APMA Education Corner - Tips for Teaching a Great Pilates Class

1) Be professional

  • Show up on time, well groomed, with a smile and a positive attitude
  • Be well prepared and set up your space before participants arrive.
  • Observe all current guidelines for workplace health and safety.

2) Designing the class

  • Follow the principles of Pilates with every class: Alignment, awareness, balance, breath, centering, control, concentration, elongation, flow, precision, and commitment.
  • Write programs to give your class a full body work out that is safe, fun , effective and educational.  Make them happy they came to class!
  • Include exercises for flexion, extension, rotation and side bending.
  • Balance the exercises between standing, supine, prone and side lying.
  • Set a theme for the class.  Focus on one of the Pilates principles, or on a part of the body like the buttocks or shoulders, or an exercise principle such as fascial release.
  • The body and brain love novelty, so add new exercises, variations and imagery. Bring other modalities into the class like Feldenkrais or Somatics.
  • The brain and body love repetition. Do the same exercises often enough so clients can improve and learn the subtle nuances.
  • Successfully teach complex exercises by dividing them into parts. Try it with “double leg stretch.” Teach the chest extension one week, the leg bends the next, then add the flow.
  • Prepare for clients with issues or injuries by having modifications and regressions built into the program.

3)  Teaching the class

  • Greet clients personally.  My go to greeting is “Hi Susan - how’s your body?
  • Control the class by starting and finishing on time, asking the class to turn off phones, and reminding them to modify the exercises for their safety.
  • Set the scene by advising what the class will focus on.
  • Create a positive vibe and get them in the Pilates zone with the warm up.
  • Make them happy they came to class with exercises that are fun, challenging, stimulating and relaxing.
  • Provide information about the intention of the exercises, the function and muscles involved.
  • Change the breathing patterns to bring awareness to the breath, and its effect on the movements.
  • Vary the pace of the the class with long stretches, short bursts of intense activity, and precise flowing Pilates. Add pauses to focus on technique.
  • Mix in some full body exercises to make the class work harder, create a challenge and release fascial lines.
  • Praise the class when they do well, and acknowledge their improvement and achievements.
  • Wrap up the class with a definite ending point, or finish with relaxation to send them home refreshed

4) Your teaching style

  • Great cueing is the key to good movement.  Use verbal, visual and tactile cues with confidence and creativity to teach your clients.
  • Your voice is a great asset. Use it wisely.  Instruct your clients with as few words as possible, making them precise, specific and useful.  A great Pilates teacher once said “to be terrific you must be specific."
  • Change your tone & volume, using gentle, softer tones for stretches and louder instructions for the harder exercises.  Simple one or two word commands such as “great work”, “keep going”, “exhale, inhale” are useful when the class is working hard and can’t process long instructions.
  • Use imagery to get more precise movement.  One of my favourites is to imagine balancing an espresso martini on the knee as the other knee opens to the side.  If you are after great imagery check out any of Eric Franklin’s books.
  • Provide visual cues to give the class something to focus on.  They can be as simple as demonstrating the exercise, or moving the arm in a circle to show the size and pace of “side lying leg circles”.
  • Move around the room as you teach so everyone can see you from different angles, and as the class changes positions, move with them to keep the flow.
  • Relate the exercise to a task to add meaning and context. For example, explain how “archer” will help with tennis or golf by strengthening the thoracic rotators.
  • Make it personal and add some humour. It is always interesting to hear what a teacher’s favourite exercise is, or one they find challenging.  Humour lightens the tone of the class, and laughter is good for the abdominals.
  • Have fun and smile.  If you are enjoying yourself, your class will have a good time and come back for more.

If you have other suggestions for teaching a great class, please let me know.  Contact me through the APMA and at vivapilates@bigpond.com

This will be my final article for the APMA in 2020.  I have enjoyed writing them, and hope they have made you think about Pilates in different ways. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to meeting again in person in 2021.

Cheers, Geri Taylor