Look no further, Gem Seekers! I have figured it all out! For today, anyhow. My clients, like yours, provide me with the ample opportunities for learning and this week was no exception. The danger in a highly-charged environment of discovery is assuming that you have figured it out forever. My strategy for navigating through these discoveries is always a celebration, followed by the question “Now what?” It keeps me humble, focused and curious.
This week, while working with a long-time client, I inadvertently uncovered a series of teaching gems that I had to share with the “Gem Seekers” in this community. I entered into the session with the intention of providing her with tools to help her navigate through positions that she feared would cause her pain. Little did I know that this work would also uncover a treasure chest of information that I could use as well! But that’s often how it happens, right? We teach what we need to learn and oftentimes our students are our best catalysts for learning. This was one of those times.
the set up:
My client and I have been on a pathway to improve the experience of getting up from and down to the floor – something she’s determined to be of value to her life and I concur. In this week’s session we explored rolling on the floor as a means to developing strategies that would help her get up to standing with more ease and less fear. Her go-to strategy is muscular tension. She tends to grip her way through a thing to complete the task, which rarely provides a pleasurable experience in moving up from or down to the floor and can even encourage pain. I can see the apology on her face when she is struggling. It breaks my heart and so I decided that for today, we would focus less on the task at hand and more on the space that happens before the task to see if we could gain some information that might be useful. We discovered that within this space there was a need to pause or settle the nervous system, receive support mentally as well as physically and experience some level of nourishing encouragement to affirm that she was doing O.K. The trifecta of tools that came from these needs became Settle, Support, Soothe. We discussed how these tools could be put into use outside of the studio to help her manage her movement. She left the session smiling and confident and I felt the same. And then it hit me: These are tools that I can use too! I sat in thought about where they might be most useful to me and share in more detail below. After reading through my applications, I encourage you to take a moment to write down your own “Settle, Support and Soothe” strategies for the week to come.
Have you ever been so excited for a client in a session that you got emotional about it? Jumping up and down for a roll up or crying at a plank that they’ve been working on for so long? For me this celebration is so gratifying, but as an overly-enthusiastic cheerleader for movement, I realize that my reaction can sometimes steal the moment away from my client to have their own thoughts about it. A teaser to me might be a miracle to me, however to my client, their miracle might be that they got out of bed that morning. When I feel an explosion of emotions simmering up to the surface, I remind myself to settle and follow the lead of my client’s energy. Through mimicking their energetic state and matching the level that they are at, I can create a shared moment instead of one that is only reflective of my ninja teaching skills. Of course my clients love to receive my praise and they definitely will hear some “Good Job’s,” and “Amazing’s!” but through settling my own energy, I can create the space for a joint celebration – one that reflects the whole of their journey and not just the success of the task of the day. And if I still need to celebrate, I save my happy dance for later when I’m in a space that doesn’t ask for approval from anyone but me.
The tool for support that my client’s and I most regularly engage with is breath. We breathe to explore, to locate, to release, to connect, to express and to endure. Even with almost 20 years of teaching movement under my belt, I still have those “Oh Shit! I don’t know what I’m doing!” moments in my practice. I’ve learned that creating the space for a breathing practice before, during and after my sessions, I acknowledge that I’m being held through the experience by something tangible – my breath. This can be a simple act of a deep breath to gather my thoughts, an energizing breath of fire to get my spark lit or even a reassuring circular breath for dropping into the presence of my teaching role. Of course I use my breath for physical support as well, but in my teaching, my breath is my co-pilot and can shift a situation from “Oh Shit!” to “Oh YEAH!” (and yes, I’m picturing the koolaid man on a reformer while I write this!)
Since starting the Pilates Unfiltered Podcast in 2016, I’ve realized one universal truth: The Teachers of Pilates industry are suffering from fear. Fear of messing up, being found out, being told we don’t know what we are doing, being told we aren’t good enough, feeling like we aren’t (insert your favorite “activating” word here) enough and fear in general. Even those with experience can be hijacked by the fear monster. I recently had the pleasure of teaching alongside a number of peers who are killing it in their work. I came into the venue grounded and focused and left questioning everything I was doing. It was my own fault as I forgot to soothe myself through the comparison conversation that is inevitable in a high-performance environment. Soothing for me sounds like “Ok, girlfriend. You are admiring someone else’s work and you can do this without questioning the validity of your own. You have not come this far to have only come this far. Your job right now is to step outside of the comparison and remember who you are serving. There are many more in need of what you offer than any one teacher can provide. In fact, you are awesome! You are helping people without depleting yourself in the process! You rule! Your work rules! You love your work! You love their work! You just love everything! There is so much space for all of this work! Ok, girlfriend. Do the work. That’s all you need to do. I love you.” Excessive? Maybe. Effective? HELL YES! Soothing ourselves through self-talk allows us to be our own biggest cheerleaders, support ourselves through the tough times and celebrate the work of others along the way. Out of all three, this one might be my most favorite. How can you be kinder to yourself in moments of spiral? How can you comfort yourself in uncertain times? What language feels good? Sounds good? If there is one of the three elements to explore, I would say that this is quite possibly the most important.
Here are some links to breathing exercises that I hope will serve your teaching practice. For my short series of workshops, visit the MASTERCLASS page on my website. Drop me a comment below and let me know how these tools are serving you. Until then, remember that there is so much space for us all and also that I love you!