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Teach for Autonomy: How to Help Clients be Indepen...

Teach for Autonomy: How to Help Clients be Independent in Pilates

We should all be autonomous (independent).

As teachers, we should shift our focus forward and think of ways to teach our students to be autonomous in their Pilates practice. We should incorporate ways to get them to a place of independence from their very first sessions.

Autonomy is a way to permit your students to explore, to ask questions, and to choose their own journey.
Autonomy is knowledge. Autonomy is strength. Autonomy is empowering. Autonomy is freedom.

Any teacher can create this type of limitless inspiration with their students.

Start with the Basics: Body Shapes & Movements

There are four basic body movements:
• Flexion
• Extension
• Lateral Flexion (Side Bending)
• Rotation
As humans, we need to be able to move our bodies in all the ways possible, for as long as possible, while adding strength work to help us fight against gravity (Can I get a tall spine, please? Hell, yes!).

As a teacher, you need to know and acknowledge that all bodies are different. Understand that each body will look different in each movement and recognize that no ideal shape exists.

Once you’ve put aside any social media-induced ideals about what each Pilates exercise should look like or what a Pilates body should look like, you can begin to teach every type of body. You can focus on creating autonomy for all your students.

Teach People, Not Exercises: Create Opportunities for Knowledge in Your Private Sessions

Observe your students as they move in their sessions. Watch how the body responds to the different basic body movements (mentioned above). Ask yourself how you could help your student connect to the movements in the exercises by supporting or challenging them.

• Do they need something under their head?

• Do they need a pad under their hips?

• Do they need a smaller range of motion?

• Do they need to do part of the movement before you add on?

• Do you need to move them to a different piece of equipment?

• Would a seated or standing variation provide more stability, access to more movement, and create more of a connection?

Provide your student an option to try, observe the movements, and ask your student for feedback. If you placed a prop under their head, you could ask, “Is this option more supportive for your head/neck?”

Allow your students a silent count of 5 seconds to think about the question you’ve asked them before rephrasing or moving on. Pausing allows your student to observe what has changed in their body and gives them time to communicate it back.

If they don’t have an answer, it’s okay. It’s not a test! Many students may come to you without ever having been asked to give feedback about themselves to their teacher. They might need to learn how to communicate what has changed / what is different. But this is where we start to build autonomy!

Take What You Learned and Keep Going

Focus forward. Remind yourself and your student that bodies move and feel different every day, and that’s okay. Be curious about exploring different options within an exercise and allow your student to be curious.

Part of teaching should be focused on learning to be comfortable asking questions and receiving feedback. When you feel comfortable in this new style of building autonomy through communication and knowledge, you can take it to the next step and start applying it to classes.

You may not be able to stop a class and ask everyone how they are doing, but you can take the concepts of observing and adjusting and apply them to larger groups. Once you know your students, you can put the props they’ll need for class next to them so they can grab them when they need them.

Create an environment where students choose their own journey.


Rachel Piper runs a classical Pilates training program infused with accessibility & creativity while having a foundation built around unique learning styles. www.sizediversepilates.com Insta: size_diverse_pilates YT: SizeDiversePilates

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