The 5 must-have’s to be a good Pilates instructor

shutterstock_119600044So you want to be a Pilates instructor? I do. That is why I am doing the 80hr program now. I am just half way through. For the little time that I have been trained as an instructor, there are a few things specific to Pilates that come to light.

1) You must love Grey’s Anatomy. Oops, I mean Gray’s Anatomy by Henry Gray (even though I do follow every episode of Grey’s Anatomy diligently). To be a good Pilates instructor, you have to know your anatomy like the back of your hands. Why? Pilates is all about precision and control. In order that you can be in total control, you really need to know your tool, which is body anatomy. So all those who didn’t pay much attention in Biology classes at school will need to brush up fast. All the bones and muscles and nerves can be a bit nerve wrecking initially. But it is the only way to really know how the puzzle comes together. To be honest, it can be quite fascinating. It came to a point that I was obsessed with it even though I hate to learn to spell in Latin.

2) You must be totally in touch with yourself. Contrology – the essence of Joseph Pilates’s method to Pilates training. It requires intense concentration and control of every part of your body. To do that, you need to be very well tuned in with your own body – full awareness and ability to engage certain muscles for particular exercises. Otherwise it would be very difficult for you to teach or help others when you don’t even know how it works for you.

3) You must be very ‘naggy’ in a positive way. There are 5 fundamental principles of Pilates training – breathing, pelvic, rib cage, scapula and cervical stabilization. They are usually deployed simultaneously in most of the exercises. Unless you are a master in multi-tasking, it is really not easy to apply. You will have to be like a kindergarten teacher who is constantly reminding the 3-yr-olds! eat your veggies, wash your hands, stay quiet, do your homework… In order to help the students, you will literally hear me repeating the same things over and over again throughout the practice. But it works and it is necessary. With that, it just brings me to the next point.

4) You must be a creative thinker with good imagination. In order not to sound like a broken record, you need to be creative with words. E.g. to remind the students to engage the transversus abdominis muscles (which is the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles), you can say — Suck your belly in, bring your navel to your spine, engage your powerhouse, activate your core… you got the idea. You may also want to think of some interesting choice of words like shine your chest to the front or melt your back to the mat. How about peel your shoulders off the mat or float your feet off the floor? I will spare you the details about what comes into my mind when I visualize these actions. But they certainly make the class a lot more interesting.

5) Last but not the least, you must be able to count!! The first and the basic Pilate exercise starts with the famous 100 – a hundred repetitions of the same move. Yes, 100 times! For someone like me — who can’t count and talk at the same time, it is quite a challenge. As for the rest of the regime, it is also about repetitions. While
you are busy observing your students and correcting them, you need to be able to count at the same time. It is definitely a good way to train your cognitive mind.

If the above doesn’t speak to you now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be a good instructor. These behaviors can be developed over time. The key element above all, as with any profession or interest, is the passion. If you are passionate about Pilates, all will follow in due course.

Grace, Mar 2015 Pilates Matwork Instructor Course, Tirisula Yoga