Stop that negative talk. Stop talking altogether. Yes – you heard me.
“Navel to spine,” “Draw your belly in – just a bit more,” “Can you become smaller around your waist?” How many times have you said these things as a teacher? How many times have your clients heard them? And maybe they thought, “I can ́t draw my belly in any more than I am. And where is it, anyway? I can ́t breathe – I ́m actually about to faint.”
Do we tell our calves to tighten before we walk? Do we say to our biceps “tighten before we row on the reformer “? I know it may be hard to hear and reflect on because we think we teach a certain way for a reason, but maybe we’re just using words we heard in our teacher training. Perhaps the words are a legacy from someone else. Stop for a moment and think – what do these words mean? Words matter. They. Do.
Working with anyone, especially mothers who have recently given birth, larger clients, or young girls – do they need to hear that they should be smaller? Does anyone?
Let me give you two examples: One girl I worked with had little core strength and went into an arch all the time. But instead of verbal cueing, I put my hand in her lower back when she performed an exercise and said, “Keep contact with my hand all the time.” After a few weeks, her arch had disappeared, her strength had increased, and not a single time did I tell her to “become smaller around your waist” or “pull in your stomach.” My intention with my silent tactile cueing wasn’t only to change her movement but to gain her trust, to make her connect not only with herself and the mat – but with me.
Another client confided in me after a few sessions that she had been battling an eating disorder for years and was happy. I never focused on her looks, but rather on how the movement felt in her body. Can you imagine how she would have felt if I had told her that breathing and core exercises are to make her tight and flat around the belly? And not what they are actually about – learning to breathe and connect with oneself.
If we use words focused on bodies becoming smaller, it becomes a constant reminder of an unattainable idealized world without flaws – and one without the beautiful range of human diversity. Let ́s question the negativity of the words we use and focus on using movement to build healthy and happy individuals, who walk out of our classes feeling proud and free.
Self-evaluation is one of the hardest things we can do as teachers. But it’s necessary for any profession, especially one where we work so closely with people. So let’s ask ourselves:
“Am I using my hands enough to teach and show movement and make a connection? Am I helping my clients to feel encouraged and empowered? Do I have the vocabulary to help people connect with their core?” “Do my clients know where their core is?” If they don’t, maybe you should use a class to go back to basics and teach them.
Talking less made me a better teacher. It gave me more energy. I stopped getting tired of hearing my voice and found new ways of being present.
So, I challenge you. Be silent. Step back. See what happens – and see if the movement of your clients changes because of it.