Mara Sievers, founder of Pilates Encyclopedia, joins me on the podcast today. She shares the inspiration behind her incredible Pilates Encyclopedia project, how she became location and schedule independent, the fundamentals of an open studio model, and her advice for new teachers. Tune in!
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Mara is the founder of Pilates Encyclopedia. She has taught Pilates for over 15 years and studied with many teachers of diverse Pilates backgrounds. The Pilates Encyclopedia works to bring all the different Pilates methodologies and practices together in one place.
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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia, and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.
[00:00:56] Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] So excited today to be on with Mara Sievers and she is the founder of Pilates Encyclopedia, which is an incredible resource of all the Pilates knowledge that you've been collecting in your workshops and your trainings and everything that you do as a teacher, all of your continuing education, she's really compiled all of the stuff that she's done into this incredible resource for teachers, for students, for anyone who's curious and interested in Pilates. I absolutely love the work that she's doing in the industry. So I'm really excited to have her on. Mara, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
[00:01:35] Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited.
[00:01:38] The first thing I always want to know is how did you get involved in Pilates? What was your first Pilates experience?
[00:01:45] Sure. Um, so I used to be in theater, musical theater specifically. So there's dancing, acting, and there's singing. So it was not super in depth dance training. And so I decided to take extra curricular classes [00:02:00] and one of them was Pilates. I think every good dance training or full dance training you should have Pilates, and probably nowadays has Pilates, as part of the curriculum. That was not the case for me, but I took it separately and I had this revolutionary experience because I really started to get the concept of center. Like in dance. Every dance teacher talks about your, you got to move from your center and you're like, I don't know what that means. How do I do that? So taking Pilates classes- it was mat classes- definitely gave me the actual physical feeling for what that meant. So that was first light bulb moment.
[00:02:38] So after I graduated and I started to work as a performer, I got injured like many of us, unfortunately. And in my case, it was a bulging disc at like the age of 20. Now I know that it is due to my hypermobility and it's definitely, uh, genetics. It's like almost everybody on my mother's side of my family has at least one [00:03:00] herniated disc in their life. I sort of think it's because of that. And I actually had a second herniated disc in my neck just a few years ago. I sort of know now that it's genetics. Yeah. But it's fine.
[00:03:11] When I was 22 and when it happened for me, that was the first time I was like, oh my God. And you, you know, you're trying to become a professional dancer, professional performer. And your body is, you know, your work tool, you know, it was emotional. And what I didn't understand was that my doctor said my injuries in my back. Right. So I had a low back bulging disc lumbar disc and, uh, my pain was in my leg. Right? So it basically, it's very classic, you know, lumbar disc pushed against my sciatic nerve and the pain was in my leg and I didn't have any anatomical knowledge at that point. So for me, it was like, why is the pain in my leg if my injuries in my back? It didn't make any sense to me.
[00:03:50] So I started to in my rehab process from that. The only things that I could really do movement wise were Pilates and yoga and a little bit of [00:04:00] swimming. So I really got back into those two modalities and then eventually down the road, I really started to focus on Pilates because that was sort of the only thing I could do. I really felt it was a lifesaver for me. Right. It was a way for me to get my body back and get my career back and get my life back. So I love Joseph Pilates' book title Return to Life. I think that's really, that's what Pilates is for me. I've really come to love it. Yeah. That's probably my introduction to Pilates.
[00:04:30] That's excellent. And you're right. It is a common story to the point where now I'll be talking to people and they'll be like, well, I know it's a cliche, but I think that it's a really common experience that. You know, we have bodies, they're doing things and then they don't do those things so much anymore. And how do we get back to either where we were beyond where we were, or just back out of pain kind of thing. So it is no less powerful every time you hear it.
[00:04:59] [00:05:00] Absolutely. And I think we can talk about this later on, but I think people with injuries or people whose bodies don't work the way they should. They actually get attracted to Pilates because the method serves people like that. It makes sense why that happens. And I think that's why new teachers- that's who I'm mostly serving, Pilates teachers who are fairly new to this- that's a big challenge for them because they maybe are not trained to deal with injuries, but that's the kind of people that the method attracts. So that's where the challenge comes in, that you will sooner or later, and probably sooner than later, have to deal with somebody with a disc problem or, you know, any kind of joint problem.
[00:05:42] So how did you make the transition from I love Pilates, this is helping me to, I want to teach Pilates and I want to share this with others.
[00:05:54] Sure. You know, as an actor, a typical story is like, it's a tough life to make a career as, as an [00:06:00] actor and dancer. So I started to train all kinds of like aerobics, step aerobics, group fitness. I took training, you know, in, in that direction. And then also Pilates, I started just with mat because basically just as a side job, as a side gig to make money while I was looking for an acting job.
[00:06:19] But I got so much positive feedback, you know, again, in theater, like there was so much criticism you constantly have to audition. You're never good enough. And musical theater, I think is the worst because you have three disciplines, like singing and acting and dancing. You can never be great at everything. So there's always something that you're not good at. I'm constantly being criticized. And then once I started to teach group fitness, I got all this positive feedback. I know it was like, people love my classes and they came up to me and told me about, I was like, wow, this is so different. I like this. So I think that helped a great deal to push me in that direction.
[00:06:59] And it was [00:07:00] just much, much easier for me in terms of, I feel like, okay, yeah, this is, there's a momentum going. So I just gave in to that and I loved it. I mean, no doubt. And in terms of Pilates, because it has helped me so much, I developed a huge compassion and empathy for anybody whose body is not doing what it's supposed to be doing.
[00:07:21] And especially young people. The older we get, the more we expect, you know, a few aches and pains and stuff like that. But somebody in her twenties or thirties, when you feel like your body's letting you down and it's not, you know, for whatever reason, I have a huge compassion for that. I wanted to share my passion for this method, my firsthand experience with it.
[00:07:41] And then I also wanted to understand. I have an incredible thirst for knowledge and like, I dig so deep. I ask, you know, five levels of why. Why am I doing this? And why is this like that? That curiosity for knowledge paired with the power that the method had over my own [00:08:00] personal experience made me want to share.
[00:08:03] Can you share a bit about what your training program sort of process was like? Because I get a lot of people who are writing into the podcast who are interested in, you know, well, how do you pick a program? And I know that you had, I don't know if it's a non-traditional way, but I know that you did mat first and then you did reformer and then you did multiple different sort of trainings with different schools of thought in Pilates. So can you share a little bit about how you navigated?
[00:08:29] Sure, sure. I'm happy to. Yeah. So I started just with a mat program. When I was looking for training, somebody mentioned the comprehensive and that actually was a Polestar training and it was sort of like, I've never seen equipment. I didn't know what it did. I didn't know there was any purpose. Like I was completely oblivious and that's okay. So I just did mat and that was fine. And I taught math for quite a while. So I had a lot of experience with the method before I started to go into equipment training.
[00:08:57] And then I, honestly, I dabbled a little [00:09:00] bit, like I did one reformer course, and I did not like that. Like that did not, that one course did not satisfy my curiosity. Like the only thing I learned I found was exercises. Like, do this, do that, push out, pull up. That's all I learned. I didn't learn any explanation for why it is the way it is and all of that. And that's what I was really interested in. So eventually that brought me to the comprehensive Polestar training.
[00:09:28] I think it was a very well fitted training for me because it's so closely connected with physical therapy and injuries and corrective. So that was my personal history and that's really what I wanted to do. And I wanted to have that knowledge. So the Polestar training was very fitting for me. I think it's a very advanced training. So for somebody who's brand new to movement, I think that's a hard training. A lot of people take it as a second training and a lot of physical therapists take it. I loved it. My experience was great with it. Yeah. [00:10:00] So that's where I ended up going. Um, I'm very happy with that.
[00:10:02] But to be honest, because of my thirst, for knowledge, I read everything that I could find about Pilates, everything, even though I don't consider myself a traditionalist. I did a lot of research into where the method came from. What's behind it. I just don't consider myself a classical teacher in the sense that I don't want to restrict myself to certain exercises and to a certain order. I want to have freedom to choose the tools that I want, however I want.
[00:10:33] So I'm very eclectic. That's my personality. I take what makes sense to me and my brain and that's what I teach. And I think everybody should do that. Like I think just repeating something that you hear and you don't fully understand it, I think that's a little bit of a dead end.
[00:10:50] I think, especially with the population of people that you're passionate about working with people who are recovering from injuries and sort of going kind of a rehab or [00:11:00] post rehab, but getting back to normal, kind of. You really do need to be creative and be able to adopt the exercises and you can tell what is eventually maybe 18 steps down the line a classical exercise, but you need to make it work with the body that has it stuff going on. And so I think being able to have the knowledge, to have the why and understand the exercise, not just, oh, we're rolling up and touching our toes, that the purpose of the exercise, it can be sort of met from lots of different ways. I think that that's really powerful. And I'm glad that the training satisfied your curiosity, because I can definitely tell, just talking to you and knowing the work you do, that you're going to need to have some in-depth conversations about what you're learning. It's not going to be an okay, and then stamp off, you know, like.
[00:11:53] Giving a quick answer is really hard for me. So that's a question I get a lot, like, what am I supposed to feel in his exercise? And what's [00:12:00] the target muscle? That's a loaded question because all of these exercises do so much. There's so much involved. And after you've taught an exercise to, you know, a hundred different people, you see it from a hundred different perspectives.
[00:12:16] And then sometimes people ask me about my style or my method. All I say is I call it the If, Then method. Basically, if this happens, then I do that. If I see something different than I do something different. It's not a clear, always do this or always do that. It always depends. It depends on the pens and it's really critical.
[00:12:37] I'm very happy to read the term critical thinking a lot more in the Pilates world, because I think that's very, very important. That's what we need to get away from the black and white. I'm not a black and white person. I'm a very shades of gray person, in the non adult version. So, uh, just, there's so many nuances. There's nuances in everything in life. Right. We can take this into [00:13:00] many other fields, but let's stick with Pilates.
[00:13:03] Can you tell me then how Pilates Encyclopedia came to be? Because just scrolling through your website and your Instagram, and that you just have such a talent for breaking down exercises for making things that, you know, even you, that you didn't know you were taking for granted, that you were taking for granted, that you can really sort of look at those nuances or maybe shine a light on nuances that you may not have been aware of. So how did you decide to create this project?
[00:13:33] I owned a studio in New Hampshire for eight years, where again, you know, I taught many, many, many, many hours and I was very busy. At one point I had a six month wait list. It was just crazy. And then I dealt with a lot of people with injuries. Uh, that's just the kind of people I attracted.
[00:13:50] I needed to occasionally obviously look something up. I don't know everything. I still don't know everything. Like I wanted to look something up. And then I, um, you know, maybe I logged [00:14:00] into Pilates Anytime and I wanted to find, you know, tips for this exercise or that exercise for a particular client. Like, how do I teach this to this client? I think the exercise might be a good choice, but something's not working. How do I figure this out? And I couldn't find an answer or I, you know, I watched a video of 45 minutes and I still that exercise whatnot was not in that class, in that sequence. I really thought there was a need for my own experience to find quick answers for your teaching questions, right?
[00:14:32] Like, let's say you have somebody call you up and say, oh, I want to try Pilates. I've had a hip replacement six months ago, or, you know, I still have some pain from a herniated disc. And my doctor said, or my PT said, Pilates would be great. And as a teacher, new-ish, right, teacher, you're like, oh my God, what am I going to do? Right. I don't want to hurt this person. Which exercises are contraindicated? I just want to know, I need to know this now, because this person is coming in tomorrow. [00:15:00] That's sort of the gap, the general gap in knowledge I want it to fill, but specifically like quickly because for working teachers. You know, I can't wait for six months to take a course, an in-depth course about spinal conditions. I need to know now.
[00:15:14] And ultimately you learn one person at a time when you're a Pilates teacher, right? You learn one client at a time. That's just the reality. So when you start to work with people who you think are a little bit, maybe a little bit out of your comfort zone, but you have somebody by your side to help you fill the gaps that you may be not know or get at least give you the confidence.
[00:15:38] I think there's a lot, a big confidence issue too. It was like a lot of people get intimidated by something's wrong. And there's a lot of talk maybe about don't hurt your clients. And yes, we shouldn't, but sometimes it's a little bit too much too. I don't want to minimize that there can be risk and now there is risk, but it's a balance.
[00:15:56] So you need, I think it would be good to have somebody along that [00:16:00] you can ask when you're like, is, am I on the right track? For instance, like, this is what I'm planning on doing. Am I on the right track? So that's what I felt I wanted to offer this. Just filling gaps of knowledge, getting a real life experience, you know, passing that on to the next generation of Pilates teachers. And so that's what I saw that I had to give.
[00:16:25] But I also want to maybe briefly talk about my personal, like why it is good for me, what I'm doing right now, because I think we have to honor who we are in this industry as well, to be happy in your profession. And I'm an introvert. And being with people all day long every day was just too much.
[00:16:48] And there's also a lot of talk in the Pilates world about burnout, not just Pilates, in a lot of other fields about burnout, and it's a huge issue. And I think that happens because we, we don't learn the [00:17:00] skills to how to create my schedule, you know, what, what kind of expect that I can deal with. And for me as an introvert, that was just, it was just too much. I enjoy being with people and enjoy helping people, but it was just too much after a while.
[00:17:13] So after having a studio for eight years and owning, you know, when you own a studio and you're the main teacher, there's, I mean, it doesn't end with the hours you teach. It's endless work and stress. And so I decided I need to step back. I sold my studio. It's still there. I'm occasionally there too. But it was more suited for me, my, my life and my happiness to switch to a way to deliver the Pilates method that was a little bit more quiet.
[00:17:43] That resonates with me a lot. And then also I was like, how did you teach group fitness full time? Oh my gosh. I think that group requires like a different kind of energy, a different kind of connecting with people. I also have a theater [00:18:00] background and there's definitely like a song and dance component to group, that you are entertaining as well as leading exercises and you're engaging individually.
[00:18:11] And it can feel, especially in group that you're giving a lot because there's not as much one-on-one interaction. You're not, like you said, people will come at the end and be like, oh my gosh, that was amazing. And of course that makes you feel good. But over the course of the class, it's less of an exchange and more of just a give, I've found when I'm doing group. And that's probably why I don't do a ton of group because it, it can be tough.
[00:18:37] So I've balanced that by teaching more private sessions and less group classes, because the one-on-one is a bit more sustainable in terms of energy wise. But, you know, you still enjoy group classes. Like there's still, like, you can reach so many more people in group as well.
[00:18:56] And I know I wasn't, we didn't talk about this, but you're on [00:19:00] the road right now. You're on the road all the time. So how did Pilates Encyclopedia go from this idea for filling these gaps in knowledge for new teachers to take in that on tour? Like tell me how that happened.
[00:19:14] Sure. I'd be happy to.
[00:19:15] By the way, I couldn't agree more to what you just said about the group dynamic. Couldn't agree more. You're absolutely right. And there's, to group teaching, there is a huge, um, acting component. So I couldn't agree more.
[00:19:29] But yes, in terms of being on the road, when I was in theater, I did a lot of traveling. I did a lot of touring. I was like on tour for six months at one point, and then several times on tour and I moved around a lot for different acting jobs. And also when I was actually a child growing up, my parents, I did a lot of camping and traveling. And, uh, so traveling I think was in, is in my blood quite honestly. I'm, I feel very nomadic. I get bored with the [00:20:00] same old, same old, um, I need different stimulation. I need my environment to change for me to feel, you know, happy.
[00:20:08] And then when I had the studio I've I started to feel stuck. And this repetition of having the same client every Monday at nine and every Tuesday at three, I knew exactly who was going to show up that did not make me happy anymore. It just kind of weighed on me. Even though you'd think it's a that's a teacher's like heaven, right. To have a completely set schedule and to never need any new clients and never to do any marketing, you think that would be perfect. But again, it was not suited to me and my personality. And I think it's really important that you honor that.
[00:20:43] Years, to be honest, this is years in the making, but years before I actually launched the Pilates Encyclopedia, I decided I had two goals. I want it to be location independent, and I wanted to be schedule independent. And I'm super happy and excited to say that I am basically I [00:21:00] can be anywhere I want to be, and I can work whenever I want to work. And that freedom feels just wonderful to me.
[00:21:08] I love working. I'm very disciplined. It's never a problem for me to say like, oh my God, um, I want to go and, you know, do a hike or I want to do something fun and I don't get any work done. That doesn't happen to me, I guess, because when you grow up in acting and all of this, like there's so much personal responsibility that you have to take. Anyway, it's not going to happen to me that I'm going to neglect anything.
[00:21:29] I hope this is not too much information, but, um, and I remember that Jenna Zaffino has this background story where she mentioned that she sat in the bathroom and had her lunch while I think sitting on the toilet because she didn't have any time in her schedule between clients. That's often the reality. That's really shocking. And I remember her story and this is just absolutely outrageous for anybody who's teaching Pilates. You know, that teaching 12 hours a day is just not sustainable. So the fact that I can eat whenever I want, I can go to the [00:22:00] bathroom whenever I want. Those are the little things that make me super happy. It's a better life work balance that I have.
[00:22:08] I call myself sometimes like a Pilates, a Pilates lab, or a Pilates researcher, not researcher to the, in a scientific route that's not me either, but I like to dig in and I like organization, I love organization. Oh my goodness. I love being organized. It works well. Like I can now work in a way that I really enjoy it. And also obviously, you know, produce something that's helping new teachers, but it's, it's a win-win for both of us, you know.
[00:22:38] Yeah, no, just echoing that. Up until the beginning of October, I was teaching several days a week at Club Pilates, which allows teachers to teach in blocks. You know, when I started teaching there about three years ago, that really appealed to me because I was doing the kind of shuffle where I would teach one class here and then go to another studio and teach one class. And then you're spending all this time [00:23:00] traveling and really not a lot of that time, you're paid.
[00:23:03] So when I had the opportunity to work at Club Pilates, I was like, oh my gosh, amazing. I can teach four classes in a row. I can put some privates before that I can teach six classes in a row and only travel once. And as someone who doesn't have a car in Chicago, that like is a big deal.
[00:23:20] And then, you know, three years later, I'm like, but now I'm teaching six hours in a row from like two 30 in the afternoon to eight 30. And there's like no food in there. Maybe, maybe it's time to adapt that. So it sounds like an absolute dream to be able to have food when you want and, uh, go to the bathroom.
[00:23:39] I've talked about this with other teachers as well, that I feel like we could put a little bit more time between classes so that teachers can use the facilities and not like rush to get there before the next class comes in. So like just throwing that out there, the studio friends. Let your teachers pee.
[00:23:56] Absolutely. And I mean, what I had at my studio, I had 50 minute [00:24:00] classes, so I did have a 10 minute break in between. The problem is people want to socialize. And so, you know, you end up just talking to the person who's just leaving and then the person who's just coming in and those 10 minutes, you know, and especially as the studio owner, you don't want to just run hide for those 10 minutes. Cause you feel like it's, it's part of the business. And, um, maybe you have to charge the person. Maybe you have to do some admin work. In the meantime, maybe there's a phone call. Like you can fill those 10 minutes like this.
[00:24:29] Just resetting for the next class. Like putting everything back for where you want. It can take the 10 minutes, you know. Or for me, you know, going from a reformer flow class to like a jump board class. You got to put all the jump words on and there's 12 people in class. So you got to set up all those jump boards and it, it goes by like in a second, for sure.
[00:24:51] I think probably a schedule of, you know, two hours, a break and then two, or three and a break and two or something like that. But yeah, having, having a [00:25:00] break in there is really important, even though you don't get paid for it, but after a while, you realize that's, that's more important to be able to sit down for your meal.
[00:25:09] Definitely. Definitely.
[00:25:16] 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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[00:26:13] Can you tell me as someone who's taught group fitness, who's taught privates, who teaches on the road as well. What have you learned over the course of your teaching? And another way to think about that is also, how has your teaching changed over the course of your teaching?
[00:26:33] That's a great question, because I just talked with a colleague about this yesterday.
[00:26:38] I think we evolve as teachers, for sure. So for me personally, as my skills and my knowledge grew, it didn't satisfy me. It wasn't enough for me to teach group classes where I couldn't fix individual problems. [00:27:00] Even though my clients didn't expect more, sometimes like they were fine doing an exercise that was maybe, you know, didn't feel great after a while.
[00:27:09] I could not emotionally deal with, like, I could not deal with this anymore to see a person do an exercise that's not right for them, but in a group class that will happen. As good as you are, you cannot teach a group class that's perfect for every individual person. Once you see that, right-
[00:27:26] In the beginning, I think, a little bit- this is actually easier when you're a new teacher. It's much easier because you don't see everything. But with experience, you know, okay, you shouldn't have done this and, you know, then it's just started to be very frustrating for me. So I changed eventually. And actually that's maybe interesting too.
[00:27:43] I'm a huge proponent of open studio type classes. So what I decided to do was change my complete studio model to an open studio model. So in my studio, after like five years or so, I didn't offer any more classes where the teachers [00:28:00] led the whole class, but everybody got their program. Everybody worked on their own individual exercises that were perfect for them, because I felt like that was the perfect balance between really working consistently on either overcoming an issue or strengthening a part of your body. Right. You just, you have a specific direction that you're going, you're working on, and balancing that with offsetting the cost of a private session. Right. Because a lot of people can't do private sessions forever and especially not twice a week or something, you know.
[00:28:33] It happened also out of getting feedback from clients. Like, you know, you have clients and they're very enthusiastic and they're coming once a week, but they're not making any progress. And again, because those people have, like, I can't lift my arm because the shoulders has a problem. And like, doesn't have easy clients. But they're still, they're still sort of expecting results because they hear Pilates does so much good. So they expecting certain results, but they taking a circuit class, or they're [00:29:00] taking a reformer class where half the exercises are not good for them, let alone work on their issue. So I was like, nah, we're not doing this anymore.
[00:29:09] So I, I switched an open studio model and it made me super happy. And by the way, talking about burnout, it's the perfect teaching model to avoid burnout for teachers. It's the easiest class you can teach and I'm not trying to be lazy, but it really helps that people own their movement.
[00:29:30] It's like, you know, when you drive yourself someplace versus when you're in the passenger seat, like when you're, you're in the passenger seat and somebody else drives you to a place that you've never been to, you kind of look around and you're, they're along for the ride. But if you have to drive that distance yourself, you couldn't find your way. Right. Because it's different when you're actually driving your.
[00:29:53] So, and that's exact same thing with Pilates. If you always have somebody there handholding and [00:30:00] telling you what, what the exercise is and telling you, which springs you need and all of that, there's one section of your brain that's not involved in that. You don't own it. And I hear from a lot of teachers that their clients don't remember any of the exercises, and there's so much babysitting going on. On the one hand, you can see it as a service that we do for clients, but we're actually doing them a disservice because they're not owning their movement.
[00:30:26] And I always tell them, I'm not walking around with you through your life, telling you to pull your shoulders back or down or whatever. You have to do that for yourself. So, so this open studio model or giving them a responsibility actually helps them to do that. And they, they actually kind of remind themselves throughout the day to fix their movement and to correct their posture or whatever that is. So they actually make faster progress. Yeah.
[00:30:49] That's another thing I'm really passionate about. And ultimately that's how Joe Pilates used to teach at his studio. Right. Uh, I mean, that's why I did it and how I found it. I didn't come up [00:31:00] with this, but I think there was a reason for that. I think there's the reason why he did.
[00:31:07] We came to group classes, I think, right. Mostly out of a financial, probably incentive and there's room for that. And when you teach Pilates for general fitness, it's still fine. It works. But when you teach Pilates as a form of corrective exercise or sports performance or anything like that, then I think that's the perfect model.
[00:31:31] It reminds me, um, uh, similar to your background as well. I'm also a yoga teacher and the style of yoga that resonated with me is Ashtanga yoga. And they do something called Mysore style yoga classes, where every person in the class, we're doing the same series of poses, but the teacher's not leading them. You're responsible for knowing what comes next and doing the exercises. And the teacher is kind of floating around the room [00:32:00] and giving, maybe one person's working on something and they're going to go over and give them an assist there because you're totally fine doing your warmup by yourself. And then as you're working on something, they're there to help or answer a question.
[00:32:11] But yeah. I can just imagine that as a teacher, it's also so much, so much more rewarding because you're not worried about conducting the orchestra. You're really able to pay more attention to what every person is doing and step in where you can, when you can. While, you know, whenever we can give our students choice and give them the, this time to take ownership and be autonomous and have self-efficacy and all these like buzzwords that we're talking about is like, awesome. It motivates them to do it more. And the more motivated you are, the more you do it and the better results you see, because it's for you. It's not someone spoon-feeding you exercises. So that's incredible. That's what we need. We need open gym Pilates again. Yeah.
[00:32:59] [00:33:00] I think so. I mean, I have a course, I teach it, I help people in, um, establishes at their studio or implement it. So if anybody needs help with open studio, you know, transitioning to that, reach out to me, I'm more than happy to help because I have so much experience with it. Cause I actually hear that a lot of people start, like they try it and it doesn't work. And I also tried it once and it didn't work and it only worked the second time. So I learned a lot of how to do it and how not to do it. And I'm more than happy to help somebody do that for them.
[00:33:31] And yes, with the Mysore I had, I practiced yoga. I was, I, I took some Mysore classes, not too much. Ashtanga was not my style because of my hypermobility, I couldn't, my body quite couldn't deal with it. But the fact that I could do what I needed to do, or, you know, do the exercise the way I wanted to do, um, at my pace, in my order, whatever. Yes, exactly. That's it.
[00:33:53] And in terms of the motivation, and I want to talk about that. So I had two examples in the open studio that were just [00:34:00] kind of, I think, maybe explain exactly what, what the result can be with it, is one client came in and she was a typical, like shoulders too high all the time client. So, uh, she did her program. She did her practice and halfway through the class, I corrected her and said, you know, remember, pull your shoulders down. And she said to me, when I came in today in this class, my goal was that you would only have to tell me three times to pull my shoulders down. So it was so exciting for me because I knew that she came in with a purpose and a reason, and she had a goal. She took ownership. I am going to fix this. I'm going to pull my shoulders down.
[00:34:40] And if you, if you never challenge your client, they will always rely on you doing. But that's not how you change movement because it's a mind body, right? There's motor control. The client's brain is controlling the movement, not you as the teacher.
[00:34:54] That was the one experience that showed me. Yes, this is the right way to go. And the other experience was of another [00:35:00] long-term client. So this client had a lot of physical issues going on. She's been with me for ever, like she went through all my transitions with me. She was very patient with me of like, she started with mat classes and all of the- and I felt with her, I felt like, because she was very hyper mobile and very weak, and I felt like we always started from scratch and there was always something going wrong. It was sort of frustrating for her and for me at the same time, she can do anything else. So it was the only thing that she could do.
[00:35:27] And, and in that case it was helpful. Right. But then, so she, she ended up also doing open studio and two years into this open studio. And then she had already been with me for probably eight years, seven, eight, and two years into the open studio. For the very first time she told me, oh, I have to tell you, I sat at my kitchen table the other day and my back started to hurt her. This started to hurt. And I remembered how you always tell me to do this, you know, to sit up straight or whatever postural change it was. And I did it [00:36:00] and the pain went away.
[00:36:02] For somebody who's a mover that doesn't seem to be a big deal, but for a person who's very disconnected from her body to finally after seven, eight years to em, body, her body, right. To really step into that, take ownership and know, not have to rely on somebody else to fix her, but know what to do to make that pain go away. Was, oh my God. It was, it was a huge deal for me. I didn't say it. I think it was not that big of a deal for her, but I was like internally, I was like, oh my God, this is it. She, she got it.
[00:36:39] I mean, I feel like that's really why we do what we do as Pilates teachers. I feel like we are really compassionate, really caring, just wanting the best for our client. Something I really love about Pilates is I think as instructors, we're not people who like have all these tools and then we lock them in a box and we're like, well, these are my tools. And I, only I, can [00:37:00] help people. Like there really is this idea that we want to share, not only with other teachers, but also with our clients, because we know that even if you're a superstar and you're doing Pilates four times a week, which I don't even know if I want to see a client four times a week. You know what I'm saying?
[00:37:16] But even if they're doing Pilates all the time, they're still not doing Pilates way longer than they're doing Pilates. And if they don't have tools and the ability to understand their body and make those changes, like you're talking about like, that's what we need to, to prepare people for.
[00:37:33] Yeah, I agree. And I mean, I would like to see it a person uh, four times a week for Pilates, but I wouldn't want to teach them four times a week. Right. So if they come into the studio four times a week to practice, absolutely love it, right? Because the body needs repetition, the body and the mind need repetition, but I wouldn't want to teach it.
[00:37:51] I would be bored out of my mind, right. Or stressed out of my mind to figure out what am I going to do now?
[00:37:58] What are we going to teach [00:38:00] for this person? Can I ask you, um, because you've shared so many golden nuggets of wisdom in this conversation, but what advice do you have for new teachers? Because I know that that's your niche for the encyclopedia. What can you offer them that might help them on their journey?
[00:38:21] Sure. So I thought about three things. One was find your words. You gotta learn the vocabulary. It's like when you start teaching potties. And I think a lot of us experienced that during the pandemic. You cue mostly through word. So it is like learning a new language. You just got to increase your vocabulary. You got to look up, what is this called? What is that called? Do yourself a favor to use a dictionary, use a thesaurus, whatever, and come up, you know, find new words. And you can, you can imagine it like an owner's manual. Have you ever read like an owner's manual or instruction when you build something?
[00:38:58] And there's like [00:39:00] the notch and the, and I don't eat and I don't have those words. I can't, it's hard for me to use this example, like, or tools, like, I don't know the name of all the tools. But those are the words in our field that you have to know as a teacher to be able to explain it, right? So that's, that's the front. Find your words. You've got to, if, whenever you say this and that you have to find a substitute for this and that you have to know the term for, for what you're trying to explain.
[00:39:24] That's the one. The second tip is what we actually just talked about, is don't babysit your students. I've read somewhere on the internet that you shouldn't let your students change their own springs. I would very strong heartedly disagree with that. Your clients can learn how to take care of equipment. You might have to teach them. You can teach them how to do it in a certain way, but oh my goodness. Yes. They can learn that. You learn it as a teacher. So why do we not trust our clients to take [00:40:00] care of it, as long as we teach them how to do it. So don't babysit them, let them take care of it.
[00:40:05] Actually, that's one thing I wanted to say earlier is I think there might be a fear where you think if people know how to do this themselves, then they don't need me anymore. But I don't think that's the case because Pilates gets so deep, right? Like you start to learn Pilates movements on the surface, and then you, you learn over the years, how many more levels there are to it. And then one exercise informs the other and it's a never ending thing. And somebody who is really, really passionate about Pilates, they will always need you. They will always want to learn more and it gets more exciting. So don't babysit your students.
[00:40:37] And then lastly, the third tip, I mean, there's many more, but the third tip. When you start to teach, don't try to be everything or know everything. What's really important, say when you don't know something. If you get a client and you feel that they're out of your comfort zone, then [00:41:00] just be honest and see, I don't know what that is. If you have another teacher in your area who you can refer to do that, take that pressure off.
[00:41:10] Or if you don't, if there's no other a teacher in your area where you feel comfortable to refer them to, maybe you can refer them to a doctor, a physical therapist. If that's also not a case, at least collaborate with their doctor, a physical therapist to find out what it is that you should and should not be doing. If you approach them with saying, I want to help, I don't feel comfortable doing that, but please help me, help me help this person. And we can do it together.
[00:41:38] Um, Also, the other thing is ask for help. They don't know something ask for help. I really really feel, and I feel that in my membership, but in general, I feel that there a huge fear in new Pilates teachers to ask questions. I think there is this sometimes, and I'm not going to, you know, I don't know which Facebook groups or whatever, but there's a lot of Facebook groups [00:42:00] and there's sometimes a little bit this elitism, I think, where. Senior teachers or long-time teachers maybe look down a little bit on newer teachers. Like how can you do those? You should never do this.
[00:42:13] And we have to ask the questions because if you never ask the question, you will never get an answer and you will never have a solution. So find a safe space. And again, I want to do that in a Pilates Encyclopedia to give people a safe space to ask any and all questions. It doesn't matter how stupid you think the question is.
[00:42:30] If you have the question, you need to have an answer. If you are a teaching at a studio and you, there are other teachers around senior teachers that you can ask, do that if they're open for it. I've also heard that other teachers don't want to share their knowledge, which is I don't understand, but any who? Yeah. I don't know. Find somebody who you can trust, find somebody who can learn from. Don't think you have to know everything.
[00:42:54] Pilates also can't do everything. I think that's a lot of it that people come with [00:43:00] expectations. The clients come with expectations that Pilates is going to fix everything, but it can't. So be clear with that too. And I call that managing expectations and that's maybe my last, my last tip is have a conversation with the clients who are starting. I find that there is a lot of just wrong expectations. Like clients don't really know what Pilates is. I think a lot of Pilates teachers don't know how to explain what Pilates is either, which is a big problem.
[00:43:29] So we're coming together. The teacher thinks this is Pilates. The student thinks something else is Pilates. We never talk about what Pilates is for each of us. And then basically what happens is the student leaves. And then as the teacher we're frustrated because we lost a student and we don't know why, because people don't like to share why they don't like it.
[00:43:50] My biggest, I guess, advice is to have a conversation with people in the beginning. And the important thing is to listen, just listen, what the person says. Why [00:44:00] are they here? What are they trying to get out of Pilates? What are their expectations? And then, listen, I only had to do it once, but I sent one student away. I just said, this is not the right place. This is not what I can give you. But you know, at this point when that happened, I had enough years of experience and there was enough word of mouth. People would sort of expect ahead of time, or they would know ahead of time, what to expect when they would work with me.
[00:44:25] But in the beginning, that's not the case. You don't have a reputation. People don't know what to expect. So just try and have that conversation. You're going to learn a lot because you don't want to fight. Like, I think there can be this fighting with a student in the class. Like they just want to do a lot of repetitions and they want to use more and more springs.
[00:44:43] And you're like, no, no, no, no, no. We don't want to use more springs. We want to clean up this movement first. We want to organize it. And so if the expectations are wrong and they don't match up, it's just hard. And it's frustrating for both. So save yourself that time. So let's just have you at a time of the heartache. So have a [00:45:00] conversation with anybody who you're starting with to see if what you have to give matches with what they want from you.
[00:45:08] I think that's excellent advice that will save you a lot of time in the long run. One last thing I want to ask is, can you tell me about what projects you're working on or the services you're offering? So any teachers who are listening right now and they think that this is the bee's knees and they want more of it, how can they connect with you?
[00:45:29] Sure. So, um, the website is pilatesencyclopedia.com. I jokingly said, you can find it if you can spell it, which is kind of mean. Um, So I have a membership and where you can basically find, you know, verbal cues, contra-indications anything that you need to know about any exercise. You can find it there. I'm always growing it. I'm always adding new exercises, new teaching tips. So that's, that's a way to get in touch with me. And everything's very interactive. So I really [00:46:00] encourage comments on everything, questions. I have Q and A's where if again, if you have a client question, you can come and, um, specifically ask about that.
[00:46:10] I also have a coaching and mentoring program. So if you, the, the membership itself is a little bit more DIY, but if you feel like you want somebody by your side to help you, you know, with your daily, weekly challenges, I have a group mentoring program. So that's where we have weekly conversations because a lot of the things happen. Like a lot of the times I feel like we don't even know what questions to ask. So, you know, then the membership won't help you as much because you don't know what to ask. You don't know what to look for.
[00:46:39] And in that case, the mentoring is great because through a conversation I can ask you questions and then I can tell you what it is that you should be asking if that makes sense. And then again, I help people implement open studio. I have a cuing cure course. So aside from the membership and the mentoring, I have a few other [00:47:00] courses that are sort of standalone for a specific topic. But then membership is a good start, the cheapest of the programs it's $19 a month. Uh, and then you can sort of get a feeling for how I teach, how everything works.
[00:47:13] And you know, if you're interested in doing, getting more in depth about that can always get in touch with me. You can email me at [email protected] Yeah.
[00:47:23] And I'll put the links to all of Mara's stuff in the show notes so that you can just click on through and say, Hey to her um, on Instagram.
[00:47:32] But I just want to take a moment again, to thank you for really working to change the culture of Pilates teaching and make it more collaborative and make it more, almost like open source and that just by nature of the beast, that the more you teach more clients, you have, the more experience you have, the more you know about what you're doing and that the fact that you can share that, um, with people who are on the way to sort of building that knowledge base for [00:48:00] themselves, I think that that's fantastic and definitely a direction that we want to be going in as an industry. So thank you for being a rock star.
[00:48:08] Thank you so much. Do you mind if I add just one more tiny thing?
[00:48:12] Yes, please.
[00:48:13] Something like in the Pilates world, anybody who's been in this area for a little while has noticed that we all like use different names and there are so many different styles. And I think that's, it is what it is. We're not going to change it. Not everybody's going to like, change the name that they use for an exercise tomorrow. But I think it's something that tends to divide us a little. Because we can't communicate if I don't know which exercise you're talking about, because you, you use a different name and we don't know what that is, then we can't talk about it.
[00:48:46] And so I think it's sort of, it's dividing us a little bit and what what's really important for me inside the membership is to try and unite that a little bit so that we can all talk. And we can all talk [00:49:00] together and we can grow the method and we're not so compartmentalized and like, oh, I do it this way. And I do that way. And so we can't communicate, we can't talk because we have a different approach.
[00:49:10] I think we can bridge that gap. I think we can at least, you know, learn from each other. And then again, take what makes sense to you and leave what doesn't make sense to you. And I'm not saying that you have to change your style. I want everybody to have, you know, go and open your eyes to, to the possibility of movement because the movement is ultimately endless. There is no limit to movement. Right. So. I just wanted to mention that it's very important for me inside the membership. I make a point too, to not stick to one particular style or method, but to try and feature and highlight everything.
[00:49:47] It's a little bit of a challenge because especially new teachers sometimes get confused if I use a different name and then they're used to, so I encourage everybody to try and overcome that. I list every name in there anyway, like every name [00:50:00] that I've ever heard of any exercise I listed there. So hopefully you'll find what you're looking for. You know, again, I do this intentionally so we can communicate better.
[00:50:10] Thank you so much for coming on today, Mara. I really appreciated chatting with you and hearing your perspective on Pilates and your journey on teaching. Um, so thank you so much for your time.
[00:50:21] Thank you so much, Olivia, for doing what you're doing as well, spreading the word about parties so that more people know about it. Just not, not only for us teachers, right? More people in the general population seek out Pilates and see all the good work we're doing.
[00:50:44] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming. great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual, and be sure to subscribe wherever you [00:51:00] listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.
[00:51:08] The adventure continues. Until next time.