Instructor of the Month
Introducing Caren Benstead, owner of Divine Therapy
Hello I’m Caren and I live and work in on the Northamptonshire / Oxfordshire border. I am a Welsh girl who came to England for 6 months back in 2003 and find myself still here in 2019, married to a lovely English man, with three sons who are growing up too fast and two dogs that take me on ad- ventures to undiscovered places.
I work as a massage therapist, clinical aromatherapist and a pilates instructor. I have a wellbeing studio just outside our hometown that also houses my professional aromatherapy school. I really love working with the human body, meeting new people and learning their stories (I think Im just incredibly nosey really). When Im not working, running my mum-taxi or standing at the side of a sports pitch, (usually freezing with a hot water bottle under my jumper) you will find me home in Wales, refreshing my mind and body, letting my boys run wild on the beach, in the woods and up mountains.
I had been practising Pilates for about 9 years when I decided to add a the qualification to my skillset. Its been transformative to my business, being able to support my massage clients through movement to release their bodies between treatments.
In November 2018 I relaunched my aromatherapy school with a fresh new diploma that includes movement in the training. Teaching students how to move their bodies during a treatment, after a treatment and how to protect their working bodies from injury or repetitive strain. This aspect of movement, with additional wellbeing content, I believe, makes my aromatherapy school truly unique. Using Pilates as a preventative measure of enabling therapists to release their tight backs, arms and shoulders after a full day of treatments. The aromatherapy school provides lots of online learning so many choose not to train in the massage element of the course and yet they follow the movement sequence I have put together for them for their own self-care, adding the knowledge of essential oils to their movement adds a whole new dimension to their mindful movement. I get so excited that I can combine these parts of my business that I LOVE!!!!
Your business, Divine Therapy, is multi-faceted, can you explain all the different elements and how they compliment each other?
So my business includes massage, aromatherapy and pilates. Originally, when I added Pilates to my skills, my worry was that I would become a ‘jack of all skills master of none’ but by the end of the second day of my training, I realised how this would weave into my body work so well. I use aromatherapy to relax the clients body, to open up the respiratory system and when they turn up with their tension headaches to class, I grab my lavender and apply. When I work with clients 1-2-1, my couch is set up and my mat is out, when I see a restriction in their movement, I get them off the mat onto the couch for some remedial massage, we return to the mat so they can enjoy the free movement their muscles have. I love having the different tools in my kit to be able to give each person a truly holistic treatment.
This year I get to incorporate all levels of my business into wellbeing retreats. Jo at JPilates has encouraged me to run Pilates & Aromatherapy Retreat weekends for a while. The first one happened in October 2017 which was wonderful and I really enjoyed the time away with my clients and guests. This year I am expanding to include a weekend in the incredible Stowe House, Buckinghamshire in April, I cant believe we will be taking a retreat in the same rooms that Victoria and Albert visited and stayed, what an opportunity.
In June we head to France to stay at LePignoulet. Wonderful Susie, that I met through JPilates, invited us to host a weekend at their incredible venue. So we are offering our aromatherapy stu- dents, therapists and instructors a wellbeing weekend of their own which will include relaxation sessions, a visit to an organic lavender farm for an aromatic meditation session, some aromather- apy blending and of course, Pilates.
What is your client base like?
My classes are mostly mixed ability but this year I have started to label some of my classes as in- termediate as they’ve been coming a while and we’ve shaped a little community in each class, friendships are formed and wow I have a really great group of clients that I look forward to seeing every week.
How would you describe your style of teaching?
My style of teaching I would say is fun and varied. I don’t like routine or teaching the same session over and over so I try to keep classes different. Some of my classes are filled with people who only have this hour in a week to fully focus on themselves, so I try to make sure each class is fun, hard work and we finish with relaxation supported by aromatherapy oils. Having found JPilates, Jo has given me the freedom to focus on areas of technique but to come away from making people scared to move through robotic techniques so I like to encourage (or nag...apparently!!) about breath.
What is your most favourite move and why?
Roll over...... it stretches out my back so well after a long day of treatments. Completely against Joseph’s advice to keep the body moving, but sometimes I watch tv in this position much to the embarrassment of my children.
What is your least favourite?
Swan....my back does not like bending this way, although after some 1-2-1 with JPilates, its become more tolerable and although I don’t enjoy it much, I really feel the benefits of the move. I think maybe my initial training took it straight into a back hinge. Thank goodness for Jo.
What do you find most challenging about your work and how do you overcome this?
When people don’t return to class, I used to take it personally and wonder why and question myself and my capability. With time, I realised, with the return of many people, that life sometimes gets in the way. When life is busy, the self-care plan goes out the window first and people will drop their one hour a week to squeeze cross more jobs off their to-do list. Ive also come to realise that Im not everyones cup of tea, thats ok. I really enjoy connection with the people I’m working with, because that connection will produce a relaxed body thats more willing to move.
It’s best that each person finds the instructor thats right for them. Connection with a massage therapist is so important, if you don’t feel that connection it’s hard to relax on their couch, I think it’s the same with a pilates instructor.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Pilates instructor?
Getting messages to say how much better they feel after just one class or one session. Also bringing people into freedom that they don’t have a weak core....argh!!!!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years time I would like to expand my wellbeing studio to include some treatment rooms, maybe an organic coffee shop added so that the friendships build in class can be strengthened over a cuppa after a class. I would like my aromatherapy school to be known to have a reputation of excellence in education and to keep mentoring others into great aromatherapists and instructors.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new instructor what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask Jo for advice and support, she has a wealth of information and has been invaluable in building my confidence.
Also, some people are lucky and their classes build straight away and other businesses need time to grow. One of my favourite bible verses is ‘Don’t despise the days of small beginnings’. These early is when you learn the uniqueness of what you will offer people. What kind of instructor will you be, who will be your client base, who do YOU want to work with. It allows you the time to establish the foundation for a strong and healthy business. Oh and have fun in what you’re doing, if its not fun and you don’t enjoy an aspect of what you’re doing, don’t do it.
If you would like to know more about the retreat weekends or the aromatherapy school, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
With Love and Gratitude Caren