In a recent conversation, I was once again made aware of doubts that can creep up for our students. "Will I ever get my body to do what I want? Will I ever be able to learn all these exercises? Will it be worth it? I don't think I can do it."
Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car? I sure do. Do you remember how intimidating it felt? You had to remember a million things. Gas, break, clutch, which is which? And who's paying attention to traffic?
It didn't feel great, did it? It took some time to learn. Thank goodness, there was someone in the passenger seat, helping you every step of the way.
Today, of course, you likely drive your car instinctively. The process has become second nature. Maybe you can drink coffee and sing along to your favorite songs - all at the same time while still paying attention to traffic.
For anything we do, there is a process of learning how to do things correctly and efficiently. It's important for Pilates instructors to remember how overwhelming Pilates can feel at first and to help your students find joy in the process of learning a new way of moving. It's like we are their driving instructor, sitting in the seat next to them and guiding them until it becomes second nature.
How can we help our students enjoy the ride of learning Pilates?
Let them know that - like driving - efficient movement takes some time to master and that there's no need to feel rushed. Muscles need to be trained to work like you want them to. When you begin, your muscles are awakened to a whole new world! They are saying, "You want me to do WHAT?" After steady practice, they begin to work instinctively - as if you have been working them for years!
Clear and positive cueing will help your students "get" the exercises while minimizing frustration. If you need help making sure your cues are effective and encouraging, we have a whole chapter for that inside the Pilates Encyclopedia membership.
Keep it light. Some students might be really hard on themselves. Make sure to remind them that corrections are not a reason to despair. So what? They'll get it right the next time, or the time after that. Humor is an incredible tool to keep the atmosphere relaxed and focus on enjoying the process versus the end product.
Ask rhetorical questions to help your student become aware of their body's sensations and get to know their body and movement better. Encourage them to be curious, not judgemental about themself. When they notice for themselves how their movement is improving, feelings of success and pride will motivate them to keep moving forward. Most people really enjoy learning something new about their body, as long as it's delivered in a non-critical way.
What's your and their goal for their session? I often remind my students that - in my opinion - the only purpose of a Pilates session is to feel better at the end of it, then before they started. I want them to feel lighter, refreshed, and energized as they leave the studio, not worn down, sweaty, and exhausted. Each time I remember to start my sessions with this reminder, my students honor their bodies more, they are more present, and we just have a better time all around.
Share with them your strategy for your session together. If your student is on board, and you have a shared goal, the class turns into a collaborative effort, you're rooting for each other. It turns into teamwork, which is much more fun.
Let them know that they are worth the time that it will take to become a healthier person. When your students give themselves enough time to work on muscle memory, then they will begin to feel like a champion and love the Pilates method as much as we do!
How do you like to spark joy in your Pilates lessons? Share in the comments!