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Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Interviews, Pilates | 0 comments

Becoming a Teacher – Amit Younger – Pilates on Demand

Becoming a Teacher – Amit Younger – Pilates on Demand

Amit

Read Part 1 of this interview

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 GreekSympos 3Amit 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.

Pilates on Demand

Studio 1About 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?

AY: Capricorn

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)

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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Pilates, Pilates and Motherhood | 0 comments

Recovering your body after birth

Recovering your body after birth

Recovering your body after birth is extremely important on many levels. Unfortunately, many common issues tend to go unnoticed and may come back to haunt you only later in life. Caring for a newborn and prioritizing their needs can often result in the woman putting off and neglecting the recovery of her body which may lead to unnecessary prolonged period of discomfort and pain. Getting pregnant again before your body has recovered may compound the issues and make it more difficult to recover in the future.

Pregnancy and child birth affect your body in many ways. During the pregnancy your body changes gradually to prepare for and adapt to the growing baby and as it grows and changes so does it have to adapt to the pull of gravity. Common postural changes would be: an excessive curve in the lower back (concave) and the upper back (convex), forward dropped shoulders and forward tilted head as well as locked and possibly hyper extended knees. These physical and postural changes will undoubtedly lead to many muscle imbalances with some muscles ending up stretched out and weakened and others tight and stiff.

Typical pregnancy issues may lead to separation of the abdominal muscles through the midline, weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, instability and pain at the front and/or back of the pelvis and a number of other issues that affect daily life and activities. Clearly, strengthening and rebalancing the body is key for full recovery and return to an optimally functioning body.

Here are a few tips to follow in the immediate period after the birth and when you have been cleared to return to ‘normal’ exercise:

  1. Most women have a degree of abdominal separation following pregnancy and birth. A separation will often exacerbate problems such as lower back pain, pelvic instability and pelvic floor dysfunction. It’s a good idea to know the extent of the separation by self checking and to do the appropriate exercises to encourage healing and strengthening. Please follow this link to check your separation-abdominal separation in pregnancy.

  2. If you had a C-section it would be a good idea to gently stretch and mobilize the area as soon as you can to avoid formation of scar tissue that may limit your movement in the future and inhibit the engagement of your abdominals. Place a warm towel (or bean bag) over the scar and gently reach your arms up and away from your centre so that the tissues of your abdomen stretch. Reach as far as you feel comfortable and see if you can reach further every day.
  3. You can start strengthening your pelvic floor muscles immediately after giving birth as long as it feels comfortable. Do 5 pelvic floor contractions every time you feed your baby and 5 more every time you change their nappy. Attach pelvic floor contractions to other activities you do regularly so that you do them little but often.
  4. Pay attention to how you sit and stand and even how you lie down to sleep. Try to assume balanced positions and notice if you habitually tend to twist or bend in a particular way. Try to sit on your sit bones and not on your tail; to make sure your lower back isn’t excessively hollow and when you think “upright”… do not stick your chest out… simply sit straight without over doing it.
  5. As soon as you are cleared to exercise by your health care provider, start making the necessary arrangements to clear small chunks of time to exercise. Exercising 10 or 20 minutes 3 times a week would make a huge difference! You will feel better, have more energy and feel motivated to do more. Don’t wait until you have a whole hour to exercise… this may take a while and will discourage you.
  6. Also after your 6 week check up, as long as its pain free, it’s perfectly safe to get down on all fours (hands and knees) and take some deep breaths into your tummy. As you inhale allow your tummy to drop down away from your spine (yes… drop down…) and as you exhale pull your tummy back in towards your spine, feeling your waist getting narrow and long (if you visualize it then it will happen :)). Follow that by some ‘Cats’- rounding your spine as much as you can as if you try to see your tail between your legs and then releasing the spine back to normal. It will mobilize your spine and make you feel better. You can also try to “find your tail” by looking to the right and “wagging your tail” to the right and then the same to the left. This will mobilize your spine from side to side.

Post natal programs should be specific to your needs and should take into account the fact you may be breastfeeding. Your exercise program should focus on core strength, pelvic stability, lower back stretches, posture and upper body mobilization and strength. It will take months for your body to recover but the right kind of exercise can do wonders!
Take every opportunity you have to sneak in some movement into your daily routine. Simple things like getting off the bus a station or two before your destination, being active with your child in the playground and doing some small squats or gentle stretches while on a walk in the park will all add up and make you stronger and feeling better.
Your body knows how to recover and get better, but it does need your help… and it asks for some ‘me’ time in the midst of all the rushing and running and caring for others. Spending a bit of time to make YOU better will benefit you, your newborn and your whole family! Happy exercising :)

Video: Back to exercise after pregnancy

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Posted by on Apr 26, 2014 in Interviews | 0 comments

Amit Younger – Interview Part 1

Amit Younger – Interview Part 1

Sometime ago we met up with the lovely Amit Younger to ask him about his life and his professional career.  You will know Amit as a co-founder and a teacher/presenter on Pilates On Demand and proprietor of Pilates Junction.

Tell us a bit about you

 I was born in the south of Israel in a town named Eilat, right on the border with Egypt. When I was four the family moved to a Kibbutz, a small community which was further north and just a few miles form the Gaza Strip.  When I grew up there it was completely peaceful and these days it’s a bit of a war zone, so the reality there is completely different now. Back then the kibbutz felt like a really nice community to grow up in- you felt completely protected, you had everything you needed, you didn’t really understand what it means to need anything because everything was right there for you.

I interject here to ask what a Kibbutz is …

A Kibbutz used to be a communal community in every sense of the word. The slogan was something like ‘each person contributes as much as they can and each person gets all that they need’. People are different to each other and not everyone can contribute in the same way but everyone was expected to contribute to the best of their ability and everyone received whatever they needed. There was a communal dining hall and we had 3 meals a day there. Education, health, everything was covered by the community. You only received a small budget for your personal needs.   It sounds like an ideal community except that it isn’t really because no-one wants to be like everyone else. It worked really well in the early days when Israel was just founded and people had hardly any personal possessions. Living in a small community like this was an amazing thing- the community gave you everything you needed and even had luxuries such as a swimming pool and a tennis court. The problems began when people started having more money or inherited money from their parents (who were not part of the community). People soon realised that they didn’t want to be ‘exactly’ equal to the person next to them anymore. Most communities had “children’s houses’, where children were cared for by members of the community from as early as 3 months of age. Children lived in the children’s house for most of the day and would spend only a few hours in the afternoon with their parents in what used to be known as parent’s rooms.  People followed the rules for a few decades and then in the 1980s and1990s things changed dramatically.

Most of my family still live in the kibbutz.

When did you leave?

When I finished High School I did a gap year in the north of Israel where I was guiding youth— like a scout movement.  During the gap year I started taking dance classes in the local school and when I finished my gap year I joined the professional dance school of the Kibbutz Dance Company. It’s the second most prestigious dance school in Israel. I was there for 3 years of study and 1 year of apprenticeship with the company.  During this last year I decided I wanted to see more of the global dance scene and auditioned to the professional Dance School of Rotterdam, Holland.  I spent a year in Rotterdam as a guest student (during which I took Classical Mat Pilates classes on a weekly basis) and then moved back to Israel to dance with the Kibbutz Dance Company. I danced in the company for one more year and then started free-lancing as a dancer in Tel Aviv with different dance groups.

When I lived in Tel-Aviv I began taking Equipment Pilates classes for the first time. A friend told me she found this amazing teacher who had a small studio in her flat nearby. I didn’t really know anything about taking classes on the equipment and the fact the teacher had studied Pilates with, the wonderful Deborah Lessen, meant nothing to me back then. However it was the thing to do and since a few of my colleagues took classes there, I decided to give it a go. I remember the teacher (Tamar Tazchi) “forced” me to make a number of appointments in advance and I thought it was quite strange… but I went anyway and really enjoyed the work. I guess you can say I fell in love with it immediately.

I found it very humbling that I had danced, travelled and performed on stages all over the world and yet I could be put in these straps and asked to do some frogs and my legs would start shaking like crazy. It exposed all the imbalances I developed when I started dancing so late. The motto in the dance school was always ‘First you break – then you mend’. (we have a bit of a laugh here because it’s very unPilates!) It was always said in the most positive way but of course it means you over train and over stretch on a daily basis. I remember having a hamstring injury which then led to a meniscus tear and also suffering terribly from Piriformis related issues. I didn’t know what it was at the time but remember feeling pain deep in the Gluts- deep beyond reach.  When you start dancing so late, and you go quickly through the paces you don’t (or at least I didn’t) develop the strength necessary to support all the turn out, the hip extension or the back extension etc. So your body finds ways to compensate.  Working in this new Pilates environment suited me really well- it was equally dedicated to working on the body but without the competitive element.   And it allowed me to start the journey of healing my body from the years of physical “abuse”.

Part 2 of this great story is here

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