It doesn’t hurt to ask a teacher where they trained.
Hands up if you’ve never asked your Pilates instructor about his or her qualifications. It seems almost unnecessary – you’re feeling the burn everyone says you should feel during class. But Pilates is more than a gym class, there’s a sophisticated science behind it. Without proper instruction, you could aggravate a pre-existing condition or fly off the reformer. Seriously.
Considering the investment (classes often range from $40 for a small group class to $150 for a private lesson), and the possibility of injury under false guidance, here are five things to look for when choosing a Pilates instructor:
Your instructor has the right qualifications
The name ‘Pilates’ can’t be trademarked, which means anyone can use it. Some fitness instructors, who though may be good in their field, take short courses then go on to teach it. It takes considerable time, money and commitment to become a Pilates instructor; not trial and error on the apparatus (Pilates-speak for equipment), which requires guidance to be used safely and effectively.
Check that your instructor has been certified through a reputable programme. Some of the recognised names in the industry include Stott Pilates, Balanced Body, Polestar Pilates and Romana’s Pilates.
He or she should understand the full depth and breadth of the Pilates method, and also have good knowledge of the human anatomy and exercise physiology.
It’s not a “one size fits all” workout
Pilates was originally created for one-on-one sessions. Your instructor should tailor each workout to your body’s needs, incorporating variety and modifications to suit your abilities.
It’s one of the reasons most Pilates studios request that clients take at least five private sessions so they’re entirely aware of the principles of Pilates and can safely use the apparatus, before they’re allowed to join group classes.
(Also read: The Pilates Workout for Your Body Type)
You’re taught what Joseph Pilates designed
FYI, Joseph Pilates was the founder of Pilates – hence the name – and the inventor of the apparatus.
There are two approaches to Pilates: Classical and Contemporary. The former follows the exact sequence of exercises as created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Exercises become more complex as one grain strength. While the latter adheres to the original repertoire, it is also influenced by modern movement and current anatomical studies.
A proficient instructor would know the differences between both, and have thorough knowledge of the exercises. In every private session, you’ll progress through a series of codified moves; gradually moving from the basics to variations and more advanced movements, both on the mat and apparatus. You’ll hear things like “imprint” or “neutral spine” a lot, and if he/she can’t explain what that is… Well.
Your workout challenges your spine
You’ve probably heard that Pilates focusses on core muscle strength, breath and control, and while it certainly does, your workout should emphasise spinal alignment, flexibility of the spine and articulating your vertebra.
To quote Joseph Pilates, “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you’re old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
Great teachers walk the talk, and walk the walk, but beyond that, he or she should be attentive, helpful and patient. Some are boisterous and energetic, others more reserved and calm. Either way, find someone you can connect with, cues accurately and who encourages safe movement, rather than pushing you hard even if your form is off.
Tried & Tested
Location: 733 Bukit Timah Road #02-06
Pilates-purists, this is where you’d want to go. All their instructors are fully certified in the True Pilates (also known as Romana’s Pilates) method; they practice and teach only the original system of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates. The studio offers individual and duet sessions on the Pilates apparatus, and small group mat classes (eight people max) for clients who have prior individual experience.
Location: #04-03 Tanglin Place, 91 Tanglin Road
Led by ex-athlete and Stott Pilates Instructor-Trainer Marina Goddu, this boutique studio in Tanglin offers both private sessions and small group classes (five participants max). Individual programmes can be tailored for sport-specific training, injury rehabilitation and during or after pregnancy. Instructors are specially trained in pre- and postnatal Pilates.
They also teach TRX and KinetiCube – a circuit-style workout on a biomechanically-balanced cable weight machine developed by Marina that combines cardio, weight training and Pilates exercises.
Smartfit’s fully-certified team are conveniently multilingual so you can book a session in English, Korean, Mandarin, Hindi or Russian.
Location: Novena Medical Centre, Parkway Centre, Galaxis and Raffles Quay
As a Merrithew® (Stott Pilates) training centre in Singapore, Breathe takes pride in their teaching abilities and continuous learning with regular in-house training and mentoring. The studio is led by a team of experienced, certified Pilates and healthcare professionals. In addition to individual and small group sessions, they offer prenatal and postnatal Pilates, Gyrotonic, a training method that seeks to stimulate cardiovascular, skeletal and muscular systems of the body; and Zenga, a workout which combines Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi, strengthening and stretching.
Location: 22 Malacca Street, #08-00
Established in 2004 and the exclusive host centre for Polestar Pilates instructor education, Focus Movement is a fully integrated physio and Pilates studio with a qualified team of Pilates instructors, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists. They’re fully equipped for private and group classes, offering both mat and apparatus lessons along with prenatal Pilates, and strength and conditioning circuit classes.