The Journey of Authenticity in Teaching Pilates: Why Being "Too Nice" Might Be Just Right
By Michael King
From my early days at the London School of Contemporary Dance to managing the Pilates studio at the Houston Ballet Company, I've had the privilege of working with some of the most renowned names in Pilates. Whether it was with Carola Trier and Romana Kryzanowska in New York or various talented instructors across the U.S., I've absorbed a wealth of knowledge that has influenced my own style of teaching.
The "Too Nice" Conundrum
Recently, one of my clients in Greece told me, "You're too nice for Greece; you need to make yourself more scarce to be appreciated here." This got me thinking. Over the years, I've often heard I'm "too nice," as if kindness and effectiveness can't coexist. But can they?
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Romana was stern but passionate. Michael from the Fletcher Studio was more relaxed. Diane, another memorable Fletcher teacher, struck a balance between the two. These varied approaches taught me one thing: a client will resonate with different teaching styles. Some need a strict hand to guide them, while others respond to a more relaxed and fun approach.
Why People Really Come to You
I've always believed that people may initially come to you because of the word "Pilates”, but whether they come back to you is a very large part because of you. Your style, your personality, and your unique way of making exercise a good experience for them is the key. Coming also from a background in group exercise, my primary goal has always been to encourage people to move and to have fun doing it. And after 45 years, I don't intend to change that approach.
The Intersection of Fun and Respect
Some may argue that a relaxed, fun approach won't garner the same level of respect as a stern demeanour. To that, I say: that respect comes in many forms. Respect comes from meeting clients and students where they are and guiding them to where they want to be. It comes from the relationships you build and the lives you impact. I certainly have experienced that some people have openly said I am not a “serious” teacher, or that I don’t really teach Pilates. But when I look at what they teach they are typically doing exactly the same thing I do, but I simply don’t do it their way.
Teaching Philosophy: Breath and Alignment
In my classes, I stress the importance of finding your breath and understanding your body's alignment. Instead of enforcing a strict set of movements, I encourage students to find the right way for their bodies to achieve each exercise's goals, acknowledging their own limitations and capabilities.
The Final Message
So, if you find yourself doubting whether your "too nice" personality fits into the Pilates world, remember: there’s room for everyone. Authenticity resonates. Don't dilute your style or your personality; they're what make you unique and effective. The most vital component in teaching is to be unapologetically yourself because that's what will build your reputation and leave a lasting impact.