Who Am I Today?
Seems like a pretty legit question, right …
“Tell me which muscle to use?”
“Where should I feel this again?”
“Do I teach this first, or that first?”
“Which exercise is best for ____?”
“Is this where we inhale or exhale?”
And so on … and so on … and ….
At first the words resonate as informed. Wow, this person really cares to know a depth of the work beyond put your foot here / push there / voila / finished. It’s certainly a move in the right direction to ask deeper questions, layer by layer, but upon whom does the weight of answering such personal questions fall? How many of the questions you ask (or are asked), both inside and out of the studio, are more crutch than curiosity?
Professionally my teaching objectives have shifted from being the best “educator” to exploring my role as a facilitator of self-discovery. I still teach Pilates, but I’m interested in showing up to a session, or workshop, ready to assist you in your goals by helping to clarify your intentions as you move throughout our time together specifically, and your life generally. I am, however, less sold on telling you exactly how to do that. That’s when my teaching, your time with me, and our mutual experience becomes the crutch that restrains your development. I’d rather you show up and show me the kind of mover you are, honestly and humbly, and us dialogue about the sort of movement you’d like to experience. That’s when I do my best work. That I can help mature. What I can’t be is the person to dictate whom you are … as a mover … as a teacher. That answer is on your end of this relationship. That, my friend, is your work and your exploration. My job is to use my experience to expose you to enough thoughtful stimuli, movement and mindfulness, so that you might successfully begin to evolve your experience with your body, practice, and possibly teaching.
It’s scary to be in that place devoid of why’s, what if’s, and exacting how-to’s. I get it. It’s scary as the client, and it’s scarier as the teacher to be that vulnerable. (There’s a certain felt sense of power in telling a student how do something “correctly” or knowing that you’re doing it “right.”) Really though, what could potentially happen if you took a step into the freedom of not knowing? Standing tall without crutches … lacking ego … just showing up to hold and be a part of the space. There’s a certain levity to not always having to respond with, or settle on, the right answer. That’s the space where creativity and deeper relationships thrive. It’s where you learn to be mindful and present, reacting and responding to what is rather than what might be, or has been. What I’m not suggesting is indifference. In fact quite the opposite. Consistently having “the answer” suggests there’s an end point that has been reached. I think possibly realizing that there’s always some margin of error, a little more something to suss out, and the willingness to just go there is what keeps us invested in the work.
How often is it important to know exactly “which muscle to use?” How often do muscles ever just get used singularly? (Answer - not often.) How important are any of those questions, really? I mean, they might serve as a foundation, but I don’t know about you, I haven’t seen too many clients reach their goals by learning where to inhale and where to exhale throughout an exercise. What I have witnessed are clients making remarkable connections, and self-healing, by exploring and experiencing how breathing can feel … noticing how movements affect muscles … and exploring moving in and out of postures throughout an exercise guided by a teacher’s well thought-out suggestion and a personal desire to have a meaningful experience. (How does it feel different if your pelvis is slightly forward / backward / up-slipped / or tucked in side-lying leg series? What do you notice? Which feels the best? Which intrigues, and invites, more of the muscles you want to the party without having to also squeeze them?) Learning to foster discernment within our client’s and our own body, and reframing the “Where should I feel this??” type-o-question to “Where do you (or even I) feel this?” and "Where might be a beneficial place to feel that?" opens the door for self-actualization and ownership of both the body and movement.
I’m grateful that my clients and peer Instructors trust me to help them along their journey, but I guess what it comes down to is that I don’t want my sessions and workshops to tell you whom you are on Monday … or Tuesday … or even Saturday for that matter. Too often we enter into these sessions (these relationships) expecting to be told we’re right or wrong, some simplified how-to’s, specific protocols, and exactly everything in between. We outsource the work to our crutches, and anticipate being told how to know ourself (and work) better via someone else’s lens. That’s not how experience works. It’s grimier than that. We gotta get into all those uncomfortable spots … those tense spots … those conflicted spots … those overused and vulnerable spots … the sweet spots … even the spots that feel ecstatic … and the person who knows those spots best is YOU. There’s not a single educator out there that can give you those answers, and (quote me here) I call bullsh!t if they say otherwise. What we can facilitate, and request as clients, is a movement experience that influences the body to make deeper connections on its own while harmonizing relationships within and between the body, community, and environment by assisting our students to trust in personal discoveries and the self-awareness of who they are today, while awarding ourself the same independence..
by James Crader