First up in our very special Instructress Transformation Thursday series is Alison Oxton. Ali's been a fixture at SP since the beginning - a true #SPOG - and her classes showcase her sense of humor, her bright spirit, and best of all, her commitment to helping each and every student to get stronger and reach their goals.
I remember the first class I taught. It was a barre method class at a small studio on the north shore. We were doing a glute exercise at the barre. During the exercise, I was instructing the clients to lift and lower their working leg. I instructed, “lift, lower, lift, lower” but some people were lifting while I was lowering and lowering when I was telling them to lift! I couldn’t believe it! How could that happen?? (insert sarcasm here). I tell this story to illustrate the growth in my teaching practice that has occurred over the years. At that moment, while everyone was lifting and lowering at their own discretion, I was focused on the choreography of the movement rather than the purpose of the movement.
During my time in grad school, I found The Bar Method and Exhale in Boston. These two barre studios became my home away from home away from home. When I wasn’t working, going to school, and attempting to have a social life, I was at one of these studios working out. I fell in love with barre-style workouts. I started taking classes at a studio on the north shore and the owner asked if I was interested in teaching. I decided to take the plunge and start teaching. I was “certified” through the studio and started teaching one or two classes per week. I fell in love with teaching. Thankfully, I did move on from that first class and no longer have a fear of mismatched lowering and lifting.
As an instructor, I developed my own style. I tell jokes, dance, clap, snap, and cheer. While I was developing my own style, I watched my favorite instructors and took note of what I liked about their teaching style. I tended to lean towards teachers who played good music, who knew their music, and taught to the beat of the music. But really, the extra special teachers could give you a correction or an adjustment (to the beat of the music) and at that moment connect your mind and body. I began to notice more and more barre studios popping up offering “certifications.” I took classes at these studios and realized that the instructors who are instructing instructors to instruct have no real certification in anything! There was something missing.
Even though I held a master’s degree in nursing, I felt it was important for me to expand my certification as a fitness instructor. I wouldn’t want to go to a doctor or nurse who didn’t hold a valid degree! I continued teaching while obtaining national and international certifications. I am most proud of my Pilates certification that I recently obtained through Equinox. They value teaching hours and continuing education as an important piece of an evolving instructor. After having a baby, I lost the connection to my core. I found Pilates and began to connect to my core muscles like I had never done before. I am able to help women who have given birth in the same way. It is gratifying as an instructor to help someone regain their strength when they didn’t think it would ever be possible!
When I teach, I am completely present in the moment. I spend hours making playlists, coming up with new exercise sequences, and practicing on my own. So when I enter the room, I am prepared and completely capable of handling any and all situations that may come about in a studio setting, because any and all does happen. There may be clients who recently had a baby and are recovering from a C-Section, or another client might be recovering from foot surgery. My first class self might be thrown for a loop with these situations because of my lack of training, but I have transformed as an instructor. I am well educated and experienced, embodying the saying, “you can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
Studio Poise has always been a studio where instructors are encouraged to continually develop their practices all while developing their own style. There is no other dance/barre/pilates studio that values continuing education like Studio Poise. I am a proud member of #poisenation and SP will always hold a special place in my sparkly heart.
Catch Allison Wednesdays at 4pm teaching Poise Fusion Xpress, and Thursdays at 5:15pm teaching Nothing But Leg Xpress. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Ali - and for bringing so much energy and passion to every class you teach!