In some ways it makes me furious how good online work is.
I always knew you could work online, but somehow no one ever took me up on it… so I didn’t get to prove it. There was just this vague sense that it would work and having seen others do it I knew that it really did work. But not in my deepest most visceral places.
Anyway cut to May of 2020 when it became screamingly obvious that my studio wasn’t reopening anytime soon, if ever. [For now; all I can say that I will not be opening another home studio. I just can’t imagine having that many people through my home like before… But that is all I can say for certain.]
At that point I began reaching out to my students and suggesting that we try it unless they really did want to quit. since we had all had a long enough break and it was becoming clear that this thing wasn’t going away quickly something had to shift. A surprising number of my students went for it and we started working again… with all the issues with video chats and the internet that literally everyone in the world was having. But we got it going.
And a surprising thing started to happen.
EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students started to do their homework with far more zeal than they’d ever had.
At first I assumed that it was simply that we were all trapped at home and dying of boredom. so of course people did their homework more… right? Except that couldn’t be it because even the utterly overwhelmed suddenly double at home jobs plus kids home schooling parental types were doing better work.
So then I assumed it was the removal of commuting stress that did it…
And to a certain extent I do believe very strongly that it’s a huge part of this result. Students used to come in the studio ten minutes before to five minutes after their start time; usually flustered from traffic or public transit or work or whatever, and then we would jump in. And usually, somewhere about fifteen minutes before our time was supposed to be up I would see them start to leave in their minds; thinking about traffic, or dinner, or picking up the kids, or the next meeting, or whatever…
But I’ve concluded that none of that is the real thing that’s happening. (Not just me, I’ve talked to other online trainers and they have had universally the same experience although some few teachers are deeply missing working with touch.) Students used to enter the studio and immediately start doing their work. In fact often when they came to me in pain and I took them through whatever we did their reply would be “I thought of doing all of that … but didn’t.” And they could never tell me why.
Why did they know instinctively (I do think of my job partly as educating and reconnecting your instinctive sense of yourself and your needs) what they needed but NOT do it?
Why did they walk into MY space and immediately start doing what they needed; often to the point that all I would do is deepen and tweak the how but not choose the what, but not do the same thing for themselves at home?
And I think I know the answer now.
I WAS teaching my students to move and to trust their sense of themselves BUT I wasn’t giving them triggers in their own space. Those were happening in MY space and not going home with them.
So of course they’d walk into MY space and do exactly what they needed. All the instincts we built were in that room and not their own home. They didn’t see THEIR coffee table or kitchen chair as the tools in spite of using MY coffee table for a whole bunch of work. (Perfect height for certain people, solid, great sense of where your butt is etc.)
Another aspect, and just as important; is that with online work I am forced to modify what I want to do to what the student has in their house. I can’t go get the five hundred dollar (or six thousand lol) prop to teach them what they need to learn. Nope, kitchen chair, towel, mat, couch etc…
Whatever they have, that’s what I have to work with. No matter what.
So I do.
The unexpected outcome is that now when they walk into their OWN space they see those pieces in their own homes and are actually inspired to use them in ways they never were before. Complete with my voice in their heads cueing them to what’s THERE not what’s in MY STUDIO!
Finally, the hands of it all:
This is the enraging part for me personally.
I have spent almost TWENTY YEARS teaching my hands to listen and feel and communicate and cajole and massage and receive and give. I truly believed in my soul that hands on work was essential to movement training.
Yes, I knew one could teach online but I never believed one could teach exclusively online because the hands on is “so important.”
Except I was just wrong.
You see I now have several clients that I’ve never touched and a few I’ve never even met in person and a few in Europe or the USA or world travelling as well… and they too are thriving as my formerly in studio students have.
Turns out that when I’m not able to touch my students I am then FORCED to put it into words until they get it. I can’t just poke or pull and jolly them and say “there! feel that!”
Nope, I have to keep talking until I see what they need actually happening. Or I have to do a different exercise or exploration. Or whatever. What I don’t get to do anymore is give up on words and just use my hands to gesture or move them.
And because of that?
Concepts are getting in far more deeply and sticking far more solidly.
THIS was the thing that shocked me.
I truly believed that hands on was irreplaceable in movement work.
But it isn’t.
And this? This is why I’m enraged… I mean not real rage, just head shaking and hit by a sack of sponge balls I did not see coming.
Hands on isn’t better. Colour me shocked.
It turns out it is actually better to talk the student through the experience until they find it for themselves.
Interestingly, back in my first training they told us that we should be careful demonstrating too much in classes as students would try to imitate us instead of finding their own version of the movements and shapes. [Particularly important in my case as I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Weird loose collagen makes me ridiculously flexible AND I was a serious athlete in my youth. My shapes are not the shapes others should or can make.]
No one suggested to NEVER demonstrate just not to do it that often…
Already I was doing less hands on because I noticed that the most experienced teachers don’t touch often. And when they do it’s VERY effective. But I still thought we needed some. Which is why I used to believe that online could only supplement in person work and was instead shocked to be flat out wrong.
Anyway long story short, turns out it’s better when people find the thing for themselves than when you do it for them.
Guess everything really does come back to lessons we learned in kindergarten.