“Am I doing this right?”... As an instructor and a forever-student I’ve been on both sides of this question, but what is REALLY being asked here?
Generally - as long as there isn’t pain - I think people are “right enough” to KEEP MOVING and allow more instruction to come as they move.
Brand new clients usually require more firm, black-and-white instruction. Instead of overwhelming them with my woo woo “there is no wrong” philosophy- I’ll usually answer with “you’re doing great!”...and then sprinkle in some positively phrased directions to keep them moving with confidence.
If I hear the “am I doing it right” question from someone I’ve been working with for a while, it helps to figure out what they REALLY mean in order to gain clarity and avoid frustration. Below are some of the different meanings I’ve discovered behind the “am I doing this right” question and how I address them:
This is new & I feel awkward
Assuming things will be effortless and beautiful the first time we try them is unrealistic. If an exercise is brand new to a client there is a good chance it will feel awkward and even look like a hot mess. This is part of the process of learning and progressing in the practice. In these cases I will gently ask my client, “isn’t this your first time doing this exercise?”...and then remind them of the first time they tried short spine, or some other life event for the first time. I’m also mindful not to fill a session with 100% new content which can sometimes discourage or frustrate clients both new and experienced.
I don't FEEL this
As someone who feels all the feels, this one is sometimes tough for me as an instructor. I've been a mover all my life, but through teaching I’m reminded that this is not the case for a lot of people and some clients are even somewhat disconnected from their physical bodies. If I’m lucky to get the feedback from a client that they don’t FEEL anything in the intended area of focus, then I have enough tools in my toolbox to offer alternative variations or different cues to help stimulate...something. But sometimes they still don’t feel anything- and you know what- THAT'S OK! As a Pilates instructor it is my job to teach exercises to the best of my ability, not to shame people into feeling a sensation in a particular muscle. I want people to feel successful after a session and proud of themselves for getting curious about how their bodies move. Just because they don’t FEEL it, doesn’t necessarily mean its wrong.
Do I look good?
Pilates is not a performance or part of an audition for a major dance company. It doesn't actually matter how ugly or pretty we do the exercises. That being said, some people really need validation to keep moving, and once I learn this about a client I will (usually) give it to them. Ultimately I just want people to move, but if possible I’d like them to feel good about it too.
Is this what you wanted?
Sometimes a client will misunderstand my instruction and start moving in a way that I did not intend. Depending on where they go with it I’ll often allow them to carry on intuitively as it can be a pathway to inspiration. Sometimes though... I’ll make a face (enter smirky-face emoji here). In this case if the client asks me if what they’re doing is right, I’ll be honest and say something like, “truthfully its not what I intended but what you’re doing is great and I’m inspired. Keep moving.”