How to choose your Pilates instructor?
Piroska Balla, 23 Nov 2020
Pilates is now everywhere. It is offered at your gym and your yoga studio. You see Pilates-like moves in spinning, barre and aerial arts classes, and you find fusion classes where you mix Pilates-like exercises with yoga, fitness or you can even work out in heat. On top, social media is full of videos with the aim to educate or impress. As Pilates is not trade-marked, anyone can now use it for whatever purpose and for whatever movement form. And they do as Pilates has proven to change the life of many and because now the name itself has a huge marketing value.
So, the marketplace is saturated, non the less in Luxembourg. And many of you who would like to try out Pilates are already in trouble to choose where to go for your classes. So, what to do? In this post I will not discuss what Pilates is; that is a big question on its own. I will only touch the criteria that are important for me when I choose my instructor.
My body is my temple
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt in my life so far is that my body deserves the best. It has carried my soul – and hopefully will still carry it for many years-, and it has endured a lot, from childbirth to different forms of physical and emotional stress. And often times I have forgotten to nourish it with enough sleep, good food and safe exercises. Now I want the best for it also when it comes to my physical training, so I am very careful when I choose my Pilates, yoga and fitness instructors. I know I am lucky as I have experience in movement education so I can easily spot who is the right person for me. And I also understand that impressive Instagram accounts may not be the best tool to make informed decision.
Education is everything
Have you ever asked your instructor about his / her qualifications? This is where I start. With feeling the burn during class that everyone says you should feel, I know it seems unnecessary. But you may want to know that Pilates is far more than just a set of exercises or a gym class and there is a sophisticated science behind it. Without proper instructions you may just reinforce old movement patterns, aggravate conditions and even suffer injuries. And if I say the Pilates instructor training market is just as saturated as the market itself, where instructor trainings range from weekend courses to 3-year education programmes, you may really want to look into who is teaching your body to move. Especially if you have specific health reasons or objectives why you want to take up practicing Pilates. And not something else.
For the moment Pilates teacher training is not institutionalized by national education systems; Pilates is not taught in universities or in other official national adult education programmes. Courses are mostly organised by reputable Pilates studios with some clear lineage back to Joseph Pilates himself, or fitness course providers which have been, or not, accredited by national or regional regular sport associations. In Luxembourg, currently, there are no special requirements for sport coaches, so practically anyone can teach any movement with any kind of education background. What a mess, right?
So, how to choose – he criteria for me
The first I check when I choose my instructor is where the person trained to become a teacher, or more specifically a Pilates instructor. In my opinion a solid Pilates training programme consists of nothing less than 650 hours. A well-trained Pilates teacher invests a huge amount of time and money into attending lectures, teaching volunteer bodies, doing personal workouts, observing certified teachers, studying anatomy and kinesiology, and is examined along the way of his / her education. These programmes usually take minimum a year or even more and encourage lifelong learning and teachers to seek education opportunities for the rest of their careers.
Classical or contemporary?
During your research you might see Pilates differentiated by phrases “classical / traditional” or “contemporary”. These two approach Pilates differently, often times to achieve different goals or the same goals with different teaching methods; this subject is well worth another big blog post in itself. I, personally, have had the pleasure of knowing many good teachers on both ends so no one style in itself guarantees a more competent teacher. However, I tend to trust and recommend more those who have followed a classical curriculum at some point in their learning experience, because they seem to understand better the origins and the basic concept of the method itself.
Some bigger school names that offer quality education in Europe and are accredited either by the Pilates Method Alliance or EuropeActive: Romana`s Pilates and Corpus Pilates (classical) / Polestar Pilates, Stott Pilates, Balanced Body (more contemporary)
Does she /he offer only mat classes?
Joseph Pilates developed the mat series first, so it stands by itself in some respect. However, the equipment he built later opened up an array of new possibilities and exercises that challenge and work the body differently. Now the mat work covers only a fraction of the whole system and the full effects promised by the method can hardly be achieved without training on the equipment. Also, teachers trained to teach on the apparatus will have a greater understanding about how the body moves against resistance; and let alone, invested far much more in their education than those trained only for the mat work.
What is the portfolio of the studio?
Reputable studios and teachers offer a variety of classes and use professional equipment.
Since Contrology – as Pilates himself called his method – was originally designed to be taught in private set-up, check if your teacher gives individual lessons and if she / he is qualified to adapt your classes to your personal needs and special conditions or health concerns. Individual lessons require different teaching competencies than the group classes and not all teacher trainings consider this difference, unfortunately.
If you choose group classes, check if they have a level system in place with a clear concept behind to ensure safe and meaningful progressions in the practice. It is also important that group classes only allow a maximum number of clients in to ensure safety; some international standards recommend 12/14 clients for mat, and max 6 clients in for apparatus classes.
And last, but not least, you may want to be sure that the studio owns professionally manufactured equipment, which has been designed and built to strict specifications. Some brand names to listen for: Gratz, TecnoPilates, Balanced Body, Peak and Stott – their price tag also offers assurance about their quality and safety.
People come to Pilates for a variety of reasons, from healing pain to recovering from injury, to improving sport performance or losing weight, or just to feel good in their bodies. On top of educating yourself about how to choose a qualified instructor and quality classes, you may also want to be specific about your personal objectives and needs, to know exactly what you are after.
And last, but not least, listen to yourself and the way you feel after the workout. It will also tell you whether a teacher is really for you or not.