Here’s an article I had published in PilatesIntel: a very valuable Online Pilates Magazine that is very well with subscribing to!
The original article can be found here (click on the link), but I have it here for you too 🙂
Taking Off the Blinkers
…without throwing the baby out with the bathwater!
So, what are blinkers? Blinkers are the eye-covering that some people put on horses to prevent them from seeing all around. There are teacher training organisations that do a similar thing. They insist on trainees staying with that same organisation and they devalue others.
That didn’t quite happen to me, but I was forced to step out of my own comfort zone…
You can learn every exercise on every piece of equipment, but still not know Pilates…
Why write this article?
The seed for this article started when both Brett and Ivan Zagorsy wrote about their experiences crossing over from Contemporary to Classical Piltes or, the other way round.
Finding myself in a “new country”, I was forced to start looking at Pilates in a different way compared to my own training.
I was trained in Turkey by Balanced Body. I returned to the UK and I discovered a totally different Pilates world. And I had to learn how to fit into it.
Pilates is perceived totally differently in the UK. Most training courses are attached to fitness training organisations. It’s mat based as opposed to apparatus & mat. This approach, though the accepted norm in the UK, was totally alien to me.
Blindly, I found premises and invested my savings in apparatus and opened my studio. Countless times I felt that I was talking at cross purposes to people. Little did I realise that I actually was!
Over these four years, I’ve had to re-evaluate what & how I was teaching. I was far from my old mentor Taha Erpulat and I had to find new people with different perspectives to move me forward. Think about it like this: I had to learn to teach in a totally different language!
This is what happened when I started digging around…
So, what did I learn?
Here is a list of personal points that I have stumbled upon, been told about or otherwise discovered on my own personal journey. I’m aware that I’m brushing over some pretty big concepts that require much more explanation…
The first point is the absolute key. It summarises all the other points:
- I used to trust my instinct and knowledge to do what seemed logical.
Now, I spend my time trying to understand why the order and the exercises are the way that they are.
- I’ve become a Pilates archeologist.
If there was something I didn’t understand (ex. why does “Running” come at the end instead of after Footwork) I’d change it. Now, I try to understand why. Instead of changing the evidence, I try to understand.
- What’s Pre-Pilates vs Pilates? Was the difference that Joe created some exercises and others came later? Were these additions due to advances in science?
Now I recognise that Pre-Pilates is more atomised and single muscle group focussed whereas Pilates is more holistic. Pilates is part of a repertoire. Pilates requires apparatus.
- I knew that there was a Matwork Repertoire, but never realised that there was a standard Repertoire for the Reformer. The rest of the apparatus: supplementary without a set repertoire.
I see now that there is a Mat and Reformer repertoire. This has given learning objectives and a syllabus – lesson planning is now a breeze – I don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every client. There’s a syllabus to plan from and objectives to work towards.
- I know what IS and what ISN’T Pilates. Creativity is a wonderful thing but there are Sources. In the quest for creativity it’s easy to begin teaching “Anything Goes Pilates”. To quote Christina Maria Gadar: “if you’re going to do it… do it right”.
A more Classical approach made me feel much more confident in what I was actually teaching and where I was taking the students. Previously, I was without direction. Now, the direction is clearly signposted. There is a repertoire and there is an order.
- I didn’t know what an exercise was! Stomach Massage: one or five exercises? Lesley Logan gave me my answer:
“How many exercises are there in the Matwork?” She asked me rhetorically: “There’s just one, from the One Hundred to the Push Up – it’s all one big long transition”. Now, that blew my mind!
- Pilates is much more than just the exercises. I learned that there are “concepts”.
You can learn every exercise on every piece of equipment, but still not know Pilates. I’m not talking about “Pilates Principles”, but directions of opposing energy or “working in opposition” which made everything so much easier to understand than the atomistic and reductionistic muscle activation that was a part of my initial training.
- In my own practice, I used to duck out of stuff that I didn’t enjoy…
But now, there’s an order. And the phrase: “What you least like to do, you do it twice…” makes it more difficult to pick and choose.
Neutral pelvis was an issue. I spent years trying to get to grips with it. On one hand, Pilates was telling me to move, move, move! On the other hand, the neutral spine concept was telling me to be static.
I see now that we spend our time moving in and out of it not actually staying fixed in Neutral Pelvis. Pilates is movement, not static positions. It’s become a non-issue.
- I was over-teaching and over-correcting and trying to get each exercise as perfect as possible.
Now, I’m not focussed on teaching just exercises, but on teaching a system. I’m teaching the Big Picture as well as the small stuff. I can take a step back and say: “just get the basic stuff going first, and then we’ll start adding more and more layers to what we’re doing. Look… ”don’t fuss about being perfect – just move!”. Clients become students of The Method with the aim of getting them independent in their practice ASAP. Give a fish or teach them to fish?
- I was looking for the “Holy Grail” of Pilates…
There isn’t one! But you can get closer to The Source. There is only One Source. Other great voices have added to the Original Source just like tributaries add to the great river. And some subsidiaries have left The Source and followed their own river bed and others have become stagnant ponds…
This is what I learned – the short version!
- Get lessons from teachers from a different background: be international!
- Find connections between different exercises.
- Step beyond your training.
- It’s all in The Practice. If there is a Holy Grail, that’s it!
There are many people that deserve credit for helping me learn over these four years, but Julie Driver & Lesley Logan deserve special mention, but perhaps most credit belongs to my students.