We Should Do Better – Pilates is about YOU not Me.

12South Pilates Studio

From time to time I will have a Pilates student ask me to help her find an instructor in another city. If my student is moving, traveling or going to be away for a period of time, I’m happy to help her continue her practice with another instructor.

As most of you know, I am PMA Certified as Pilates Instructor. What that means is I am certified by the international governing board for Pilates. I met the required eduction and training prerequisites and then passed the certifying test. With so many attempting to profit from the wellness industry and weekend programs or unaccredited programs popping up, it’s always good to know your instructor is truly certified by an accredited organization. You would not go to a medical professional or therapist, for example, who did not have a license so why would you trust your body to someone who does not have the proper credentials?

Once of the nice perks of belonging to the Pilates Method Alliance is they provide a director of all of their certified and in good standing instructors. This is the first place I look when trying to find a fit for one of my students. I know I will find knowledgeable and well-trained professionals.

I recently had a student who was going to be out of town for five weeks. We had been working together for a couple months and she was making good progress. She did not want to put her Pilates practice on hold so she asked me to find her an instructor near where she would be staying. I found several options in the directory and also looked at their sites. I offered a few to her, the two I thought would work the best for her needs. This student had recently had surgery and has some limitations we have had to work with and modify for. Her attitude and desire to work are probably the best I’ve seen! She comes to class in a good mood, happy to be there and willing to try whatever I come up with for her to do. She is also very good about asking questions and sharing what is going on with her body. Sometimes we have to modify even more or sometimes we can progress depending on her feedback. I was pleased she wanted to keep up her Pilates practice and eager to see how far she would continue to improve in her five weeks away.

When she returned to my studio, she told me she had gone to one of the Pilates studios and it was “quite an experience” in her words.  She said she was repeatedly told, “That’s not how we do things here.” Despite signing up for a private lesson, she was asked to fit the mold of what the teacher wanted to teach not what she needed or could do. The instructor chastised her for breathing too loudly! (btw – Breath is one of the key principles of Pilates!) Needless to say after her first class, she did not return. She told me, “Clearly they weren’t interested in my business.”

I was so disappointed for her and also frustrated for how she was treated. Pilates should be a welcoming experience for all bodies. It is a practice meaning there is no one exact way a movement must be done. Each of our bodies are different and the beauty of Pilates is it can be adapted to work with what we are capable of today and tomorrow and later in life. Yes, we can strive to move like a dancer and to be flawless in our execution but no one achieves perfection immediately or maybe ever. We measure success by progress not perfection.

I felt the need to apologize to her for her bad experience. As instructors, we should do better at meeting the needs of our students. We should teach what our students need not what we have planned for the day or week. We should listen, watch, touch and engage with the bodies in front of us.

One of my passions is working with bodies needing rehab, modifications, physical therapy and the like. I love the challenge of making Pilates work for you not making you fit Pilates. Unfortunately, this instructor, did not want to bother with a student needing a little more help.  I am just glad my student came back to Pilates and did not let one bad experience chase her away!


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