Do No Harm

Doctor’s are required to take the Hippocratic Oath which states that they should “Do No Harm”. To best of my knowledge and recollection with my Pilates certification there is no such requirement. But maybe there should be?

Why would I suggest this? Pilates teachers generally decide to teach because they fall in love with Pilates, it changed their body or maybe even their life, and they have a desire to share it with others. Their intent for choosing a profession in Pilates is pure. I would venture to say no one chooses to become a Pilates Instructor as a get rich quick scheme because small class sizes and studio sizes just don’t scale like mega-gyms! So why would Pilates teacher need to be reminded to do no harm? I’ve seen ego, a desire to show off, and also a lack of commitment to continuing education lead to harm.

Let’s be clear. I am confident in my early days of teaching I made mistakes. I’ve continued to pursue continuing education and as a result I’ve changed how I teach some movements and certain populations, too. I am committed to continuing to learn and will continue to modify and adapt as I see the need. I am not perfect but I am committed to learning and doing my best for you. In my teacher training, all us gals were so eager for the bigger, flashier movements. My mentor wisely told us, “Learn the basics. They are enough. Teach the basics. Once you have mastered the basics you may begin to add in new movement but don’t teach them until you truly know them in your own body.” I believe this is excellent advice and I still try to live by that.

Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see any number of exciting and cool Pilates movements. It can be so tempting to say, “Oh I’ll teach that in my class tonight”. I can’t truly know a movement or know how to explain it to you or what you should feel or how to modify it if I just tried it myself 10 minutes before class. Throwing a new movement at my students that I don’t fully know is potentially ‘doing harm.’

I’ve also seen a desire to show off fancy, impressive movements that may not be appropriate for the population in class. Showing off what you know or what you can do is not your job as a teacher. I had a new student come to my studio the other day. She explained her back issue and that she had tried two beginner Pilates classes at another location. She stated she enjoyed Pilates but after 2 sessions, her back flared up sending her to PT for six months! Eek! As we moved through some basic movements I knew would be safe and effective for her, she mentioned a very advanced movement she had been asked to do at this other location and stated she did not like it because it hurt. I won’t name the location, or the movement and I don’t know the instructor but suffice it to say it is not a movement I would ever do with a beginner or anyone with a back issue. In my opinion, this movement was showing off and not at all appropriate - and did harm. Or maybe it was a lack of knowledge on the instructor’s part about this student’s limitations … and in that case a conservative approach should have been taken. Regardless, this really fires me up because not only did this women spend time and money in PT, she lost six months of working on her goal.

When we take the approach that basic movements are boring - our students begin to believe that, too. But when we really teach and give our students new emphasis and challenges with the basics something simple like footwork is no longer so simple. It is easy to get caught up in thinking we need to be inventive and bring the challenge but it’s already there in Pilates. Change a breath pattern, change a spring … and change the exercise. If we keep the mindset of “Do No Harm” and let go of “I need to reinvent the wheel every class” we’ll get results and not injuries. If we really listen to our students and what they know about their bodies … not what we think we can prove to them … we will get results in a safe way. If we practice Do No Harm - everyone wins in class!