Measuring Your Progress …

… by becoming independent.

 

Imagine a school, college or university in which progress was never measured, it was just “assumed”, or guessed at…

“Physical fitness can neither be acquired by wishful thinking nor by outright practice.”  Joseph Pilates

 

A “journey” implies change: from one place to another ….

 

I, and other teachers, often say that doing Pilates is a “Journey”. That word implies progress, change and improvement.

 

And Joseph Pilates himself promised us:

“… a new body in thirty sessions”

 

“You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions”. Joseph Pilates

 

So, according to Joseph Pilates himself, at two lessons per week, after 5 weeks you’ll feel better, 10 weeks you’ll look better and a whopping 15 weeks to have a totally new body – that’s nearly four months…

That’s quite some time… but there’s more… Joe Pilates would have expected you to do your own practice outside of those lessons! So that’s as many as 105 daily sessions of Pilates!

 

Improvements DO happen

 

Improvements come, some take longer than others, but they do come, and though Pilates doe have so many benefits – there is no magic bullet.

Apparently, Joe wouldn’t tell people if they were improving or not. You just did the exercises that he gave you. That was how you improved. Every now and again, he’d give you another exercise: either to help you get better at an exercise that was giving you difficulty, or to further challenge you.

There were no levels. But if you couldn’t do the basic movements, then you weren’t ready for more complex and challenging exercises. That simple.

 

Too much stifling Hand Holding and Control?

 

People don’t often teach like Joe did anymore. There’s certainly much more engagement and encouragement. But there’s also more micro-management, hand holding and pampering. Teacher as a controller …

And there’s the other end of the scale where clients are left alone to work it all out for themselves in “follow your instructor” group classes often found in gyms and church halls (in the UK at least). Teacher as a Group Leader …

The more years I spend teaching, I feel I understand better where Joe Pilates was coming from. And just to be clear, it’s certainly just a feeling since he didn’t share his whys and wherefores with anyone.

 

Where does progress begin?

 

Progress begins with clear and precise instruction. That comes from the teacher. Then, it’s followed up with the willingness to experiment with and learn and practice the exercises for yourself.

 

Questions to ask…

 

Where do the arms and legs go? What shape should the spine be in? How do I get the connection required in the shoulders, spine, abdomen, butt and inner thighs? How do the springs work? What exercises do I need?

But at some point, the teacher needs to take a step back and let you feel it yourself. To take ownership of your practice. To allow you to get it into your body. Literally.

That step is a critical step to actually making progress and absolutely and utterly fundamental, I’d say.

 

Progress as “can do” statements…

 

First of all is the fact that you are doing Pilates on your own. You can take yourself through a series of exercises – you know what you’ve done and you know what’s next. You can begin to say: “I can do this”. Being able to control the springs on the Reformer or the Chair is a massive achievement.

After that, the teacher becomes a coach, a trainer, a guide. A coach will challenge you to improve how you do the exercises – adding more and more layers and awareness to what you’re already doing.

A guide will show the path of your particular journey.

But the hero of the story is you!

With a different cue, a metaphor, an image, an invitation to compare, a touch in the right place to find more lift, scoop or length, a change in transitions between exercises to create more flow, a good teacher can help you go deeper into The Work.

 

Insights happen!

 

Insights happen with everyone – provided you do the practice! Suddenly a new awareness breaks through. You get a new insight into an old exercise, or you can suddenly do an exercise you thought you never could!

That’s because the teacher gave you the tools – and then you went away and you did it!  It’s your journey!  And you’re the hero of the story!

The balance between the teacher setting up and later letting go is fundamental. A teacher (or Teacher Training School, by extension) should never, ever hold you back!

Breakthroughs happen, but they are not the primary objective of a Pilates lesson, they are the result of the set up and the later letting go…

 

Breakthroughs are “Connections”

 

There are physical connections and there are mental connections… it’s like a click happens in your mind.  Suddenly the dots are joined and the path is clear. You say: “ahhh yes, I’ve got it”. You’ll smile with the joy of the realisation in your mind and body.

This making of connections is dependent on several things: concentration, persistence and consistency. You’ll need to translate those verbal cues (and physical cues post-COVID). Those images and metaphors that you teacher uses have to become real. Obviously, that requires good teaching.

 

A Guarantee!

 

I guarantee that if your teacher sets you up properly and you do the work you will start to find those connections in your body. You’ll make progress and you’ll become independent in your Pilates practice. You’ll own the tools to keep on top of the maintenance every body requires.  For the rest of your life!

 

Final thoughts…

 

Q. What causes bad posture?

A. Gravity. And time.

And that’s why we all need to do the maintenance!

(Thanks to Sean Gallagher for that)

 

Photo credits: Emma Hogan Photography.

3 Comments
  • Sharon Barber
    Posted at 09:22h, 12 January Reply

    A really good read and an enlightening one too… It is astonishing how with pilates that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. Independence is a huuuge goal and a scary one but with a good teacher, an achievable.

  • Sharon Barber
    Posted at 09:23h, 12 January Reply

    A really good read and an enlightening one too… It is astonishing how with pilates that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. Independence is a huuuge goal and a scary one but with a good teacher, an achievable one.

    • Miguel Bengoa
      Posted at 13:09h, 13 January Reply

      Hey there Sharon – thanks so much for your comment 🙂 I think that Joseph Pilates never saw Pilates as a standalone “thing”, I think that he saw it as something that we took lessons from and applied then to daily life – such as using a brush without a handle in the shower to really get us really moving the spine all around and mobilising our shoulders to scrub our back… and drying off was something that can be (and I think actually was) used as an opportunity to get the body moving. What we think of as “Pilates” provides us with the tools to adapt what wev’e learned and incorporate it into daily life. Of course, we have to do the learning first, and that’s where independence comes in. Just like in academic study: the Professor can’t do your reading for you, that’s something that yo have to do independently …

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