I can't tell you how many times I have had this conversation.
Someone: What do you do?
Me: I teach Pilates.
S: Wow, you must be in such good shape! You get to workout for your job!
M: Actually, I don't workout with my clients. I lead them through a workout.
That's right, I do not get paid to workout. As a Pilates instructor, that is not my job. It's not about my workout, it's about my client's.
Here are some other compelling reasons why I continue to teach this way:
Head and Neck Issues. Most of Pilates is done on your back. If I'm demonstrating, you have to crane your neck, most likely to one side, to see me perform an exercise. That's really unsafe for your neck. A majority of the mat work is done on your back with your head lifted, and it's just not safe for my clients to try to look to see me while they workout.
Range of Motion. When I was teaching the New York City Ballet Workout, the instructor I was training under told us not to use our longest leg extension when taking class with our students. She said that it would lead the people in our classes to try to match the height of our leg. For most people in the general population, it's really hard to toss your leg up high in the air without crunching your back or rounding your spine. If your clients are watching you and you are really flexible, your clients may try to match your range of motion. Range of motion in Pilates is determined by form. But that means everyone's range is different, and a high leg may not be better, especially if you're using your quad to lift it instead of your Powerhouse. So it's better not to look around a room and compare yourself to anyone during a Pilates class, not even your instructor. It's better to stay in your body and make sure you are in the exercise, not performing the exercise.
Pilates Is Mind/Body Work. Many of us are visual learners, and rely on that part of our brains to learn movement. When we turn that off and really listen to our instructor's words, it forces us to go internal for movement correction, instead of external. This is the essence of mind/body work. I don't want to cheat my clients of that experience. It may take them longer to learn an exercise, but it will be better for them to take the time to figure it out than to just mimic my movements.
I Want to be Safe, Too. As an instructor, even if I'm demonstrating, part of me is watching the class and thinking about them. How do I stay connected in my body during my Pilates work if my brain is concentrating on myself and my clients? I'm more likely to injure myself if I'm not concentrating on my body, or worse yet, just jumping in and out of exercises to demonstrate. I'm not aware of my own limitations or flexibility or strength that day to be safe in my own practice.
It Makes Us Human. I have not discovered some secret to being in shape. I have to juggle my workouts like any other mother, teacher, woman, or student around work, life, love, children, school.... Making time to workout helps me empathize with my clients when they fall behind in their homework to keep up with their Pilates practice on their own. It also helps me help them brainstorm ideas as to how to stay fit and healthy in this world where we are all so busy. As a Pilates instructor, I don't have eight hours a day to think about my body and workout, but I do have eight hours a day to devote to the work of Joseph Pilates. For that, I consider myself lucky. That's what inspires me to pull out my mat at the end of the day, sometimes at 11pm, to do the mat work. That's what devotion to Pilates is. That's what I teach, and that is my job.