Pilates Style magazine
September/October 2012, pp. 50-57
The Magic Touch
Jillian Hessel learned about the power of hands-on guidance when teaching Pilates from masters Carola Trier and Kathy Grant. Here, she shares their unforgettable techniques that will soon become your studio's secret weapon.
BY JILLIAN HESSEL
Exercises modeled by Emily Gocke Garfield with Jillian Hessel
Anyone who has seen archival films of Joseph Pilates knows that his approach to guiding a private session was very hands-on. Although Joe's personal style of teaching looks rather rough on film, the fact is, hands-on guidance has always been a part of learning and teaching Pilates, dance, yoga, gymnastics and just about any other form of movement training you can think of.
I learned to teach Pilates while apprenticing with Carola Trier in New York City from 1981 to 1982. Carola was the first person trained by Joseph Pilates to open a studio with his blessing. Her teaching style was extremely specific, and she was a hard taskmaster. She was also a certified massage therapist, so she naturally elevated her hands-on style to a fine art. She liked to call her guided exercises "candy," and she drilled her apprentices endlessly on how to impart resistance, pressure and guidance to clients — without injuring our own bodies. Carola was a great businesswoman: Everyone knows how addicting candy can be, and her hands felt SO good that her special touch kept clients coming back for more, for years and years!
Hands-on techniques can help to stimulate or inhibit a specific muscle group to fire. They can also help to impart an organic rhythm (along with the breath) as to how the dynamic of an exercise is performed. Inspired and knowledgeable hands-on guidance can enhance the execution of an exercise, gently leading our students to a deeper place of physical understanding and performance, which they would not otherwise achieve on their own.
With the popularity of Pilates group classes, and the current emphasis on new equipment design and continuing education, it is imperative that we maintain hands-on guidance in our teacher's toolbox. A great teacher-training program should include discussion and practice of hands-on guidance, and in this litigious society, we need to learn the correct way to touch and guide clients safely and confidently. Here are some of the exercises I learned from Carola, and from my other mentor, Kathy Grant. Also included are a couple of self- guided exercises that can be done in a group setting. Enjoy the candy!