In early June, renowned Scoliosis specialist Helen New paid a visit to PilatesITC HQ in Perth to deliver a series of Studio sessions and the main event, Curvy Bodies: A Scoliosis Workshop, for WA Instructors and Students.

Pilates is an intelligent system and PilatesITC has the academic edge in vocational training and continuing education, attracting high-profile local and international “movers” to ensure our Pilates family is always learning, in all ways – no matter where you are in your career!

Continuing Ed isn’t “just for” qualified, experienced Instructors; to illustrate this point we sat down with PilatesITC WA Educator and Pilates Practitioner, Lora Rainey and PilatesITC Diploma Student, Nikki Ramm to reflect on their continuing education experience with Helen New.

First thing is first: which events did you attend with Helen New?

Lora: I had a Studio Duet with Helen, and went to the Scoliosis Workshop.

Nikki: I did the Scoliosis Workshop, and was lucky enough to be a body for most of it.

For those who haven’t worked with Helen before, how would you describe her?

Lora: Helen is lovely! She’s warm and approachable. Not surprisingly given her background, she’s a wealth of knowledge and presents very well. I enjoyed her style of delivery: she’s practical and clear.

Nikki: I agree, she was relaxed, very clear, easy to understand and happy to answer questions.

What was your experience with Scoliosis prior to your session(s)?

Lora: My Diploma and Advanced Diploma studies equipped me with a solid base of knowledge; what Helen does is next level and added a whole new practical dimension to working with Scoliosis clients.

Nikki: We’ve covered Scoliosis in our coursework, and I have experience the condition in my own body and how that affects my comfort and functionality. 

Did you have any “lightbulb” moments working with Helen?

Lora: Multiple “Ah-ha” moments! The Duet was particularly valuable for me in terms of my own self-mastery. Under Helen’s direction I found myself able achieve techniques I typically find challenging; a testament to her communication style and smart, intuitive cueing. She’s great at breaking it down and building it up again. Sometimes as Instructors our self-mastery becomes an after-thought, so a Duet like this is useful for reconnecting with our own bodies.

The central theme of the workshop was “de-rotating” people and being able to make strategic corrections on a variety of bodies in motion. It’s a big, complex topic: there was lots of information to absorb and process on the day. When I was in the Studio the following day I felt a bit like a mad scientist because it all clicked into place mentally!

Nikki: I have Scoliosis myself, so the “prop what’s dropped” technique was a revelation! Such a smart way to assist a client with imbalance by propping the body with pads to help realign and provide some relief from that awful, heavy tension.

It’s “Rose and Thorn” time: what was your highlight?

Lora: That next day when the content all clicked into place in my mind. I felt really empowered by everything we learned with Helen.

Nikki: It was a pretty unique situation to be a Scoliosis body for the workshop and a Student simultaneously; so, for me the highlight was gaining a deeper understanding of Scoliosis as an Instructor and in my own body.

Thorn: something you’ve taken away from your session(s) with Helen that you find challenging/you’ll continue to work on?

Lora: It’s not a case of now I know it and pack it away as “done”. Helen has equipped us with fantastic new skills and intelligence, but now the real work begins – identifying opportunities to apply it responsively for clients. That in itself is challenging: understanding this complex condition and applying it safely in the real world.

Nikki: As Lora said, it’s a complex condition and unique to the individual. Learning how to assess other Scoliosis bodies – everyone is different – and understanding how to help them is a big practical challenge. It’s a bit daunting but something I now have a frame of reference for and a place to start, thanks to Helen.

What was your favourite skill/tip/trick for working with Scoliosis clients?

Lora: Even for someone with mild scoliosis, I found some of Helen’s techniques extremely effective in addressing my own neck and back pain. It’s hard for people without Scoliosis to understand, but the element of relief for these clients cannot be underestimated. It’s a game changer for me, I can only imagine how relieving that would be for someone with Scoli more serious than my own!

Nikki: Again, the propping: so simple and effective!

For Instructor Students: a good piece of advice about Scoliosis?

Lora: It’s a 3D posture/condition, so it’s not a one size fits all type deal – that’s why it is so difficult to understand in the context of our undergraduate course work. It’s a LOT to fit into your course.

These are skills we all need, but they need to be applied intelligently. Don’t do something if you don’t fully understand it: especially where it concerns a condition like Scoliosis, you will likely make it worse for the client.

Nikki: The information you take away can be overwhelming, but the best way to understand it and retain it is to put it into practice ASAP. Apply it on friends, family, other students; talk it over and practice and it’ll stick.

Favourite Helen-quote or anecdote?

Lora: I loved her analogies. Especially “the bossy side” as a playful way to reference the imbalance in the Scoli body.

Nikki: I agree! Her analogies were so fun and useful and have stuck in my mind! “Prop what’s dropped!”

Why is it important to do Continuing Education with people like Helen New?

Lora: The learning doesn’t, or shouldn’t, stop when you graduate. We need to invest in this type of learning to protect ourselves, our clients and the reputation of the industry.

Students, don’t be afraid to yourself to throw yourself into it! Instructors who haven’t done Continuing Ed for a while, get back to it!

Invest in learning and understanding from people like Helen, arm yourself with the proper tools and feel powerful for doing so! These sessions are a great way to enhance your learning mix no matter where you are in your career.

Nikki: From a Student’s perspective, the more tools in the Pilates tool box the better! It gives us a competitive edge, makes us more employable and more competent going into the work force. At the end of the day, having these skills will help to attract, retain and make a difference in the lives of a broader range of clients.