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Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Featured, Pilates | 0 comments

The Pilates Apprentice Story – passion and business

The Pilates Apprentice Story – passion and business

Whether 17 years old or 62 years old; initially trained with a classical orientation or contemporary, the experience as an apprentice in the Pilates method is an exhilarating and challenging, yet life-changing experience.

My colleague and I spent a few hours getting to know five teacher-trainees a little better, asking what made them decide to become  Pilates instructors.  What drew them in? What were their goals when finished?  Who inspired them?  Whether West Coast or East Coast trainees, their stories are relatable to all of us.  While their varying answers might seem predictable, “helping others love pilates and wanting to make a difference,” there is another theme that can be found in all their stories.  The desire and ability to have the flexibility of creating their own business doing something that they love, ie., teaching Pilates.

Follow along.  We dug deep to extract a few pithy, take-away points from the commitments each of them gave to the rigor of the training program and challenge of building a business with Pilates.

On the East Coast, Gina Jackson, teacher/studio owner, Pilates4Fitness, spoke briefly with three teachers-in-training about their personal observations. On the West Coast, Lesley Logan, teacher/teacher-trainer, Profitable Pilates, spoke with with two stay-at-home moms that made the transition to Pilates teachers.  Not surprisingly, from the eldest to the youngest, a classical training program was the intended goal of each; ultimately operating a business as an independent and continuing to learn from the industry and their respective mentors and support teachers.

Initially certified by Polestar Pilates, with a Mat and Reformer group class certification only, Angela Paul-Gaito, 38 yr old mother two, says she felt she was

“Missing the comprehensiveness of the teaching system, and ultimately sought out a Balanced Body full apparatus certification.  However, she knew in her heart of hearts, she wasn’t feeling as confident and felt she was missing a link.

Angela  trained in dance with Master Teacher, Matt Mattox, and as a certified student with the Alvin Ailey school, she performed around the world in the french musical “Notre Dame de Paris”.  I was part of the creation team of “A New Day”, Celine Dion’s show in Belgium and Las Vegas and worked as a free-lance dancer for various companies, theater and TV projects.  She was introduced to Pilates thru dance with the Alvin Ailey company as a 19-year old,  she says, however,  the benefit of the work didn’t connect until 10 years later when she needed to  “reform” her body after her first child was borne.  “I became very aware of all the great benefits as a dancer, a teacher but most importantly as a woman.  Time of maturity was the right time.”



Angela states, the biggest challenge to her as a Classical teacher-trainee was “forgetting or letting go” of all the previous contemporary training references.  She owns/operates her own studio in Newburgh, NY since 2012, and counts as her mentor influencers Ann Toran, Fabrice Lamego and Jennifer Kries.

In fact, it was Jennifer Kries that convinced her of the importance of the classical system, and in 2015 she started a bridging program with Juliet Harvey, Beacon Pilates, to improve my practice and knowledge on the classical form of the Pilates method.

Consistently, students are greatly influenced to find or follow the path to teaching by their exposures and mentors.  Whether drawn to the Pilates teaching path by either health or physical injury, or following the lead of friend, colleague or relative, the recognition of the depth of the method and specifically, the classical approach to teaching is a profound awakening.

“The Pilates apprentice experience is an incredible learning journey, no matter what programme is selected.  Everyone starts off in a group at the same time.  Then life happens.  It’s windy trails intersect with the apprentice journey and don’t stope even when you become an instructor.” Lesley Logan, Profitable Pilates

Jen Hilton of Encino, CA, a “stay-at-home”  mom, who was seeking a part-time Pilates teaching career.  She chose the Equinox Pilates teacher training program after much research.

Key to her success in the experience, she says was having amazing support from her family, as she balanced being a wife and a mother of three, while traveling all over Los Angeles to complete her required apprenticeship hours. During her time as an apprentice she found the instructors she calls her mentors, Carrie Samper, Susannah Todd and Ashley Hoffman.

Her best day as an apprentice, she states “when I finally got it and felt like teaching was starting to glow.” Always a positive spirit she cannot think of one “worst day,” however, as all instructors can relate, there were a “few days of exhaustion and feeling completely overwhelmed.”

Jen’s selection of the Equinox Training program, coupled with her personal goals for completion, helped her prepare for the business side of teaching. Before she completed the program, she had a targeted dream studio in mind and an interview set up.  She utilized her time observing in the training studio with the specific intention of noting great examples of what works and doesn’t work when developing a Pilates teaching business.   Her 10-year goal, “I’m hoping to still be teaching part-time but as a fabulous experienced teacher.”

Another Equinox Pilates Teacher Trainee, Jenny Latham of West Hollywood, CA, is a 40-year old mother, interior designer and fit model.  She chose the program based on her experience as a member of the studio/gym.   She states that the teacher/client relationship drew her in and and mentor/teacher trainer relationship with Carrie Samper, helped pull her through the program.

When asked to describe a dream client, she said, “one who is open and willing to change their body.”  Further, “in 10 years I’ll be 50, so I don’t want to think about that, but, I would love to be more confident in my body and my teaching, so I can work with women/men like myself who are adapting to their changing bodies.”

“When I finished my program I was elated and a little tired. Six hundred  hours in nine months while working 50-hours a week across running back and forth across town. I left with a certificate and immediately signed up for the upcoming PMA conference. I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” states Logan, who teaches workshops on How to Sell Pilates.   While the start or initial driver that brings one into becoming a Pilates instructor differed for everyone, the end takeaway is the same.  There is so much more learning in the process. To be a Pilates instructor is to be a student of the method for life.

daniel-profileDaniel Alvarado, 19 years old, was the youngest apprentice in Alycea Ungaro’s New York Real Pilates Teacher Training program, and the only male in the group we interviewed.  Danny, is the nephew of Real Pilates NYC, Senior Teacher Trainer, Juan Estrada and as a result, has a high bar to surpass with all the mentors he has in his corner; Alycea Ungaro, Bob Leikens, Carrie Campbell Clark, Stephanie West, Anna Clark, and Bethannie Redinger.

He describes his best day as one filled with teaching moments, where he mistakenly thought he had a “rest day” and suddenly found out he was scheduled to teach

“Four classes in a row and take a private session for myself afterwards. On this same day I taught my first duet and then a trio session following it.  The closest thing to the worst day was having to deal with 3 fully- energized teenager girls.”

Daniel is already teaching at Real Pilates in both the Tribeca and SOHO studio locations as well as two gym studios in Manhattan and Long Island City and has the freedom and time to hone and refine his skills with an active teaching and personal practice schedule.  However, building a client base, he recognizes will come over time.

“I am not ashamed to say, I recognise the ‘student-apprentice’ in myself at every session I have with a senior or master teacher” Gina Jackson, Pilates4fitness.

While experience is the best teacher, being a good teacher, or having access to the highest quality training programs, may not create the requisite experience, exposure or training for building a successful business as an instructor or a business owner.  It’s really the next layer of the apprentice programming that we see is noticeably absent and true of the entrepreneurial experience as a business owner.

Jennifer Cayenne, was first introduced to Pilates following an injury of her spine. She states she fell in love with the system after three sessions at a Montclair, NJ studio.

As a 62-year old IT Project Manager, she researched and found the United States Pilates Association teacher training program and specifically began a trainee-mentee relationship with Brett Howard and Pamela Dejohn.

jennifer-cayenneWith a long-term goal of operating a boutique Pilates Studio in her native home of Trinidad & Tobago,  Jennifer’s  short term plans are to seek teaching positions at various local studios to explore different teaching techniques and styles and build client/business experience and relationships.

Mentoring relationships and small-business training and programming would greatly serve teacher-trainees.  Small business planning, marketing, promotion and new business development are acknowledged as key elements crucial to running a successful studio or independent instructor business.   However these are generally well beyond the scope of most highly regarded teacher-training programs.

When asked what you wish you knew about the Pilates business side of teaching, Jennifer stated,

“I wish I knew how to find my own niche in the Pilates business since I’ve never run a business before.  My expectations upon completion are to teach one-on-one at multiple locations to expand my clientele, and to further progress to teaching group classes.”

Angela, who runs a successful studio already in Newburg, NY, observed that she had to learn the hard way,
“Being too nice, too timid with goal of  “wooing” clients and building relationships may actually make it harder for yourself in the long run.  I realized that I needed to keep focus on my own limits in the relationship and transaction.  I need to stop trying to be a friend and work toward being their teacher.”

Like Jennifer, Jackson states she transitioned from a corporate life very foreign to the typical dancer-apprentice.   “As a former general manager and corporate business leader, I made the transition from selling or managing  “widgets” in corporate America to teaching and selling the goodness and benefits of life with Pilates.”

Further, Jackson states, “I was lucky, that my former experiences gave me a foundation and the confidence to step out to operate an independent, small business that in some ways to most new teachers, may feel as daunting as the apprentice test-out itself. “

Learning never ends.  To be a Pilates instructor is to be a student of the method for life. Contemporary systems training leads one to classical refinements. Intermediate work leads to advanced transitions.  Bowen did it different than Grimes; and we all seek to deliver the best quality instruction with each client/student relationship.
The business of teaching Pilates, however, requires another set of ABCs, tools, workshops and learning experiences.  The importance and value of establishing business policies, building business relationships, acquiring clients, retaining them, communicating with them via a website, newsletter and social media and being the floor and mat cleaner  – all at the same time  – have equal weight with being the principal teacher, independent contractor or Pilates studio owner.

Stay tuned for Part II of the apprentice story – The business side of teaching Pilates.

Co-Authors & Collaborators Gina and Lesley found each other via social media and their common love of connection, Pilates and blogging.

Lesley Logan, a PMA Certified Master Pilates Instructor and has been
studying and teaching Joseph Pilates Classical Method since 2005 and 2008 respectively.  She has also been featured in Pilates Style Magazine and recently was admitted into “The Work,” a masters program taught by one of Joseph Pilates elders, Jay Grimes. Maintaining that Pilates is a unique practice that is good for every body, Lesley tailors the method for each individual client.  Connect with Lesley via

ginajacksonGina Jackson, Director/Owner, Pilates4Fitness Movement Space, West New York, NJ, has been teaching, coaching and training for more than fifteen years and loves the challenge of helping others find their center with Pilates. Certified by Power Pilates, New York, NY,  connect with Gina via


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Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Featured, Freelance, Owning a Studio | 0 comments

Are You Giving Yourself Enough Credit?

Are You Giving Yourself Enough Credit?

Are you a Pilates instructor that is passionate about delivering the best Pilates you can to your clients?  You watch on in admiration as your clients improve their bodies and minds in life changing ways, yet you still have a niggling feeling that you’re not good enough?  Stop for a moment and ask yourself: Are you giving yourself enough credit?

The thing is, we can learn, read books and go to workshops until the cows come home, yet with all this knowledge it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking: ‘there is so much more to learn, so much I don’t know and so little time to learn it all’

What’s more, as an industry, I’m going to hazard a guess that we have an extraordinary amount of perfectionists when compared to the general population and although striving to be the best you can be is healthy, falling into the ‘perfection-paralysis’ trap, is not.

So I’m going to encourage you to stop for a moment and think: 

  • What have I done with my clients today that has inspired them to live happier more fulfilled lives?
  • What have I done to put someone in a better mood?
  • What have I taught someone today about their bodies that they didn’t know yesterday?

The work we do can have far reaching benefits for our clients that they may never mention to us, maybe because they don’t consciously realise how their lives are better and more balanced with Pilates (and you as their teacher), or because they are too shy to articulate it out loud.

Being OK with not knowing all the answers and trusting our intuition can be difficult, so in those moments, it’s important to remember the things that we do that help our clients.

This is often more than just the exercises we give them to make them stronger and more flexible. It can be the time and attention that they get, that they don’t have elsewhere in their life. Or by simply being a role model of health for them when there is a lot of negativity going on in their lives. Or as the only person that reminds them of the importance of taking a deep breath.

These things may seem small, but they can have huge repercussions in the lives of your clients in ways that you might never fully grasp.

So stop and give yourself some credit, OK?

Please tell me, do you forget sometimes to give yourself credit for the work you do? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

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Posted by on Aug 12, 2013 in Becoming a Teacher, Body & Mind, Business & Education, Freelance, Owning a Studio, Pilates | 0 comments

Integral Biology and the Holistic Pilates Practitioner

Integral Biology and the Holistic Pilates Practitioner

Integral biology is the study of our environment’s effects on our physical, spiritual and mental health. A change, shift or imbalance in one area will affect the other areas. Examples of factors that influence our integral biology could be:

Environmental – such as our lifestyle, diet and nutrition, technology (work, appliances, gadgets) , diet and nutrition, pollution, the global economy, the country’s economy, pollution, collective consciousness. Home and work environments that cause stress, tiredness and physical stress.

Psychological – thinking patterns, habits, disease, illness, stressful lifestyle, confidence, anxiety and depression

All of these factors can affect our mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. As a holistic Instructor we need to take time to evaluate and reflect upon our own life and how it impacts on those around us. We are in a position of power and leadership. One that should be given the respect it deserves.

Reflection and evaluation of integral biology also needs to be a consideration for our clients. It is important to recognise that we cannot cover all areas for a clients and referral and sign posting our clients towards other professionals, people of organisations who can guide and help them is an important and often an under acknowledged part of our work.

Peter Levine writes: The human animal is a unique being, endowed with instinctual capacity to heal and the intellectual spirit to harness this innate capacity.

We are in a privileged and honourable position to help facilitate that healing for someone and restoring them on their path to balance. We are part of a collective team in an individual’s life to help, lead, bear witness, show hope for recovery and direct them to balance of the mind, body and spirit. We can show people that the things that have happened to them don’t necessarily define who they are and how they can become in the future. That they have the power, the strength, the resolution to move themselves forward to a place of balance and harmony where their light can truly shine.

So…you thought you were just teaching Pilates?????

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Posted by on Aug 3, 2013 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Featured, Pilates, Workshops and Further Education | 0 comments

A Little Less Trying: Notes on Language in Client Interaction

A Little Less Trying: Notes on Language in Client Interaction

No matter how many times he has seen it before, my husband will sit glued to a Star Wars re-run on television, completely and blissfully absorbed.

Cup of tea in hand, I joined him on the sofa at a pivotal moment in young Luke Skywalker’s journey towards becoming a Jedi knight.  When given the task of raising his ship from the murky depths of a swamp by Yoda, Luke shrugs and says, “I’ll try”, and Yoda sharply corrects him, with “No! Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.

Language is a source of constant fascination for me, and this video clip highlighted something that I frequently pick up from clients.  Many of them “try” to do this, “try” not to do that, and generally “try” really hard.  Some will use the word “try” or “trying” several times in one sentence without realising it as they explain their situation to me.

The same language emerges from therapists, sports trainers and coaches, without them even realising: the very same “Try to …” or “Try not to …”.  It is so insidious that it slips out before we can catch it.

What is this all about?

On the one hand, we have phrases like “he’s not a tryer” or “she didn’t even try”.  Nobody wants to be that person! By “trying”, we feel that we demonstrate our worth, that we’ll have a go, make the effort, do our best.  However, this often ramps up our muscle tension and suddenly we are getting in our own way.  With success eluding us, we try harder.  The harder we try, the more blocked we become.

For effective force production and fluent movement, we are aiming for effort-less. I have seen people fail to push, pull or lift loads which are well within their capabilities simply because they are trying so hard.  When this self-generated hand brake is removed with a change of focus, they suddenly find strength or speed that they didn’t know they had.

Of course, on hearing this, there are people who then “try to relax” or “try to be effortless”.  How likely is success?

On the other hand, by saying to a client “Try to …”, we rob them of conviction.  We’re communicating that we’re not sure that they can do it, so they aren’t sure either.  A tiny seed of doubt is sown…

Nike wasn’t far wrong when they coined the phrase “just do it”.  When communicating with a client, I’ll tend towards “this is what we are about to do”.  If it doesn’t pan out perfectly, they may hear, “that was reallyinteresting, what did you notice?” followed by “with that in mind, let’s do it again and see what we find out this time”, or perhaps, “I wonder what would happen if..”.  It’s amazing how often the nudge into self-awareness elicits change without the person even realising it. The outcome changes without “trying”!

Approach the task with conviction.   Remove the seed of doubt.  Do.

This week, notice how much “trying” pops into the language of your interactions.  Play with alternatives — it may make a big difference to some clients!

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Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Freelance, Owning a Studio | 0 comments

Record Keeping For Pilates Teachers and Therapists

Record Keeping For Pilates Teachers and Therapists

How long you should keep notes and records and what sort of records do you need to keep?  Is this a potential problem issue for Pilates Teachers and Therapists? Why should you keep them if you are just doing classes, and maybe you know the students well?

If you work in a multi-disciplinary setting or for someone else, do you know who owns the notes?  What if you stop your practice or teaching arrangements or simply transfer to another set up?  How does the Data Protection legislation influence or affect all this?

Many years ago the idea of keeping records was not in the usual teacher-training courses, nor even thought too much about.  People tended not to complain, and people with some authority were not usually challenged if things went wrong.  Over the years, the climate of opinion, and behaviour has evolved into a litigation and blame culture which was not prevalent then, and with the advent of “no win no fee” solicitors it is cheaper and easier for people to try and sue for redress than it ever was before.

The availability of quality Professional Indemnity Insurance funding defence,  the growing understanding of the concept of Duty of Care, the ability of members of the public to redress any perceived grievances through the Law Courts, plus the increasing consumer protection ethos have changed the status quo.

Taking all this into account, more care needs to be taken to provide an audit trail of what happened and who was present in a class in order to defend any allegation in the future, not only because your insurers require it in order to deal with a claim, but because where it is one person’s word against another, the notes, if credible, are your main source of defence.

Whether you are teaching Pilates or any other form of exercise class, you need to rely on data as well as your ethics and skill to protect yourself! Your Professional Liability Insurance needs information recorded at the time that stands up to objective scrutiny to be able to defend you adequately, if called upon to do so.  Relying on memory when giving evidence sometime after the event may not appear credible in a court of law, especially if you have given many classes in the past.  Stating that you always do something a certain way and must have done it in this instance may not win the day in a legal argument.

My advice is that you should keep a chronological record of your classes.  These records should include a brief lesson plan mentioning the postures and exercises given out and supervised.  A list of those present should attach to these, so that if an allegation is made sometime after the event you know who was there at the time.  If someone makes an allegation and you can show they weren’t in the class at the time, then the process is easy to defend and brings speedy closure.  Any observations of particular difficulties of participants can be briefly noted together with relevant advice and interventions.  Again if a student alleges an exercise caused pain etc., and you didn’t record any such comment after the class when you write up notes, then you have defence against such allegations.

Record Keeping, however brief, will not only give you back up if you are challenged, but also can form quite a good aide-memoire for your own self-reflection and development when reviewing your own performance in the future.

This may seem tedious and unnecessary, (and of course should not be done from a motive of fear, but rather one of common sense) but your Insurance will transfer risk and uncertainty.  With no records there is virtually no defence and you may run the risk of not having your claim covered.

If you are running a professional practice it is not just about class or patient records either!  Remember to keep a good audit trail of your business accounts, money in and money out, receipts for any expenses claimed and so on.  A Teacher/Therapist colleague of mine found herself in a stressful 4-year tax investigation into to her modest and honest practice.  Fortunately she was insured with us and we covered the accountant’s bills for time spent and any potential legal defence against HMRC, but it reminds us to be vigilant in these mundane matters!  You should keep your records for Tax Purposes for at least 6 years.

So, how long should you keep class records or individual notes?  When I ask this question in some of my lectures to would-be and even experienced teachers and therapists, there are usually many answers, all of them different!!  The reality is that there can be overlaps or contradictions in the different types of law.  Although Data Protection legislation, Contract Law, the Criminal Law and Human Rights legislation etc. are there to prevent abuse, they can cause confusion especially with regard to what you should do as part of your contract with the insurance company in complying with policy terms and conditions.

The Data Protection legislation says you should keep client records for no longer than necessary (although they don’t define how long that is!).  The core purpose of this was to stop people abusing data held and using it for unethical purposes.  On the other hand, we could say that you have a human right (protected by law) to have a livelihood and it is a normal condition of most, if not all, Professional Liability Policies (governed by Contract Law) that records be kept in order to defend you – and normally for a minimum of 7 years. Would that be longer than necessary according to Data Protection Law?  Similarly the statute of limitation (Civil Law or Tort) extends the possibility of an action against you for negligence some years into the future.  The Criminal Law (UK Statutes) also seems to embrace different time spans – so which one should you obey?

The simple answer is that we recommend you keep client records indefinitely.  This applies even when you have left the set up where you taught the classes or administered any remedial work.  Although in most cases the UK statute of limitation that applies for late discovered situations leading to an allegation of negligence could be up to 3 or 6 years from the date of discovering a problem according to the type of allegation, there are certain situations where the limitation period could be much longer especially, in respect of minors or those with learning difficulties.

Will you remember when to dispose of records for different minors or the disabled who you may have taught or treated recently, 24 years or more from now?  Even if the policy only requires you retain records for 7 years, clearly in some cases this may not be enough, and in the case of people with learning difficulties and in certain other situations, there is no statute of limitation and the Courts can overturn limitation periods.

Your case notes and records are your property, and you must retain them even if you move to another practice or environment.  If, as a teacher trainer or clinical supervisor, you oversee a student’s work under your own professional practitioner insurance, the client’s records are yours.  Although a client/patient can by written application seek access to notes they have no legal rights of ownership.  However, if a client/student requests a copy of their notes, you must follow the procedure laid out in the Data Protection Act 1998 and keep a record of this on the file.  Remember, your Insurance policy may require you to keep records for 7 years, so it is important that you know where they are at any time in order to fulfil the requirements of your insurance to defend an allegation against you.

Think ahead!  You may want to appoint someone in your Will or any Power of Attorney arrangement you may have set up to be able to have access to the records if you are too ill, disabled or incapable of accessing them.  Your Will should include such information so that if your Estate was challenged after your death, the policy would be called upon to defend it and would be able to do so.

On selling or otherwise transferring your practice/classes, you may pass on the original records if (a) the new owner will be subject to the same or similar rules to those referring to Case Notes above and (b) the students/clients are informed in writing in advance of the transfer and given the opportunity to object, in which event you must retain the original records.

You must also ensure that client/patients are kept fully informed and offered appropriate choices about their continuing care and the safe keeping and location of their original records.  As it will be your policy that will defend you for previous work performed rather than someone else’s.  You must ensure that the notes can be easily accessed or that you have copies, in order to fulfil the terms of the policy and in any event to allow yourself to be defended whether by the insurers – or anyone else.

Allegations against Pilates Teachers are few and far between, but it is wisdom and common sense these days to leave an audit trail as well as satisfied students or clients behind you!

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