Teaching From Empowerment
Updated: Mar 9
Julia Liedbergius shares her teaching experience
I have always felt that Pilates has empowered me both physically and mentally and I hope to transmit that to my clients and students. It doesn’t have to be all depth all the time and a session should obviously not be psychoanalysis, but the truth is that sometimes, a session may lead to a heart-to-heart conversation that brings up important questions about our lives and practice.
And we may come to understand that we’re actually avoiding a particular exercise out of fear. If we don’t talk about our fears, how can we ever overcome them?
For some time now, I’ve worked with a wonderful client (and a fellow Pilates instructor) who has issues going into extension due to an old injury to her lower back. She hesitates and freezes as we head into one, and the tension that builds in the room could be cut with a knife. It blocks her body and nervous system completely. It challenges our sessions and both of us. Me, because I have to gain her trust, even more than I would a normal client. I have to be extremely clear when we’re going into an exercise that involves extension – and can ́t give her any surprises. I have to invent as we go and think, which piece of equipment will make this less scary? What cueing does she needs? Am I babying her too much, being too cautious and making her feel silly? When is the right moment to push – and when do I leave it for next week?
When we first started working together, I had to stop pushing before we reached a 100% to avoid overwhelming her, whereas with other clients and especially other instructors, I would normally push further. It challenges her, but she has to understand why this is so scary and question whether there may be a reason other than the past injury. Then with that answer, she has to decide whether we work towards overcoming the fear or not. To master it, or simply avoid it.
Almost 10 years ago, when I was recovering from a long-term injury and surgery to my foot, I fell into darkness when I understood I had to say goodbye to my career as a dancer. For a moment, I saw everything coming to an end, and the effort without its prize. I questioned who I was without dance, and I was in pain. But somewhere in the feeling of having lost my ability to move, I became bored and tired of my negative self – and with my foot in a cast, I lay down on my mat. In a moment of stillness and peace, I found the source to change energy and something shifted inside me. I started to move. I went through a lot of the Pilates mat repertoire right there – and for the first time in months, I felt that all was not lost. I could move, not like before, but I could move. That grey and rainy afternoon in Germany a seed was planted and a dream started to grow thanks to movement. I decided that I was going to work to help other people have that same feeling on the mat – that movement heals.
I think it takes time to reach a point in your teaching when you truly understand how to use the private and personal. But it’s crucial for me as a teacher to bring that energy to my teaching, and I’ve made the decision to share my experiences in classes. To teach closer to the heart. Through that decision, I’ve been able to accept my own journey as a retired dancer at the age of 25, because it has led me to where I am now. It has given me the tools to work with young athletes, and the strength to witness them crying through their injuries. I tell them my story and say there’s light somewhere. I tell them this sucks – because there’s no better word for it – but we will power through it together. I want all my clients to achieve the impossible things they have in their head. I want us to tick things off the “hate list” together and go for the scary. If you say I can ́t, I say, “let ́s try.” You tell me you’re scared, and I tell you, “I’ve been scared too.” I say, trust your own ability – I have you and always will.
Orginally published in the Balanced Body Blog