The 5th Weekend of Teacher Training: Serious Fun!

The landscape seems to have changed overnight.

Perhaps stimulated by last month’s evaluations, aided by the growing comfort with practice students, and enhanced by the group meetings about what to expect and what will be expected over the next six months, things are feeling a little more focused in the studio. Teacher-Trainees are tallying their hours of training, self-practice, and practice teaching, and looking ahead to apprentice teaching, and even preparing for the PMA exam in the far distance BUT –- it bears reminding — still from within the warm cocoon of the mentorship program.

Although there are many ways to learn Pilates, it is often said to really learn something, you need to teach it. Witnessing how others learn and teach has certainly deepened my own self-practice: I’m now more accountable for my everyday movement and feel more independent in recognizing and correcting my particular issues of compensation. (Nevertheless, I can’t imagine not taking lessons — since it’s difficult to be objective like a teacher can be, and there are so many levels of practice to aspire to.)

Although this group of TTs all had at least some previous experience with Pilates, several are fast-tracking their education within this program. Yes, they face extra challenges, but they can also more easily relate to the novices they introduce to the methodology. Tanis has adapted her curriculum accordingly; it’s never a bad idea to review and reinforce the basics in Pilates. On Friday night she takes us through the highlights of the original Pilates manual, Joseph Pilates’ 34 mat exercises, to put them in context.

We try the first few exercises and I am delighted that I can execute them almost correctly after only practicing some components on apparatus. My delight lasts only until Baby Grayson makes a cameo appearance and puts on a much more impressive display of the Hundreds technique and he’s only 7 months old! His mother, master teacher Tanis, doesn’t have to point out how adults regularly lose what our bodies are designed to do. Fortunately, she does remind us, most of us can regain it with some hard work.

So we get back to that work. Fortunately Joseph Pilates designed apparatus for those of us whose bodies need help to prepare to do his more advanced exercises safely and properly, and eventually on the mat. While I look forward to the day when I can transition down to and up from the mat as gracefully and effortlessly as our teachers, until then, it’s back to the apparatus and props du jour – all outlined in detail in our newest manual, this one created from scratch by Tanis.

First up: a circle appropriately called magic because properly used, Tanis says, it makes us work harder, and feel our imbalances more than some of the larger apparatus. The MC takes over as the new favorite tool and even comes home with some of us. We also test out some of the other inexpensive and more familiar tools for proprioception and strengthening: the walls, towels, and hand weights.

The Pedi-pole, by contrast, is a strange new beast to most of us, an almost sinister-looking device that turns out to be the most sophisticated piece of Pilates apparatus we’ve experienced so far. Not for beginners, or beginning teachers, but for those who can use its repertoire to help diagnose and correct imbalances and misalignments. We’re thrilled to see its vertical challenge AND fun added to the studio … now that we’re not scared of it.

The intentionally instable design of the Pedi-pole allows for more in-depth postural analysis and thus highlights many subtle, positive changes in our bodies since the autumn. One of the athletes among us notices something equally interesting: while trying to stabilize, she discovers that it’s possible to “try too hard” and overwrap. A teachable moment for Tanis to address: given certain dysfunctions, when to back off, and to try more precise or subtler cueing. This also naturally leads into a discussion of client types and gender differences that affects both teaching and lesson planning.

Several more layers of knowledge later, I leave the weekend exhausted and exhilarated as usual, and with the feeling there is much still to learn within our own bodies and in others’! But thankfully we are evolving — both consciously and subconsciously.