Pilates Teacher Self-Care

Episode 33:

Teachers are such generous people who give so selflessly to their students and often forget to take care of themselves. In this episode of The Pilates Exchange, we discuss the importance of Pilates teacher self-care.

Tune in to hear all about why you need to prioritize self-care, why you need to set clear boundaries about who you are capable of teaching, the importance of settling limits of how much you give of yourself, and why you need to protect your time.

Today you will be reminded that you cannot process your trauma through your clients and be empowered to let your personal story become your teaching superpower. To hear all about Hannah’s personal boundaries and be inspired to set your own, press play now!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Pilates teachers as generous people and why they struggle to set boundaries. 
  • The importance of digging deep to understand who you are capable of teaching.
  • Hannah shares an example of her teaching boundaries and how she discovered them. 
  • Why you cannot process your trauma through your clients. 
  • How your personal story can become your superpower as a teacher. 
  • Why setting limits on how much you can give of yourself to other people is self-care. 
  • The importance of protecting and creating boundaries around your time. 





[0:00:38.5] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We’ll 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.




[0:01:02] HT: I think overall, teachers are generous in giving of themselves in all circumstances. I think this is a defining character of great teachers. Something that happens, though, at least in my own personal experience and some of the people that I have mentored in the past, teachers that I’ve mentored in the past, is that some of us have problems to set maybe clear boundaries. Maybe, that’s what it is. Boundaries, I don’t really have a better word for boundaries, but let’s explore this and see if we can find a better word for it. 


When we’re good at what we do, and we love what we do, which is teaching movement and teaching all people. I think sometimes we get caught up in the need fairly to teach everyone. There is a movement for that right now, right? That we want to be able to teach anybody that comes into our rooms, into our studio space, into whatever it is. I do believe that that should be there. We should have the ability to teach anyone that comes in. 


Any body, however that person may look like, what is their background? All of that. I’m 100% in that. But I think there’s another side of it that we don’t explore enough and about the capacity of each one of us to teach everybody or teach particular groups of people. I think it’s a very tricky area. I think this is going to require some really deep work on your own. Each person has to really dig deep, think about this, really feel deep in their soul, I know this sounds really exaggerated, but like feels deep in their soul, like what it is that they are capable of doing. 


I’ll get here in a second, but there’s stuff that is like emotionally fulfilling to teach. There’s things that – there’s people or groups of people that aren’t because of maybe some of the things that we have experienced in our past. So, let me go in here. We can’t forget that us, the teachers, we’re human beings. We’re all incredibly complex. We’ve all had a long-life history of experiences of things that brought you into the teaching world. 


I think something that makes us great teachers, like I said before, is this generosity, this willingness to give and give and give of ourselves, but often, I feel like the boundary is sometimes not there where we pour back into ourselves for our own self-care. I think that depending on what history you’ve had in the background, there might be times where you are not capable of teaching a group of people, a certain group. 


Okay. So, let me give you some examples of what I mean. I’m on the fence. I was wanting to talk about this for a really long time, but it’s really, really tricky, so please forgive me as I stumble through my words here. Okay. If for example, I’m going to take my personal example at first. I’ve talked about this in the past. My mom has multiple sclerosis. It has been a journey over the last decades of watching her go through what MS sometimes brings. Somewhere along the way, I had decided that I wanted to teach people with MS. Okay. I did this fabulous training with the neuro studio and I’m really grateful for everything that I learned there. 


Then I started teaching a class for people with MS. I’ve loved every single moment of working with our group of people that we’ve had. Somewhere along the way, I realised that I can’t teach them anymore. This was an incredibly, incredibly painful moment of realising that I can’t do the job that I had set out to do because I am not in a healthy enough place with my relationship with multiple sclerosis, because of what my mom is going through. I don’t know if that makes sense. 


When I was teaching, like for a while, it was fine. Everything was great. I felt like I was excelling in that area because of the history that I brought into it, because of what I’ve experienced in my life and what I’ve born witness to through my mom’s life. I feel like I was doing a really good job for a long time and then slowly things tilted. I realised that I can’t anymore because of the unprocessed trauma of the things that I have experienced too. I’m not going to use this podcast to go into that so much. 


What was really hard for me is that I believe that I should be able to teach everyone and every, like anyone, that comes into my studio. I think that I wasn’t giving myself enough room to say, “Yes, and I also need self-care.” There has to be boundaries in place for my own self-care because what I was doing was giving so much of myself in these classes for the people that I really grew to love, but I wasn’t taking care – like I was so involved with them that I would cry after every single class, every single one. 


Their experiences were then wrapped up in my own unresolved stuff and it didn’t start that, but it ended up being like that. That’s where I had to say, “Okay, I’m no longer the best person for this job.” that was very, very painful for me and also for them, but it’s because I have to change that relationship. I want to just like talk about what is that? Yes, I am in therapy for anyone – like I’m a big proponent of therapy for anyone that has gone through some hard stuff. 


Anyways, so I think there is the element that we don’t get into. We want to teach everyone. We want to be able to teach everyone, but not at the cost of self-care. When it starts to deplete you on a psychological level, we’re no longer in a healthy relationship with our teaching. We are then in a place of like rescuing and helper syndrome. I don’t even know what this syndrome thing, so I’m not a therapist, so don’t take my word for syndromes, any of those syndromes. 


There’s this element of like when you’ve had personal experiences with something, whatever it is, it could either become your superpower or it could become your nemesis. Just because you’ve had the experience in some area doesn’t mean that you need to go deep and niche out in that area. Okay, I’m going to give you a different example. Say you’re sober from an eating disorder, right? You’ve gone through all your stuff and you feel healthy from that. You may be able to start a Pilates class for people that have ED or you may not. It doesn’t mean that you have to. It doesn’t mean that you have to give to that community because it might be that it’s triggering for you. Then you fall back into old patterns. That’s what I mean. 


It’s the same thing if you are a survivor of abuse of any kind, then in one respect, maybe you would be able to help other people in that area, or maybe not. I think that maybe in there has to be always re-reflected. Is that a word, friends? We have to always go back and contemplate, where am I at with this right now? Because I think that there is times where it changes, like it did for me, at some point, it tipped. It went from a very beautiful thing and something that I still feel very strongly about to realising that I was not, I was no longer able to give in the same way because I had my own healing to do. 


Maybe the word boundaries is not correct, but it’s about self-care, self-reflection, and your identity a little bit. Where’s the work that you’ve already done for yourself? Where do you need to go? What we don’t want to do is process our own traumas through our clients. I also think that there’s a lot in the context of the teaching, so maybe this doesn’t apply to you if you are teaching occasionally in a gym setting. 


Maybe the classes that you’re teaching are really, really big, so you might not know the backstory on people, but I’m maybe more particularly exploring this concept with a niche out group, because I do think we’ve talked about this a little bit on the podcast before, sometimes in our businesses going into a niche group of people and teaching to those people is what our business needs is also what a certain group of people needs. You could really, really help in that area. 


I think that’s incredible, like whether it’s MS, or maybe stroke, or maybe it is ED, maybe it is breast cancer survivors, maybe like there’s all sorts of different ways, women in menopause, Pilates for men. There’s a lot of different ways to niche out with our classes. What I’m saying is that like your background, your personal background can be your superpower. That is 100% sure. That is your personal history. That is what – if you understand what that is that makes you an incredibly authentic teacher. 




[0:10:30] 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 programmes 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.




[0:11:18] HT: On the same token, there is work that needs to be done, especially if there is some trauma that has brought us to that area. Trauma, there’s different, I think, maybe definitions of trauma, but if something has been incredibly stressful, or frightening, or distressing, maybe difficult to cope with, then those are the areas that I think that there needs to be, I’m giving you permission to say, “Hey, I’m not ready to teach this group. I don’t feel like I could excel there.” That is well within your right as a teacher because we don’t need to fix everyone. We don’t need to rescue everyone. 


I hope all of this is making sense because you could say no to the things that you don’t want to do. I think that’s easier to then say no to the things that you do want to do, but maybe it’s not that healthy for you. Maybe it’s about setting limits on how much you could give of yourself to other people, and that’s that self-care. Really, in a pouring back, you need to be able to always give yourself energy back in this career. It’s not always necessarily like just squeezing in an extra workout. 


I think you’ll see a lot like, “Okay, just do your Pilates workout. Do your yoga practice.” That’s the version of self-care that there is, but I know that it’s little – I know that it’s deeper than that. I know it’s improving your relationship with yourself and creating those clear expectations and those responsibilities. That is self-care. Self-care in the teaching room might also be like a little bit different in physical boundaries, just as much as I say that the teachers shouldn’t always be touching their clients like there has to be some navigation right there, but also if you’re working for a studio that says you must do tactile cueing because I’ve worked in a studio like that before, where it was a requirement that you go in and you give manual adjustments to every person that’s in the room. 


From when I was working in that studio, I was also, unfortunately, part of a very abusive relationship. When being forced to have physical contact with other people was really terrible. I made it through because I loved teaching and I felt like that was the only way to do it, but I’m giving you permission to say – If I had known then what I know now, I would have said no. Like there’s other ways to teach. I was too young at that point to really stand up for myself, but that is also part of self-care to know what those boundaries are. Protecting your own space and your own body as not just about what the client needs. 


You have a right to not have to do that. The same way as like if there’s clients after class, maybe they give hugs or whatever. You could also say, no. I was mentoring another teacher and she feels very uncomfortable when people touch her because of other issues and just having a clear boundary also in there. The people, sometimes our clients, they want to express their gratitude for the things that you’re doing for them, but it doesn’t mean that you have to hug them. It doesn’t mean that. Maybe if you like it, sure, but you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to participate in that, let’s say. 


Same thing with our creating boundaries in the class of like in a group class setting, I don’t think this is the same thing, but maybe in a private boundary, private classes, emotional and mental boundaries. You have a right to your own feelings and thoughts and you don’t have to hear everyone’s shit either, like you don’t have to be listening to the trauma of your client. You can, but you don’t have to. It is also not your place. You’re not a therapist. That’s not what they are paying you for, but I feel sometimes clients go in and they tell you way, way, way, way, way too much. That might be triggering – depending on your history. That might be very triggering for you. 


You have a right to say, “Hey, I’d like to focus back on this movement that we’re doing.” You can say something like, “I understand this is a big issue for you. I have a name of a therapist that I think that would be able to help you further.” Same thing like while we’re talking about those boundaries of person leaning in for a hug, you could just say, “I’m not a hugger. Thank you so much.” You don’t even have to say thank you. You could say, “I’m not a hugger. Please don’t touch me.” You don’t have to thank them. You could see the conditioning, even when I’m saying this. 


You could see the conditioning that I’ve been brought up in, but you have a right to do that. That’s what I’m saying is you have a right to say, “Hey, I cannot.” For yourself, “I cannot do that for you right now.” Time boundaries are also, I think in this self-care practice, it’s how you manage, but how you protect your own time. If you hold that near and dear to you, this is the way you also give back to yourself. You don’t have to agree to do everything. You don’t have to agree to teach every person, every class, every gear end up overworked. 


Also, setting boundaries of when people can interact with you. If the doors open in the studio 15 minutes before, then sure, that’s your time. I mean, we have people that used to, until we started in enforcing this, used to show up an hour before. Well, I’m trying to get ready for my next class. I teach four hours, I’m teaching too much still, but like I would teach four hours, take a 30-minute break, and then teach the next block of four hours. That extra 30 minutes was the time, the only time that I had to go to the bathroom and eat some food and stuff. There would be people knocking on the door and just saying, “Oh, yeah, I just wanted to say hi.” 


Well, no. You can’t. This is my time. Putting those boundaries in that respect in because you have to take care of your mental space, you have to take care of your physical space, but that time of replenishing however much you’re allowing for yourself, you probably need more from whatever you’re doing anyways, most of the people that I’m talking to need more time anyways. That’s well within your right as the teacher to say, “This is how we interact. This is where we can’t interact.” 


If someone is, say you’re teaching a personal training and a person is 10 minutes late. Okay, do you go 10 minutes early after? I don’t because I’ve learnt. I had one person that would show up literally, 30 minutes late, and then expect me to go over until I put my foot down and said, “No, that’s not how we do that. My time is between this hour and this hour. You can use that. You could show up 30 minutes late and I’ll teach you 30 minutes.” That’s how I used to do it. Then I changed it to, “You’re past that 10-minute time mark. I have been waiting for you. I set this hour and now the hour is gone. Now, I’m going to go work on something else.” Because it’s disrespectful. I could be doing something else. I’m not there to just sit around and wait on you. 


I think where it gets really tricky is when it’s not one of those big red flags, like someone taking advantage of your time, or something with physical touch, or whatever it is. I think those are the big red flags and that’s like, oh, yeah, that’s really clear of how we can set boundaries of self-care, where it’s really hard, at least in my opinion, is when we have a group of people that are near and dear to us, but you realise that you can’t take care of them in the way that you want to, that they deserve maybe something else because it is at some way emotionally taxing on you, or it’s makes you feel too vulnerable, or it’s too stressful, or too frightening, or distressing. Then that means that that is no longer a relationship that should be carried out. 


You are no longer in the capacity of teaching well, that group of people or that particular person. it takes a lot of courage to change what that is. You could say, “Okay, well, I’m sorry, things have changed and I’m no longer able to provide you that service.” I think one way to do it would be to say, well, I think there’s a lot of ways to do it. Great would be as if you can pass them on to another person or give them other resources to help them or figure out what you need as the teacher that’s supportive to you so that you could do your job well. Maybe you just need support in a different way or maybe it really means that you can’t teach that group. 


I really do think that this time I’ve stumbled through this whole podcast. I really, I hope that you’re able to understand the basis of what I wanted to give to you, give you some ideas of thinking a little bit deeper about your relationship, maybe in some of your classes. I will be taking a short little break from podcasting for a couple of weeks as I go home and take care of my family for a little bit. Then I’ll be back with the next season. 


I have a lot of great things planned, a lot of really interesting guests that are coming up. I’m just preparing that in the background and I will be ready for you. I’d be happy to hear what your feedback is. If this podcast made sense to you or if this episode made sense to you at all, if you felt like this before, let me know. I also like to know that I’m not alone sometimes. Wishing you a wonderful week and lots of happy teaching. See you soon. 




[0:20:57] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us and the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You could 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.



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