by VP_G7P8dgOfz

May 19, 2023

The Whole Woman Approach: A Conversation with Pilates Expert Lisa Simpkinson

Lisa Simpkinson is a pioneer in the pilates industry, having been the first instructor in the world to train in the US methodology of a ‘whole woman approach’. 

This approach, rooted in the belief that the body is designed to move in a certain way, focuses on restoring a woman’s body to its natural youthful posture. 

At Village Pilates, Lisa and her team are passionate about helping women rediscover the joy, peace, and freedom of movement that comes with a balanced and aligned body. 

In this interview, Lisa shares her insights and experiences on how pilates can unlock a whole new level of strength, balance, and vitality, and how it can help women reach their full potential.

1. What’s your career background?

I’ve been involved in Pilates since high school, where I attended a performing arts school with a Pilates studio. Being a dancer, Pilates was an important part of my training process. I continued to practice Pilates during my time studying contemporary dance in London. 

After completing my degree, I was invited by a family friend to do Pilates training, as they were in need of more instructors and knew about my background in dance. This was how I started my journey into teaching Pilates.

In terms of opening my first studio, I had another family friend who was a personal trainer, and wanted to offer his clients Pilates too, but didn’t want to teach it himself. So he invited me to open a small Pilates studio with him on July 4th, 2005. This would eventually lead me to Village Pilates, where I have been able to help thousands of people. 

2. How long have you done Pilates?

I started doing Pilates classes when I was around 13 years old, using the machines and whatnot. But I’ve been teaching Pilates since 2004.

3. How does it feel to be the first Pilates Instructor in the world to train in the US methodology of a ‘whole woman approach’?

Bringing the Whole Woman Approach into Pilates is an amazing opportunity that I feel blessed to have. And along with that opportunity comes a sense of responsibility that I take very seriously, it’s my calling. 

I feel like I’m pretty good at grounding this approach for people, making it relatable to everyday life. The whole woman approach can be a little bit spiritual, but I bring it down to earth and make it applicable to people’s daily routines.

4. Tell us about the ‘whole woman approach’. What does that mean exactly?

The whole woman approach is about returning your body to its natural state. When I teach, I always ask myself: how would I stand, breathe, and move if I were five years old? That’s my guiding principle.

One of the concepts I emphasise is proper alignment, which means breaking the habit of tucking the bum and sucking in the tummy. Another aspect is natural breathing. These seemingly simple ideas can have a significant impact on your overall health.

The whole woman approach started with female pelvic health, focusing on choosing exercises that support the prevention and healing of incontinence and prolapse. However, it’s not just for women! Men and women can benefit from the little tweaks we incorporate into our Pilates classes and daily lives.

It’s amazing how much of a difference small adjustments can make. By incorporating the whole woman approach, we can help our bodies function better and feel more comfortable in our own skin.

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5. What makes a GREAT pilates teacher?

To be an amazing Pilates instructor, you really have to embody the practice yourself. It’s not enough to just take a course and start teaching – you have to truly live and breathe Pilates. As instructors, the more we incorporate Pilates into our own lives, the better equipped we are to guide our clients to success.

In my experience, having personal experience with injuries is invaluable. As someone who has dealt with a rather nasty shoulder injury, I can relate to clients with that kind of injury and offer personalised guidance that truly helps. 

When it comes to training, it’s essential to seek out comprehensive programs that take a good amount of time to complete. The longer the training, the more in-depth it is, and the better equipped you’ll be to deliver quality instruction.

But that’s not the end of the road – as instructors, we must never stop learning and growing. It’s important to continue to develop our skills and deepen our understanding of how Pilates can be integrated into our clients’ daily lives. By doing so, we can help our clients achieve real, functional improvements that truly make a difference.

7. Who is your ideal student?

My ideal student is someone who comes in with a willingness to do the work for themselves. They’re fully present, not distracted by their phone or watch, and they’re intrigued about how they’re moving. They’re keen to learn more and do the homework, which makes it much easier to make progress and see changes.

And it’s not about being an elite athlete or having a certain level of ability. Regardless of where they’re at – whether they’re a beginner, intermediate, advanced – what matters most is their commitment to themselves. That’s what’s really cool. 

8. What have been your biggest business challenges?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a business owner is employing people. It’s been difficult, but ultimately it’s rewarding. The COVID pandemic was another major challenge, but I found that it pushed me to grow and learn new things.

Losing team members has been another significant challenge, especially when you’ve grown close to them and they feel like family. It can take a long time to adjust and move forward from that.

Teaching clients with different personalities is also a challenge. When I was younger and just starting out, it was particularly overwhelming. Some people may not like your teaching style, while others love it. I’ve learned not to take it personally and now it doesn’t bother me. 

9. And your biggest successes to date?

Oh wow – definitely building an amazing team of instructors. While people do come and go, we’ve been fortunate to have many talented and dedicated instructors stay with us for a long time. It’s such a beautiful thing to see people coming to work and enjoying being a part of our team!

Another success has been the studio space itself. It’s amazing to think that we’ve grown from humble beginnings to having one of the largest Pilates studios in Sydney. The space is truly stunning, and all of our instructors love working here. It’s such a joy to be able to provide our clients with high-quality instruction in such a beautiful and welcoming environment.

10. Is your family supportive of your business, and how important is that?

Having a supportive family is absolutely essential – I couldn’t have done it without them! From the very beginning, my parents and grandparents helped me out to get started. 

Even my kids are supportive – the older two come and do Pilates sessions with me now, and they’re proud of what I do. It’s awesome to see how much they love being a part of it all.

I also have my cousin and sister who work with me at the studio. It’s incredible to have such a wonderful network of people who are all supportive of the business. 

11. How do you fit your business around your family?

Some days can be really challenging, and I’m not going to lie – there are times when I feel overwhelmed. This morning, for example, I had to coordinate getting three of my four kids to three different locations at the same time. My husband is a pilot too, so he’s away working a lot. It’s not easy, but I take it one day at a time and try not to let it get to me.

One of the keys to managing everything is asking for help. I used to struggle with this, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to reach out to others when I need it.

12. What has most surprised you about yourself in starting your business?

I guess how I sort of stumbled into it without knowing how to run a business. I relied heavily on my instincts and followed my heart a lot, and it worked out for me. I’ve tried to be more business-like in the past, but it just doesn’t feel natural. I’ve learned to trust my intuition and follow my instincts, which has been a really nice way to run things.

13. What’s your vision for your business?

What I truly love is empowering human potential – it’s my passion. I want to help people reach their fullest potential, whatever that may be. My initial vision was focused on the physical location of the studio, but now that we’ve established ourselves there, we’re going to keep building and expanding our reach even further.

14. What advice do you have for others who want to start a business?

One of the most important things to do before starting a business is to set boundaries for yourself and be clear on why you’re doing it. Ask yourself, “why am I starting this business?” and make sure you have a solid answer. 

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and try new things. It’s important to avoid doing the same thing all the time and not to follow the crowd – you need to find your own unique approach to stand out. 

15. Why do you think your students come back to you?

We genuinely care about our students and create a welcoming environment. Our team is committed to learning, developing, and growing – and we bring that attitude into our space. The energy of the space is a key factor in what we do, which is why we focus not just on teaching our team about exercise, but also about energy management. All of these elements come together to create a truly beautiful experience for our students.

Want to meet Lisa in person? Join one of our upcoming events or come to one of her classes

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