What Makes a Great Pilates Teacher?

As a studio owner, a Pilates teacher, and a continuing education provider, I have come to understand that a discussion on how our industry is evolving is overdue. 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 who 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. Why is this occurring? I believe it perhaps has to do with both inexperience and dedication to continued self-practice. This brings up another question: Regardless of the method taught, how do you differentiate between an experienced Pilates teacher and one who is new and less seasoned? 

In the early 2000s, I visited Palm Springs before moving to the city. 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 only the domain of dancers and elite athletes, the Pilates landscape has shifted. Franchise studios have opened in countless cities across the U.S. to offer “affordable” Pilates that attracts a whole new demographic of students. This boom has created a demand for teachers. It’s possible that this rapid rate of growth has flooded the industry with teachers who haven’t had the necessary time to become adept.

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 practice 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 six to eight 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 imagine how a new teacher feels when they are thrown into the fire, teaching multiple classes a day while struggling to maintain their enrollment numbers in order to remain employed.

On my first day of teaching, I was introduced to my students as a Pilates teacher. With very little experience, and while still learning the method myself, I held the same title as the studio owner, who had many more years of experience. In the Pilates 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 “years of experience” and “level of 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 as to whom 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 years of experience and level of education?

It can be a challenge for a student to find a teacher who teaches from experience—one who is also qualified to teach the method in depth. With so many visitors attending my classes, not to mention seasonal students leaving for the summer, without a system of titles, I find it nearly impossible to recommend a qualified teacher who has completed a comprehensive Pilates training course while teaching from continued self-practice and years of experience. It would greatly benefit our industry and our students if we truly knew who has the experience, dedication, and continued self-practice required to provide a quality Pilates class. Unfortunately, we will never know until we take a chance and give the teacher a try. Even then, how do we truly know whether they are teaching or simply instructing the class? 

Be the teacher that you would love to learn from! Experience makes you stand out and be exceptional. I hope my workbooks and website offer a sound perspective on teaching in our constantly evolving world of Pilates. 

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