Pilates is such an amazing form of exercise, in fact I would call it a lifestyle and something that everyone needs to be embracing. Like all things there are a lot of variations on a theme out there and a lot of different types of classes around, some amazing, some less than good. Whilst I am certainly a fan of variety and keeping it fresh, there is also the need to make sure the class you are going to is teaching you correctly and that it is actually Pilates (if that is what you want to be doing).
So here are my thoughts on what makes a great Pilates class:
- Check the qualifications of your teacher. Have they got a Level 3 Pilates qualification. Ask them how long it took them to qualify. If it was just a weekend then there is something wrong! A decent Pilates qualification takes time and more money than you may expect to complete, it involves course work, theoretical and practical exams and ongoing training. I do several courses a year and am continually learning through reading, practising and watching others teach. They should also be attending some sort of class or pilates 1-1 session themselves regularly to improve their technique.
- A small class is key. Too many people and you will not get that individual attention and help from the teacher and can end up doing the exercises wrong. I take a maximum of 8 people in my classes. I started out being asked to teach large classes in sports halls, I had to stop as for me it just wasn’t pilates, there was no way I could correct and watch everyone.
- Is it safe? You should have to complete a medical form of some sort and be screened for any health issues, injuries, muscular problems, back issues, pregnancy etc. It is important to keep your teacher up to date on your health.
- The venue – for me this is important. Is it lit well enough so you can be seen, the teacher needs to see your body to be able to correct it. Mirrors are a big bonus as they help you see your form and help your teacher see everyone easily. You don’t want to be a in large hall, miles away from the teacher.
- The teacher – are they approachable and do they explain things well? If you don’t understand, can you stop them and ask? You should expect to be corrected either verbally or through the teacher moving your body. If you don’t like their approach or manner it isn’t going to work in the long term.
- There are many Pilates bodies and variations out there now. Body control Pilates, Stott Pilates, Pilates Foundation, to name a few. Whatever class you go to, Pilates is meant to be controlled, fairly slow, there should be plenty of emphasis on posture, on the technique, on using the right muscles and on the breathing. If you end up in a fast paced class it isn’t necessarily not Pilates, but it may not be appropriate for a beginner.
- Is the level set right? Beginners thrown into an established class can make it hard to pick up the technique and hard for the others in the class who may have to slow the pace down. Learning the technique and basic principles is key in Pilates, so a beginners course or a 1-2-1 session first is a good idea before joining a regular class.
- Does it progress you? Doing the same exercises week in and week out is not going to challenge you, after a while your body will adapt and you will plateau. Having fresh challenges and harder exercises to do as you improve is important to help you improve and to keep your interest.
- Is there a passion and enjoyment in the room? If there is a good vibe then it is likely that it is a good class. A teacher who loves to share their knowledge, wants to help you understand it, cares about how you are feeling and will give you homework, extra helpa and chat afterwards is a good indicator that it is a good class.
- Do you feel good after the class? Pilates shouldn’t hurt – well not in a bad way! You may have slighly sore abdominals, legs, arms or bums but not to the point it is really painful. Many of our clients will say they feel lengthened, like they have worked but also they feel more relaxed.
So when you are looking for a class, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Have a good nose around the persons website and social media, it can tell you a lot about that teacher. Expect a teacher to ask you lots of questions about your body and to correct you with their hands and voice. Small classes with teachers who are known to know their stuff are the way forward.