Am I a fraud for calling myself a Pilates teacher?

As a studio owner, a Pilates teacher and someone who lives and breathes Pilates, I have come to understand there may be necessary change on the horizon.  Teaching in Palm Springs allows me to work with students and teachers from all over the world.  In a typical month, I can have anywhere from 30-50 visiting international students and teachers attend my classes.  I hear countless stories from students and teachers who struggle to understand the basic movement principles and also have difficulty executing many of the exercises.  They often describe their experience both as a teacher and student as frustrating, repetitive, mundane and uninspiring.  I believe that a discussion on where the Pilates industry is heading is overdue.  I think that both teachers and students, as they embark on their Pilates journey, choose a method and studio that resonates with them.  This brings up a question;  How do you differentiate between a “Pilates Method” taught class and one that is an “exercise class” on the reformers?

Before I moved to Palm Springs I visited in the early 2000’s. There was only one Pilates studio tucked away in the south end of downtown.  Today, there are a number of studios offering various approaches to the Pilates method.  Once the domain of dancers and elite athletes, the Pilates landscape has shifted.  Franchise studios have opened in countless cities across the US to offer “affordable” Pilates that attracts a whole new demographic of students.  This boom has created a demand for teachers. It’s possible that these new teachers haven’t had the necessary time to become adept at teaching.

In 2005, I was introduced to the Fajardo Method of Holistic Biomechanics.  I was taught in-depth joint mechanics as well as a number of other important aspects to movement and how they relate to the nervous system and physical mind.  I was taught that if we allow the mind and body time to discover movement without judgement, we can correct many unhealthy movement patterns that impede our progression.  In my experience, both classical and traditional teachers follow a systematic series of exercises, rarely deviate from that class format, and teach the same exercises repeatedly until the students improves their quality of movement. My experience learning about biomechanics offered a completely different approach.  My teacher taught us to first understand movement before learning the series of Pilates exercises.  This taught me to be creative and constantly search outside the box for new ways to teach movement. I learned that the more I worked on finding new and different ways to experience movement in my body, the better I could teach movement to my students and watch them progress more rapidly than I ever thought possible.

Not long after moving to Palm Springs, I began to teach at a small studio.  I was unbelievably green and beyond nervous when teaching.  I was positive I was destined for failure.  I was overwhelmed with trying to teach movement when I was still in the process of learning myself.  With so many new teachers entering the Pilates industry, I think about my early days and how blessed I was to work under an incredible mentor who constantly worked with me to make sure I offered my students the quality they have come to expect from the method.  Can a teacher fresh out of learning Pilates jump right into teaching 6 to 8 classes a day and truly offer a quality class?  Truthfully, the answer is no.  I remember thinking I was a fraud even while working under an experienced teacher.  I cannot image how a new teacher feels when they are thrown into the fire teaching multiple classes a day and maintaining their class enrollment numbers in order to remain employed.

On my first day of teaching, I was introduced to my students a “Pilates Teacher.”  With very little experience and still learning the method myself, I held the same title as the studio owner, who had many years of experience. In the fitness industry, we are lacking something that is extremely important to help individuals understand who they are working with.  I believe that if we required titles that allowed our students to know our experience and education, our industry would be more transparent.  I use the medical industry as an example of how a system of titles alerts the patient exactly who they are talking with.  It would be egregious if a registered nurse and a doctor held the same title.  Why has the Pilates industry neglected to implement titles based on education?

It can be a challenge for a student to find a teacher who teaches from experience and one who is also qualified to teach the method in-depth.  With so many visitors attending my classes and seasonal students leaving for the summer, I find it nearly impossible to recommend a qualified teacher who has completed a comprehensive Pilates training course and one that also teaches from experience.  It’s like going to the beach: If you take off your shoes and socks and walk along the shore, you feel the wet, cold gritty sand between your toes and could describe this to someone in complete detail.  However, if you share your experience with someone else and they share your experience with another person, they are essentially describing something without experience. Or think of art: If someone takes a course on painting, could they go out and start teaching students how to paint? The answer is yes, however, their lack of experience working on honing their skills will certainly translate into poor quality of teaching.

As always, thank you for reading my blog in its entirety.  Writing is a skill that I am learning, and I am honored to share my experience with you as I develop my skill.  It can be difficult for me to write in a tone that is non-judgmental as I am extremely passionate and opinionated.  This blog initially started with me pointing a finger a the franchise Pilates industry and over time, my edits and rewrites made me think that I would rather offer a perspective and hope that my readers can draw their own conclusion on what would be best for our industry.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them with me.  I love learning and hope other teachers and students whom I have yet to meet, can share their experience with me.