One, universal truth that I have learned throughout my years as a movement teacher is that human beings can be… human-y. I remember the first time a client rolled over and issued a distinct “f*ck you” to me. I was floored and felt the hot tears spring up to the surface. She rolled back over and finished the exercise that had caused her so much angst, got up and said “See you Thursday!”
*Note: There was no joking tone in this client’s delivery and I ended the relationship soon after.
I was sucker punched. I didn’t ever expect that teaching Pilates would end in a verbal assault. At that point in my teaching, I thought my job was to show up, teach the Pilates and save the world. I was naive. (just a little!)
Later in my work, I learned the importance of purposeful communication, touch (or lack thereof) and session design. I learned that the value of my communication needed to be based on the client’s response, rather than what I thought “the right thing to say” was in that moment. I also learned that people respond to the map of what they believe their movement potential to be, rather than the actual reality. These lessons helped me become more effective with my teaching, but at times, I would still fall into to the human-y tendencies of my clients.
Over time, when a client would give push-back or even an insult, it stung, but didn’t knock me out completely. I was getting used to the process of teaching people to change the way they’ve always done something. Teaching Pilates is wonderful and challenging and every client comes into the studio with different coping skills. Some push back, some swear, some don’t even want to be there. I learned to manage these situations with grace and skill and also worked through my ego’s need to have everyone love Pilates.
As I grew more busy, however, I found that I only had a certain threshold for challenging sessions. To be precise, it was four. Give me four challenging sessions in a row and I was tapped. I used up all of my skills and positive reserves and was left feeling like I was doing it all wrong. The empathetic skills that had served me so well as a caring teacher, also left me open for feeling other feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Neither of these things are a good place to teach from. I didn’t have the “comeback rate” that I needed to be able to be effective with my other sessions. It was clear that I needed a solid tool to avoid the affects of the friction that inevitably occurs in any deep process. The answer came from self-support.
Using affirmation-based-mantra has been my number one tool for keeping me centered, focused and most importantly, supported. I practice it daily. Post-it’s on the bathroom mirror. Reminder alarms on my phone. I am unabashedly forward with the support I give myself. Before sessions, I can prepare myself to be in the energetic state that I desire to teach from and in the role that allows me to teach most effectively. During a session, I can come back from a challenging moment with grace and confidence. After a session, I can replenish any positive energy that has been lost and release any negative energy that I may have picked up along the way. The best part is? Affirmations are free!
In the video blog that I recorded for Pilates Style Magazine below, I describe my process, it’s usefulness to my teaching and also assign you some homework. I’d love to hear some of the mantras that you come up with. Share in the comments and enjoy the video!