As is the case with most teachers, each Pilates instructor varies in their abilities as well.  Some are good, others are great, and others still are fantastic.  And, unfortunately, there are a few in the mix who should find a different profession altogether!  But let’s skip over them for now.

In today’s post, I want to discuss why certain Pilates instructors, in my opinion, rise above the rest.

What Makes a Good Pilates Instructor?

As a private Pilates instructor myself, I feel strongly about the traits an exceptional Pilates teacher possesses.  She is kind, compassionate, supportive and aware.  She understands the needs of her clients.  She is highly educated in the regimen.  And, a sense of humor is always a welcomed addition.  (Have you seen some Pilates positions?  If we can’t laugh at ourselves…)

The Six Traits Every Great Pilates Instructor Should Have:

There are many more attributes that I believe define a good instructor, but I’ve made a list of what I consider the six most important:

  1. Patience.  As the old saying goes, “Patience is a Virtue,” and Pilates instruction is no exception.  It is important that a Pilates novice finds an instructor who will work with her at her own pace and consider a beginner’s limitations.  Each student learns at a different tempo.  A quality Pilates teacher appreciates this fact.  If your instructor pushes too hard or expects “too much too soon,” find someone else.
  2. Training + Experience.  Unlike many other exercise regimens, Pilates requires its instructors to undergo considerable training and extensive practice.  Before you sign on the dotted line, ask your potential instructor where she trained and when she earned her certification.  A top tier instructor also seeks professional development through continuing education.  This reflects her dedication to the regimen as well as her desire to maintain her mastery of the system.  Finally, experience counts.  While new instructors are enthusiastic, their “classroom” skills can fall short.  Look for a teacher who not only knows her stuff but also knows how to teach it.
  3. Challenge.  Due to its characteristics, you can’t rush the Pilates learning process.  Repetition is key to perfecting your technique.  You do, however, want to be challenged.  A good instructor strikes this delicate balance with ease.  She can easily gauge your progress and tailor your sessions accordingly.  By introducing new, more ambitious exercises as you improve, she’ll keep you interested, motivated and energized.
  4. Pilates Integrity.  Don’t be fooled by the aerobics teacher or marathon trainer who thinks that because they are athletes, they can teach Pilates.  A superior Pilates instructor loyally and correctly incorporates the principles of its founder, Joseph Pilates.  She consistently emphasizes postural alignment and core muscle strength, and works to increase your spinal health and flexibility.  As I discussed in Point 2, training and education are critical to the competence of a Pilates instructor and, by association, a student’s success.
  5. Mind-Body Connection.  While Pilates is definitely physical, it is also respected for its mind-body connection. The Pilates system encourages the marriage of conscious awareness and movement.  It also incorporates a highly focused form of breathing to heighten concentration.  A first-rate instructor fosters a synergy among these components, allowing the mind and breath to assist the execution of effective movements. This fluidity promotes benefits such as muscle strength, balance, energy, and a reduction in physical and mental stress – basically, enhanced whole-body health.
  6. Comfort Factor.  No, I’m not referring to the physical this time. I’m talking about the comfort you should have with your Pilates instructor.  Successful teacher-student relationships depend on trust, fellowship and a solid rapport.  Make sure you can be yourself around your Pilates instructor, and that you communicate freely with one another.  This will optimize your experience and your benefits.  In turn, she will know she is making a difference in your life.  After all, that’s what attracted her to teaching Pilates in the first place.

That’s my list.  I wish you good luck in finding the teacher that best matches your needs and personality.  The right Pilates instructor will enhance the practice for you, and inspire you to reach your goals.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

About Susan Sommers

Hi, I’m Susan Sommers. I’m a native New Yorker, living on the Upper West Side. Pilates Body NYC provides private in-home Pilates instruction, focusing on mindful movement that enables you to reconnect with your body. My mantra is fitness is achieved one thought, one step, and one day at a time. It is a commitment you make to yourself to treat yourself right and give your body what it needs as you age. I believe that Pilates is much more than exercise. I practice it as a way of life that brings strength, awareness, and mindfulness to everything I do. My wish is to help you experience the same.
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