Infinity Pilates Studio, East St. Kilda VIC
Instructor Name: Paul Schembri
Studio(s) you work at: Infinity Pilates Studio
Location: East St. Kilda VIC
Instructor training: PITC/NPT Diploma of Professional Pilates Instruction (2014), APMA Level 1 Instructor (2000)
PAA Level: Professional Level 3 Instructor
What originally motivated you to try Pilates and then go on to train as an instructor?
Whilst undertaking my Bachelor of Education in 1990, one of my subjects was Dance and I had sustained an injury. As part of my rehabilitation, I came into contact with Pilates and thought this might be an added string to my bow – a side project that might come in handy.
Little did I know it would become my main source of income and passion by the time I had completed my degree! I loved how it combined my love for dance and movement into a structure that not only rehabilitated me and lengthened my dance career, but also complemented my degree. I distinctly remember moving through a low-bar cat stretch on the Reformer as part of my rehab and having the thought “OOOOO I love this! There’s something special about this technique – maybe I should explore it more?”
What did you eat for breakfast?
Ok, confession time: I don’t eat breakfast (the world shudders and the apocalypse is nigh)! A couple of cups of coffee wakes me up in preparation for my very early morning classes.
In one word, describe your first Pilates experience?
What impact has the recent COVID-19 virus had on your world?
There’s no doubt the impact of COVID-19 really shook up the Pilates industry! I was very fortunate that Infinity Pilates flipped to an online presentation of classes during the first long lockdown in Victoria. I initially had around 10+ hours a week of online work before we were able to return briefly to face to face sessions. Those of my clientele who didn’t undertake online classes really felt the impact of lockdown/being sedentary upon their bodies when they returned to the studio and knew they had to be more proactive about their wellbeing and movement.
When we found ourselves in a second – and subsequent – lengthy lockdowns, my weekly online teaching total increased to 22+ hours! Having never had a desk-bound job, the impact of sitting and staring at a screen reeked havoc on my body and added more incentive to ‘practice what I preach’ and make time to get on the mat; utilise any small apparatus I had at home and look after myself. I have no doubt that this was beneficial to my own mental health: Mind follows Body/Body follows Mind and I needed that grounding so that I could be present and assistive for many of my own clients who also faced mental health challenges during lockdowns and the shock of returning to the studio.
How have you handled your Pilates teaching with COVID-19, any advice to other teachers?
With the importance of social distancing and the utilisation of online delivery, the use of any hands-on assistive cues I would normally use was heavily restricted. So it came down to Language and Imagery to assist clientele to maintain their current abilities and improve their technique. I had to explore this and develop this and I feel this has actually improved my instruction both in-studio and online.
I also had no issue wearing masks or receiving vaccines but I had to develop my compassion and empathy for those who did have mask issues or chose not to be vaccinated, or risk damaging and losing some relationships and connections that were important and valuable to me. I think it all comes down to Adaptability and Resilience and having the Courage to explore new ideas and techniques and methods…and to make mistakes, have a laugh at myself and try again.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Helping my clients feel better IN themselves and ABOUT themselves as they explore better movement pathways; increasing their ranges of movement with strength, awareness and control and to hopefully move away from – and stay out of – Pain.
Your ‘go to’ website for all things Pilates (other than PAA)?
I will often explore Pilates Anytime for ideas and explorations or take myself off to Reach Movement health to look for professional development possibilities…AFTER I’ve explored the PAA website, of course! Lol!
The best advice you’ve ever had?
To trust my gut instincts. I’ve always done this so it’s not advice per se that someone gave me. I’ve never been wrong when I’ve gone with my gut feelings and those few times when I have, I’ve always regretted it or created a larger problem for myself to deal with further down the track.
An indulgence you can’t live without?
I’ve recently discovered White Chocolate with Madagascan Vanilla available from Aldi and I’m very glad there are only 5 small bars in a pack!!
How long have you been a member of PAA and how did you hear about PAA?
I became a member in 2015 though I was aware of its existence prior to that having been in this industry for sooooo long.
Do you have a motto?
If it doesn’t work for you: change it – adapt it – transform it until it does. Or leave it behind and move on. Come back to it later if/when it’s appropriate.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Apart from the early morning wake-ups to be able to undertake my early morning classes (yes, many in the industry nod knowingly) it’s when a client presents to me being in pain that I am most challenged. How do I help them? Can I help them?
Sometimes it’s enough that they feel heard and that I hold space for them to move and explore from that place and to help them make better informed choices about the movement of their bodies. Sometimes I need to refer on or consult my peers for help and guidance. Each individual is different and that requires a different response each time.
How do you use PAA?
It has been great to be able to utilise the PAA to find professional development workshops in my State and, more recently, to attend their virtual conference and access such a wealth of information and experienced Instructors nationally and internationally. The regular newsletters are also incredibly informative and can draw my attention to an issue in our industry that I may not have known about
Who is your Pilates idol or would love to meet, and why?
Knowing what I know now and having experienced what I have, I would have loved to have met Joseph and Clara Pilates and discussed with them their thoughts on the industry and where it’s been and headed. Likewise with Kathy Grant. I would also love to meet Elizabeth Larkin and Blossom Leilani-Crawford (the latter I have experienced live online and the former influenced my early years in Pilates and more recent Pilates + Fascia explorations).
What do you appreciate most about your body?
I appreciate my body’s strength and resilience, power and flexibility. I am very fortunate that I came to Pilates very early on in my life and career and now that I enter my 50’s, am enjoying the benefits of such a long, sustained involvement with this amazing method.
The book you’re currently reading?
Nerd Alert! Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates & his Legacy by John Howard Steel. This was given to me as a gift awhile ago but I confess: the combination of teaching full-time and running after my son who has Cerebral Palsy; is autistic and non-verbal leaves me little time to really get into and finish this!
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