When it comes to teaching Pilates I am pretty firm with my instructors about not using cheat sheets during classes or sessions. Often times I think that new instructors just think I being mean or that I’m just trying to make things difficult for them. On the contrary I really want instructors to learn how to teach the method as it was meant to be taught, from a place of knowing the work and teaching the body in front of them. I want them to fine tune their teaching abilities every time they teach. The only way to continue to grow as a teacher is to teach and practice your teaching skills is to force yourself to do it( and not rely on that cheat sheet!).
I can tell you that if you are looking at a sheet of paper to decide what you are going to have your clients do you are not teaching the bodies in front of you- you are teaching choreography. And quite honestly, your clients can go anywhere and get choreography….. Jazzercise, step class , pump class,……
Pilates is a method of exercise that teaches concepts in clients bodies and then uses these concepts to create balance, strength, and flexibility. Is there an order or a sequence?- of course! The Pilates Mat and Reformer work have a beautiful sequence that lay a wonderful foundation for teaching all of the Pilates concepts to any body. If you are at the point you are teaching Pilates you should know this order in your body inside and out. I often tell my trainees that the Pilates sequences should act as your framework to teach from. The order of the work gives you a standard guideline of where you are going with a client.
When it comes to class time or session time your job as an instructor is to already have a general plan in your head of what you’re going to do. If it’s a Mat class you’ll do a Mat sequence based on the bodies you are teaching, if it’s a private session with a new client maybe you’ll use a combination of Reformer, Cadillac and Mat work to introduce Pilates concepts, etc.
Once class or the session starts though, your job is to give clients instructions that are clear on what you want them to do and then teach them how to do it better, how to get more out of each movement, how to balance their body, or whatever their body needs on any given day. If you pay attention to the body or bodies in front of you- you will know what the appropriate next exercise is. You’ll use the Pilates order as your framework and work through the appropriate exercises for those bodies.
Personally one of the things I love about teaching is the challenge of finding ways to individualize the Pilates work in different bodies. I often have moments when I’m teaching when I’m asking myself…hmmmm… what are we going to do next ….but if I pay attention to the body or bodies in front of me and observe, the answer always comes. And let me tell you it is not always the next exercise in the sequence or the full version of the next exercise in the sequence.
Every time I have these challenge moments of what to do next or what would be good for this body I learn something as an instructor. I fine tune my teaching skills, my ability to read bodies, make decisions, and give the client or clients the best movement experience. If you fall back to your cheat sheet every time you’ll never learn how to do this, you won’t grow as a teacher.
So, as scary as it might be I urge you to trust yourself. Trust that you know the work in your own body and trust that you know how to teach different bodies. Tear up those cheat sheets and teach and see what happens.