Voltaire is credited with this quote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” And to piggyback on that thought, John Steinbeck said, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
As Pilates teachers, and especially as new teachers, we tend to look for everything to be “just so.” Where are the hands, pointing front or back? Are the feet in a Pilates stance or hip-width and parallel? Is the lower back flattened into the mat, or is there a gentle curve? We could go on and on with various examples and probably cause an argument or two, precisely to Mr. Voltaire and Mr. Steinbeck’s point. When we start insisting on things to be one way or “perfect” in Pilates, we stifle progress and alienate a large part of our clientele.
In teacher training programs worldwide, you receive a manual. That manual usually contains setup actions (what do you want me to do?), movement patterns (how do you want me to do it?), and finally, cueing (how can I do it better?). These are crucial for a new teacher to learn HOW to teach effectively. Along with the manual, you are also tested on your understanding of these teaching skills. And that’s where we can lose our way a bit. You are expected to say “ABC” when teaching, and you are expected to say “XYZ” as the client moves. And if you don’t? A less than “perfect” score or grade is achieved (play the sad music).
But this structure, although faulty to a degree, is necessary for new teachers. You must have a framework to teach from, and it must be consistent and easy to understand. You are given the exact words to say, expected to repeat them. This is crucial for the new teacher, but it is also crucial for the new student. Most people learn best when they know a sequence and an order. After repetition, their brains and bodies embrace the familiarity and welcome what they have come to know.
But as a teacher continues to teach more bodies (i.e., gain more experience), another understanding should arise. Not everyone is going to perform a perfect roll-up. Not everyone is going to love the sidekick series. And certainly, no one is going to ever really love the teaser, wherever you choose to teach it in the studio. And is that going to be the end of the
world oops workout? Because that final picture of the exercise (just like the one in your manual) isn’t achieved, do we continue to insist on perfection? Or do we let it be “good”?
From a client’s perspective, you must put yourself in their shoes. Think about your teachers (Pilates or otherwise) who make you feel “good” or make you feel accomplished. Then think about the teachers you have not had such a great experience with. Most of the time, it comes down to how they encourage (or discourage) you, what words they use (positive or negative), and especially in Pilates – do they just let you MOVE?
I am not suggesting that you just let the client do whatever they want; there needs to be structure, and they must be working safely. But can you let go of the idea of “perfection” and reward your client with being “good”? My teacher, Bob Liekens, had a favorite saying: “Don’t worry, it is just Pilates, and there is always tomorrow.” Be happy with “good,” and progress and achievement will follow.