As Pilates Teachers, we are lucky to see a myriad of clientele within our practices. However, there are some themes that exist among the clients that pose a particular challenge within the first few sessions (or years) of teaching them.
I like to call them the “Feel It Clients” and in my practice, I’ve narrowed it down to three main types: The “I Don’t Feel It,” the “I Don’t Feel It Enough” and the “I’m Afraid To Feel It.” Over the next three posts, we’ll break down the elements that lie behind each archetype and discuss strategies to help your clients explore a space beyond the “feels” and into embodiment.
These three categories all fall into an umbrella of “limiting perspectives.” Whenever a limiting condition, thought pattern or fear story is present, we have to work with it rather than at it. If we approach our clients from a standpoint of proving that there is another way, or directly challenging their belief, we run the risk of alienating our clients through not acknowledging their truths. The first step for any archetype is to affirm that it’s there. Listening to your clients and acknowledging the stories that they come into the studio with can be the number one way to open the pathway towards helping them. When you align your services with their needs, they can become more willing to try a new experience. You don’t need to change what you teach, but rather, reconsider the way you are applying your skills to their needs. Read more below for specific teaching strategies and leave your questions in the comments.
Part One: “I Don’t Feel It”
I find that these clients come into the studio under two pretences:
1. They really don’t feel it. They may be struggling with body awareness and/or may actually have some lack of neurological function.
2. They are pragmatists. They need more information, reasons and evidence to prove that what you are offering is really worth their time and focus.
Your conversations with these clients will best serve you when you focus in on questions that solicit answers that tell you where they are coming from.
“When you push out on the footbar, where does the pressure of your heel stop traveling up your leg? Does it stop at the heel? Can you feel your calf? Does it travel to your hip? Point to the stopping place”
“Is it more important to you to keep moving or to know why we are doing what we are doing?”
When working with people who have a lack of awareness or function, I find it crucial to find out what they DO feel. I want to know if their proprioception is lacking on the whole or if the void is only occurring in one particular range of motion or body parts. I address this through a series of questions, usually asked while they are experiencing some level of feedback from equipment, or props. My invention, the DUET™ Roller Accessory System is one of my favorite places to inquire about their awareness. Because the rollers are so definite and also relatively different than what they are used to working with, they can often times give me a very specific inventory of what they are feeling. Once I know there is something being felt, I can use that awareness as the foundation for more exploration. For Example, let’s say they feel pressure through the back of their hips on the two rollers. From this info, I could guide them through some pelvic tilting exercises that lead into a pelvic stability exercise (toe touches) or pelvic mobility exercise (bridging) that can help them hang on to the feeling while moving through Pilates fundamental exercises. Once we establish foundational vocabulary, the doors to more Pilates exercises will open up. It’s about letting them take the lead, but guiding them through the process to do so. and I can tell you, this way of working is so much more satisfying than running in circles trying to find the perfect prop or exercise that they might feel.
In the pragmatist example, it’s important that you own your expertise. You must know exactly why you have chosen the exercise you have chosen for that body and be ready to put it into words that are meaningful to them. With my pragmatist client with arthritic hips, I’ll often say something like “I’ve planned to warm up your whole body and get the juices flowing first so that we may have a more easeful movement experience with our hip work.” It’s not so important to have the research (though that can also be helpful) but it is important to show them that you have a reason. Concentrate on the process rather than the approval of the client. Stay with your plan and own your expertise by staying on task. Avoid questions that surround “the feels.” Stay on task and affirm what’s working and why it’s important. You can layer in the detailed value later, but especially at the beginning, keep it focused, qualified and moving.
Stay tuned to next week’s post where we explore the “I Don’t Feel It Enough” client. You’ll receive some helpful tips to work with these “weekend warrior-types” who can challenge us through asking for more spring, higher reps and a faster pace.
I look forward to reading your comments and questions!