your child because she just like threw something across the room, you know, connect to your core before you make the move. So move from the inside out.
[00:41:31] And so I have practices for that, that, um, I've built over the study that I've done the energy work studies. I've done the work I've done with several just mindful practitioners, you know, mindfulness practitioners and meditation teachers and energy work.
[00:41:49] So that's a built in 30 day, and then I have the longer extension version of that. So at this point, my core aligned program does offer, you know, body [00:42:00] only, you can start with, you start with body only. Generally I have a client right now who wants to only do the mental physical piece because she's been working with me for like 10 years, actually 13 years. So the body stuff, she doesn't really need me in that way, but the other support, yeah. So it's, it's optional. I do think that I'm learning with this program, the six month program. As it's fairly new, I've been doing for about three years. Uh, that again, I'm coming back to like, the body is enough, you know, in the beginning and that's where we focus.
[00:42:28] And then the ad-ons of that emotional support is also really it's an option for my clients. And so we do it in it's a private program. And then in terms of the consulting, I do, I offer, started offering business consulting. In 20, I think 14, because when I launched my online business, I got a lot of press for it. I was all over, you know, shape, Cosmo, glamour, Pilates, anytime, like all that stuff. And so people started reaching out to me about how do you go online? Uh, so my business consulting was [00:43:00] for that specifically how to take your business online. And when, um, COVID hit, I created a couple of courses to, uh, just like got everything together, really fast. All of what I do in my business consulting put it in a course and then trained a lot of Pilates instructors and trainers, yoga instructors, and personal trainers to transition in a nanosecond to a new way of moving, you know. And so that is another offer that I have it exists. And, uh, yeah, but now everybody's gone online. So they, they kind of have figured that piece out. So we're not doing as much of that, but yeah.
[00:43:37] So those are my that's, that's what I'm doing right now. And yeah, I love what I'm doing. I love my work. And I will say I'm like, like Joseph Pilates and like you, Olivia, and like a lot of people who get into this, I'm a creator and a creative. Um, so I like to keep building and growing the offer. Cause to be honest, I get kind of bored if I'm doing the same thing. It's true. I mean, I want something new, you [00:44:00] know, I feel better. I was talking to somebody about neuroplasticity and learning new things, you know, helps the brain. Like it's going to keep us alive. It's going to make us feel younger and just interested and I with life. And so I, I feel the same way in my business.
[00:44:16] That's absolutely incredible. And I really, I just, I love the idea of, you know, having a program of really making a habit of not just going to class because most of us will go to class. But you know, for ourselves, especially, I mean, for teachers as well, I really enjoy Maria Earle's Advanced Mover Series that was for teachers to do their own thing. Because it's really easy at the end of your day, to just be like, look, I did Pilates for nine hours, even though most of it was standing and talking, but I was in there for nine hours and now I'm going to bed.
[00:44:52] So it's, it's important. And I think that, especially in that longer term program, that you're really setting up a habit for, [00:45:00] for life. Like that's, that's deep, that's a deep dive.
[00:45:03] Is there anything else you'd like to share or anything else that you're working on or you're passionate about, or last words you'd like to say.
[00:45:11] So I think I would just say that for teachers who, oh, you said nine hours and I was like, that is the other thing I will just say that, get to that place where you understand your value, get to that place where you know, what is realistic for you to give. Understand how much you are giving in an hour and get confident about charging what needs to be charged for that time, because that is one of the most supportive ways to deal, be in this particular, you know, I think this is all like it sort of all comes back together, be who you are, understand what you truly can offer.[00:46:00]
[00:46:01] Start to, you know, do the work on yourself. Like you said, make sure that you are a priority and, and then start stepping into that confidence. Because when you overdo it, we give too much, we are trying to do too much, which we like to do a lot. Then it's just not there. It's not, it's not good. It's not good for you, not good for your clients. Not good for the people you work for, you know? And so. That's what I would, yeah, I'd love to end on that because we got to take care of ourselves. And we are givers when you're in a service profession, you are in here cause you like taking care of others, but we can totally forget to take care of ourselves. And I think that that's, that's a big, that's the biggest thing.
[00:46:47] Thank you so much for your time, Denise, for sharing your words of wisdom. Really incredible. Like just your experience, the, the lessons you've learned. Thank you for sharing them with us. I really appreciate you coming on [00:47:00] the show today.
[00:47:01] Thank you, Olivia. So lovely talking with you.
[00:47:12] Thanks for listening 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.
[00:47:35] The adventure continues. Until next time.