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Pilates Teaching Tips 3

This is the third in a series of articles by BASI principal instructor Theo van der Riet, dealing with Pilates teaching techniques and concepts. In this newsletter we’ll be looking at tactile teaching.

Tactile teaching is probably the most effective way of communication between client and instructor. The exchange of energy and information from one individual to the next through physical touch is a powerful teaching tool that can be utilized in a studio environment. This is however a very sensitive issue and the interpretation from both parties should be exact and assertive.

A lot of clients are unaware of the fact that tactile teaching is a very normal occurrence in a Pilates class, and therefore often surprised when their teacher places their hands on them. Always ask permission to touch the client or make them aware of the fact that tactile cueing is a normal way of teaching in Pilates. In many cases people can be extremely uncomfortable when being touched. Be respectful of the fact and use alternative ways to communicate the same information.

Using your hands to teach or placing a client in a position gives valuable feedback to the client, sometimes what words cannot explain. I’m often surprised to notice how people respond to physical touch. In modern living physical touch between people is not that common as one might think and you’ll be surprised to see how people open up and respond once you’ve placed your hands on them.

When making tactile corrections place your hand firmly e.g. on the shoulders or back and gently yet firmly guide the client to where you need them to be. The touch from hand to e.g. shoulder gives valuable information to the client and if the physical touch is soft and uncertain, the client will definitely pick it up and respond accordingly. Be very certain and exact when using tactile cueing to communicate effectively. Also don’t solely rely on ‘hands- on’ teaching to get the information across.

Clients absorb and digest information differently and it is important to establish in which way your client learn best. E.g. you get visual learners, people that need to see everything. In many cases you have to demonstrate quite a bit for this type of client. Secondly you get audio learners, for this type of client you can just verbally cue them through the movement and they will understand. Thirdly are the tactile learners – feeling it. Both from the instructor and within the client’s body. Very often this type of learners is clients that are in tune with their bodies and surroundings. Most people are a combination of all – visual, audio and tactile learners.

Your physical guidance from one movement to the next is the exchange of energy and experienced instructors can pick up if the client is recruiting the right muscles for a specific movement by just placing their hands on the right spot. Physical touch also promotes muscle recruitment and is often used in the therapeutic environment to retrain patients and activate certain muscle groups. This however is a specialized field and should be examined on a much deeper level that is being discussed here. Also ensure that you are well aware of the legal aspects of physical touch in an exercise environment.

Most often than not, successful teaching is a combination of all the aspects mentioned above. Find balance and the best way that specific client learn best and you’ll get phenomenal results.

Be sensitive and open for what your client want and need and teach accordingly.

Have fun teaching.

Theo van der Riet – Botha
BASI Pilates™ Principal Instructor

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