By Kristen Matthews
I made the decision to become a Pilates instructor because I wanted to help people. I fell in love with Pilates the moment I was introduced to it, and felt like I’d found the most ideal job when I made the decision to teach. I never could picture myself sitting behind a desk at a corporate job. With movement-based activities being a big part of my childhood, Pilates seemed to fit perfectly into my life. I truly felt that I had found my calling. What I didn’t expect were the thoughts that surfaced one day of “I’m only just a Pilates instructor.”
After eight years of teaching I found myself wanting more. I kept thinking to myself, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I making a difference?” After 20 sessions with a client who still was not able to set up for footwork, I would wonder, “Am I getting through?” “Are they learning anything from me?”
I took time to speak with instructors whom I respect to pick their brains on what it means to them to be a Pilates instructor. The talks helped momentarily, but in the end I still had the same feelings. I even toyed around with going back to school to get a master’s degree, but decided that I wouldn’t be going back for the right reasons.
Who knew that one comment from a student would change my outlook on what I do? Recently a client told me that teachers are teaching even when they don’t realize they are, and that I have been one of those teachers to her. She’s leaning Pilates, yes, but because of my influence she’s also now getting massages, seeing a nutritionist and is very aware of changes she wants to make in her life. It was an “a-ha” moment for me as a Pilates instructor, realizing that what I do goes beyond the 60 minutes I spend with my clients. Our influence goes beyond the actual technique that we teach. By instilling the work of Joseph Pilates and his principles, we are instilling life-changing benefits in other ways as well.
Joseph Pilates wanted his work to be integrated into people’s lives, and it’s clear to me that he was talking about more than the actual act of doing the movements. We all know the benefits of having a strong core, as well as what to do to get the core strong. The principles that we use to guide our clients through a session can be applied to their day-to-day lives as well. In an hour we may teach them how to breathe, concentrate, get centered, find control, work on precision, or flow. Each and every one of these bleeds into life outside of their lesson. Think about the mom of three kids who comes for a lesson. The obvious reason she is exercising is to look good. But maybe she needs the hour for herself to get centered, to breathe or just flow. I strongly believe that when people take care of themselves they are better prepared to care for others. So maybe my client after 20 sessions has no idea how to set up for footwork. That’s OK because I do know that she feels great after an hour of Pilates.
There’s also the client who, because Pilates starts to make her feel so good, wants to continue down that path. She may seek out ways to do that and look to you as her teacher for guidance. This is what happened to my client, and how in turn she told me I was her teacher even when I didn’t realize I was. Because of the path I have chosen to go down, which has been very influenced by my experience as a Pilates instructor, I inadvertently helped guide her down a healthier path. I was very aware of the information I was giving her, but never thought what that actually meant.
I am very grateful for this “a-ha” moment and that I realized that we, as Pilates teachers, are in a position to pass along this amazing methodology and what goes along with it. I have made decisions in my life that propelled me down a path I didn’t necessarily see for myself, but I say this in the most positive way. I am very lucky to be in the position that I am as a teacher. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristen Matthews has explored her passion for movement through many years of gymnastics, diving and dance. She earned her teaching certification from Power Pilates in New York in 2003, and she continues to expand her knowledge of the body, studying anatomy with Irene Dowd and Thai massage in Thailand. She most recently completed a 200-hour yoga certification.
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