Do You Teach Private Sessions Differently Than Group Classes?Jan 27, 2021
I was recently asked if I teach private sessions differently from group classes?
I think teaching private sessions and group classes is very different, but not in terms of sequencing. All of the rules of Pilates stay the same. This includes considering the contraindications and precautions of the student(s) in front of you.
Verbal cueing could be very different, though. In a private session, I like to have a conversation with the student. "Do you feel it here?" "Do you feel it there?" "What type of sensation is it?" The one-on-one setting allows time and space for me to hear their response.
In a group class, you can't ask everybody where they're feeling the exercise and then wait for everybody's response. It would take way too much time and be confusing. Instead, I like to ask rhetorical questions in a group class.
For example, when I teach Bent Knee Opening, I'll say: "Are you feeling it in your glute? Make sure that your glute is working because it has to control the opening of the knee." Or: "Allow your inner thigh to lengthen as you let the knee open out to the side." I find this gets people's awareness better than asking, "Do you feel it in your inner thigh?"
Some people enjoy the anonymity of group classes and don't like to be put on the spot or to be singled out. Many people think that more effort/strain/pain is better. ("More is better." and "No pain no gain." are ubiquitous.) For some reason, when we're going into a fitness class, all of a sudden, we think we have to be all the same even if we're not. Explain to your students before class the benefits of catering the practice to their specific needs, even if it's different than the group.
Typically, you will cue more in a group class. In a private session, I instruct the exercise then I watch and I only say things that are necessary for that particular student in that particular moment. Let's say I'm teaching Seated Push Through on the Trapeze Table to a new private student. I will guide them through the exercise for the first couple of repetitions. Once they have the general flow, then I won't guide them through it anymore, but I will help them in certain moments. For instance: they lean back, and when they push down I see the shoulders come up. I'll say, "Remember to pull down from the underarms. Remember to connect the arms into your torso." I'll say it right at the moment that it happens. That doesn't work in a group class because not everybody's timing is perfectly the same.
Teaching private sessions is a lot easier on your voice. Not just because you don't have to speak so loudly but you also don't have to talk constantly. When I teach a group class, I don't care if everybody's moving at the same pace and rhythm. I much prefer that each student practices at their own pace coordinated with their breath rather than trying to be in sync with the person next to them but sacrificing their breathing pattern or form.
In groups, I would always be on the safe side and I always use layering to give each student a chance to work at their level. Because there are so many different minds and bodies to coordinate, I don't want to start at a variation that's too demanding. Start with the easiest variation and build from there.
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Now I want to hear from you: Are there any other tips you'd like to share that were helpful for you for teaching private sessions or group classes?