by Patricia Issitt

IT’S autumn, there’s a change in the air and our Pilates studio has lots of inquiries from prospective clients.

This is a topic I return to frequently: how do you select a class and a teacher, whether it’s for Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi, boxing or any sort of movement skill.

Well, there’s a clue: I’m talking about a skill, something which has been learned, practised and studied. Taught by an individual who has learned how to teach the skill to others.

I’m always amazed that people will roll up to a movement class without any understanding of what type of training a teacher should have.

Would you go to a French teacher who could only ‘get by’ in French? Or how about if you wanted to to learn the piano and a bongo player turned up to teach you?

Often people are fooled into thinking a teacher knows what they are doing because they have a nice personality. Well, who wants to be taught yoga or Pilates by a miserable grump? But these movement disciplines are so much deeper than just placing your body in a position and hoping for the best. If your teacher has minimal anatomical knowledge or understanding, a body can be hurt or damaged in a movement class. It’s up to you to listen to the teacher, but it’s up to the teacher to teach their student how to perform the movement well.

It should be easy to look at a teacher’s credentials on line. If a teacher’s website has no cv on it, why not? Good teachers should give evidence of all their training, after all, good training qualifications will take years to achieve and cost a lot of money, so let's be proud.

The training school I teach for requires 96 hours of lectures, 60 hours of observed practice and lots of lesson planning, assignments, assessments and case study work besides anatomy exams and workbooks. Our teachers are well qualified, but this should be the minimum for Pilates teachers. Ask your teacher about their qualifications or how many hours of study time they had to do to complete their certification. What ongoing training have they done? After all, you may be investing a lot of time and money with them.

I use all the traditional Pilates apparatus in my studio and one of my clients once asked me if I needed any training to teach on the machines. Twenty minutes later, after I had outlined the amount of study I had needed to complete, he got the gist! You don’t learn a lifetime’s work in a weekend.

Pilates requires a hands-on teaching approach so avoid big groups. Don’t go for the cheapest. A professional teacher must earn their living and will need to pay for insurance, professional training and overheads. Less than £8 an hour and a teacher will have to run a big group to cover themselves. Your fee is an investment in your health, Pilates is for life.

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