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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Mar 22 2017 09:00AM

The second in a series of blogs by our Pilates instructor, Matthew Atwell, exploring The Pilates Education's particular, focussed approach to teaching Pilates

This is the second in a series of blogs where I 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.

Creating an optimal learning environment

We will continue to explore what is unique about my Pilates approach by looking at one of my main priorities; that of creating an optimal learning environment for my students to absorb the most benefit from the practice of Pilates.

We will view this in light of teaching group Pilates classes. However, the key principles guide my approach to all teaching; mat and equipment Pilates classes being delivered to individuals and groups alike.

Some structure for the journey

Encountering Pilates without any structure or plan would be like setting out to climb a serious mountain without a map or guide; a venture that could be hazardous, with little chance of safely navigating the journey. That is why the Pilates student relies on the teacher to determine their route through the vast array of Pilates repertoire.

As a school teacher, I found the more organised and structured I was in my planning, the better the student progressed. However, I also discovered that my structure had to remain flexible to what the student needed in the moment. So being prepared to let go of the initial plan was also vital.

This is much the same in the Pilates encounter, and at the onset of starting the business I felt that structure was missing from many Pilates classes I attended. I don't mean the individual classes, as these were often balanced in the types of movements being performed, but more in the wider journey a student took over a period of time.

This is, of course, more of a challenge when teaching Pilates in groups. So, I decided to make a plan.

Laying a mutual foundation

One of the differences between teaching Pilates in groups and teaching in schools is that Pilates students lack a mutual foundation. A school class has covered the same ground, and integrated specific competencies before meeting you, which is more conducive to leading them forwards in their journey together.

To remedy this, I devised a foundational course that introduced new students to primary mat repertoire and key anatomy concepts, over the course of six classes. But perhaps more importantly, I determined that Mat Foundations would run in groups with a maximum of eight people, to allow space and time for individual feedback and questioning.

I am amazed by the results every time!

The course proves to lay a wonderful foundation where students explore how to perform the exercises safely, more effectively, and learn to recognise my way of explaining things. Plus it has become an excellent enrolment into my elementary (entry level) mat classes, which also take place with a maximum of eight students.

Onwards and upwards

Two tendencies tend to outplay in larger class sizes than this: an individual's growth is either too sudden, with the student failing to properly integrate skills needed for future challenge, or so slow that they become unstimulated and bored.

Plus, when undergoing my training I rarely encountered material in group classes beyond that of an intermediate level, which seemed to hold so many people back from exploring the potential heights of the repertoire.

So, I identified the need to steadily guide my students onwards and upwards in exploring more challenging repertoire at a pace that is right for the individual.

More recently, this led to launching Mat Transitions, a sequel to Foundations where students are safely guided into intermediate repertoire and anatomy concepts. It has been rewarding to see how enthused people have been in the transition to this harder repertoire, and I anticipate a further advanced training course to lead people into an advanced level mat class when the time is right.

Join me next time where I will share about my own commitment to continued growth in the practice and study of Pilates.

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.

Find out more by visiting

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Nov 8 2016 09:00AM

There are spaces on some upcoming pilates classes with our awesome new team member, Matthew.


Our new pilates teacher Matthew is taking enrolment for his next blocks of foundations classes. This is a six week introductory course which enrols students into regular mat classes.

There are 2 courses launching:

On: Saturdays 10:30am

Starting: December 3rd

(only a couple of spaces left)


On: Thursdays 8pm

Starting: January 12th (or thereabouts)

The course costs £65 for the six sessions and covers approximately 16 Pilates exercises as well as some basic anatomy relating to the movements. There are a maximum of 7 students in each group.


There are currently 2 or 3 spaces in Matthew's prenatal group classes which take place on Tuesday evenings from 7-8pm. Each new student takes a brief enrolment session to support their integration into the group. Whilst offering a balanced workout the classes also focus on pelvic floor health, breathing patterns, relaxation techniques, and stretches that support the pregnancy, labour and postpartum recovery.

For more information on these courses please visit or contact Matthew on

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Sep 28 2016 10:00AM

We are extremely excited to announce that the wonderful local pilates teacher, Matthew Atwell, is joining the West Norwood Therapies team and bringing his pilates classes to our premises.

Matthew of The Pilates Education has been a good friend of WNT for some time and we have all successfully referred clients - and gone ourselves - to his small group classes or for one-to-one teaching. He is a natural teacher and is skilled in imparting his knowledge to students. His classes are very empowering and he is careful to ensure you get a firm grasp of the fundamental principles of pilates. This makes the classes especially effective and many people who've done pilates before find they get a deeper understanding with Matthew and therefore better results.

Matthew's classes will begin at WNT on Monday 10th October. You can see more information and the schedule of classes on The Pilates Education website. New students will need to enrol for his Foundations course first - a block of six classes which will be on a Thursday evening or Saturday morning.

Matthew has a special interest in working with women on their pregnancy journey. He runs an excellent pre-natal class on a Tuesday evening and will be starting a post-natal class on a Monday evening from 10th October.

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