I have had occasions where I have walked out of a few Pilates classes and also Yoga classes. Recently I needed to get my own Yoga training in. So I looked diligently for to what I considered a ‘decent’ yoga teacher and class. Yet the whole way through I thought: ‘she wasn’t left her mat yet; she wasn’t even checked if we are doing things correctly or if we need adjusting, and so the list in my head went on. I didn’t give up I went to a number of her classes. The routine did not vary one iota! It was identical each visit. So I did not bother going back!
Now I am aware (as I have worked in those environments for local gyms, leisure centers etc) that the owner of the establishment may insist on things being taught in a certain manner – but still, there is a limit. I walked away from an sports leisure center because of this – cramming people in like sardines, just to make more money! It is called integrity!
Is that Pilates?
As a Pilates studio owner, and a Yoga studio owner; as well as also having a Pilates Teacher Training (Practitioner) & Yoga teacher Training (Practitioner) Center, I had the need to hire a Pilates Teacher for one of my Community Pilates Classes and a Yoga Teacher for my Yoga Community Classes.
This particular Instructor had claimed to be both a Pilates & Yoga Instructor. Her Yoga was faultless – not how I personally would teach but we welcome ‘diffferent’ at our studio! Her Pilates on the other hand, was another matter. Her Pilates Class had nothing in common with Pilates. If Joseph Pilates had have walked in I would not have recognized nor identified with any of the moves that she did.
This is an aspect that is more and more creeping into Pilates. Classes are springing up all over the place that are calling almost any physical activity ‘Pilates’, when it is anything but. Add onto that, if you ask the instructor anything remotely technical about the movement, the reason for it or what anatomical area it is working on – they clearly have no real idea what you are on about! They do not know their subject in any real depth.
It is a pre-requisite of our YMCA Practitioner Diploma qualification, that the class must be safe, effective and reasonably enjoyable. Now especially if you have any ‘issues’ in your body, injury, or medical (the nature and age of ‘most’ of our clients being elderly, means that we have numerous ailments and pathologies within any one class – mainly our Pilates classes as opposed to the Yoga class) I have a few top tip / recommendation for what you want to be looking for in choosing a Pilates Class / Pilates Teacher.
Contemporary – Pilates Principles
Neutral / Imprinted Pelvis
Now some of those simple things are contentious – well for me, and that is for another blog. But the Pilates Teacher should at least be mentioning neutral pelvis and spine etc.
Breath (not yoga prana)
This is very contentious for me (yet another blog), most places ‘over emphasise’ the breath in Pilates movements. I can recall listening to some of Joseph Pilates students (Youtube) recalling how Joseph Pilates was not dogmatic and would often alter and change the breath pattern for the same movement. Certainly if you are relatively new to Pilates then the movement is King, the breath is not even secondary concern, there are far more things that have far more of an effect than breath.
However, if even like me they disagree with the amount of time and energy spent on the breath rather than the movement , they should at least be mentioning it AND for me far more importantly be able to hold a reasonable argument or discussion as to ‘why’ they are choosing a particular breath pattern, for a particular movement! Know your Trade!
Music or Silence
I am in two camps with this one. Or rather I should say I am guilty of being a little hypocrite. Joseph Pilates (and another Guru I admire, Vince Gironda) did not like or have music whilst performing Pilates. IF you are focused and concentrating on everything that you should be focusing and concentrating on, they your mind should be oblivious to any music.
I used to take it as an insult if a client noticed that the music had finished. Now I don’t, I throw it back to them ‘if you noticed the music has stopped then you could hardly be concentrating on all that you should be concentrating on!
So I would walk away more than happily if the music is so load that you can not hear the instructor or indeed if it is distracting. That distraction may have a number of forms, I remember playing some music and the comment made was ‘I cant do Pilates to that – it is like listening to 70’s Porn music’!
To Cue or not to Cue
Actually there should be no debate with this one; choose a Teacher Pilates or Yoga that cues. Some do not, some just bark orders at you and seem indifferent if you heard them, if you are performing it as you should or if you are just lying there making shapes!
However, I personally encourage our Yoga and Pilates Teacher Trainer students to refrain from informing clients where they ‘should’ or ‘must’ be feeling any particular movement. I have read other blog posts and heard other instructors glibly tell a client where about on their bodies they should be feeling it etc.
If it is one thing I have learned, we all come in different shapes, sizes, each with our own life history and past, each with their own unique wear and tears and pathologies not to mention our own mental and emotional ‘hang ups’. Not to mention our own body shape and ratios. We are not all the perfect physique like Leonardo’s Man Alive, with his perfect body ratio.
I may be the same height as you; however my tibia may be longer than yours, yet my femur may be shorter; likewise my torso length may be different still, as may my humerus in relation to my forearms etc. Bottom line – we ARE all unique!
So to ‘insist’ we feel a movement in any one particular place is ludicrous. What one can do is to suggest as to what particular part of the body the movement was or is ‘intended’ to work is a different matter. They should have the knowledge to adjust you if pertinent and or to suggest alternative movements or alterations to that movement.
The movement may need to be toned down or made easier (I hate to use this word in a class , I prefer ‘less challenging’) . Conversely we may need to make a movement more challenging for some! If your teacher is not capable of doing this – walk away and find one that can and does!
We are overly stressing on our courses to students – know your muscles, know your anatomy.
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
Does your Teacher adjust you or not? Now at our studio we have a form asking if people consent to be touched / adjusted (obviously in an appropriate manner). We ourselves have not had any one that didn’t. Mainly because our clients pay the money that they do because we know our stuff, and any adjustment we deem as necessary for their development (most of our clients have medical issues and are grateful).
Now some Teachers will verbally cue and explain, that’s fine I do a lot of that. BUT sadly I do lots and lots and lots (or I could do, I don’t actually). You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’. Likewise some benefit and ‘need’ the hands on adjustment.
Regardless of which one your teacher does, they should be offering adjustments.
Now in this area I disagree with a great deal that has been written in blog posts etc, and remember that my business is as a Pilates & a Yoga Training establishment. I do not agree that you have to have a formal Pilates qualification.
Think of it – Joseph Pilates never did!!!
Likewise Jesus Christ had nor qulifications in Cjhristianity…I could go on (read my other blogs on this matter here).
Why? I have had many experiences throughout my life, not just Pilates and Yoga related, where a person was qualified to the heavens and back, yet was inept and clueless. Richard Branson has no formal marketing qualifications – would you take business advice from him?
Now having said that I am aware of the other side of the argument, that we should standardize Pilates so as to maintain standards. But who would get to set those standards?
I agree in principle, but why ‘punish’ a competent person who may have a formal qualification in Pilates, but as the powers that be have changed the goal post, they are only qualified if they pay yet more money to join their organization and pay more money to do the New Pilates Qualification.
If you have particular morbidities that require specialized skills then formal qualifications are more pertinent to (theoretically) ensure their competency.
Read my blog ‘why I do not put my qualification on my website’
That is just my opinion, yours may differ, you are welcome. I want everyone to experience just how much both Yoga and Pilates can enhance their lives. I have been amazed at the mental health benefits they both can provide.
My best advice – find an instructor that is not locked into dogma. That is not rigid and insist on a movement only being done one particular way. For we are all truly unique and special people.
Lots of Love from Newton Abbot Devon