How does this word make you feel?
Sometimes the word 'goal' can cause a bit of a reaction from people. The word 'goal' can summon up feelings of commitment, which in turn can immediately make someone feel unworthy based on their past. We are all different and we've had very different experiences. I think it's great to acknowledge that certain words can trigger trauma or memories that just aren't ones we want to remember.
Knowing this, if I use the word 'goal' with a client in the studio and they have even the slightest reaction - I change my tune and say:
"Or - Is there anything you'd like to do better in your life or in your movement practice in general?"
Rewording 'goal' to 'something to do better in your life' can completely reset a client's way of thinking and open them up to the session we are about to have.
Of course, answers range from "I'm just here to move" to "I'm starting to feel pain in my low back when I wake up, again, and I want to get ahead of it" to "I am going on a trip and we'll be walking on a lot of brick roads, so I want to work on balance because I don't want to fall down" to "I just really wanted to be like [X] person who can [do all the things] without needing any support or props".
Any of these answers give me something to work with to cater a session to what the client wants or needs.
"I'm just here to move"
COOL! Let's have a nice flow session and try one new thing for fun!
"I'm starting to feel pain in my low back when I wake up, again, and I want to get ahead of it"
OH! Okay, let's focus on rolling you out first to warm you up, and then we'll focus on exercises that will provide some traction in your low back and also stretch you out where you need it.
"I am going on a trip and we'll be walking on a lot of brick roads, so I want to work on balance because I don't want to fall down"
YES! We will work on balance, but we'll also work on getting movement and flexibility into your feet. It will make it more comfortable for you to walk over a brick road. I'll also give you a few things to do at home before you leave to help you keep your feet warmed up, and you can let me know if you want me to check in with you this week.
"I just really want to be like "X" person who can "do all the things" "without needing any support or props"
I get that! Our bodies are amazing in their own way and are all different, and they act different day to day. Is there something more specific that you'd like me to focus on that will give you all the fundamentals you'll need to be able to do 'all the things' one day?
Let's focus on this last one, because it's a hard one for me, personally. I've been the client who just really really wants to be able to do the things some of the other clients can do. It took me a long time and a lot of practice, both physically and mentally, to overcome this. And I needed help from my mentor to get past it!
When I hear a comment like this, my hope is to help change the client's focus before the session starts to something that is positive.
I like to ask the client for an example of what they want to improve or what they want to be able to do one day.
-A client recently told me "I want to do Jack-Knife without a prop and I'd like to do a Reformer session today".
SO GOOD! I loved this request because I also had/have struggles with Jack-Knife and I love my Reformer!!
-Example of some things I worked into a Reformer session when focusing on the client's request of being able to do "Jack-knife without a prop":
I worked in cues such as opening the shoulders, pressing the arms into the mat, and pressing the top of the head into the headrest to open the neck.
I worked these cues in and let the client know strengthening the arms and upper back will help when trying to lift the legs over the body for Jack-Knife. I also mentioned that this is a fundamental piece to learning how to "stand" on the shoulders and back of the head.
Halfway through the 100, I switched the choreography from the typical pumping the arms to [head down] with a slow, straight arm lift for 5 and slow, straight arm lower for 5.
I worked in the cues for opening the shoulders and pressing the head into the head rest.
Legs Press/Circles & Frog Press/Circles:
I had the client work on midline connection and keeping the feet or heels together (pending exercise). I mentioned the need for the strength all the way up the midline.
I also cued, again, open shoulders and pressing the arms in
A mini variation with minimal hip lifting. I used the time to have the client practice the heel connection and midline connection - as well as pressing the arms into the mat.
I helped the client by spotting at the feet, as well.
Elephant & Knee Stretches
I had the client work on pulling the abdominals up and in and work on the "in" movement, which I likened to lifting the legs over the body.
I let the client know that even this small movement and focusing on the "in" while engaging the abdominals would help for their* future Jack-Knife aspirations
I also mentioned that "standing in their arms" during these exercises was a great way to build strength in the shoulders and upper back
These are just some of the examples I used throughout the session, and most of the repetitive cues were very quick reminders, but I noticed that they became effective by the third exercise. It was fun to see the client remembering the main few tips and self-correcting.
When I saw the client self-correcting, I celebrated that win for the client "Awesome, I just saw you open your shoulders and open the space in your neck! Excellent work!"
For a few of the exercises, I referenced a mat exercise and how the client could do the same action in those exercises when practicing their mat work. I let the client know that just adding a few of these fundamentals throughout would help them gain strength.
Bottom Lift (or Pelvic Lift)
I mentioned that this exercise is similar to a Shoulder Bridge and that Shoulder Bridge is an excellent exercise to help with Jack-Knife.
I threw in a few Bridges with the client's feet on the footbar before they did Bottom Lift. We focused on control and trying to keep the carriage all the way home.
I love Short Box! I talked about the strength and purpose of the legs in the straps and how the hips will be strengthened.
I talked about Round Back being like Roll-up and Flat Back being like Neck Pull (Roll-up is like a backwards Jack-Knife).
I had such a fun session this day and the client left saying how great it felt that they could just do a few extra things to keep moving further ahead. I completely agree!
To sum up my thoughts on this post:
In my mind these two phrases are similar, but they can very quickly change a person's mindset:
"Do you have any new goals you'd like to work on?"
"Is there anything you'd like to do better in your life or in your movement practice in general?"
I'm going to continue to be mindful and:
- Change the words or phrasing I use based on client body posture or feedback
- Continue to think about things in a different way
What can I do or what could I practice to eventually...xyz
- Remember that I am not alone in the way I sometimes think and or what I am hoping to do and that I can use that to be a better human and teacher
Pictured below: Reverse Horseback on the Reformer
*Using 'their' instead of she or he to be more encompassing of pronouns