Mind Your Words: Teach Don’t Tell

For the Pilates participants who may be reading this, the perspective below offers a glimpse into part of what goes on behind the scenes;

the mind of the instructor;

the person who can NOT count to 10 — forwards or backwards 😀

The aim is to clear up just why we, Pilates Movement Instructors, are so darn persnickety, and why we take our storytelling skill so seriously!

Patience

Teach, Don’t Tell

Movement Instructors connect words with actions, simultaneously offering relevant reasons to motivate the participants intention and attention to said action. We are fostering intelligent communication for connection between teacher and client; the cues we use are meant to describe and inspire the idea of a movement that has energetic expression. This is our art.

Our underlying quest as instructors in our storytelling skill is for clients to experience success. To feel like the time spent pursuing quality movement was a worthwhile endeavour.  Sometimes, this pressure surrounding the self created quest takes our storytelling skills down a notch. We find ourselves relying to heavily on anatomical details or ‘feeling’ the exercise/movements, in a specific area or repeating go-to phrases the industry has latched on to.

There is a danger in being too anatomical or too focused on what or where someone “should be feeling” an exercise. Let’s face it; some of us don’t care what moves who where, some of us feel to much and even more of us don’t have any feelings at all …. AND we’re all snowflakes, each one of us different, with different needs and goals.

When the Movement Instructor and the client can get out of our own way and step cleanly into the moment in front of us, the body systems and the brain know how to move, the story is being told, teaching action is happening, the magic takes place …

Motivation and the Pleasure Seeking Brain

The pleasure seeking brain is continually searching out and repeating action that makes life easier. When action results in making life easier the brain categorizes the action as pleasure. The pleasure causes the brain to look for ways to groom and groove excellent movement patterns, this becomes motivation.

Storytelling skill (cueing) aims to borrow that instinctive desire and drive the individual to continually ‘tidy up’ movements, until there is the awesome moment of “effortless effort”.

“Effortless Effort”

What?! (Insert eye roll here…)

Pilates is designed to give you the opportunity to work better, THEN harder, while encouraging participants to always avoid working harder then is necessary.

Clean (i.e effortless effort) movement demands efficiency, Pilates teaches that, grooms that, and ultimately what was once your workout becomes your warm up.

As Movement Instructors we endeavor to:

Step up, be prepared to explain an action in several different ways. Explore cueing until you see the action being understood or you see the light bulb going off behind the eyes of the client.

Work towards understanding how the client learns. What brought the client through the door in the first place? Why do they keep coming back? We need to learn to adapt our cues and expressions to match the person in front of us.

Be clear. We all have our ‘go to’ expressions. For example: belly button to spine. Let’s make sure we first express what we actually are asking for. Avoid relying on and assuming a phrase will always inspire the correct action.

Address complex action simply. Sometimes the list of cues are LONG, be sure to highlight a priority. In other words, emphasis what shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to accomplish another action further down the list of cues.

One of my favorite teaching moments is between breathing and action. If the effort to create an action causes you to hold your breath, the sacrifice is too great. In other words, if you catch yourself holding your breath, reign it in, work only as hard as you can breath consistently.

Teach, Don’t Tell

Simply means exploring with clients to learn what to say in order to help someone organize and co-ordinate a movement. Look at what happens when the client does what you asked them to do.  Then identify and address perhaps TWO of the most important corrections according to their demonstration.

Both the Movement Instructor and the client need to allow for room to grow into the actions. It takes time for the brain to instinctively and confidently adapt movement patterns. Every energetic expression of the teachers cue has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.

Your brain and body systems know this and will learn to re-organize itself according to the brain’s pleasure response.

Client

As Clients, You Can Help Us Be Better:

We need you to speak up when what we’re asking for sounds like a foreign language.

Do you keep hearing a phrase that you feel or think is wrong for your body? Ask the instructor to explain themselves or to paraphrase what they are saying.

If you’re given a bony landmark or a muscle or a feeling/sensation as a reference point, speak up if that reference point is even a little bit foggy. There are hundreds of ways to describe an action.

Be patient with yourself, it’s just Pilates. #gregpember

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