Monday, 03 25th

Last update12:29:48 PM

Interview with a ChiBall Master Trainer: Sandie Keane

Sandie KeaneSandie has a background in Classical Dance and has been involved in the fitness industry since 1990. After qualifying in 1999 in Canada at the Original STOTT PILATES centre she has been actively involved in the development of Pilates training courses worldwide and has written two books on the subject.

Sandie has a unique style when teaching Pilates as she combines her interest of Oriental Philosophy into her teaching making her approach more 'seasonal'. Sandie is director of therapiauk ltd, a clinically run practice where she treats clients with various medical conditions using Oriental Therapies along with Pilates prescription.

CB: What is your background in terms of practising or teaching fitness or mind-body exercise?

SK: I began my journey into the fitness industry in 1987 after the birth of my second daughter... I would follow Jane Fonda video's in my living room trying to reduce the aftermath of 3 back-to-back pregnancies, and then a close friend took me along to her Aerobics class and I knew from that first class that I wanted to teach fitness... I qualified in 1990 with the YMCA and set up 4 local classes providing a creche for young mums like myself to get out, meet others, and have an hour of Aerobics whilst the children played. Everyone was happy.

My next close encounter was Step... I ordered an aerobic dance video from Kari Anderson -- she sent me her Step Video by mistake, but it was actually a gift as I was so taken by it that I bought 30 steps and started a Step Class... I loved Aerobics and I loved Step... At conventions I was inspired by Marcus Irwin, John Sharkey, Bob Smith and others.

In 1996 however I was involved in two successive traffic accidents which left me with a very nasty whiplash and low back injury. My physiotherapist, who was also a good friend, advised me to hang up my Aerobic Shoes... As I now know and believe, my accident was not an accident. That week I went to my hairdresser and she presented me with an article in a magazine and asked me if I had heard of this thing called 'Pilates'... I showed it to my physio who endorsed the book straight away, saying the exercises in the book were great for neck and back issues and core stability. So I went back to my classes and introduced Pilates... I lost a few people but it soon became very apparent that the majority liked what I had to offer.

Within 6 months of introducing Pilates I was approached by a colleague who had attended a course in London and she told me I had to go on it... the course was held in my area so I signed up and attended the intensive training that was called ChiBall...just like my first time in the Aerobics Class 10 years earlier I came away from that course and added a ChiBall class into my programme the following week. I have been teaching the Method now for 10 years and I never tire of it.

CB: How does ChiBall compare to teaching Pilates?

SK: In terms of enjoyment, they both give me an equal sense of satisfaction... however, the rewards from ChiBall are very different to Pilates, but the level is the same. In Pilates, I get the satisfaction from hearing clients and students say how much it has improved their posture, their strength, reduction of pain, increased mobility, whereas with ChiBall the satisfaction comes from seeing a class move together and the feel of the energy in the room being lifted.

The satisfaction from someone saying to you at the end that they have never felt anything like it in a sense of calm and release and to those who have managed to move themselves forward in their lives due to something that has been said in class that has inspired them to take action. ChiBall to me is a gift that I can give to those who step into the studio and they in turn give me a gift back by coming back each week and some have been coming back each week for 10 years.

CB: What benefits have you seen or felt in your life since becoming an instructor of The ChiBall Method?

SK: Personally, since teaching ChiBall I have become a more stable person, a quieter person, someone who can appreciate the smaller things in life. I have become more humble, less agitated although I still have my moments of heated eruption...I have had many times over the past 10 years where I could have crumbled and times when the pressures of life were heavy. I look back on those times and wonder where I got the inner strength from and I believe ChiBall played a big part in helping me acquire that inner strength over the years. My own practice has improved, it has taken me to many places and I have met some outstandingly wonderful people throughout this journey of which I will always be eternally grateful to those who made that happen for me and to those still making it happen.

CB: What is your favourite part of being an Instructor?

SK: I don't like the term 'instructor'... I used to be an Aerobics and a Step Instructor but once I started Pilates and ChiBall I have seen myself as a teacher, and as a teacher I hope that those who attend my classes learn something each time they come... I like the fact I can help those in the class to better their own practice with hands on helping, verbal instruction and making the classes enjoyable so they learn from the experience..I will continue to teach for as long as there is someone willing to listen.

CB: What kind of people do you work with and teach?

I have a few hats that I wear. I teach 7 classes a week at a local health club, and those who attend those classes have a variety of conditions and levels of fitness. As the classes are mainly drop in classes I do get new faces in but the majority are people who started with me some years ago and are still fans of the programmes I teach. It is however quite a challenge to teach a flowing class whilst offering modifications and alternatives to those struggling without the class becoming stifled.

In my clinical practice I teach 4 classes a week to small groups of 3-4 people at a time and they book for courses of 5-10 sessions in advance and we work through a programme which will be suitable for their level. This way of teaching Pilates especially is the best kind as far as seeing results and profound changes in peoples posture and abilities.

My clinic also offers remedial therapy where I conduct a full skeletal and musculature assessment on a client and from those results I prescribe a treatment followed by remedial Pilates exercises. My treatment is called K.O.R.E. Therapy and it comprises of a mixture of Eastern and Western therapies...

During the year I tutor for one of the largest training providers in the UK called Professional Fitness and Education. My role is a senior tutor for Modern Pilates UK bringing teachers up to a level 3 qualification standard. I also teach for the Oriental Body Balance College teaching K.O.R.E. Therapy specifically designed for Personal Trainers and Pilates Teachers to give them extra tools to work with when working with their clients.

CB: Do you have a favourite pose or sequence?

SK: My favourites change all the time. As I learn a new sequence, it becomes a favourite until I learn a another one... so to answer the question: no, I don't have a favourite as such. If anything, I have certain postures that I am less happy with, only because I have difficulty in doing them and they are usually the ones I should be doing more of. I like the sun salutations and because everyone I watch teaches it slightly differently I like the variety it can bring so I never tire of that one. In Pilates I like all extension work as it takes me out of flexion, something I endorse in every class as we are too much in flexion during the day.

CB: How are you looking to deepen and take your practise forward in the future?

SK: I'm always learning and trying to improve my own practice, when not teaching I would always have my nose in a book or scouting over the internet for information, but lately I have found myself just taking time out to go out and walk or to sit in stillness and have disciplined myself to do as much research and computer work as having rest time too. This allows time to digest new information, and it helps me to see it more clearly before I act on it... I also learn by watching and listening and love the saying 'the more you learn the less you know'... my practice has changed over the years and my interest in Yoga is more profound compared to 5 years ago, my meditation skills are getting better but I still have a long way to go on that... I think maybe a ChiBall retreat in Bali would sort that one out!

CB: What would you say to people who are starting a ChiBall practise, or are considering becoming a Teacher?

SK: For those beginning the practice I would tell them that they are starting on an incredible journey of self-learning and to be prepared for the unknown. ChiBall can touch you in ways no other practice can because you are working deeply on a subconscious level with a combination of disciplines. You will open up old wounds but you will also get a resounding feeling that uplifts you and takes you forward. It can be unnerving when you experience a door in nature opening up to you and you are suddenly faced with yourself but the results you feel after that make it worth while... I would also say to people starting that they shouldn't be bullied into it, not everyone is ready to embrace this and maybe if they don't like the practice then to try it again next year so if they feel differently...

For someone becoming a ChiBall Teacher I would first welcome them on board. Teaching the whole programme is like being faced with a banquet of food... you cannot expect to eat and digest it all in one sitting, nor can you regurgitate it all at once either. I would encourage them to teach a little and often of what they have learnt in small doses and build on it in their own time and to always remember what inspired them to teach ChiBall in the first place. It is a unique programme requiring unique people to teach it and it is our uniqueness which is our gift to the Method.


You can read more about Sandie on her ChiBall Bio here.