The first thing that I should declare is that the forced closure of our studio, along with the all the other elements of the ‘lockdown’ proved to be an extraordinary gift to both of us. It was a gift because it made time for us to reflect on what’s truly important to us. And I am blessed to have a number of loyal and generous clients so that, while our studio business was/is in a grave situation, my private work increased.
I am also very fortunate to be married to my business partner, and to have spent so many hours walking and talking about our vision and our dreams, as well as hours in nature just being and feeling rather than doing. I imagine that there are many Pilates teachers and business owners who have been less fortunate and what follows is in no way intended to judge anyone – I’m simply interested in sharing some thoughts as well as some questions that this extraordinary time has asked me.
For a while now the forums seem to be full of questions and requests for advice around how to ‘safely’ re-open studios or resume teaching, and how best to conform to the various rules that may be in place. Should I wear a mask? Should they wear a mask? What about visors? And socks? And ventilation? And spacing between apparatus? Etc.
I’m curious as to whether there is a question about how what we teach under new restrictions relates to why we started teaching Pilates. Is it possible to teach Pilates in a “Covid-secure”* manner and in the spirit of the man who wrote ‘Your Health’ and ‘Return to Life’?
*(I put “Covid-secure” in inverted commas to reflect my belief that the very idea is probably nonsense – to imagine that by means of sanitisers and masks and visors etc we can stop certain viruses from interacting with us seems the height of hubris to me. Just so you know where I’m coming from…)
What do you imagine Joseph would make of this situation? The man who advocated as much fresh air as possible, and made so many films of himself working outdoors. Would he have been happy to wear a mask? Or to work in a room that was closed off to the outside world with air circulating through UV filters? Maybe this is entirely unimportant when the imperative of earning and paying the rent trumps all other considerations. If this is the case, I wonder how far we have to be pushed away from the holistic health origins of the work before it starts to feel odd.
Is there a point at which the rigmarole of meeting all the regulations, in order to pay the rent, actually become of greater importance than the outcome for our clients? And I wonder how many clients may be returning in order to support the business, rather than supporting their own health. We have certainly benefitted from this kind of moral and financial support over the lockdown and I bring this up only because I imagine that we have to be watchful – at some point that kind of motivation will surely wear thin.
I guess the short version of the above is “Are we re-opening because our clients need us, or because we need them?”
This was not clear to me when I first started teaching but I now recognise that my goal in teaching movement is to be in service to other people. If, by helping someone else to feel more joy, to live a more beautiful life because of a change in their relationship with their physical self, then perhaps I can do my small part to help the world be a better place. Having had this realisation about my job, which is also my mission, I cannot easily contemplate working for any other reason. This means that if, by opening up our studio with the imposition of a lot of rules (ours or the government’s), someone might feel more anxious about a virus, or their well-being then I would prefer that they don’t come. Ideally I’ll be able to teach them online and we will still be able to achieve great things without any Pilates apparatus. In many cases people would prefer to stay away, and I support that wholeheartedly. Perhaps it will turn out that many people who have previously been Pilates regulars discover that, actually, they don’t need us. That seems like a really good discovery to make and if our business has to change as a result then that is simply the way it is.
And what about health?
One of the strangest things about the past few months for me is the apparent absence of advice on how to be more healthy. This is particularly odd when it seems to be abundantly clear that the more healthy you are the less significant this corona virus is. The dominant advice in the UK appears to have been “Stay Home” – with the promised result of either ‘staying safe’ or ‘saving lives’. As I alluded to above, the idea that staying in your home offers any kind of protection from interacting with a virus is utterly bizarre.
Yes, podcasts and people that I follow have had episodes on how to boost your immune system but they feel quite niche in terms of their reach. The best I’ve seen is a supplement company advert on the back of a bus. The people most susceptible to an adverse interaction with the virus are clearly those with metabolic syndrome and, as I saw pointed about by a doctor recently, neither wearing a mask nor having a vaccine will address diabetes, heart disease or obesity.
Are we re-opening to enhance people’s health? If we support a culture of fear (of both the natural world and our fellow humans) by embracing the notion that the studio is currently an inherently dangerous place to be and requires multiple special measures to be rendered ‘safe’, are we supporting health? What is the impact of fear on our health? If love is the absence of fear, what does that suggest? I imagine love is good for our health…
If any of this resonates, are there other ways that we can be of service to and support our clients? Can we adapt, and be proponents of holistic health (I know you may not feel qualified to give health advice, but I would respectfully suggest that if you’re teaching movement you are already doing so)?
I would suggest that this starts with something like “How are you?” and “Is there any way that I can help you right now?”There is so much information available for free online and researching sound sources of advice will only help us. I don’t know how it would be in the USA but I doubt that sharing an article about, say, Vitamin D with a “I saw this and thought you might be interested” could be construed as criminally outside of a movement teacher’s scope of practice.
The condensed version of all of this:
Why are you pilates teacher?
Why do you have a Pilates studio?