Stop. Look. Listen.

Running errands the other day, I was in a hurry. Of course (and this never fails), I get behind a slow poke. ¬†Stopping fully at the intersections (what??). Looking right, left, then right again before turning (c’mon, you’re killin’ me!). Slowing down across the one-way bridge (hurry up, I have places to be!). So instead of getting irritated, I took it as a sign. Let’s say, a “STOP” sign. There must be a reason this guy is in front of me, right? Maybe I need to look at my behavior and see what might need to be adjusted.

And then that got me thinking about how this relates to Pilates. And teaching clients. Real bodies, with real issues. Real issues that change from day-to-day, from week-to-week. Injuries, surgeries, even just little miseries that you wake up with from time to time. A head cold, a stomach flu, allergies. Our clients show up, and these are undeniable things that happen. So how do we handle them, in our Pilates realm?

STOP. Okay this could mean many, many things. But the first thing I want it to mean is, “STOP diagnosing.” You are not a doctor, a physical therapist, an osteopath, or any other type of health care professional. You are a Pilates teacher. So now, STOP and look at the body in front of you. What does your client need to do TODAY (sorry for the all caps, but this is important!). Not what do you want them to do, or what you think they should be capable of doing, but what do they NEED to do, in this moment and in this lesson? Maybe you think it should be airplane and standing arm springs and wunda chair. And they come in feeling like crap, full of lethargy, but happy to be there and they just want to move. So you move them. Sensibly, intelligently, safely. Which brings me to the second point.

LOOK. Where is your client today – physically, mentally, emotionally? Like the driver who looks right, then left, then right again before turning. Look at your client from the front, look from the sides, look from the back. See that right shoulder, hiked up to the ear? See that the heels never quite stay together? See how one hip is always a little crooked? Use your eyes, look at the body in front of you, and do what needs to be done within the pilates repertoire. There is plenty to choose from. If you are a good teacher, you will take that extra breath, tell yourself to calm down, not rush, and do what your client needs. Often when we teach many hours, back to back, we stop looking at our clients. Try to treat every client that is in front of you as the very first client of the day. Avoid tuning out, going into auto-pilot. And that brings me to my third point.

LISTEN. No really, Listen. Close your mouth, open your mind, tap into your patience (remember that slowpoke who was crawling over the one-lane bridge?). When your client tells you something feels funny, or even when they tell you something feels awesome, listen to them. Try not to brush it off, make an excuse, or even worse, make something up. Validate your client’s concerns, and where they are physically in their body. It’s simple, just gather information. No need to swap stories or spend ten minutes getting the pinkie toes in “just the right spot”. Let the client move intelligently, listen to what they have to say about their movement experience, and continue to listen. Go back to “LOOK” and treat every client like they are the first one of the day.

Three simple words. Stop. Look. Listen. But powerful and oh-so-important when teaching this fabulous movement method we know as Pilates. Just like the slow driver in front of me, I always marvel that each client I see teaches me something new, gives me a reason to pause, and figure out what it is I can do that will best serve them.




What is Your Why?

When prospective teachers come to their very first pilates teacher training weekend, I always like to ask them “why do you want to teach?”. It may seem like an innocent question, but the answer can be quite revealing, and can also help future teachers clarify their career direction. 

Some people are just curious about the Pilates method, and want to understand it better. They are most likely avid students already, with either a solid mat practice and/or apparatus practice. They want to figure out the inner workings of this movement method that is such a big part of their life. They may or may not intend to ever teach. And that’s okay. 

Some are motivated by a dynamic teacher, someone they want to emulate. They see this person as a role model and they want to do for others what this teacher does for them. They want to encourage, inspire and empower students and share their love of the Pilates method. And that’s okay, too. 

Others are at a crossroads in their life. Either between jobs, looking for a different career, or even looking ahead for something they can do in retirement. Some may be leaving relationships, or moving to another city. They see teaching pilates as a way to initiate change in their lives. And that’s also okay.

What they all have in common is a reason why. As an already-established teacher, can you identify your “why”? And recognize that from that very first teacher training weekend that it may have changed? 

It’s important to be able to answer this question, and it might take a little soul-searching. Has your teaching become “just a job”? Is it now simply a paycheck? Do you feel like you need a different direction? Do you feel stagnant in your teaching? It might be time to evaluate your “why”.

A team-building workshop I attended recently had us explain to a complete stranger why we were doing what we were doing. We were told to use three steps: (1) before xxx, I was _____. (2) I found xxx through ____. (3) now that I do xxx, I can _____. Be succinct, be direct, be positive. It helped me clarify why I chose the work that I chose. And it helped remind me of the importance of knowing my “why”. 

Whatever your reason, know what it is! Every successful person will tell you to make goals and write them down. I would add this “why” to your list of goals. It will help keep you focused, give you a clear career path, and help keep your teaching joyful, motivational, and rewarding.