As Pilates teachers, we hold a sacred responsibility to create a space where movement is both healing and empowering. This commitment to our client's well-being is foundational, and part of that foundation is understanding the importance of consent in our practice—something I was recently reminded of in a profound way.
Teaching a class for a friend yesterday, I encountered a group of new faces, each bringing their own unique history to the mat. In these situations, my instinct is to guide and correct as I have always done. However, when I approached a participant to adjust her posture, her startled reaction was a stark reminder of the invisible lines we must be careful not to cross.
After class, she shared that due to past personal experiences, she needed to build trust before allowing physical touch. This was a potent lesson in the importance of always seeking explicit consent before entering someone's personal space, regardless of our intentions.
This principle is vital for all clients, but it takes on a different hue with those we are familiar with—those who have given us their trust and consent over time. For these individuals, our presence in their practice is a known quantity, a familiar guide along their Pilates journey. With these clients, we've developed a shorthand; a verbal cue here, a nod there, signals understood between us that have been established through a foundation of trust and respect.
"I'll be right beside you," we might say, or, "Let's refine this movement together." These phrases serve as a bridge, allowing us to maintain the flow of the class while also respecting the autonomy of our clients. They know us, they anticipate our guidance, and there is an implicit understanding that has grown from consistent, respectful interactions.
Yet, even with this understanding, consent is never a static agreement. It is fluid and should be reaffirmed, ensuring that the client's comfort is always prioritized. It's important to remember that each day can be different for a client, and what was comfortable in one session may not be in another. Therefore, maintaining open lines of communication is key.
In every session, whether it's someone's first or hundredth, our approach should be the same: ask first, touch later. Consent is not a one-time checkbox but a continuous conversation, a respect for personal boundaries that must be upheld with every interaction.
To my fellow Pilates teachers, let's remember that the trust we build is precious. It enables us to guide our clients towards greater strength and mobility, but it's also fragile. Let us handle it with care, grace, and professionalism, always mindful of the consent that underpins the transformative work we do. Because in the end, the integrity of our practice is measured not just by the physical flexibility we foster, but by the respect and empathy we demonstrate each day.