Most of us are naturally visual learners when it comes to movement. In many ways this can be very helpful. When our body is trying to figure out how to do a new skill or movement it needs all the input it can get to try to figure out what it is trying to accomplish and how to do it. Visually seeing something is one of the many ways that your brain processes what it is trying to do. The problem with visually watching something and trying to repeat it is that when we don’t do the movement exactly like what we saw we get frustrated and sometimes overwhelmed! We start to feel like we are failing or not getting something out of the movement because it does not look a certain way.
As Pilates teachers we know that the goal of an exercise is not to “look a certain way”. The goal of an exercise involves gaining strength and flexibility in a balanced way as you do a skill like articulating through your spine or moving your leg in space while supported from your core muscles. Accomplishing the goals of an exercise can look very different in different bodies. This is why as teachers we often try to use our words to describe an exercise instead of just demonstrating an exercise. We also try to give options in a multi level class on how you can do the movement best in your body.
At our studio we have a variety of clients, with a variety of different body shapes, sizes and different injuries or ailments. You can often peek at a Pilates class and see many different bodies doing what looks like very different things even though they are all doing the same exercise. If you are new to the Pilates method of exercise and just starting to take classes this can be super confusing. Because we are not accustom to taking verbal cues to learn new movements, the first thing new clients often do in class when learning something new is look at their neighbor and try to repeat what they are doing. But what happens when your neighbors in class are doing what looks like two completely different things? Your brain and your body get overloaded with confusion!!!
So my best advice for new clients is to try to avoid just watching other clients to learn exercises. Do your best to listen to the explanations of the movements and the goals of the exercise that your teacher is saying. If this is hard for you…you are not alone! Know that this way of learning often takes some practice- so don’t be too hard on yourself! Try not to worry what the movement looks like but instead focus on how it feels. If you have specific questions about how you could get the most out of an exercise in your body definitely ask your teacher. If you are not comfortable doing this in class or before or after class, maybe try a one on one session where your teacher can give you individual attention on each exercise.