Since we have published our review of Joanne’s workshop JEMS Functional Foundations for Pilates Teachers: Dynamic Movement Principles for Work, Sport and Life we have received numerous inquiries for further information and workshop dates. We decided to go to the source and ask:
Who is Joanne Elphinston?
That’s quite a tricky philosophical question to begin with!
I was born and raised in Australia, and after a wonderful five years working in Honolulu, transplanted to the UK in 1996.
I am and always have been an educator. My first clear memory of teaching is at age 6 – other kids wanted to know how I drew people who weren’t stick figures. Very little has changed – I’m still compelled to share my discoveries and experiences, both with other professionals and with clients, so that same six year old is alive and well all these years later.
Funnily enough, as a therapist I now draw stick figures all the time.
I was a fitness instructor, a swimming teacher, a volleyball coach, and then a physiotherapist. The same theme ran through all of these activities for me – beautiful, effortless movement, expressed with joy, confidence and enthusiasm, whether the person was a five year old swimmer, an eighteen year old athlete or an eighty year old war veteran at the repatriation hospital where I held my first post as a young physiotherapist.
When I eventually crossed the threshold of a university again it was to study philosophy of music, which empowered me not with what to think, but how to think. That is one of the greatest gifts that education can impart.
In the ensuing years, I have explored movement optimisation for both rehabilitation and performance. I was an external tutor for London Contemporary Dance School for several years, developed musician injury prevention education for the Royal Welsh College of Music, and have spent more than a decade working with the National Dance Company of Wales on performance enhancement. I have been Head of Performance Movement for the British Olympic Association, while at the same time teaching fun applications for learning disabilities, pediatrics and falls prevention for the elderly. I consult to professional and world class athletes and sporting organisations, and work with chronic pain patients through holistic methods.
Who am I? I’m just an inquisitive person who is fascinated with our bodies and their amazing capacity, and who believes that with the right support we have a natural drive towards positive healthy movement.
What led you to transform from being a physiotherapist to physiotherapist who teaches through movement into the art of movement…?
This is easier. There has been no transformation – this is who I always was, well before I was ever a physiotherapist
I have always seen movement in quite a specific way, because in fact it was often all I could see. My exceptional short sightedness as a child went undetected because I compensated so well by recognising people’s movement instead of their faces.
Many of your readers will no doubt have experienced the sensations of movement in their bodies while viewing other people in motion, and this is something that I also have deeply felt since I was a child. It is the route through which I first understand what I am seeing – my body understands immediately, and then my brain articulates it through the framework of biomechanics, neurology and psychology.
The art of beautiful movement cannot help but include the mind and emotional landscape of a person. Separating our “selves” from our bodies leads to self-consciousness, however self-awareness arises from integration. This is as much a part of my movement journey as any physical aspect.
So rather than transformation, it was evolution that has brought me to this point, and the kindness and interest of a number of people for whom I have great respect and gratitude. Suzanne Scott, Andy Nice, Sharon Thompson and Monika Zarebska have all encouraged me to share my work with the Pilates community, and their enthusiasm and support has been fundamental to my decision to further develop education and resources to meet this interest.
What is JEMS and what is its purpose?
JEMS (Joanne Elphinston Movement Systems) is a movement enhancement approach for people of all ages, walks of life, occupations and interests. It is a systematic, effective method which targets a person’s efficiency and ease of motion, and addresses physical performance as well as injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Although based on the integration of neuroscience, biomechanics, motor control and psychology, JEMS is a holistic approach which teaches people to explore and uncover new movement possibilities and open new pathways. It is less cognitive and more sensory in its approach, using a variety of methods to access people’s movement potential in the simplest ways possible.
JEMS is about… engagement and exploration; warmth and accessibility; simplicity and clarity; science and art. It is about moving beautifully, no matter who you are.
How would Pilates Teachers benefit from attending a JEMS course?
The Pilates teachers who have attended courses that I have taught so far have been highly motivated, well informed, and really interested in finding links between their work to the functionality of normal movement.
JEMS brings a new perspective to the understanding of integrated, controlled but elastic dynamic movement. It extends the concept of control beyond core stability, and into understanding the Pillars of Functional Stability, the collection of factors which work together as the human body moves. These include mobility, balance, neuromuscular responses and dynamic control.
Designed specifically for Pilates teachers, bodyworkers and health and fitness professionals, the JEMS Health, Fitness and Wellbeing course equips practitioners with expanded skills and a greater understanding of movement biomechanics and muscle function in practical, easy-to-understand and immediately relatable ways.
Extending body knowledge in this manner engages clients through optimising movement performance in meaningful ways, and in more accurately understanding, accommodating and addressing their common injury presentations.
With its philosophy of moving beautifully with enjoyment, self-awareness and efficiency, JEMS is ideal for those practitioners wishing to extend their skills into functional, natural movement.
Are you planning to create a certification course for Pilates Teachers?
The enthusiasm shown from participants after our last course has certainly pointed me in this direction. We are planning a JEMS pathway for Health, Fitness and Wellbeing Professionals which would be ideal for Pilates teachers. The JEMS for Pilates Teachers course in Bristol in June hosted by the Pilates Foundation, and our own London JEMS for Health, Fitness and Wellbeing Professionals course in July both represent the start point for this. I’ll certainly keep PilatesTree up to date with developments!
What does the future hold for JEMS?
Goodness, what doesn’t it hold?
The exciting and somewhat daunting aspect of JEMS is that it applies in so many contexts. This means that my “to do” list keeps expanding!
More and more people in different parts of the world are switching on to JEMS, so there is a need to train professionals to a high standard. Teaching, resource development and support for the growing JEMS community will continue to inspire me. Providing more pathways to certification, and more ways to access JEMS material is pressingly important as demand grows.
I love that more and more JEMS practitioners are doing beautiful things with their clients with heart and integrity, and then coming back to me shining with enthusiasm and stories. They inspire me, lift me up and keep me flowing forward!
For more information on JEMS, visit www.jemsmovement.com, Facebook atJEMSMovementART or Twitter on @JEMSMovement.
Dear Joanne we thank you for your generous answers.