Move, September 23, 2018

Pilates Studios – Your Guide To Finding An Awesome One

I get asked this questions heaps – what do I look for when finding a Pilates instructor or studio? How do I know they are the real deal?

As a Pilates instructor, you can be extremely qualified – teaching about the philosophies of Pilates, having a deep understand of the human body and how it all connects, working closely with physios and other injury prevention specialists to create programs for postural re-alignment, recovery from injury and injury prevention, pre and post natal care, or you can do a weekend course and simply teach ‘Pilates exercises’.

And there is a huge difference.

That’s not to say that someone who’s done a weekend course is a bad teacher, they might have a real gift for being able to break the exercises down so they are easily digestible, and fun, but it’s important to know what you have signed up for.

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates back in the early parts of last century as a new way of combining exercises that focus on using body weight and resistance (mat work), and exercises that use equipment (apparatus) to maximise low impact, resistance training and create lean, strong, flexible bodies.

What I love about Pilates is it targets all the small muscle groups that are crutial for good posture and supporting all your vital organs. You work with the breath in a very focused and calm way – ideal for clearing your head and being present and connected to what you are doing. And to be honest, it feels great – using the equipment to suspend your body while gently working on strength and flexibility leaves you feeling both taller and more grounded at the same time.

My Top 10 Tips For Finding a Pilates Studio

  1. Look for teachers that have trained and qualified with accredited Pilates institutions. There are of course many amazing teachers that don’t belong to specific Pilates institutes, but usually these guys are offering really good solid basic training, as well as on going study. A few of the big ones are:
    Basi Pilates
    Polestar Pilates
    Stott Pilates
    Alan Herdman Pilates
    And here is a link to the Pilates Alliance Australia site (regulatory body for control of quality instruction), which lists accredited training facilities in Aussie.

2. Go for quality of teaching over vast repertoire of exercises. It’s pretty easy to learn an exercise and teach it, but really qualified teachers will sometimes pull you back from the more advanced exercises to focus on strengthening a specific muscle group or simply to gain a better understanding of the basics before moving on. Yep, sometimes it can get a bit boring but it’s so important for your body to have a deep understanding of the Pilates principles before moving onto the ‘tricks’.

3. Go with your gut – do you connection well with the instructor? Are you deepening your knowledge of your own body, the Pilates method and how to apply what you are learning to everyday movement? Is the instructor able to answer your questions about why and how different muscles and movements feel a certain way? Are they using unique and interesting ways to queue the movement? Do the visualisations, and how they use them, make sense to you and help you connect to the exercise in a new way?

4. How does the session flow? Really great instructors have a beautiful, almost artistic way of connecting the exercises and movement together so after an hours class you feel taller, stronger, more flexible and like you have worked your entire body, but it feels like you only hit the mat a few seconds ago.

5. Are they adapting to your mood, energy, mindset with each session, or do you feel like you are just getting the same workout as the person before you? One-on-one Pilates needs to be very individual – that’s where the deep work and connection happens and you should feel this in your sessions.

6. Do they offer a range of mat work and equipment classes? This isn’t necessarily a super strong marker of a good studio, but it’s important to keep in mind because if you want to develop your practice, you want to make sure there are classes and different equipment available to progress onto once you have mastered the basics.

7. Ask around – people love to spread the word when they have found something worth sharing – ask for recommendations for instructors and studios in your area.

8. Are they clear with their instructions and can you follow the breathing queues? As an instructor, it’s one thing to know the exercises and Pilates methodology, but it’s an entirely different thing to be able to translate this to someone who’s a beginner and trying to get a grasp of the movement and breath work. The breathing especially will probably feel a bit odd to start with – this is the feedback I have gotten from many mates who try Pilates for the first time (“wait, you are supposed to breath in when?! And out now?!”), but after a few session it should start to make sense, and you should start to feel like you are ‘getting it’, and improving.

9. Tap into how you feel the next day – feeling like you have worked your muscles is great, especially in areas like inside thighs, lats, oblique, deep abdominal muscles. But feeling joint pain – in areas like your lower back or neck is usually a sign that something isn’t right.

10.And lastly, try a few on and see how they fit. Sometimes websites can look all shiny and pretty, but the quality of teaching just isn’t there, or the instructors are just not the right fit for you. That’s not a problem, don’t give up on it, just try a few other studios until you find what you need.

Here are a few of my favourite online resources to get your started and give you a few basics:

Alternatively, online subscription based classes are on the rise. They offer a combo of classes – yoga, Pilates, Barre, HIIT but it could be a good place to start to check out some Pilates classes that you can do from home. Try Alo Moves. 

Photos: Vie Pilates & Body Brilliance Pilates
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