The timeline of a Pilates Teacher/Student relationship can be uncertain. Will they dive deep and adopt this movement method into their lifestyle or are they doing Pilates to reach a goal, with no intention to keep it going long-term? As the saying goes, some relationships are there for a reason, some are there for a season and some are there for both.
It’s natural for us to spend time and energy at the beginning of our teacher/student relationship – to put our best foot forward and introduce our clients to a new way of experiencing their body. But what about the “lifers?” For me, the comfort of a ten-year relationship with a client presents one of the most challenging aspects of teaching to me: How do I avoid resting in a “common-law-Pilates-relationship?” How do I keep the focus fresh and relevant for each session/week/year that we are fortunate enough to be together?
This week, we’ll take a look at some teaching strategies that I’ve used to sustain and diversify my long-term client relationships. Not to worry – if you’re just starting out on your teaching journey, these strategies will provide you with some insight into how you might offer progressions to your clients over time!
Even if collaboration was not the theme of the start of your relationship, it’s never too late to introduce this concept to your client. Begin to refer to your sessions as a team effort. Step back from being the final word on whether your client’s execution of the exercise or series was satisfactory and switch the focus to their experience. Here are some helpful statements and/or questions to try out:
What’s important for you to experience today?
How will you know if you had that experience?
What aspect of Pilates/movement would be most interesting for us to explore?
How will you use what we do today in your life outside the studio?
Like asking the questions that invite a client to the sessions’ dialogue, consistent inquiry about their interests and desires in their life can help provide consistent and diverse inspiration. Sometimes, simply listening to them at the start of a session can help you pick up on themes to explore that day. However, asking specific questions will also help you gain a more clear point of reference for your clients’ mindset that day as opposed to during a different point in the history of their practice with you. Here are some helpful ways to inquire deeper into your clients’ mindset:
What would you say to a friend who asked why you keep coming to Pilates year after year?
Looking forward to your week ahead, what aspect of the work we do will be most useful to your life?
What word describes the way you want to feel when you leave the studio today?
The application of a theme can make any sequence shiny and new. Often, my “active aging” clients have a finite repertoire of what helps them within their sessions. Therefore, we may keep the same exercises but throw a different lens on each session to diversify. This way, they are practicing what helps them, but learning something new about those movements with each session. Themes I love include:
The Pilates Movement Principles – What would this movement look/feel like if it were to flow/be more precise/come from your center?
Employ Brain Games – I love Trent McEntire’s Neuromovement work to change up a session with Brain Challenges, neuroplasticity work and FUN!
Pot Luck – I love asking my clients to choose a one-word theme for their session and together, we come up with ways of exploring that theme.
Student becomes the teacher
This strategy doesn’t mean you become subordinate, rather, you simply put them in the drivers seat for a few. This can be a fun role-play for your clients and potentially expose some of the “teaching tells” you may not even be aware of. Strategies include:
Ask them: “What do you think comes next?” If they could choose where you go next, where would it be – this can be either an exercise or location in the studio. It’s always interesting to see how their choices align with yours.
Show me: Ask them to show you as if they were teaching you. “If you wanted me to understand what was important in this exercise, how would you show it to me?”
Ask them to identify potential roadblocks of an exercise. These could be elements that they deal with themselves, or perceived in general. This can help start a conversation about the work that gives both of you insight into the understanding of the subject at hand.
The truth is, if your clients are with you after a decade, they are most likely happy with your sessions. These strategies are here for you to play with in the event that you need to add a little spark into your relationship to keep the good stuff flowing!
Let me know how you are inspired by these teaching strategies and how they work for you in your sessions!