Mind & Motion

What to look for in a pilates teacher…

Posted in Fitness Tips by Meghan Pickrell on August 22, 2009

So, as promised I’m following up last week’s post from Lee Artur (off of Carole Amends blog, http://aasicontributions.blogspot.com/2009/05/re-crash-course-for-personal-trainers.html) with a few tips on searching for a pilates teacher. Hopefully, this list will be helpful to you. You want your pilates teacher to be:

1) Educated. Ask teachers where they were trained. The big certifications are Physical Mind, BASI, Peak, Polestar, Balanced Body, Stott,and Power Pilates. Here is also a list of schools, courtesy of pilates-pro, that are holding teacher training programs (http://www.pilates-pro.com/directory-education). See if your teacher’s school is listed on this site. There will be exceptions to this rule of course. I had an extraordinary experience working as an apprentice at a studio for a year and a half (how Joe Pilates ran his studio). My education was untraditional but very enriching. I “interned” in the studio 5 days a week observing, learning and teaching (around 2000 hours) to give you an idea. As a rule of thumb the more hours required, the more practiced the teacher.  Also, ask teachers if they attend continuing education classes? Does he/she hold additional certifications or licenses? Are they college educated in dance or science? The pilates method is not trade marked which means anyone can say they teach pilates. There is no universal standard for pilates teachers so you will find a continuum of teachers ranging from those certified over a weekend to those who have been teaching for 20 years. Let me reiterate this, anyone can call themselves a pilates teacher. This means there is work to be done when looking for an educated teacher. Trust me, it’s worth it when you find someone you like.

2) A clear communicator. Does your teacher convey exercises, concepts and technique clearly? It’s great if they are educated but if they can’t convey their education to you then it’s really no use. Are you free to ask questions? Is there a healthy rapport between the both of you? Your teacher should use a variety of teaching styles including modeling, facilitating, instructing and training. Generally people lean toward a specific learning method which includes visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles. Some people can learn through a variety of senses. A well rounded teacher should use a variety of styles in order to convey ideas and movements. Eventually they may stick with the style that best suits you. In the communication process, there should also be discussion about goals, both long-term and for the day. Hopefully, your teacher will ask how you are feeling when you walk in the door and that should help discern what type of session you get. If you are stiff that day, then the teacher may guide you through stretches or decide what would be appropriate for your condition at the moment. (As a side note: communication is a 2 way street. Voice what you want, and may just get it…)

3) Able to mix things up. In order for your workout to stay fresh it’s important to continue to add new exercises into the routine. Granted, there are only so many classical pilates exercises, however, it’s important that your session isn’t too routine. Many teachers tend to stick with the same series of exercises performed in the same order every session. This can be helpful when just starting in order to feel accomplished and see progress. However, after a while, it gets a little stale. Find a teacher that’s continually changing the program, adding new exercises or trying old exercises with a new spin. There should be room for continual exploration!

4) Personable/comforting. Look, you’re hopefully spending a few hours a week with this person. Choose someone you like. You may find a teacher that’s all of the other qualities but if they are a little irksome then it probably won’t work. You want to feel comfortable with them. It’s important that you trust your teacher and feel safe. Even if it’s completely professional, you are developing a relationship with this person. Hopefully, your teacher is compassionate, kind, understanding and patient. The session should be stress-reducing and that would be challenging if your teacher is harsh or impatient.  A little bedside manner never hurt anyone and will probably make the session more enjoyable. 

I hope this post is helpful for you! It may sound like a little work but you will be much happier when you find the appropriate teacher. You wouldn’t go to just any dentist, right? Take time to find a teacher best suited for you. Ask questions, interview, and explore. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions and good luck!

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