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Is Less More? Balancing Guidance and Independence

Is Less More? Balancing Guidance and Independence

“Not too little, not too much: there safety lies.”
― Euripides, Medea

Nowadays, in the world of Pilates, there’s a tendency of teaching while focused on the least amount of intervention with the client as possible. In other words, the recommendation is that you should guide the student as little as possible so that they, by themselves, will learn the correct technique by practicing.

“Less is more” has become a popular tendency. Less touch, less words.

Is less more?

Mies Van der Rohe was a brilliant architect who proposed the idea of “less is more” by developing a form of construction with simple lines. That concept was transferred to the world of art, making creators achieve surprisingly artistic pieces because they are beautifully austere.

Simplicity is a point of arrival, never a point of departure. For example: Picasso, at the beginning of his artistic career, made paintings of enormous complexity and when one looks at his latest drawings, they are surprisingly simple. His last drawing is a self-portrait that seems to be made in a single stroke. That simplicity is the result of having come a long way, and that little by little he was able to synthesize it in a few brush strokes on a canvas. As Leonardo Da Vinci said: Simplicity is the greatest sophistication. Now, it would be very absurd to teach someone who knows nothing about painting, to paint like Picasso in his last stage. The painting teacher must intervene and correct so that the student learns the correct technique. As a result, many years later, that student can make his or her own synthesis – getting rid of what they don’t need.

Good teachers are the ones who remain engraved in our hearts because they were able to make us see when we were wrong. Some harder, others more loving, but good teachers always find a way to intervene, to influence our way of executing a movement or conceptualizing an idea.

Returning to physical activity and paraphrasing Joseph Pilates, we could say that each person is the architect of their own happiness, and good physical fitness is the first requirement. To achieve this state of emotional health, it is necessary that a teacher who has worked hard and has years of training acts as a guide to avoid undesirable problems. In the world of Pilates, one can observe that the people who sign up to take classes are very different from each other: people who are experienced in Pilates, people who do physical activity sporadically, people with spinal problems, those recovering from surgeries, elderly people who have never done physical activity. In this universe of students (just to give a few examples), Pilates teachers must function and try to give the best of themselves. We could say that if a teacher has six clients in their studio, that teacher will have to be six teachers simultaneously as they will have to guide each of them within each of their own possibilities and ensure that they enjoy the journey of taking care of their own body. If the students have any limitations, encourage them to overcome them, and fundamentally don’t let them get injured! Attentive and committed guidance is necessary.

The concept ‘less is more’ may be applicable to advanced students who need very few corrections, but they still need them. We all need them! Guiding is a way of loving responsibly, and sharing one’s own experience to help the student have a better, healthier life. Our body, after all, is the result of our movements, physically, mentally and emotionally, our work of art.

As Leo Buscaglia said: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”.


A Second-Generation Pilates Teacher by Lolita San Miguel, Third Generation Romana Classical Pilates by Pilates Center Las Vegas, Pilates physical therapy certification program @ UNLV by DKP and PMAC.

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