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This is a question that Pilates teachers will need to answer often.

Pilates exercises are effective because they are intelligent and require attention, concentration and disciplined practice over time.  Everyone has the first lesson.  As teachers, we select those exercises that will address the basic skills needed for beginning the regimen.  And we try to give some exercises that will motivate the client to feel challenge and success.

An example is a client who was given a home Pilates exercise program.  She lives in another town and comes in twice a month.  Of course, it would be better if she was able to come two times or more per week, but she is here and she is making a big effort in her life. One of her home exercises was Rolling Like a Ball.  At the beginning of her private, she is asked if she has any questions.  She was not sure about a few exercises and one was the Rolling Like a Ball.  A few cues and suggestions for better performance were given and she improved.  This should have been good.  However, her concern was whether or not she had been doing them wrong and would she ever get better and a few tears.

On this day, the woman had presented in emotional distress that she was doing her best to contain.  The rolling was not her issue, but it was a reflection of the other things in her life that were not “rolling along smoothly”.  This is where is takes trust and empathy to motivate and encourage.  Sometimes life may be short of perfect, but one hour of letting go of the outside worries can be a respite.

She was reminded that beginning the practice was the first step.  It was pointed out that she clearly has been practicing, she is becoming aware of areas that need improvement, and she is gaining control.  I added a few new exercises that are part of the planned program development.  These were selected for relative ease for her current ability and complimentary to the current list.  She knows that the Swan is important but her neck is not strong for good form.  Another skill building exercise was substituted that would be more effective for her current mobility and strength.

After class, we had a moment to talk. I shared that my personal practice has needed continual adaptations due to illness, circumstances, and the fact that after 30+ years of teaching, my body speaks to me in new ways.  This is natural and Pilates is a tool for living an active life while we experience the nuances of life. We never really get to perfection we work toward our daily best.

I was quoted by one of my students as saying, “An advanced Pilates exercise is not a collection of hard tricks, and it is an advanced mind applied to the basic exercises.”

I need to remember this one.