Pilates Police with Natalie Wilson

Episode 28: 

For a lot of us movement teachers and coaches, moving our bodies ultimately changed our lives leading to one of our biggest goals: to simply get our clients moving! Moving the body in different ways is truly a process of discovery. It’s about being curious and about seeing what it can or cannot do.

The evolution of our industry is inevitable and to try and maintain Pilates purity seems counterproductive when we live in an ever-changing world. Today Hannah takes on a discussion about the Pilates Police. Those out there who have taken it upon themselves to be the authority on arbitrating what the definition of Pilates is — the defenders of the source code.

She’s joined by the amazing Natalie Wilson out of Seattle, and together they share thoughts and beliefs on why bullying shouldn’t be tolerated! They delve into the impacts of the Pilates Police, on the confidence of new teachers, our clients, our businesses, and our industry.

They unpack different strategies and tips on dealing with encounters with the Pilates Police and why it’s crucial that we regain focus on keeping Pilates fun and light! Tune in now for all this, and so much more, on this episode of The Pilates Exchange!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Natalie Wilson: who she is, what she does, and where she’s at.
  • Her Pilates work in the hospital setting: working with people who have multiple sclerosis. 
  • We dive into a discussion about how the Pilates Police get in her way. 
  • Who the Pilates Police are (a definition).
  • The comment section: we look at a real-life case of the Pilates Police.
  • What upsets Natalie about what they (the Pilates Police) are doing.
  • We discuss helping our mentees who have experienced bullying. 
  • Working with people who have a massive lack of confidence and unstable footing. 
  • Hannah shares the different types of impostor syndrome she’s seeing in her teaching.
  • The downside of being forced into dance (and onto the stage).
  • We touch on strategies for navigating social media (and it’s comment section).
  • We share some of our run-ins with the Pilates Police.
  • Natalie moves to a discussion on the motivation the Pilates Police have to keep Pilates pure.
  • Are you threatened by the evolution of Pilates as an industry and as a method?
  • We share our tips and strategies to deal with the Pilates Police.
  • Hannah unpacks the mentorship aspect of the work she does.
  • Why Natalie is so protective over her baby teachers.
  • How she approaches the question “Am I doing [it] right?” 
  • Occupying the role of Pilates Police and how this can impact your business. 
  • Let’s make Pilates fun and get people moving!

EPISODE 28

 

[INTRODUCTION]

 

NW: People who [are] intentionally making posts that grab another reel and then make a big red label that says, “This is not Pilates,” I want to know the motivation behind that. Because if it’s really out of their belief that Pilates is the end-all, be-all for making life better, I would disagree with that on just very basic fitness principles and exercise science principles. I don’t agree with that. I love Pilates. But it’s not enough for me. And I don’t only do Pilates to stay healthy. And I don’t only do Pilates to keep my clients healthy.”

 

[00:00:42] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We will be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts, and engage in healthy debate as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity. 

 

I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades. And what I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. We, as movement teachers and coaches, have the power to help people experience this for themselves. 

 

Okay, everyone. Let’s dive in. Exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives one session at a time. This is The Pilates Exchange.

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[00:01:40] HT: Then let’s get right into it. Because, Natalie, I’m thrilled to have you on my podcast. I’ve actually listened to you a few times talking with Raph Bender on his Pilates Elephants. And I love your approach to – just sort of the holistic approach that you go into thinking about Pilates, and about teaching in general, and about mentorship. 

 

And so, I’m thrilled that you’re on this podcast with me. And I would love for you to maybe tell our public a little bit about who you are, and what you’re doing, and where you’re at. 

 

[00:02:11] NW: Thank you so much for having me, Hannah. I’m fangirling because I love your podcast. And as I was telling you off-air, I just love listening to Pilates podcasts. I love listening to all podcasts. And when I came across your podcast and I started listening to your episodes, I thought, “Who is this person? She’s doing amazing work. She’s doing work that I would love to be doing.” Really, really nice job on this podcast that you’re doing. And thank you so much for having me. I truly am very honoured to be here. 

 

I am a Pilates doer and a Pilates teacher, and also a Pilates educator. And I live in Seattle, Washington, which is where I trained. And I work at a studio here in Seattle. And I also work for a hospital teaching Pilates in the medical field. And I also am a trainer for Breathe Education, which is why I’m on Ralph’s podcast, Pilates Elephants, quite a bit.

 

I’m a very boring person. I like to read. I like to listen to podcasts. And I like to knit. I feel like those are my skill sets. That’s all I know how to do at this point. And I raise two teenagers.

 

[00:03:22] HT: It’s like that’s my love lang. I get that. I think I’m the most boring person in the entire world. Apparently, we’re going to be boring together. Because that’s what I like to do. I don’t have any teenagers though.

 

[00:03:33] NW: Yeah. But you do have a dog, right? 

 

[00:03:36] HT: Yeah. He’s our fur baby. Takes a lot of love and a lot of work. Probably not as much as two teenagers though.

 

[00:03:43] NW: It’s just different. It’s different.

 

[00:03:45] HT: I’m so curious. You work in a hospital with Pilates. What do you do? 

 

[00:03:49] NW: Yeah. One of the things that I really love about Seattle, and in particular this hospital system that I work for, is that there are a lot of complimentary services that you can receive as a patient. And I say this both as a teacher working for the multiple sclerosis clinic. But I also say this as a patient. I had breast cancer a couple of years ago and the amount of services that they offer you for free. This is the same hospital system that I work for. I was also treated for breast cancer. And there are so many amazing programs both fitness, wellness, all of those things. And they’re really good at that. 

 

I work for a hospital that, amongst other things, has a neurology department and neurological sciences. And I work mostly with people who have multiple sclerosis. I started off as a Pilates teacher in training working for this program. And since then has transitioned to staff. Yeah, I work with people who have multiple sclerosis. That’s where I came from. That’s why I needed to have you wait 15 minutes because I was just teaching a class. 

 

[00:05:05] HT: Thank you for coming and meeting me right after class. And also, thank you for your work for the MS community. Because that is a community that’s near and dear to my heart. I don’t know if you know this. But my mom has MS. 

 

[00:05:18] NW: Oh. No, I didn’t know that.

 

[00:05:20] HT: Yeah. My mom has MS and a weird – life is chaos sometimes. There’s a lot of people around me that have had MS. And then I started teaching. I went through Mariska Breland’s program, which I love them. 

 

[00:05:34] NW: So, did I. 

 

[00:05:36] HT: Currently, I’m not teaching my group right now. But group of MS-ers here in Nuremberg that I teach as well. But not in a hospital setting. That is great that you’re being supported in that way at the hospital for them. 

 

[00:05:50] NW: I love that we have this in common. I didn’t know that about you. I feel like listening to your podcast, you might have mentioned it on the periphery that you work with people who have MS. And I feel like that’s jogging something in my memory. But I didn’t realize that you also did that work too. Yeah. It is one of my most favourite things to do. because the people who I have worked with, I’ve worked with since around 2016, and they are long-term clients. And just watching them be brave and strong. And they have a really different appreciation for movement that able-bodied people don’t. 

 

I know you know this because, likely, just watching your mom and the people around you, it becomes really different when your ability to walk and be independent is compromised and at risk.

 

[00:06:38] HT: Yeah. 

 

[00:06:39] NW: Yeah. 

 

[00:06:40] HT: It puts another spin on things also as a person that watches from the outside someone that is going through MS. The person that you love the most going through it, it’s very, very difficult on that side. There’s a little bit of a removal when we’re a teacher on the outside working with them. The depth of love that I have for the people that I work with who have MS is deep. It’s like there’s a lot of – I mean, there’s a lot of stuff in there as far as the emotional bonds that are there. But I think you are absolutely right. The joy of movement, the appreciation for movement, the thankfulness for how we show up as Pilates teachers is somehow different from maybe the other population that we’re teaching.

 

[00:07:31] NW: Yeah. Absolutely.

 

[00:07:32] HT: We went into a different avenue that I was actually planning on. But, actually, let’s go down this route a little bit. Because I had wanted to talk to you about – I had originally contacted you for this podcast because I heard you talking about the Pilates Police. A different podcast. I was like, “Oh, yes. I totally know what – this is my gal.” The way that you framed it. Let’s go back to that. 

 

I listened to you on a podcast and we were talking about what is the Pilates Police. And that’s a pretty funny term. And for me, it’s just people that are sort of bullying on the internet about what Pilates is and what Pilates isn’t. And when we start thinking about how Pilates is helping an entire group of people move better, more functional – not even just more functional. Giving them their lives back. If you look at it on the outside from maybe what people are saying is the Pilates police, then sometimes we’re not doing Pilates at all. But it is. Because this is what’s changing people’s lives. I don’t know. What do you think?

 

[00:08:38] NW: Yeah. I agree. Pilates police, it’s one of my favourite topics to talk about mostly because you’re absolutely right, it is about bullying. And it pisses me off. You’re a mentor teacher. I love that term. I am a mentor teacher as well. What I say is I’m a Pilates educator. I help people who want to become Pilates teachers become Pilates teachers. And it is a really vulnerable place to be, to be learning a new skill. 

 

I don’t think people who just do Pilates appreciate how difficult it is to teach Pilates, to teach anything. But Pilates is in my mind really special because it can involve equipment. And so, you need to work with the body in front of you, work with the person. But also work with equipment. 

 

And when you add multiple equipment and multiple people, it’s a huge deal. And it’s such a really important thing. And if you can – for those of you listening who are Pilates teachers, remember what it was like when we first started training. It really actually traumatized me. 

 

And my mission as a Pilates educator is to give people a learning experience that I wanted that I felt like I deserved and that I didn’t have. And just by that, I mean being very supportive. Feeling like it’s a safe space to learn. Feeling okay to be curious and to make mistakes. And it gets in my way. The Pilates police get in my way. And I don’t like it. I’m going to be public about it because it’s bullshit. 

 

And going back to what you said. In your mind, Pilates police are people who have taken it upon themselves to be the authority on arbitrating what the definition of Pilates is. They are defenders of the source code. 

 

[00:10:27] HT: Yeah. 

 

[00:10:27] NW: Right? I have so much to say about that, which is what is the source code? And who gives you the authority to do that. Because as far as I’m concerned, you don’t. But then the other part of it too in terms of the Pilates police are also instructors who have taken it upon themselves to decide what is and what isn’t safe. 

 

You showed me a clip, just to kind of jog this conversation, about a famous athlete. A world-class athlete who could probably crush me with his toes. And he’s doing what? Supine hands and straps. Pressing the straps down maybe with lots of springs. Also, curled up maybe. And all of these Pilates instructors jumping into the dumpster fire to criticize his form, criticize whoever it was teaching him. 

 

And I think I told you when I saw that video, I didn’t think to look at the comments. I was watching the video and I’m like, “Oh, here’s this dude doing hands and straps. All right. Why are you sending me this? What’s your point?” 

 

[00:11:31] HT: I know. Natalie, I didn’t give you any context. I was like just look at – 

 

[00:11:35] NW: No. Not at all. 

 

[00:11:36] HT: I said just let’s do a podcast about this. And you were probably like, “Who is this gal? And why am – I” Yeah. But once you dove into those comments, it was like a wasp’s nest. No? 

 

[00:11:47] NW: Yeah. Yeah. It was. It was. And just so many people just – and then I want to – one of the things that you had told me off-air was if we are thinking about who our audience is. And maybe that would be people who are still developing their skills. People who are early in their career or not. But are some strategies? And hopefully, we’ll get to that later on in the conversation. But one of the strategies that I have is you want to first assume a good intent, right? 

 

We go into this business wanting to inspire people, help people, and obviously to keep people safe. Because we could be doing things in the studio that could potentially hurt people. When I was looking at the comments, I need to take a breath and say to myself, “Okay, maybe there are people who are commenting because they’re concerned about his safety.” Calm down and assume good intent. But I also feel like, well, there are definitely people out there who are just making comments make themselves feel like they’re doing a better job than other people. That they know better.

 

[00:12:54] HT: Yeah. That’s exactly what I was feeling as I was reading through. I think that you probably gave a little bit more grace than I did when I went through there. But I think it’s right. I should assume that there’s good intentions in there. But I just saw the rancid comments and thought, “What in the world is going on?” 

 

It was hard to look through those comments. Because I saw other Pilates professionals. Even arguing among the comments. First it was like, “Okay. Who is his Pilates teacher? What is this? His neck is straining. Or this. Why would he put so many springs? Who’s filming this? He’s probably alone in the studio. No self-respecting teacher would ever let this person do that.” There was like that side of it. Then there was bickering among the hatred of like what was actually going wrong there. It was so crazy that it was all happening on arguably one of the best athletes in the world. He could do anything with his body and he’s is in control of that body. 

 

While I do appreciate, our job is to try to keep our people, our clients safely moving and then joyfully moving. Maybe let’s say functionally moving. Depending on what the goal is. I don’t think our job is to tear down other Pilates teachers because there’s some sort of superiority complex. I don’t know if that’s the right word. It felt like not caring at all. 

 

[00:14:28] NW: Yeah. I would agree with that. And I think that happens a lot when we think about what is the Pilates police and what are they doing. It absolutely feels like and seems like you’re trying to delegitimize someone else’s career and teaching style to elevate your own. And that really upsets me. 

 

Because if you think about it, in its most basic form, if we’re talking about one Pilates professional or a group of Pilates professionals targeting another Pilates professional who is undefended, and you don’t even know this person and you’re telling them what you’re doing is not Pilates, that really is attacking this person’s profession by trying to erase their identity, their professional identity. And I just don’t get it. I really don’t get it. There’s room enough at the table for everybody. And what one person is doing has nothing to do with you.

 

[00:15:31] HT: That type of bullying has such a – depending on who it’s towards, which teachers – at this point in my career, I don’t care what people say about my teaching. It’d be great if they like it. But on the other hand, I’m always up for learning something new. If you think that I’m doing something wrong, sure, let’s talk about it. But on the other hand, it’s not going to tear me down professionally or personally. I’m not going to lose any sleep about it. 

 

But if that were to happen to some of the teachers that I mentor or someone that’s earlier on in their career and then it sets them down a road of self-doubt, turning into maybe imposter syndrome, turning out maybe that that teacher doesn’t show up on social media anymore. And we know that social media it can be a very important part to growing a business or finding new clients. If all of that compounding is then affecting their livelihood, their mental health – there’s just so many different aspects that we need to take in account of this cyberbullying, which is what it is. 

 

[00:16:35] NW: No. It’s true. And it’s like you said, I think you and I come from a place of privilege in that we’ve been in the business long enough and we understand what our product is. I also understand, I’m not for everybody and everybody’s not for me. And I’m okay with it. And if someone told me that I wasn’t doing Pilates, I will be the first person to say that I am a purveyor of fake Pilates. It doesn’t matter, right? Because your haters don’t pay your bills.

 

The people who I teach are not coming to me for authentic Pilates if you can even define what authentic, real Pilates is. And I know that you have tried to define it with Ralph. And I know that Ralph has tried to define it with other podcast guests. And it’s nearly impossible to do it. But if there was some sort of official real Pilates, most people that I know are not coming to Pilates for real Pilates. They’re coming to Pilates to get stronger. To maybe try a new hobby. To try a new skill. To go to the bakery afterwards. There’s a bakery right across the street from my Pilates studio. Maybe that’s their treat. They want a reason to go to the bakery so they come to my class first. There are so many other reasons why people take Pilates. Not the least of which is to just get strong and to feel vitality and vibrance. And there’s so many ways to do that.

 

[00:18:00] HT: I’m pretty sure Mariska coined this term, Mariska Breland, who I think we’re both big – I’m a big fan girl of hers. Oh, my gosh. She’s going to come on the podcast at some point. But she calls her work Pilates-ish. And I think I’m going to lean into that term. Thanks, Mariska. 

 

I think what I teach at this point, I’ll call it Pilates-ish. If we don’t want to call it Pilates anymore, then fine. I’m fine with that. But my main concern is to get people moving and feeling good in their body. Any which way that looks like.

 

[00:18:36] NW: Yeah. I’m curious if you’ve had to help people that you mentor with being bullied and what that was like for you.

 

[00:18:43] HT: Yes. That has gone through a couple – unfortunately, a couple of different teachers that have been bullied online. They stopped showing up. They were so scared to go back out there and put things – the second-guessing. They were like, “Is this okay? Should I say this about this exercise? What if I’m just showing this exercise? What if it’s not good enough and I look a little bit like this or that?” And it can be really debilitating for people. It was very hard to reframe the whole situation of getting them back online and doing their stuff. 

 

Not everyone needs to be doing fancy Pilates moves online to build a client base. That’s not what I’m talking about. But just showing up and trying to serve their potential clients or their clients in the way that they can online maybe as a strategy from going social media to maybe into – all the typical business of social media into some calling the business, or going into a freebie, or a newsletter list. Whatever that may be. But if you’re not present, then how are they going to find you? 

 

The answer to that was yes. Yes. Yes. And it’s very painful to watch. It took longer to get people out of that cyclical thinking than I wish it did. But I think it really depends also – I don’t know if you have had this experience where that type of bullying really ignites certain types of impostor syndrome. Have you worked with teachers that are feeling like really imposter syndrome?

 

[00:20:23] HT: A lot of the people that I work with right now and who I’m mentoring, they’re either finishing up their certification or they’re just really, really fresh. And everything is a little bit scary. They’re still building their confidence. I don’t know that I would label it impostor syndrome for the kinds of people that I mentor. But mostly just a massive lack of confidence. And also, unstable place. They’re not yet steady in their footing, right? 

 

I feel like the impostor syndrome will likely come later on once kind of get their feet wet a little bit and then they’re really struggling. And I think that’s just with or without being bullied by anybody. Because I was never bullied. I had massive impostor syndrome. And I wasn’t on social media at the time. I didn’t have Instagram until two years ago. I didn’t have Instagram. I was just in my own little bubble teaching and just not feeling like I knew what I was doing. 

 

Before I go down that rabbit hole, tell me about the specific kind of impostor syndrome you’re seeing. 

 

[00:21:29] HT: I want to say I think you could sort of break it up into – maybe it’s like in four different categories, okay? See if I could get this. There’s the Pilates perfectionist where – and, specifically, we’re going to be talking about the teacher. The teacher experience. The Pilates perfectionist teacher would be just devastated if there’s any sort of slight error in queuing. Maybe they forgot to do an exercise on the other side. Or maybe the structure is a little bit wonky. And then that’ll just throw them off. Like, “Oh, my God. I should have –” that is a really devastating moment. And then they consider themselves a failure for just doing a human mistake. There’s that one maybe.

 

Another one might be like the Pilates expert. That person needs to know everything before they could even start. And it’s like a constant cycle of just I need more information. I’m not ready. What if this happens in my class? If someone with this form of scoliosis or whatever it is. I’m not ready to teach because I don’t know everything.” I think that’s maybe a Pilates expert form of imposter syndrome. 

 

Maybe another one would be the Pilates genius. I would say that person is like they feel everything needs to be effortless and quick and easy. If they can’t do an advanced exercise, how could they ever teach? There’s sort of this cyclical thing. Well, I can’t do – I’m not able to do this – I don’t even know. Backbend on the reformer with one spring with my leg up to the – and then if we can’t do that, then that means I can’t go my teaching. 

 

And maybe there’s the last one, the soloist, we’ll call them. The soloist is someone that feels like – and maybe this is more like the business aspect of it. The soloist would feel the impostor syndrome because they feel like they should know everything about the business aspect of Pilates. And they feel like a failure if they have to ask someone for help. How do I do my books? How do I do these taxes? Shouldn’t I know how to do this liability form? Or how do I do my pricing? And they feel like they need to do it all alone. When, actually, there are so many resources out there, or mentors, or programs. Those are my four different types of Pilates imposters syndrome feelings, right? 

 

[00:24:04] NW: I like it. I’m nodding my head because I feel like I can relate to a little bit of all of these profiles that you’ve mentioned. And I feel like it is – it’s very possible to kind of cycle through all of the different ones as one person. Yeah. 

 

[00:24:21] HT: Sure. Yeah. Absolutely. And the feeling of the Pilates police being around doesn’t help. This just like aggravates the thing on any one of those maybe – it’s not a stereotype. But personas of the impostor syndrome. I don’t know. That’s just how it’s organized in my brain. There’s no – 

 

[BREAK]

 

[00:24:43] HT: When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense. But I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programs leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers. 

 

Train the Trainers is designed to give you the tools you need to create a powerful learning environment for your students. Gain access to the vault of our collected knowledge where you can learn everything we have to teach you. Whether you are a freelance teacher or a studio owner. Get constructive feedback on your teaching with actionable tools you can apply immediately. We can’t wait to be part of your teaching journey and to help you grow in your business. Welcome to Train the Trainers.

 

[INTERVIEW CONTINUED ]

 

[00:25:30] NW: No. I think you’re right. I think you’re right. And I think going back to the spirit of what we’re talking about here is the Pilates police really is anybody that is pointing out your weak spots or their perceived weak spots. And I think that one of the things that was said to me early on when I was doing teacher training, my trainer at the time was talking about perfectionism. And she said Pilates professionals self- select. Meaning that there is a lot of perfectionism. 

 

And I think it does come from the roots of performance. The performance roots in Pilates where the industry was infused with performers. People who wanted to be aesthetically pleasing, perfect, in time with each other. I know that your background is a professional dancer. I danced professionally when I was a child and it scarred me for life. 

 

[00:26:32] HT: Ooh, yes. 

 

[00:26:35] NW: It scarred me for life. You know what though? One of the things that I keep thinking about, and I hope my mom won’t listen to this podcast, is I started dancing when I was four and I hated it. I hated being on stage. I hated being in the spotlight. There are so many good things about being a performer. And I know that you and I could probably do a whole podcast on this. I mean not me and everybody else who were dancers at some point. There are so many benefits. So many life skills that you get from being forced on stage and putting on a show. That still helped me today. That’s a good thing.

 

But I think that on the downside of that is this feeling imposter syndrome. Feeling like you’re never good enough. Feeling like before you can even start, you need to – before you can get on stage, you better know everything you need to know, all your marks. You need to know all your movements. It has to be flawless. 

 

One of my missions, one of the things that I really focus and prioritize is telling my teachers in training, “The only way you’re going to learn is to make mistakes, and to put yourself out there, and to act.” Right? Confidence doesn’t happen by taking a magic pill. Confidence happens when you take in action. You learn from it. You do it again. That helps you build more confidence. It’s this virtuous cycle. Confidence happens by action. 

 

Yeah. The Pilates police can really do a lot to derail that and it’s really painful. And, also, when you have a public platform like Instagram – I don’t know how to erase comments. Do you know how to erase comments? I feel like in the time that I’ve been on Instagram, there was one person who wrote this really weird, nasty comment. And I thought, “How do I delete you? Delete your comment?” And I don’t think I figured it out. Right? It’s one of those things where it’s like people put stuff out there and you go public. Everybody gets to have a piece of you if they want it.

 

[00:28:25] HT: I know on Chris’s – I haven’t had one recently. And there was a way to delete a comment. And sometimes we’ll delete and report. We get some really nasty things that happen on our pages. And we don’t put up with it. Both Christian and I are up for any conversation. And you can not like what we do. We’re up for hearing about that. But hateful comments are deleted and the person is blocked. We don’t put up with it. Just not going to happen.

 

Sometimes I’ll leave a comment out there and make it a teachable moment if I have the time to invest. Not for the person that left the comment. It’s for the other people, my group of teachers or whoever it is, to see how we can respond and hold on to our self-respect or whatever it is. It depends on how it is. But I have to be in the mood for that. 

 

[00:29:15] NW: Yeah. Well, ultimately, if we talk about just strategies when it comes to social media, block and delete is absolutely a strategy. Not engaging is absolutely a strategy. Engaging is also strategy. But, really, I think the thing to remember is that very little change happens on social media. It’s hard to change people’s minds. 

 

And, oftentimes, when people who are emboldened to say something cruel, they’re not in it to have their minds change. They just want to be cruel. Going back to block and delete. 

 

[00:29:48] HT: We had a funny one that was on one of our YouTube videos. It was pretty mean. I can’t remember what exactly it was. But it was like, “I’ve got time. We’re going to just respond to this one.” And I said something like it sounds like you’re having a really bad day. I hope that you’re able to maybe check out this one, and take a couple deep breaths, and feel better. We’re wishing you all the best from Germany.” She or he, who knows, wrote back, “That’s not what I was looking for.” And I was like, “I’m so sorry. I wish I could help you. Is there anything I could do for you?” this is like all in the comments. 

 

And like five or six, seven times we’re going back and forth. And the last comment was, “I’m trying to be so mean and you’re always so nice. It’s really annoying.” It’s like, “Okay.” 

 

[00:30:34] NW: High fives. 

 

[00:30:37] HT: It was pretty funny. It was over the span of a day. Yeah. I left that one up there. 

 

[00:30:42] NW: I was going to ask you, tell me some of your run-ins with the Pilates police. Do you get run-ins with the Pilates police on your pages or just people who are being mean in general ways? 

 

[00:30:53] HT: Both. Not an extreme amount. I think the larger the account, the more people feel that they could say whatever the F they want to. We’re seeing it a lot more on Chris’s account than my account right now. I would have to say I probably have a harder shell than he does. He’s actually such a big softy. And he really takes it to heart, which is kind of hard to see. He’s a little teddy bear. 

 

But a lot of those, we just erase. And they could be just mean comments. That’s one thing. The other thing is if you don’t like his take on Pilates, or his creativity, or whatever, then don’t do the variation with the ball. No one cares. Just don’t do it. If you don’t want to use the magic circle like that, all right. You don’t like our dog? Don’t look at him. It’s fine. 

 

And, really it’s funny. Because like, “Ah –” okay. We have our dog. Sir Lancelot, his name is. We’re going through an education to make him a therapy dog. And one of the reasons was that is because we do work with, well, all sorts of clients. It’s always great to have a nice therapy dog around. But we were originally thinking that it would be very helpful for some of our clients with neurological conditions. It’s a great way, especially after a stroke, to learn to pet the doggy and stuff. Anyways, we’re going through that with our puppy. Big puppy. He’s 16 months now. He’s huge. 

 

Then we get comments like there shouldn’t be a dog in the studio. That’s not Pilates. I’m like, “I don’t care.” Don’t come to our studio. That’s fine. He’s on the website so you know when you’re coming that there’s a dog here. If you don’t like dogs. We even say he has his own room. He could stay in the office. No big deal.

 

Yeah. I think bullying comes – whether it’s the Pilates police in there or it’s just people that want to have an opinion about it. It’s all over the place. I don’t think it’s just the Pilates police.

 

[00:32:46] NW: I’m really fascinated by this whole idea – of this idea that we need to keep Pilates so pure. I think about Joseph Pilates and how Pilates didn’t spring forth – the method didn’t spring forth from his brain out of nothing. He came from a movement background. He begged, borrowed and stole all kinds of things. How is it that he can do that and we can’t? 

 

And I also believe that if he were still alive today, he would have done anything he needed to to elevate his method. I guess part of me is very curious as to what is the motivation behind wanting to keep Pilates really pure. What is it? Maybe you want to weigh in on that. Because we don’t have any Pilates police – Hannah, you need to have some Pilates police on your podcast.

 

[00:33:33] HT: I’ve been sort of nurturing one to come on. We’ll see if she’ll make it. I don’t know if I’m the best interviewer though for this. I’ve actually been talking to someone that I would say is 99% sure that this person is not listening to my podcast ever because it’s Pilates-ish. But I have been trying to go into dialogue with someone to have them on the podcast. Because I think it would be very useful for me and for everyone out there to hear that opposite side. Or maybe it’s the same side of the coin. We all love the same thing. We love Pilates. It’s just coming from a different way. I have not yet got this person close enough to invite them on. Because what I don’t want to do is attack them. 

 

[00:34:17] NW: Right. For sure. 

 

[00:34:19] HT: And I don’t think I’m in a place yet to be able to interview successfully to have a good dialogue. I’m waiting. But if there’s someone out there that’s listening to this podcast and finds themselves to be a real traditionalist, I’m totally up for a conversation like that. I won’t put you in the Pilates police category as long as you’re not bullying someone online. And if I find out about it, then you’re in trouble.

 

[00:34:43] NW: If I were a more skilled guest, we would just debate. I would take on the mantle of like the defender of the source code and you could be the modernist and we could debate. I’m not skilled enough to do that. But, yeah, I do wonder about that all the time. The people who [are] intentionally make posts that grab another reel and then make a big red label that says this is not Pilates, I want to know the motivation behind that. Because if it’s really out of their belief that Pilates is the end-all, be-all for making life better, I would disagree with that on just very basic fitness principles and exercise science principles. I don’t agree with that. I love Pilates. But it’s not enough for me. And I don’t only do Pilates to stay healthy. And I don’t only do Pilates to keep my clients healthy, especially my MS clients. That’s one thing.

 

And then for the other thing. There are at least two podcasts, Pilates podcasts, that I listen to. And I got to be honest, they really test my patience because a lot of the topics are on this is not Pilates. A part of me was wondering is it because you actually believe that Pilates is the end-all, be-all? Or because you feel threatened by the evolution of Pilates as an industry and as a method. Do you feel threatened by it? 

 

And going back to the term Pilates-ish, which is a really – I mean, I’ve met Mariska. I’ve done her – she is so smart and she is so witty. And I can see her totally like killing it with those kinds of terms. And I love that term but I don’t agree with it. Because I will firmly plant myself as somebody who is a Pilates teacher. I’m not a Pilates-ish teacher. I am a Pilates teacher. I know Pilates history. I understand the 34 contrology exercises. I’ve seen video clips of Joe teaching. I know the history. And I think that a good strategy for dealing with the Pilates police is to know Pilates history. To actually know, read his books, read things about him, read Caged Lion. Go read the lawsuit that happened in New York, in the Southern District of New York. Go read up about on that. If you say you’re a Pilates teacher, know your Pilates history. Know where you came from. And then you can choose what to do with it, right? It’s like I know what the 34 contrology mat exercises are. I’ve read Joseph’s queuing to do it. And I choose not to. Because that is my choice.

 

[00:37:12] HT: Yes. You’re totally right. Because a lot of what my podcast is about is about having conversations like this and realizing that, all of these things, they are choices. I want people to choose how they show up in the world. Choose how they’re teaching. If you want music, choose it. If you don’t want it, choose it. Go 100%. You want to teach Pilates in a trapeze? Awesome. Do it. But make it a choice along there. 

 

And I think you are so right. It’s empowering to have the background. It’s empowering to know the history. It’s empowering to read through the lawsuit so that you can know. Yeah, you’re standing in that power. And I think that’s part of dismantling this type of imposter syndrome as well, is you’re fighting those feelings with the evidence that’s there.

 

[00:37:58] NW: I’m trying to think of other strategies, tips and tricks that we’ve missed. What did we talk about? We talked about some social media strategies. We’ve talked about being historically literate. I think that’s a really good one. 

 

[00:38:11] HT: Finding a mentor. That’s always good – 

 

[00:38:13] NW: Yes. Finding a mentor and finding a support system. I think they go hand-in-hand. And that is so important. One of the things that I experienced early on as a Pilates teacher was just being lonely. I still work at the same studio. I work at a studio with, other co-workers other Pilates teachers. But we never see each other. Because you don’t teach in tandem, right? It’s like I show up – we’re where ships passing through the night. I show up to teach my shift. I lock up. Or if I’m lucky, someone else has an overlapping shift, I can talk to them for two minutes and then – there’s just not a lot of camaraderie. There are no water cooler moments really. 

 

And having a network support is such an important thing. You get to curate those people both – I have a network in person and online. Choose the people who you want in your circle. And they should be lifting you up, right? Celebrating your wins. Letting you vent whenever there’s something challenging happening. Whether that’s being stopped by the Pilates police, or having a really difficult client, or whatever. Really important to have that support system. 

 

And that mentorship part, I would love for you to talk more about that. Because I know that’s part of your business. I didn’t think to get a mentor until six years into my career. And it does make such a huge difference. 

 

[00:39:35] HT: I think so. What you’re just saying is it’s the community. It’s about helping reframe – if we’re talking specifically about imposter syndrome, or bullying, or whatever, it’s reframing negative thoughts. It’s fighting feelings that we have with evidence that’s there. You could feel something. But what is the evidence? It’s actually there. Celebrating those successes, what you said. 

 

Being able to even – part of great mentorship is also that the mentor can help see those successes and call them out when they’re happening. We don’t even recognize – we get so in the rat rail of just going, going, going. And when someone has a different perspective like, “Oh, you just did that? That’s great that was on your list of things to do. Way to go.” Even just those types of aha moments, that’s a huge part of mentorship and community, like you’re saying. 

 

Mentorship I think can look a lot of different ways depending on what the teacher needs and what they’re looking for. It could be mentorship to find the teacher’s authentic way of talking in a class. You don’t have to have a yoga teacher voice the whole time. You could be who you are. Your voice is unique. 

 

Anything from embracing the voice you have, the queuing you enjoy using. If you’re a very – I don’t know. Say, flowery, a metaphorical person and you enjoy poetry. Well, then, heck yeah. Understand that like we got to get the person moving first. And then after that point, paint me a picture. Let’s do it. And you’ll find the people that really love that. And being able to mentor someone to really embrace that because that’s what makes them happy. And there’s a whole business just in that when they find that authentic way.

 

[00:41:26] NW: I really love that. And I think that’s such good work that you do. Because I feel like I existed in a Pilates world for a long time where the goal was to turn out the same teacher over and over and over again. Helping people find their own voice is such an important thing when we look at evolving the industry and allowing people to be themselves.

 

[00:41:53] HT: The way that I think about it, and I love that we have this dance background because you’ll get it, is that, in dancing, at first you learn the steps. You learn plié. You learn tendu. You learn whatever it is. And then you learn how to dance. Those are different things. Dancing requires going really deep into yourself and letting that out. Your deepest heart, your deepest desires, your hardest emotions. And being able to tap into that to let that out. And I think that teaching is not dissimilar. Not that we want to be airing our dirty laundry. And it’s not about that. But your way of teaching is your dance.

 

[00:42:37] NW: Yeah. For sure. And I think that’s hard to tap into, especially when you are still learning the mechanics, right? 

 

[00:42:45] HT: Absolutely. 

 

[00:42:45] NW: If you’re working with baby teachers like how I’m working with baby teachers, they’re still trying to find their words. They’re still trying to figure out how to not only do an advanced exercise, but then teach it. And we were talking about that just the other day. I was working with some students who are teachers in training and they’re midcourse right now. They’re learning some more advanced exercises. 

 

And someone said, “I don’t even know how to – how would you even begin to teach this? I’m still learning how to get into the exercise myself.” And I’m like, “I know. I know.” That goes back to the idea that you just have to be okay being bad at something until you’re good at it. 

 

[00:43:29] HT: Yeah.

 

[00:43:29] NW: Yeah. And, again, it goes back to – all of this goes back to the idea of like I feel like I’m so protective of my baby teachers. Because I want the industry to grow. And I want the industry to flourish. And in order to do that, we need more people. 

 

I mean, I don’t know where you’re at. But where I’m at, there is a lack of Pilates instructors. What is it going to be? Are we going to allow people to be themselves and be Pilates teachers? Or are we going to create this very, very narrow lane about what you need to be and how you need to act in order to be a Pilates teacher in order to be accepted into this industry?

 

[00:44:16] HT: I agree. My mentorship is not in the same – if we’re looking at the timeline of where I get my teachers, that’s after teacher training. Not in the middle of like okay, “Well, how do we cue this exercise?” After that a little bit when we realize, “I got this kind of down pat. How do I start to sound like me again?” It has to be – just like you’re saying, we have to make mistakes. There’s almost like a mechanical part of it in the beginning. You just got to get really good at saying basic things. Get the body moving. How do you say that the most simple way so that the person understands it? And I think that’s where we start at. And then a little bit later on comes all the fancy dancy stuff is what I like to do. Both of them are super important for the evolution of our industry. 

 

[00:45:07] NW: I really love that. The way that I think about it is, in terms of the mechanics, it’s like when you learn how to drive and you can only focus on one thing? 

 

[00:45:15] HT: Oh, yeah.

 

[00:45:18] NW: And then, all of a sudden, before you know it, it’s like you’re trying to decide what podcast to listen to. And you can kind of be on autopilot. The people who I’m working with are still focused on how much they’re gripping onto the steering wheel, they haven’t gotten to the point yet where they’re trying to figure out like what to put on. What podcast to put on while they’re driving? 

 

[00:45:36] HT: That’s funny.

 

[00:45:37] NW: Yeah. You know the other thing I was thinking about? I was working with some students just the other day and we were talking about short spine. And my students are constantly asking me what is the right way to do short spine? I just saw your face do this. What is the right way to do short spine? Is there a right way to do short spine? And what I heard myself saying was there probably is a right way to do short spine. And the one person we can ask is dead.

 

[00:46:09] HT: What a brilliant answer.

 

[00:46:12] NW: Because what happened was my students said, “I was taking a reformer class and I was feeling really strong and confident. And when the teacher said it’s time to do short spine, I started to do my short spine. And then she came up to me and announced, “You’re doing it wrong.” And I was just like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. There was another way that this teacher could have handled it.” What I said was, “Oh, my gosh. You got stopped by the Pilates police in a Pilates class.” 

 

There’s so many ways to do short spine. And to me, if you’re going to be the teacher and you have a specific picture in your mind of the choreography of short spine or the form of short spine, coax them – give some suggestions on how to get there as opposed to just saying that you’re doing it wrong. A lot of the work that I’m doing right now with teachers and training is around reassuring them that there’s no right or wrong way to do something. What I say is, if I say let’s do the hundred and you do swan dive, that’s wrong. Right? That’s wrong. 

 

[00:47:14] HT: Yeah. That’s different though.

 

[00:47:15] NW: Yeah. That’s wrong. But if you’re doing the hundred where you have your knees bent and maybe you have your head down and I squint my eyes and it looks like you’re doing the 100, then that’s what you’re doing today. But it’s really interesting to me that I get this question so many times. Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right? 

 

And I truly don’t know how to answer it. Depending on my mood, sometimes I can be really gentle and sometimes I’m like, “Oh, why are we talking about this?” The little nuances of short spine, it’s just so not important to me. It just really is not my priority. My priority is that you feel like you’re getting a really yummy movement. And short spine should be delicious. Whatever that means for you. Do you know the right way to do short spine? I’m curious because I didn’t know how to answer it.

 

[00:48:05] HT: You know what? It’s funny. Because, in our studio, we get a lot of people that pass through different teachers from different, let’s say, brands of Pilates. And they come through Nuremberg. And it’s awesome. We get to teach them all. And then, of course, we have our normal clients. And anytime – short spine is just a funny one that you say this. Because all of my regular clients are like, “Oh, no. Here we go with the short spine.” 

 

Because what I do is I go, “Okay, let’s do this variation of short spine. Okay, what if we change it and we do this? And now you’re going to hold the heels right here and then you roll down away from it. How about let’s take the shape down? Fold it in and roll back down your spine.” And I will make them go through any variation that I could possibly think of that I’ve been taught at one point in my life. And then I go back, it’s all the short spine. Choose the one that feels the best for you today. I’m good with that. He’s not around. I don’t know. I would say there’s that part of it. One body is going to like this version and the next body is going to like that version. I think you handle that brilliantly with the teacher is just – the Pilates police pulled you over. 

 

[00:49:11] NW: Right. Well, and if you think about it from a business standpoint, right? This was someone who felt ashamed in class. You’ve just put a client at risk for not coming back. Because they didn’t like being called out in that way. And it wasn’t a safety issue. It was an aesthetic issue. Maybe she extended her legs too fast for you. Or maybe she didn’t get legs high enough. Maybe she didn’t hit the stopper, right? It’s like all of these things. These are some of the things that I think that, even if you’re not the Pilates police, I feel like as an instructor, choose wisely about the things that you want to correct or make comments on. Because what I would argue is we just want people moving, first and foremost. That they’re happy to show up. That they – like I said, that I put on a bra. I got in my car and I came to class. That’s the first part. And then everything after that is bonus. 

 

Maybe some clients really do want to nail an exercise like short spine, or teaser, or whatever. But maybe it was just moving. And that to me is just kind of where I will always land with the micromanaging, with the overcorrecting, with the hovering. All of these things that we talk about we talk about the Pilates police, which is let’s just get as many people moving as we can. Not enough people are moving in the world and they’re not meeting physical activity guidelines. Let’s just make it fun and light. It’s not open-heart surgery. Let’s just make it fun. Let’s have fun. Let’s stop taking ourselves so seriously. Joseph Pilates walked around New York City in his underwear. Come on. 

 

[00:50:57] HT: True that. 

 

[00:50:59] NW: How can you take it seriously if you see this old man just in his tidy whities? Come on. Let’s have fun. It’s ridiculous. Pilates is ridiculous. 

 

[00:51:11] HT: Sometimes we get into positions and I think, “Well, what was it like the first time?” He was like, “Hey, I know what I’ll do. I’ll put some straps on this thing and I’m just going to roll on to my –” there must have been a process. And I like think about that process of like his discovery of what he’s going to call his method at some point. Because that must have been hilarious. 

 

Just judging from like how it is in the dance studio or how it was in the dance studio sometimes where you just do something, you’re like, “Whoa. What was that?” But there’s got to be like a what was that a lot. Because these movements are super creative. That means there had to have been a lot of failure around in there before we – or a lot of maybe process of discovery or improvisation before he was like, “Hey, hey this is what’s going to be short spine.” You know what I mean?

 

[00:51:59] NW: I love that phrase, process of discovery. I think that’s a really fun thing to put in your toolbox is that that’s really what it is. Moving your body in all these ways is discovery. It’s about being curious and about seeing what it can or cannot do. The worst thing that can happen is you just don’t do it. Oh, well, it’s not a big deal. Yeah.

 

[00:52:20] HT: Yeah. 

 

[00:52:21] NW: I’m still stuck on the idea that you have clients who are rolling their eyes at short spine. All I want to do in a Pilates class is short spine. 

 

[00:52:28] HT: Oh, no. They love short spine. They just don’t want – they just know that I’m going to whip out this. Like, it’s all good movement. Let’s do it this way, and this way and this way. That’s why they roll their eyes. They’re like, “Okay.” Almost everyone’s favourite exercise. 

 

[00:52:43] NW: Amen to that.

 

[00:52:44] HT: Yeah. I always say, choose your version of short spine for today. 

 

[ 00:52:49] NW: I might need to sit down with you at some point and have you walk me through all the different versions. Because like I said, I’m a one-trick pony. I think I have one version of short spine that I do.

 

[00:53:00] HT: All right. I’m there.

 

[00:53:01] NW: Okay. 

 

[00:53:03] HT: We’ll do all the ones that I’ve come across and all the ones that our crew likes to do, depending on the body. Yeah. 

 

[00:53:11] NW: Oh, that would be so awesome. Maybe you can do a podcast on it, a video podcast. Or maybe a YouTube video. Can you do a YouTube video on all of the different variations of short spine? Fan request? 

 

[00:53:22] HT: All right. I will do that for you.

 

[00:53:25] NW: Okay. Yay.

 

[00:53:26] HT: All right. I’ll put it in my to-do list. Give me a couple weeks on that one.

 

[00:53:33] NW: Cool. 

 

[00:53:35] HT: Do we feel like we gave our listeners some good tips on dealing with either impostor syndrome or Pilates police today? I feel like we did.

 

[00:53:46] NW: Yeah. I think we did. The impostor syndrome I think is really personal. And I think it’s one of those things where it’s like there’re going to be days when you feel like shit. And that’s when you go check in with your mentor and your pals. Or take a break from Pilates and go do something else that feels good and then come back to it. And it’s just one foot in front of the other. 

 

In terms of the Pilates police, the bottom line is there are going to be people out there who are going to say mean things. And it’s the risk that you take being out in the world. And it’s the risk that you take when you’re online and when you put yourself out there. But at the end of the day, the people who matter the most are your clients and remembering what your mission is, right? 

 

Most of us got into this not for fame or money. We went into this because Pilates changed our lives. And you are in the business to help people. And you are helping people. And as much as possible, just try to ignore them. Block, delete. Don’t engage. Or do. Or do. And just remember that I think that they more people who support you than don’t. And find those people. Keep those people close. Or have me or Hannah come seek them. Come seek the Pat police. 

 

[00:55:07] HT: We’re on it. If you’re a listener, we’re on it. Well, I think that is a beautiful place to end today’s podcast. Thank you so much for coming on. We’re going to do this one again. I think we got a lot more.

 

[00:55:22] NW: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. Like I said, it’s a real privilege to be with you. 

 

[OUTRO]

 

[00:55:28] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us in the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You can also look down into the show notes and grab any one of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching, everyone. 

 

[END]

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