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

Inversion Poses

Yoga Poses – Inversion

Yoga inversion poses are Asanas (yoga poses) where feet are raised above the head like headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) or shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana). Practicing inversion poses helps us to see our world in a different angle, an angle that we hardly see; upside down.

The concept behind inversion poses is expressed in yoga texts as Viparita Karani, meaning “opposite process”, which simply means facilitating a different perspective.

Physically, our body is normally supported by our legs and feet but during inversion poses, our body is supported by our hands or/and head. In addition to that, this exercise is more than just a physical change in direction. It also increases our ability to adapt to change instead of being stuck in our everyday habitual state, which increases our capacity for growth and transformation.

handstand-adjustment 

Health Benefits of Inversion Poses:

a) it reverses the blood flow in the body and improve circulation as it uses gravity to provide the brain with more oxygen and blood, thus increasing mental functioning, and improving concentration and memory.

b) it gets more blood moving to the brain, which results not only in physical invigoration but mental revitalization as well.

c) it increases core strength: shoulders and arms-especially for women who tend to be stronger in the lower body, inversions create body balance by developing upper body strength. To hold a straight headstand for an extended period of time, we must engage the obliques, the rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus.

headstand-pose

d) inversions stimulate and provide refreshed blood to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. These glands are vital to our well-being and they also regulate all other glands in the body(thyroid, pineal and adrenals).

e) any fluid that is retained in the feet is able to drain(edema), therefore reducing the onset and prevalence of varicose veins.

f) inversions increase digestive fire and body heat. The intestines are cleansed by reversing the pull of gravity, while releasing congested blood to the colon.

Experiencing the inverted yoga poses personally have progressively amazed me. While I could manage the Halasana(plow pose) and Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), each time the experience seems to differ: holding the pose while doing the Ujayi breathing and gazing at the right spot all at the same time. And each time the pose becomes more comfortable with more practice.

While I was struggling to get my legs up the in air for Salamba Sirsasana the 1st week of the course, the 2nd week had successfully lifted my legs off the ground(while against the wall). Now that it’s coming to the 3rd week, I’m looking forward to hold this pose without the wall and stay longer at it!

Samantha Loh
200hr weekday
March-April 2014