One of the common frustrations I notice Pilates practitioners and student teachers dealing with comes from trying to get a client to move their body in a particular way. It might be driven by the need to protect a joint structure, or to place the body in such a way that they target muscles that aren’t firing. It’s sometimes due to steering clear of painful ROM or a necessity due to a particular condition like pregnancy or osteoporosis. It might even be due to boredom…but that’s a subject for a future post. A properly trained instructor understands these things and can modify the choreography of a Pilates exercise accordingly.
But many times they are frustrated because the instructor actually believes that the choreography of the movement (Classic or Contemporary) is somehow of a ‘perfect nature’, that it must be done as documented and cannot be changed.
…which is absolute crap.
The human body is designed to move in many different ways and no limited series of movements can address it’s needs for mobility (ie strength + flexibility) and an improved nervous system. If we only stick to the repertoire we have in Joseph’s 34 Mat Exercises from his Return to Life, or the repertoire passed down to us from his first generation teachers (which, to be honest, might really be a game of Chinese Whispers at best), then we are missing out on the real amazing things about Pilates: It’s a method! Eve Gentry made that very clear when she is quoted as asking practitioners “Do you want to be a teacher or a conveyor belt?”
Below are a few ideas I use and pass on to my students about the mindset necessary when choosing to do a choreography as recorded or to modify it. It’s not an exhaustive list and I hope you’ll write back with your ideas.
TIPS TO DRIVE YOUR CHOREOGRAPHY
1. Address the clients needs and ability.
If they are in pain or at risk, if they have a weakness or imbalance change the choreography.
2. What are you trying to achieve?
The standard movement might be just fine as it is. But it’s possible your client has other pressing needs. Prioritise those first.
3. What is it about the standard movement that needs to be done?
If you can figure that out, it’s possible you can retain it’s focus even while modifying it.
4. Is the movement in the right place?
Though learning is very seldom linear, some movements are better done early in the workout while others are generally reserved for later. However, if I can get a client or class warmed up in an alternative way, maybe The Hundred would be AWESOME done at the end…food for thought.
5. Does the client need to do this or do you need to teach it?
Another way to say this is “Is your client bored or are you?” Many times we go to conferences and workshops, getting very excited about a remembered or new exercise. We then return and suddenly every client ‘needs’ to do it. Be sure that they actually need to do it.
6. Change limb placement to challenge their brains.
I get picky about a clients’ limb placement, where their legs go, where their hands are placed, etc.. And not only because it might be what we’ve decided is best for that day. Sometimes I want someone to be challenged to make their body do what they tell it to. Joseph was clear that he wanted people not to be the slaves to their reflexive actions, to be the masters of their bodies. So when I change an arm placement or slow the pace in The Hundred during a class, it’s because I want that same intention for my clientele.
What are some tips YOU want to share?