Let's face it, the Pilates method is far from just any ordinary workout. What is it? Is it like Yoga? Is it resistance training? Personal training? Is it stretching? Is it graceful and controlled like ballet? Is it physical therapy? Yes, yes and more yes. The focus however is on continual movement from the core. It is a mindful, whole body experience that balances every cell in your being! It cleanses your soul and revitalizes your body, mind, and spirit. The very mobilization of your spine and its continual movement unleashes built up toxins in the body like no other method. Its healing properties lie within the continual and controlled movements of the classical biomechanically sound method. As instructors, we know that the various personality types, intentions, and will of each of our students make this very humbling method a real challenge to teach.
In order to fully assess good, great, or even excellence in teaching it is important to first understand bad teaching. Below are some common pitfalls that create ineffective teaching:
1. Using the word "don't": I call this negative teaching. Aren't we supposed to guide and teach what to do? Instead of saying, "don't" it would be better to just tell your students what to do and teach them how to do it.
2. Using inappropriate words: "Stomach"- when cueing abdominals. The stomach is an organ not a muscle. "Down"- We need to resist and squeeze so hug would be a better replacement. What you say and how you say it is interpreted in a positive or negative way both mentally and physically. We must pay attention to how our words affect others.
3. Sitting down while teaching: This not only creates lackluster energy for the student, but also limits the eye of the instructor therefore placing the student in an unsafe and ineffective place. Remember that energy creates energy.
4. Demonstrating exercises: Students do not pay to watch us workout. Our words should be enough to guide their experience. If you find yourself having to demonstrate or use too many words, then think about whether or not you're teaching above the level that your student is ready for.
5. Looking for perfection in a student: Perfection does not exist. As Bob Liekens, a Pilates Master Instructor, has said on many occasions, "Perfection does not exist. The definition of perfection is simply someone doing his or her best. That is all you can ever ask for." I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. As Joseph Pilates said, if your student comes to their lesson with "body, mind and spirit" that's all you need. Without their "spirit" or intention on doing their best your hour will be a long one.
6. Placing unrealistic demands on students: A student will only be able to process and do what he/she is ready to hear, understand, and internalize in the body. Although our job is to guide and challenge, we also have to understand the present limits of the student. Over time, with continual practice, the student should be able to progress when ready
7. Re-acting: As instructors we have to realize that everyone comes to practice Pilates for different reasons. The place from which you teach always be felt.
8. Chatting about things other than the exercises while teaching: Many students like to chat and sometimes it is challenging to not get caught up in conversations about life outside of the studio, but as educators who only have 55 minutes to make an effective change on someone's body, we must try to limit the chatting. One way to handle this might be to spend the first 5 minutes chatting it all out. After that state that this is their time and that it's time to get to work.
9. A lack of focus on the student: If you are tired or burnt out, it is time to sub out. Your student's safety is in your hands. A lack of focus comes from your fatigue or boredom with what you are doing. Missed spring changes, headrests up when they should be down etc, are common errors when an instructor has checked out. In addition, if you are not focused, how will your student ever learn to focus?
10. Not wearing rubber soled supportive shoes when teaching: This is not only mandatory for the safety of your own feet but also important when spotting your students on the equipment or in a class.
11. Chewing gum or eating: Sorry, but this is just obvious!
12. Failure to clean equipment: Failure to make sure that your students clean their equipment up properly and set the springs up for the next student is a Pilates' etiquette no-no.
A good teacher must be patient, compassionate, yet firm and commanding; they must be in charge. "Contrology" (or as we call it today the "Pilates" method) is a challenging and even humbling practice to embark upon. To be good, you have to be able to read people; to sense their intentions, how they learn, and how far you can push them. You must teach with simplicity and clarity, yet still be able to move your students forward. Good teachers are relatable, strong, clear, and concise. This is the art of teaching Pilates - using your connection with your students to work the method into them.