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The Pilates Education approach - part one

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Feb 15 2017 09:00AM

The first in a series of blogs by our Pilates instructor, Matthew Atwell, exploring his particular, focussed approach to teaching Pilates

This is the first in a series of blogs where I will explore my ethos, looking at some of the personal and professional values that inform how I teach Pilates in my work at The Pilates Education at West Norwood Therapies.

The essence of the Pilates encounter

Each Pilates practitioner has different influences that affect how they experience and pass on the method. So what is unique about my approach?

We shall begin this series by looking at what I believe to be the essence of the Pilates encounter; the learning dynamic and collaboration between the Pilates practitioner and the person they teach.

Redefining the learning dynamic

I became aware of the Pilates learning dynamic when I began to establish the company in early 2015. It was then that a subtle yet significant trait emerged when I began to define my relationship with those I taught by the titles, 'teacher and student'. In fact, this is so subtle that perhaps no one has even noticed its meaning.

This decision was certainly informed by my previous work as a performing arts school teacher, but I was most struck by the concept when reading two books written by Joseph Pilates, the founder of the movement technique. In them, his description of the relationship between himself and those he taught was not like I often see in the Pilates industry today, where it is usual to use the word, 'client' when referring to those whom we teach.

While this is a common term throughout the health and wellbeing industry, I feel that with Pilates we lose the idea that one who has studied the art form passes it on. I have often seen a tendency in Pilates studios that undermines this dynamic, where the journey is more biased towards being client led.

Of course, there is collaboration in all learning though.

The Pilates student is always the expert on how their body feels, and on how the practice is impacting their daily life, while the Pilates teacher should be the student's authority on the method, safely leading them through the vast repertoire of exercises.

Considering the learning collaboration

Also at the company's formation, I looked around and saw instances of ineffective collaboration between the two parties, which I believe affects the Pilates outcome. I suppose my time as a school teacher taught me the importance of engaging the learner in their own process, and each person understanding their part in the relationship. We will look at this briefly now and go into more detail as the series unfolds.

Personally, I realised that one of my main responsibilities as the teacher was to create an optimal environment for the student to absorb the most benefit from the practice of Pilates.

Furthermore, I perceived an equally crucial commitment to my continued growth in the practice and study of Pilates, which would allow me to effectively guide people who want to learn from me. While I have seen some excellent examples of this in others, many practitioners seem to tread water in this area, watering down the potential outcome.

Pilates is a deep and vast movement method which I anticipate being a lifelong journey of exploration. Plus I believe that engagement in my own wider wellbeing journey is vital if I am to genuinely impact my students.

Of course, for a successful Pilates outcome, there are also the responsibilities of the student to consider, which have taken me much longer to grasp and facilitate.

Join me for subsequent blogs where I will expand further on these ideas, as well as sharing other aspects unique to my approach in my work at The Pilates Education.

Matthew established The Pilates Education in early 2015 with the aim of promoting, through Pilates, the wellbeing and health of people in the local area. The Pilates Education provides mat and equipment Pilates classes to people in South East London.

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