Interview with Amit Younger Part 2
I always knew that I enjoy working with people- teaching and guiding them. While I was a dancer I did some teaching of ballet and contemporary and found it really satisfying. What I realised over the years was that I mostly enjoy working with adults; teaching people who choose to come and work with me. I love getting to know people over time and seeing how they change, grow and get better. Becoming a Pilates Teacher came very naturally to me as I just had to apply my new found knowledge to skills I have been working on for years beforehand. Clearly there where many challenges and scary moments but taking two teacher training courses within a few years and doing a lot of practice and home study has really helped with that!
One of the aspects of teaching I am really intrigued by is what I see as the difference between the Instructor and the Teacher. The instructor part of our work is when we have to explain for the first (or millionth…) time about the set up, choreography or movement pattern of an exercise. The teacher part is for me the more interesting part which begins when the instructor has done their job…the teacher teaches what the exercise is all about, giving clients images and information which helps them understand Pilates better and make progress at whatever level they are. This helps the clients truly change and develop.
I find that, for many reasons, Pilates teachers can get “stuck” at the instructor phase and a number of years ago I developed a series of workshops to help teachers open up to these ideas and challenge themselves. I presented these workshops in the UK, Japan and across Europe and I am very happy with people’s responses and feedback. Teachers who come to these workshops have to be very open to criticising their own habits which is very difficult sometimes (Intake of breath here, as it’s very hard to take – I know! ST) but I do my best to support them in the process and make them focus on what they know and how they can get even better. I remember myself as a newly qualifies teacher working “by the book”. This was necessary and valuable. But the real progress took place when this was no longer enough and I was ready to take the next step into more meaningful teaching, looking for deeper observations and ways to express my knowledge and understanding.
Amit goes on to explain that the teachers who seem to benefit more from these type of workshops are those who take the more intensive teacher training courses. Those intensive courses tend to focus a lot on the choreography of exercises and how to perform them and the race to learn and absorb so much material in such a short time can leave students short changed in regards to the qualities of the teaching process itself. It might also give students the idea that Pilates exercises can only be done in one particular way instead of the understanding and confidence that each exercise can be performed in many different ways depending on the person and the situation.
In his own studio Amit teaches up to four clients at a time who are all semi-independent. Clients will first take three private classes to allow the teachers to get to know them and allow them to get used to the method and the basic principles and then they join this semi-private environment. Clients learn a routine that is developed especially for their needs and ability and they then stick to it until they are ready for more exercises or challenge. Clients are required to gradually become more and more independent- they need to know what they’re doing and how to do it as well as how to set the equipment to their needs.
Pilates is a method of repetition and familiarising yourself with the repertoire is key. If you teach a client new or different exercises every week they will never become proficient in the work and will not benefit from the full potential of the method. Challenging your clients and keeping them motivated and interested does not have to depend on constantly changing the repertoire. You can offer them slight variations that challenge them in many different ways, insights that enhance their knowledge and you can fine tune their movement more and more. There is great satisfaction in getting better and better at what you do. It is the same motivation professional sports men and dancers have.
About 8 years ago I was in Israel sitting with my younger brother who is a website programmer and he said “I’ve been researching a lot and can’t understand how come there is no website for Pilates classes…” We chatted into the night, rolling ideas on how we’re going to do it and then, as it often happens, we got on with life… Over the next few years Rael Isacowitz launched Pilates Interactive and later on Pilates Anytime came along. I subscribed to both services and found them both useful- the former to Pilates Students and the later to Pilates teachers, but when it comes to people at home I felt there was still a lot missing and there was a gap in the market.
About 4 years ago I rolled the idea on to my partner and a couple of family members who are good friends. We discussed it a lot and decided to go ahead with it. It seemed a perfect fit to our fields of expertise as we accumulatively brought to the table many years of experience in Pilates, web design, production, PR and web-marketing. We had been talking about doing something together for years and here was the perfect opportunity to create a business together.
PilatesOD is a website specifically created for the general public but by doing that it also serves very well the needs of Pilates Teachers. It offers an ever growing library of Pilates classes and exercise videos from beginner to advance level at various lengths varying from 10 minutes to 60 minutes. We have a dedicated section for Pre and Post Natal classes and will be adding other such dedicated sections for other population (or special needs) in the near future. PilatesOD hosts only very experienced Pilates teachers (and teachers of teachers) from all schools of thought. PilatesOD classes are filmed, taught and edited in the most appropriate way for the general public to be used at home, on your own.
The feedback from our members is great. People who didn’t have access to good quality teachers previously can enjoy great classes from the comfort of their own home; people who can afford only one guided class per week can supplement it with home practice online, which benefits them greatly and Pilates teachers who use the service say they can really learn from the website not only what to teach but also how to teach their classes. I believe that other such websites out there assume the viewer is a teacher who only cares about watching a variety of classes and teachers and by doing so they can miss on the actual teaching process and qualities. Because we, at PilatesOD, assume the viewer is not a teacher and is at home on their own, we always do our best to provide them with the best view of what they are required to do, the best cues and teaching points and a real sense of progression. That is also why when “bodies” come to be filmed and are worried about doing the exercises “perfectly”, we reassure them that they should take the class “as normal” and not worry about making mistakes. The mistakes will be corrected by the teacher which benefits the viewers at home! Most people are normal people like you and me and they just want to see normal people making mistakes and being corrected… that’s how we all learn and enjoy the process.
ST: Will the client then not need a teacher? Do you think teachers may be worried about losing clients?
The idea behind PilatesOD is to support the public who does not have access to good quality Pilates classes and/or supplement one’s practice without replacing their teacher. If you cannot afford to go to classes 2 or 3 times a week, which most people can’t but should, then you can have the additional practice at home a number of times a week for a fraction of the price. And it does not necessarily need to be an hour each time… Additionally, when you live outside London or the bigger cities you don’t have many options. Often, if there is a local Pilates teacher they might be the local personal trainer/ gym instructor who took a weekend in Pilates and are now offering classes in the local health club or church hall. I believe it’s very often better to take classes with very experienced teaches on your TV screen than take classes with a live teacher that’s not properly trained or qualified.
As for teachers who are worried about losing their clients- I strongly believe that when a teacher is well trained and is dedicated to their practice, a web-service will NEVER replace them. The public will always prefer to work with such teachers than with virtual ones. But those clients can still benefit from PilatesOD to supplement their practice as well as on holidays and term breaks!
ST: How do you educate the public that the class they just took and didn’t like was not Pilates “as we know it”?
I think that ultimately the responsibility lies with each individual. This is also what I work very hard to remind my clients in the studio. It is their body, their joy of moving it well or their agony when it is injured. People should research and use their common sense (and intuition) to decide if a teacher is good for them or not. I can only hope that as PilatesOD grows and gets better known, it will give people the chance to compare good quality teaching with what they get from their own teacher. I hope that many people will feel their teacher is great as this is what we all work hard to achieve! But if not… they will have a choice.
ST: Final but very important question – What is your birth sign?
ST: Ah… business brain and very grounded. Of course!
ST: We thank Amit for a fascinating insight to his life and wish him all the very best with his new venture.
ST (Sharon Thompson); AY (Amit Younger)