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Teaching vs Demonstrating

In the purist classical Pilates world it is a sacrilege to demonstrate a class. Recently in a closed Pilates forum on Facebook the question was asked whether a teacher should join the group or not. Some responses were very judgemental towards the Sometimes-sayers but mostly it was a resolute NO. That made me thinking about the why and how.

Joseph Pilates apparently never demonstrated the Pilates method to his apprentices or clients. Hard to believe that everyone immediately understood what he meant so let's take that with a pinch of salt. It is however the explanation of the Purist teachers that when you teach you don't demonstrate because you need to stay true to the source aka the Joe Pilates' way.

Mind and body connection

When teaching Pilates you are instructing the clients what they should be doing. Setting them up in technique, making them move and cueing them. Basically you don't want to perform a live YouTube video whereby the teacher is doing the work and the class follows like a flock of sheep. Another reason for not demonstrating is that Pilates is a mind AND body connection, meaning that someone coming to a class is supposed to switch on mentally and count, breath and concentrate throughout the session.

However, there is a bigger world outside of the Pilates bubble. Most group classes in fitness clubs are based on a leader showing the group the way. Usually on a platform so everyone can see what the teacher is doing and the clients copy his actions. I have joined many group fitness classes over the years and found it very inspirational to see someone taking the lead. It made me work harder and switch on because I wanted to achieve what he is doing. I also never felt I was at home watching a YouTube video.

Mix and match

In my training days I was told not to demonstrate for the reasons mentioned above. The only exception my teacher once made was leading and joining a silent class of apprentices which made us concentrate whilst we had this great example next to us.

I am teaching as a contractor in a variety of studios where I see clients on a one-off basis or more regularly. In addition I teach my own classes and privates. Over time I have adapted my teaching style to the group in front of me. In bigger classes where I teach occasionally I prefer to combine demonstration and cueing because I know what they normally see and I am not the one disturbing that flow. In regular spots I tend to cue only with the odd demo to get the flow going and to show where my clients should be.

For my own group classes which are small I mix and match. I teach and cue only but sometimes I lead and demonstrate which my clients love. They are not lying around and just watch me, they are very much engaged and feel inspired. In privates I rarely demonstrate unless it is to show off ;)

Holistic view

I dislike judgemental Pilates people. Unfortunately there are a lot of them in the Pilates world. Teachers who know best because they have trained with X, Y and Z and they have spend X-amount of money so they must be right. I feel quit fortunate to have finished my academic degree years ago in which I learned to approach a holistic view towards certain social issues and not trying to be biased if someone has a different opinion. Oh, and in daily life I also learned not to be nasty.

In my teacher journey I am developing a teaching style that tries to stay true the source but can adapt to the clients in front of me if I think it helps them to work harder which includes demonstrating. Classical Pilates is not so black and white and there is no right or wrong.


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Marco Dingemans is a qualified Classical Pilates instructor

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