How to Choose a Good Pilates Class.

Feb 26, 2019

I know I’m biased, but I think our pilates classes are great! Why? Because we’re physiotherapists, with a great understanding of anatomy, physiology, injury mechanics and rehabilitation, and we’ve done our training with the world renowned APPI. But, how do you find a good class, and differentiate it from others?

Over the years, long before I started my own pilates training, I did some market research and attended various classes – some fabulous classes, and some awful ones – some where the instructor hardly moved, spoke or corrected attendees. And lots which were more like fitness classes with a few pilates moves thrown in.

Here is my guide for helping you decide… and this is particularly important if you have any injuries, issues or health problems, if you are deconditioned or have had surgery.

1. Qualifications

In my opinion, instructors should have been trained by one of the main reputable pilates training providers – such as APPI, STOTT, Body Control, Polestar – you need to know your instructor has a really good understanding of anatomy, physiology and exercise format. It’s a quick question to ask, and one which your instructor should welcome.

2. Pilates Principles

There are some key principles we often talk about during a class – and usually involve pelvic position, rib placement, breath, shoulder or scapular position, and head and neck position. Your instructor should tell you if you need a neutral pelvis and tell you about how not to hurt yourself by correcting, modifying and explaining.

3. Modifications

Your instructor should be more than happy to give you an alternative – either by making an exercise less challenging, or more challenging, depending on what level you are at. Your progress is at your own pace, it is your journey. All exercises should vary position and use equipment as and when required – again, these could be used to add stability or to challenge you further. Personally, I love all my classes and the variety of health conditions and fitness levels everyone has. Wouldn’t classes be boring as an instructor if everyone was the same!

4. Anatomy

At the beginning of each exercise, you should be clear on what the exercise is called, which muscle or area you are working, and where you should feel it. It is also helpful to know why each exercise is used, and the watch points of how you will know if you’re working too hard. Pilates should always be done in a safe, controlled way, and alignment and positioning are key factors to progress and avoiding injury.

5. Music

Without sounding boring, music can have a role in your class, but not if you end up ‘bouncing’ to a rhythm, or the music is so loud that you can’t hear your instructor. Music can enhance your class but shouldn’t take centre stage!

6. Breathing

You will often hear “breathe” in my class as it it very common to breath hold when doing some more challenging moves. Breath work is really important in pilates, and whilst it can be one of the hardest components, it shouldn’t be avoided. Your instructor should give the correct cues for your breathing pattern, when to cue inhale and exhale during each movement.

7. Correcting

Personally, I often introduce myself to new starters as a ‘poker, prodder!’… in other words, I warn people that I will be coming round and checking their position, that the pelvis is correctly positioned or abdominals are engaged (as an example), and I will modify their position to optimise the exercise being performed. As physios we are more than happy to put our hands on you! However, we also acknowledge, a lot of people cringe and hate someone putting hands on. I ask if people aren’t comfortable to let us know, and if verbal cues alone can get you in the right position, then hurrah.

8. Variety

I love that no two classes or groups are the same and each week is different. Mark and I plan our classes together to ensure consistency, progression and variety of exercises and use of equipment. Equipment can be used to add fun, challenge, interest or to make some exercises easier. You will quickly get bored if all exercises were the same and done in the same position. You should also feel you are progressing, even in a 6 week block.

our beautiful bamboo studio

These are my opinions only, based on my experience and training. I love teaching pilates and watching the progress of clients attending classes.

I hope if you’ve attended our classes you have enjoyed them and progressed.

Another good and final point…. is to try a class! We encourage you to try a class before starting a block – you will naturally be drawn to one instructor over another, irrespective of the actual exercises performed. It’s often a personality, a ‘click’ thing!

If you are interested in joining us for our next block then check out our latest timetable here or see our website for more information.

Thanks for reading, and if we can help you on your journey towards improved health and wellness, we’d be happy to help.

Vicky Smith