Posts tagged #Contemporary Pilates

Be a little more serious and a lot less solemn!

This week I found myself flicking through a gardening images-15magazine in a waiting room, (not my usual reading material but there was not much else on offer!) and I came across an article which really struck a chord with me and my thoughts on some aspects of the Pilates industry. The writer, Monty Don, was proposing that gardeners should be more serious and much less solemn  and I could see how his thoughts could definitely be also applied to some Pilates instructors, especially those who are incredibly vocal on various social media sites and forums.

"Seriousness underpins any endeavour worth doing and every life worth living. But whereas seriousness can be worn lightly, with grace and wit, solemnity carries with it the dead hand of the pedant and killjoy"

This is no more true when reading some of the comments and criticisms of those instructors who see themselves as being superior either in their training or knowledge to other fellow instructors. Sometimes Pilates just takes itself far to solemnly!

As Monty says,

"There is a time and place for solemnity. It is appropriate for births, funerals and grand occasions of state."

whereas being serious in our work shows a mark of respect for the Method, our clients and each other. It  still encourages discussion, healthy debate and (fingers crossed) a little  humour without producing the fear of reprisal and ostracism from the very community which should inspire and encourage us.

It is important to remember that as human beings we live in pursuit of happiness, of enjoyment. For us as Pilates instructors, this means encouraging the joy in mindful movement, the sense of well-being and health in a vibrant yet serious environment not only in our classes but in the Pilates world we live in.

So the only question now is do I subscribe to Gardeners World!

How to encourage clients to practise Pilates at home.

"PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour"  So states Joe Pilates in Return to Life, yet how do we encourage this diligence in our clients? Joe Pilates insists on us never taking "the night off" and not succumbing to momentary weakness and Mary Bowen recalls how he required his clients to commit to a minimum of three sessions a week. We all know how such commitment to the system would produce incredible results but realistically many of our clients attend only one or two sessions due to financial, time or other restraints. So how can we encourage our clients to practise more in order to progress and address any issues? An easily accessible and effective way is to give them short videos to do at home and here is an example of the Swan Dive taught at a low level as a 3 minute fix.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HRkBdHLV9g]

It is simple to record, upload and edit on YouTube and even though I hate to see and hear myself on camera, clients love it-so lights, camera, ACTION!!

I would love to hear how you encourage your clients to practise more!

Never Stop Learning!

At the beginning of any of our courses or workshops I tell instructors that we never stop learning, to question everything and to ask anything! This is the most crucial founding principal of JPilates training- to constantly learn and enhance our teaching skills and knowledge and to realise that we can not know everything. When a client asks a question or has an injury or condition that you are unfamiliar with or unsure of, it is much more professional to admit that you need to further research the subject and to promise to get back to them once you have sought further advice or knowledge. (You would then email or phone us if you wish!!) Guidelines and research constantly develop, evolve and sometimes contradict and so it is imperative that we keep up to date with changes and have a reliable source to refer to.

Each year I allocate time and finances to attend courses and workshops to further my own knowledge. This year I am looking forward to a workshop from the fabulous Amy Taylor Alpers and the Pilates On Tour Convention. I'll definitely share with you my thoughts on both events after.

Continual professional development needn't be expensive. It could be attending our monthly Instructor Only Classes or another instructor's class in your area and evaluate (to yourself of course!) aspects you enjoyed and areas which could be improved. Webinars are a great way of developing your knowledge of specific areas such as Scoliosis and we are always open to new topics for us to present.

For more information on all our qualificationscourses and workshops please visit www.jpilates.co.uk or contact info@jpilates.co.uk.

How to teach a beginner class to an experienced exerciser

Recently I have been asked by several Pilates instructors how to teach beginner Pilates classes to experienced exercisers without boring them to death! Often these clients are used to training at high levels of intensity and it can be difficult to strike a balance between encouraging precision, integrity of movement and technique and maintain suitable intensity, focus and interest. First and foremost we need to understand and recognise the needs and goals of the client- why are they attending the class?

Since September I have been teaching at the beautiful, newly opened Reformer studio, Akasha Wellness. Almost all of the clients are new to Reformer and are attending in order to increase strength, flexibility and to be challenged!After ensuring that there are no injuries or conditions that may impact on their exercise programme, I teach fairly demanding classes, designed to enhance their strength, mobility and flexibility. Although I constantly embed and cue correct movement and technique, I see the achievement of precision as on-going task which can take weeks, months even years to attain. Perfect movement is not something that can be taught in the first few classes and in attempting to "over-correct" and "over-talk" we can restrict natural movement and reduce the sense of well-being. We need to allow clients to make mistakes without fear of failure. This is how we learn. Giving time to make mistakes and self correct teaches increased body awareness and self-responsibility for ones own practice.

Both instructors and clients should acknowledge that to achieve results, Pilates requires dedication and commitment. As Joe Pilates stated, “PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour” It is a long-term, lifestyle choice giving you time to strive for and achieve precision, control and flow.

For JPilates Associates, this month's Class Plan is a Matwork plan for the beginner but experienced exerciser. Contact info@jpilates.co.uk to request your copy.

Side note: We always need to have full understanding and knowledge of any injuries or conditions which may impact on exercise choice and intensity and seek medical consent if necessary.

Just Love JPilates Associates!

I have to admit that JPilates Associates is the best thing I have ever created! The founding principle of JPilates has always been to constantly support and develop a friendly, vibrant Pilates teacher community where any question can be asked, any concept can be openly discussed and ideas can be shared so that we constantly learn and progress and creating JPilates Associates has completely fulfilled this.

One of the areas I most love in my work is creating new adaptations and variations of exercises and then choreographing classes to further inspire instructors. Being able to offer Instructor Only Classes and Daily Fixes to you means that I can help bring fresh ideas and also practically address any areas you wish specifically targeted such as Pre Natal Pilates. This month I am so excited to have added a slow motion video of The Boomerang so you can really analyse the different elements of this fantastically dynamic move.

Another really rewarding aspect for me is being able to have individual mentoring time with you. This can either be for your own personal development where we work on your Pilates practise or further developing, focusing and structuring your business and marketing plans and ideas.

The Associates Area ensures that you keep up with recent research and continual professional development through articles and updates. We also review books & DVDs for you to help expand and enhance your own Pilates library.

I love being a part of this amazing Pilates community and our Virtual Night’s Out have been so successful with us enjoying a glass (or two!) in the comfort of our own homes chatting about all things Pilates. I love to hear us being able to support each other and offer advice and experiences.

So thank you to everyone who is part of this special community!

For more information please click here

Music- To Play or Not To Play!

images-4If you ask a Pilates instructor if they use music in their classes the answer is often an emphatic "Yes!" or a shocked "No!" The question of whether music enhances or distracts during Pilates is often a hotly debated one. Some may argue that it distracts from  the precision of the exercises and  the search for the mind-body connection especially for those new to the method, whereas others believe that music can immediately create the calm ambiance and focus which can be hard to achieve initially.

Music causes  incredibly powerful and profound effects  involving several response mechanisms. These include:

  • The psychosocial response- the spiritual and psychological response we have to music
  • The cortical response- creates visualisation and imagery
  • The limbic response-how we react emotionally
  • The thalamic response-automatic body response to the rhythm of the music
  • The corporeal response-our physical reaction to the different sound vibrations.

In the light of these responses surely music would help deepen and enhance our mind-body connection, breathing and awareness?

Music should always create and support smooth movement sequencing, integration of breath and enhance inward focus. It should never intrude, detract or dominate the class.

MFP Logo (For Jo)Lisa Horner, the co-founder of Music for Pilates, definitely believes in the importance of music in Pilates.

"I personally love using music in my Pilates classes. I find it creates a calm relaxed atmosphere so clients can really focus on the areas that we are working on, giving them that whole mind-body experience that Pilates requires. As a teacher I also find it calms my soul which reflects in my voice helping the clients to work in a more intensified, slow, controlled rhythm. This is why it is so important to me to find that right music, which was surprisingly difficult and frustrating. I would find a lovely piece and then right in the middle a random squawk or screech from an unrecognisable animal or a deep boom from a Didjeridoo, shaking you and the clients out of your serene place. There is also that "small" problem of paying for a PPL licence or finding music that is licence free. My husband Perry, is an international song writer and music producer, so it only seemed natural to create our own licence free music, forming "Music for Pilates". We set to work tweaking the bits I knew would not work and testing in my own classes, until we found the balance of rhythm and calmness just right for Pilates."

Music can also be used to choreograph the movements. This is definitely for the more advanced student where the movements seamlessly flow through a choreographed sequence adding more challenge and enhancing the movement dynamics. The Pilates Instructor Only Class on 22nd November will be a fully choreographed class set to some beautiful tracks from Music For Pilates. To book your class please contact info@jpilates.co.uk.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts!

Are You Being Served?

300px-Cast_of_Are_You_Being_Served_BBC_1970sLast week our latest Matwork graduates were treated to a brand, marketing webinar from the fantastic MiBrand Fitness Business Coaching giving them invaluable advice on all aspects of branding and marketing for their new Pilates business. One of the key impressions I gained as I eavesdropped was how as teachers we should serve not just sell to our clients. How we need to add value to our product, to always bear in mind our client's needs and goals and help them reach them rather than simply offer a class timetable and payment plan.

This really resonated with me when the following day I received a call from a fantastic instructor who after running a successful class had suddenly lost numbers. She understandably was disheartened and explained maybe it was due to a small price increase (£1 a session) caused by a venue hire increase.  She was considering offering a discount but remembering MiBrand's advice we discussed adding value instead, of offering something for that small price increase such as a short daily video routine, an e-book showing some spine mobility moves or a training diary. The essential element is, of course, knowing your client's needs and goals. Maintaining and generating new interest could be easily created by understanding why they are attending and offer an additional product or service to promote this. So it may be a holiday prep routine to do at home which you introduce on the first day of a new block,  a series of desk based exercises to help relieve neck and shoulder tension or record of flexibility tests.

I think once you adjust your mindset to how can you serve your clients instead of how to make them buy, you completely reverse your strategy and find work so much more rewarding and enriching!

For MiBrand's 6 Steps to a Successful Business Brand Plan click here

As always I would love to hear your thoughts!

Mirror mirror on the wall.......

madonnacircusmirrorBizarrely just before I published this post, a discussion began on our Facebook forum about whether mirrors are an essential part of any studio. Using mirrors always splits opinion with many instructors finding them useful in their teaching and in writing this post I feel like I'm going against the flow, but personally I only ever use mirrors as a last resort and here is why....

So often our teaching space has at least one mirrored wall and this frequently becomes the front and focus of the class. In my experience most clients feel uncomfortable looking at their reflection and I always notice a sense of relief when they lie onto their mats. More importantly though this discomfort can cause tension which in turn restricts the mobility and freedom of movement we are looking to develop.

Mirrors can be used to visually show a client imbalances or incorrect technique/ positions but I would much rather help the client to "feel" the correct placement. We do not go about our everyday lives surrounded by mirrors to check alignment and so we need to develop an inherent sense of body awareness without relying on reflections. Unless the mirrors are well placed trying to check technique will alter alignment, potentially create further imbalances and distract from the movement.
If using mirrors really benefits you and clients then they are a useful addition to any studio but I believe mirrors are the same as any other prop to be used only as a temporary aid and dependent on the individual's needs.

I would love the hear your thoughts on this and if you would like to join in the discussion please request to be added to the forum, just message JPilates.

Image from www.womensmafia.com

When Did Pilates Become the Easy Option?

bored with PilatesEarlier today as I was pushing myself through a challenging Tower workout, a discussion I recently had with a colleague came to mind. She commented that when she could not be bothered to do a proper workout she went to a Pilates class. So when did Pilates become the easy option? This made me reflect on how many clients have experienced Pilates as just “lying on a mat, hardly moving”.  They have never been taught The Teaser, Corkscrew or even heard of the Boomerang. Is this because they lose interest before they reach a perceived level of skill, is it due to their inability to execute the move or is it because of the instructor’s concern for potential injury? With so many clients encouraged to do Pilates after injury or to help manage low back pain are instructors forced into teaching a style of class which reduces perceived risk rather than challenges the ability of each individual?

Exercises which have evolved from Pilates are, of course, an excellent rehabilitation tool, although I believe the focus on mindful, precise and controlled movement rather than any specific cueing of muscle activation allows clients to regain confidence in their movement and take responsibility for their recovery. But this is not Pilates but rather Pilates-inspired exercise.

For the normal, healthy client surely we should be challenging them to the limit of their ability, to enhance their strength, flexibility and mobility with every exercise. Why should a beginner spend the first class lying on their back, lifting a heel when in simply walking into the class and picking up a mat they have worked far harder? Some may argue that the integral precision and technique of Pilates are only attained by working gradually through the levels but the incredible rhythm and coordination of the movements are not found by reducing the exercise to floating a heel while fixing the pelvis. As Joe Pilates states,

PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour”

He recommends practising Pilates daily to achieve the ability to perfectly execute moves, not five repetitions once a week of a severely reduced, modified version. If, as instructors we promote the often quoted benefits of Pilates that,

 “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit"

then surely we should strive to achieve Joe Pilates original intentions, to teach each and every move, modifying or omitting only where necessary to suit the individual, encouraging daily practise, until our clients can perform them with control, fluidity and precision.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments as always!

Shoulders- please do not melt down!

shoulder tensionWhen I first trained in Pilates I remember being told to draw my shoulders back and down, to melt them down in a soft V and many other cues which were meant to encourage shoulder stability and correct alignment for those who carry their shoulders up by their ears. But does creating downward tension actually help elevate the upward tension in the upper back and neck? These cues also tend to encourage scapula depression which in turn tends to block thoracic mobility. Try this- begin to do The Spine Stretch, firstly draw your shoulders down in a V shape and then try to flex the spine. Can you feel how restricted you are? Does the movement feels very forced? You can also try this in Roll Down, Roll Up from seated and so on..

Then I attended a class with a wonderful instructor who cued "easy shoulders". Suddenly I could move so much more fluidly, with improved articulation and the movement felt completely different.

We can find so many other cues similar to this where the shoulders are encouraged to relax, to soften, to open outwards from the mid back. Even bringing the focus away from the shoulder and cue lengthening the neck, elongating the spine and having heavy elbows.

So now we are encouraging dynamic stability not rigidity of the scapula (this is the same for the pelvis-no fixing- but that is for another blog!) To explain further, as we lift our arms overhead the scapula should rotate upwards, the humerus should slightly depress and externally rotate (this is called scapulohumeral rhythm. If we try to fix or depress the scapula as we do this, we cause a huge amount of unnecessary tension and potential harm. Again try it- raise one arm up focusing on keeping the shoulders relaxed and feel the fluidity of movement then try it again with scapula depression-ouch!

Mark Leyland explains the biomechanics of motion in more detail in his fantastic article The Pilates Shoulder

So over the next few classes try some cues to relax your shoulders- stop drawing them down and let them go! Free your shoulders!

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback as always!

The JPilates Convention photos are here!

So now the dust has settled I thought it was time to reflect on the first JPilates Annual Convention and share with you some of the amazing photos and feedback we received. "I am so glad that I secured the last place at your convention on Saturday, it was the best Pilates course, workshop or convention that I have been on. I really loved the friendly atmosphere, I had such fun as well as learning loads, some of which I have already implemented this morning! I hope you had as great a time as I did on Saturday it looked like it,  your enthusiasm is infectious.Thank you for a lovely and inspiring day!" Virginia McGowan-Brown

"Thank you to you and your team Jo for a great day. I felt welcome and the environment created is brilliant - no one is made to feel silly for questions they ask or things they don't know - I think this is so important to make learning productive and fun. I came away with a lot out of each session and then the champagne at the end to top it off! Well done to you and your team for an awesome day - I would come again! " Rochelle Bloomfield.

"

What a FANTASTIC day.......excellent quality presenters, manuals and goody bag! 

Often with bigger events you have to choose which workshops you have to do but with JPilates you get to do them all!  Each time you attend a JPilates event you have a sense of being part of a growing family, meeting like-minded instructors and creating yourself a supportive network of colleagues......because let's face it out there on the front line can often be quite isolating! The day had such a positive energy.......pack full of activities, ideas and information to challenge your practice and make you think out of the box!  Roll on the JPilates Convention 2014" 

Michelle Ormrod

"What an amazing experience to be able to join a community and feel so welcomed. The convention was a fantastic opportunity to receive high quality and varied tuition.    I felt energised and reinvigorated. My clients certainly felt the difference the next day!" Silvan Aidasani

"Thank you for such a great convention.  It was very motivating and very useful for inspiring ideas and further thinking.  I would definitely come again next year.  I had such a good time and the atmosphere was fantastic.  I really like it when you teach a class so a big thumbs up there. I also found the correction workshop to be excellent and it has made me want to keep learning and improving my teaching skills so I will definitely be booking on more workshops. The workshops were very thought provoking. I found it very interesting and it definitely made me think." Liz Jerome

One of my own favourite moments was when I overheard an instructor say "This is like being on Pilates holiday with loads of your friends!" 

We are now planning next year's Conventionso save the 12th July 2014! To see more fantastic photos please click here.