It’s been a month of upheaval as we closed our studio doors and switched our classes to virtual offerings. Having presented workshops and made many YouTube clips over the years, the switch to online group classes was relatively easy. It felt natural.

Private online sessions however, felt like entirely new territory and I wasn’t sure how they would unfold. I couldn’t fully imagine how to help someone successfully through a screen with the specifics that one expects in a 1:1 session.

Without equipment we are so much more limited. Would there be enough options to personalize the session?  How to modify? And none of the hands on work that is so effective. No leg circles no guiding scapula, no tapping gluts!

Having done over a dozen private classes now, I’m surprised by how I’ve come to love teaching private sessions online, and am fascinated by the results that can be achieved. It’s been deeply satisfying as a teacher and the response from participants has been incredibly positive. As I reflect on the reasons behind this – how a class with no equipment, no hands on contact and no direct component can be so satisfying – I keep returning to a few characteristics that the virtual platform pushes to the forefront.

  1. Focus
    These classes demand heightened focus on both sides. There is an extra alertness to cuing and absorbing. Focus improves Pilates. And everything else.
  2. Novelty
    The reality forces different sets of exercises to be introduced and research has shown that novelty is a great factor in learning. Adding load, using springs and equipment can create novelty. Absolutely. But so does removing it. The foreign feeling of no assistance can be novel enough that the brain pays full attention to it.
  3. Connection
    These times are so unusual and our connections to people have been so minimized, that it can be thrilling to work with another person so directly and so personally. We may relish this connection more than ever right now.

Clients have pursued private sessions with possibly more targeted goals than when we’re in the studio. Frequently, the purpose of private online sessions falls into one of four categories.

  1. To better manage online group classes. A few sessions to personalize the group mat classes to one’s body can be super helpful.  Developing  exercises that support an individual’s personal vulnerabilities as well as recovery exercises. We can develop substitute exercises when group class ones aren’t appropriate.
  2. Set up of a customized home workout. In addition to or instead of group classes, we set up a workout series that is specific to your body.
  3. Ongoing private sessions in order to be guided and directed and maintain motivation, leaving the decision making to the teacher.
  4. Develop different equipment routines. For those with a home reformer, we can develop alternate routines and challenges and broaden your exercise options.

It should be noted that so far, we’ve only taught private sessions to pre-existing clients.: to those that have already had their hips mobilized, sensed their scapula with the push through bar, and who’ve found their gluteals with the help of the reformer.  It’s likely easier to tap into that movement history when seeking good form without assistance.

I’m curious to see how we progress these sessions in the coming weeks. I’m also pretty sure they’ll remain as an ad-on service to the studio when we do get to return to all of that effective hands on work and the glorious Pilates equipment.

Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.

Laura Helsel Gauthier
Pilates Process Director
Author, Presenter, PMA Certified Teacher
Franklin Method Educator