AIM1: I’m building what?

So, you know how you give a client a cue and they say they don't feel it? Or you give a cue and they seem to not be following it at all? Or they try really hard to listen to what you're saying...almost too much, waiting for your every word?

OR...

How about when you give a client a cue and you observe a good response...have you ever asked them what they were thinking? Were they actually following your words? Are you sure?

As I am one who attempts not to make assumptions wherever possible...I was not sure, and so, I began asking my clients questions. Almost from the start of owning my own pilates studio (this was 1992, 11 years after I had begun studying pilates), I began to wonder what clients were thinking and feeling when I gave them cues. I wanted to be the best teacher I could be, and I wanted to understand more about why I was asking them to do the things I asked them to do! In other words, how did I know what I know? As our conversations deepened, I understood that clients' minds and bodies did not necessarily follow my words...and, if they did, sometimes my words took on different meanings for them. Words became very important to me - I was fascinated, to say the least.

Well, one of the books on my shelf at the time was Bone, Breath, and Gesture, edited by Don Hanlon Johnson. In it was a chapter called, "Matching" by Elizabeth A. Behnke, Ph.D., a well-known phenomenologist and pioneer of “The Study Project in Phenomenology of the Body.” I was amazed how it kept my attention until the end of the article.

I read it and thought, "That's what I feel...and do!" I had to speak with her! It was easy to find her...I gave a call...and she answered!

I remember how excited I was speaking with “Betsy” and the prospect that our conversations might be ongoing. She’s a prolific writer, a brilliant editor, and a translator of Husserlian phenomenology, just for starters. We set up a relationship where I called her when I wanted feedback or info and I paid her a fee. Oh, the insights! One day, probably a year later, I told her that I had begun to make a list of things that my clients and I focus upon. Betsy then told me that I had been building a model.

"A what?" I said.

She explained what a model was and it sounded right on target.

"Yes, that's what I am thinking when I ask my clients questions." I started reading Bateson, whom I had heard about at Esalen Institute.

And that's how the Amend Integrative Model (AIM) got its start. I estimate that it took 10-12 years to get to the base cues of AIM, documenting at least 16 iterations of the model in the process. To this day, Betsy is still my go-to-consultant when I've got to put my thoughts on the phenomenology of movement practice into perspective.

If I had to say the #1 quality (which is often really difficult to do, but a generally rewarding mental exercise) that has led to successfully communicating with clients, it would be the way in which we inspire participation in their movement practice process. Coming from a somatic movement perspective, this participation is self-evident. And so, it is no wonder that AIM is, philosophically, a unique and groundbreaking first-person model - a reflection of my commitment to providing a reciprocal learning environment.

Participation in the pilates online forums (beginning with Pilates Pro in 2008) has been key to making important distinctions about our work at Bodies Mind®, and ultimately, about the Pilates by AIM perspective. I’m happy that we’ve finally landed here in this online blog and that we’re able now to share some of our AIM terms and to demonstrate how we teach through embodied conversation. Just as our clients benefit most when they learn how to become participants in their process, you, too, will benefit most by sharing your questions/concerns, thoughts, and experience. And, hopefully, the info and feedback we provide will assist you in making distinctions in your important work, as we help to advance the pilates profession.

Oh, and about what I felt, when I first read Betsy’s article in Don's book? Put in my own words, it became a studio motto: "Feel What You Look Like". The framed motto has been hanging on my studio wall for 25 years, and everyday it reminds me to make no assumptions and to keep the client in charge of their process.

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned, please subscribe, and visit often…there’s so much more to come!

Study Group Challenge:
1. Read Betsy’s article in Bone, Breath, and Gesture.
2. Can you think of an example of when you knew the client did not understand you...when the cue did not “land”?
3. What has been your process of connecting with your clients’ thinking or feeling?
Please share your comments!

Carole Amend