Returning to Classical

Last month I posted about the classical mat order of Pilates. In February I took a deep dive into the lengthy classical reformer order. I had never really been introduced to an order for Pilates exercises. My initial training emphasized making sure workouts were balanced in all planes of motion (which usually guarantees you work all the major muscle groups). This method leaves a tremendous amount of creativity up to the instructor on how to manage the flow of the class and can ultimately be effective and fun. As a former ballet dancer, I looked at it like choreography; how was I going to flow from one exercise to the other, how could I keep my students engaged and excited? While this was fun to a point, it was also stress inducing ... sometimes my planned class would be too short or too long forcing me to make adjustments on the spot, taking my focus away from what my students were actually doing in that moment.

In taking a step back and familiarizing myself with this classical order, I expected to understand form and function better. I wanted to know the "whys" and "hows" behind the exercises. When I started taking ballet seriously I felt the same way- I needed someone to dissect movement with me in order to find the coordination in my own body and be able to teach it to others. As expected, classical Pilates has connected me on a much deeper level to my practice which I am able to transfer into my teaching. What I did not expect is the sense of calmness it has also brought me, especially when working with private clients. I don't have to worry about what exercise to do next because it's right there in the order (and if that one isn't suitable I can just skip to the next).

As I began to integrate the classical order into my sessions with private clients and group classes, I was afraid they would grow bored of the same order every time but I have experienced just the opposite! I have gotten more positive feedback on my group classes than ever before and my private clients love it as well. What also helps is knowing that I am teaching Pilates in the way it was meant to be taught, so even if the exercises feel awkward, foreign, or just plain difficult at first, I know my clients will leave class feeling lengthened and strengthened. Having an order lays the groundwork to build strength as well, working toward the more advanced exercises. I have already seen drastic improvement in several clients because we are now able to work with deliberate intention.

As an instructor who wants to teach movement on an individual level, I think this re-education is one of the best things I could have done for my career. Part of being a successful and well-liked fitness instructor is commanding the room with confidence. My history of teaching ballet for 10+ years gave me the confidence to teach a room filled with students, but I also had 10+ years of ballet training to back me up. Understanding the roots of Pilates has increased my confidence in the Pilates studio tremendously and I can already tell that my students respond to it as well, even if it is on more subconscious level.


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