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Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Pilates, Reviews, Workshops, Workshops and Further Education | 0 comments

Moving Beautifully with Joanne Elphinston

Moving Beautifully with Joanne Elphinston


On the weekend of the 16th March we attended a workshop with Joanne Elphinston of JEMS organised by the Pilates Foundation.

This is perhaps a bold statement but I can tell you that this workshop is probably the most useful we have ever attended.  There is no doubt that Joanne’s book (Stability, sport and performance movement) will be a point of reference when assessing dysfunctional movement in the future.

The workshop was called Functional Foundations for Pilates teachers and termed moving beautifully.   Joanne is an international lecturer, author and Performance Consultant specialising in technical movement optimisation, injury prevention and rehabilitation for treatment-resistant injury in elite athletes, professional dancers and musicians.  The workshop was not about athletes or dancers though, but was about the person, the body, any body.

She peels back the layers and starts at the very beginning.  She explains that we often start at too high a level of loading to allow the body to learn new and correct patterning and therefore the body stays locked in it’s coping strategy.

Her teaching is inspiring.  She has a way of conveying her message in extremely simple terms, a language her audience can understand, whether they are Physiotherapists, Pilates teachers or clients/patients.  She has an incredibly positive & sunny teaching approach.  She gave us new ways of encouraging and managing a positive outcome with our clients. The ultimate aim being success.

Joanne, Kent and Andy were absolutely fabulous and the workshop was run like clockwork. Everyone was included, attended to and assisted.  There was plenty of time for discussion and all questions were answered.

We left the workshop armed with solutions and strategies for movement dysfunction and the confidence to deal with it.

We would recommend this fabulous workshop to any qualified Pilates teacher who is open to new concepts and is prepared to look outside the box and perhaps unlearn a few things too!


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Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Pilates, Workshops and Further Education | 0 comments

Guide to REPs for Pilates Teachers Part 3

Guide to REPs for Pilates Teachers Part 3

REPs Uncovered

You may have heard of REPs, seen some advertising from REPs, but what exactly is it?  I’ll start at the top with the company that owns it – SkillsActive.

What is SkillsActive?

SkillsActive is the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Wellbeing.  It works with employers to develop and deliver a framework of qualifications to meet the skills that provide a properly trained workforce.  These are called National Occupational Standards.  SkillsActive works to define these frameworks within the sport, fitness, outdoors, playwork and caravan industries

Training providers wishing to offer courses meeting these National Occupational Standards and therefore be endorsed by SkillsActive have to meet certain criteria and are assessed accordingly.  Once they have been successful their course can be listed on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) website and successful candidates of their courses can be listed on the REPs register.

What is REPs? 

In a nutshell, and taken directly from their website is the following:

REPs is an independent public Register which recognises the qualifications and expertise of health-enhancing exercise instructors in the UK. One of our key functions is to provide a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed national occupational standards.

So anyone who has attended a course from a SkillsActive training provider and who has successfully passed the appropriate exams or coursework can apply to be entered on the Register which is maintained by REPs.

The levels of REPs

At the moment there are four levels on REPS.  Level one is a student, those learning their trade. Level two is for aerobics instructors, keep fit instructors and so on. Level three is for those people who need advanced qualifications, personal trainers, yoga teachers and this is where Pilates teachers also fit in.  Level 4 instructors must have more than 150 hours of relevant professional practice at level 3. These level 4 qualifications are in specific areas where it is recognised that the instructor needs greater understanding. At the moment these areas include cancer rehab, low back pain, cardiac rehab, falls prevention, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, mental health, obesity/diabetes, long term neurological conditions.

For Pilates teachers especially, the low back pain level 4 is entirely appropriate and I took the course as soon as it was offered by my training company.  I will say that it was hard work but very rewarding and I particularly found the psychological impact of back pain and its effect on rehabilitation to be very interesting and it gave me a greater insight into the whole subject and it certainly changed my teaching methods.


Again, I’ve taken this directly from the REPS website:

REPs was established in 2002 to:

Provide clarification and recognition of qualifications that meet agreed national standards available in the fitness industry

Provide confidence in the quality of services provided by fitness professionals

To protect the public from individuals who do not meet nationally recognised standards.

When I did my initial training in 2004 REPS was still in its early stages, there was no level 3 Pilates, in fact Pilates was at level 2.  The training mainly covered the breakdowns of about 12 of the ‘Classical Pilates’ exercises.  I actually retrained in 2006 and the course that I took was a level 3 accredited course and at some point after that I remember that my Level 2 Pilates turned into a Level 2 ‘Exercise and Movement’ as it was obviously decided that the knowledge covered in the original courses was insufficient for people who should call themselves Pilates instructors.

The pros and cons of being a member  

Discounts and magazines – It’s not overly cheap at £38 per year but of course we can put that against business expenses and REPs offers discounts for buying products through certain companies such as BUPA and Physiosupplies.  In this litigious society in which we live, we can buy insurance cover through REPs and we also have access to a legal helpline if the worst should happen.  I rather enjoy the quarterly magazine that drops through my letterbox and I’ve found some useful and interesting articles and I always peruse the yearly survey to see how my income compares!

Transferrable internationally – REPs membership is also recognised in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe so it may be handy to have in place if you’re intending on working abroad at any point.

Condition of employment – Many gyms are now only employing instructors who are on REPs and if that’s an area where you would be interested in working then it’s highly likely that you will need to sign up, however, you may be lucky enough to be employed by one of the gyms that will pay for your membership.

But – However, if you are intending to work in the community there is no requirement to be a member of REPs.  Indeed, as far as I can tell, there is no requirement to have a qualification or indeed insurance in order to call yourself a Pilates instructor.

Links with other health professionals – The General Medical Council (GMC) and the Department of Health (DH) recognise REPs as the professional body for the health and fitness industry and it will also be interesting to watch the development of the links between exercise professionals and health professionals as there is increasing recognition of the part that we can play in improving the health of the nation, not just in exercise but in rehabilitation.  Already there is a Level 3 course in GP referral which is going to be a pre-requisite for the Level 4 area specific modules and there is already a certain overlap between the work done in hospitals and gyms in areas such as cardiac rehabilitation etc.

Chaos theory – On the downside, REPs is notorious for being disorganised and for passing you from pillar to post whenever you ring them with a question.  A colleague of mine (who had already posted in a copy of her Pilates certificate) ended up sending a photograph of said certificate to a REPs employee whilst on the phone just to ensure that they actually updated her record correctly.

Training Providers – As members of REPs, we all need to have a certain number of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points per year to remain on the register.  As with everything these days we all have a limited amount of time and money to spend on our training each year and I find that I tend to pick courses that have REPs CPD points associated with them, rather than picking what may be excellent courses without any CPD points.

Not all qualifications are the same – As we work in the industry we all know of very good Pilates training courses that are not REPs Level 3 and yet there are other courses that are Level 3 that arguably may not produce teachers of such high quality.

Benefits for clients

As I have already said, anybody can call themselves a Pilates Instructor without any qualifications and without any insurance.  So how would the average person on the street know?  I think the answer at the moment, is that they don’t.  Has anyone ever asked you for your qualification certificates?  I have only been asked about once or twice in over 8 years.

Selecting a REPs instructor should give the client the expectation that the instructor is suitably qualified with knowledge, competence and has the skills necessary to teach them.  Alongside that, the instructor will have had to undergo continuous professional development to keep their skills up to date and will hold public liability insurance.  In addition REPs members are bound by a Code of Ethical Conduct.

How to get registered

You’ll need to email or post copies of your certificates, insurance, industry cv and other appropriate qualifications to REPs along with a fee of £38.

I hadn’t realised until researching this article that qualifications from the following Pilates training schools do not meet the REPS level 3 requirements per se:

Pilates Institute

Pilates Foundation

STOTT Pilates

There are also other training companies, such as Body Control who run ‘conversion’ courses for those with qualifications close or equivalent to a level 3 which will allow the successful candidate to register with REPS and it has the added benefit of opening up the huge range of courses offered by Body Control including the Level 4 low back pain and large equipment courses which are often not available from the smaller training companies.

Pilates level 4 and the future

In 2012 Skills Active recognised the need for a Level 4 in non-medical areas where instructors could demonstrate a considerably greater knowledge and competence than that required by Level 3.  At the moment the only training company which is able to offer this qualification is Body Control, although there is nothing to stop other companies offering this in the future.

In order to achieve the Level 4 candidates must have passed a total of 18 credits.  There are mandatory components of the qualification focussing on movements and adaptations (11 credits).  After that you need to obtain at least 3 credits from a special populations series of courses.  These are pregnancy, older person, children and/or bone health.  Then there are other courses on topics such as repertoire (i.e. standing Pilates, small equipment) and client specific which covers sports specific courses.

Further information about the requirements for the Level 4 Certificate in Instructing Applied Pilates Matwork can be found on OfQual’s website here:



Ultimately the decision as to whether to join REPs rests with the individual and it may be that as time goes on, it becomes more difficult to be an exercise instructor without being a member of REPs which would benefit us and the general public.

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2013 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Pilates | 0 comments

Choosing to train as a Pilates Teacher

Choosing to train as a Pilates Teacher

A guide to Pilates Training and Qualifications for Pilates Teachers/Instructors Part2 

Do you want to teach Pilates?  At the time of writing there are 55 companies offering Pilates qualifications. How do you choose between the myriad of different courses?

Pilates can be taught purely as matwork using just a mat and other small equipment such as foam rollers, gym balls and bands.  There is also studio Pilates where you will be taught using big equipment such as a reformer, Cadillac, ladder barrel and Pilates chair (Wundachair).  In most cases someone wanting to train as a Pilates instructor will learn how to teach matwork first and then learn how to teach on the big equipment.

Did you know that in the UK anyone could call himself or herself a Pilates instructor?  It is not a legally defined term but it is unlikely that anyone without any qualifications would be able to obtain insurance putting both the instructor and the client at risk should anything go wrong.

Types of training course

There are (Fitness) Pilates Instructor training courses, often held over a weekend, so maybe 14 hours of lectures, sometimes followed by a short exam at a later date (or submission of a video of yourself teaching a class) and some coursework.  In most cases these courses are marketed at qualified gym and aerobics instructors working within the gym chains or independents who already have fitness qualifications who are interested in increasing their range of fitness skills.  These courses would not give the successful candidate a REPs qualification (see below).

Then there are the ‘level 3 REPs’ courses.  Please see the separate article about REPs but, in a sentence, a national body has produced a definition of what a Pilates instructor at this level should know in terms of knowledge, skills and competence and someone holding a qualification at this level will have demonstrated their ability against this national standard.

Within the range of level 3 courses there are shorter courses with pre-reading course notes, about 21 hours of lectures, followed by producing a video of themselves teaching and some coursework which usually take a couple of months to achieve.  Again, these are aimed at people who are already Fitness Professionals with a level 2 or level 3 qualifications such as aerobics instructors or personal trainers.  The organisations offering these courses are likely to offer a wide range of fitness qualifications but fewer courses specifically aimed at Pilates instructors and they are unlikely to teach the large equipment courses.

There are also much longer level 3 courses with 100 plus hours of lectures, numerous written exams, 50 hours supervised teaching (working with qualified, experienced instructors) and teaching exams taking many months of work.  The companies offering these courses, by their very nature, tend to be larger with a wide support network of Pilates teacher trainers.  They also have further courses to broaden instructor’s knowledge once the initial qualification has been completed successfully and are often able to offer training in the large equipment along with support associations.

Following on from this are the long term intensive training courses, in the manner of an apprenticeship, often lasting 14 months to several years but whose course is not recognised by REPs. Within the Pilates community these courses are often well regarded, producing excellent instructors but they may not cover the entire curriculum as defined by REPs. This was the original way that Pilates teachers were trained and these training providers often also offer continuing education courses on the big studio equipment.

How do you choose from all those different courses?

It’s worthwhile taking a long-term view on your career as a Pilates teacher when you’re looking at training courses, rather than just picking the cheapest course or the course that your friends/colleagues have done.  For many people, their first matwork course is just a stepping stone into a broader world of Pilates training going through additional courses on small equipment, qualifications in working with clients with lower back pain, to large equipment and studio instructor qualifications.  In this case it would be wise to choose a training course which allows you to do this.

As with any subject, some ‘styles’ of teaching may suit you better than another ‘style’.  For example, Pilates Foundation teachers are renowned for their attention to detail and will often teach more slowly, whereas Stott classes can often be very intense and fast.  I would recommend attending classes from as many different training schools as possible prior to making a decision to work out for yourself which style is going to suit you the best.

If you are going to complete a supervised teaching period you would be well advised to check where the supervising teachers are based to ensure that you take travel time and availability (i.e. if you need to do your teaching practise at weekends but your local teachers only have time to supervise you during working hours) into account to check that this will actually be achievable for you.  However, trainees often find that they learn so much from this experience they end up doing more than the minimum required and travel longer distances to more experienced teachers.

Please read the separate article about REPs so you can decide whether you need to take a course which allows you to appear on the Register of Exercise Professionals.

In summary, there are many different training courses available out there and it is essential that you take into account your own requirements and to the level that you are likely to want to study as you may otherwise end up retraining with a different company.  Try many different teachers, with as many different styles as you can find to help you with your decision.

(c) Julia Crossman 2013

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Posted by on Nov 3, 2012 in Interviews | 0 comments

Interview with Liz Chandler, Pilates Foundation teacher.

Interview with Liz Chandler, Pilates Foundation teacher.

liz-e1365342013256-150x124At the end of the summer I had the pleasure of meeting with a lovely Pilates Foundation teacher, Liz Chandler.  I went out to meet her at her studio, Pure Moves in Frome, Somerset.

How did you start your Pilates journey?

The first time I heard of Pilates I was 19 years old. I was dancing and was encouraged to take up Pilates to enhance my practice, but it was very expensive those days and I never did.  While finishing my dancing degree at  UCLA I had a teacher who would do Pilates exercises in her class, we would do spine rolls, hip rolls and all kinds of other stuff that I didn’t know was Pilates until much later on when I started practicing myself, so all this time I was doing Pilates without realizing it!

At 27 years old I was having a serious back problems, I was already living in UK and here through Swindon Dance Agency I did a workshop on Pilates for dancers. Subsequently, I sought out a Pilates teacher to do classes with and I found Suzanne Scott in Somerset.  With her wonderful teaching she help to rehabilitate me and more, I was able to move my body in a new ways.  Had I listened to my first dance teacher and started Pilates earlier on I would have been a much stronger dancer.  Impressed by the benefits of Pilates, I decided to do the teacher training. At this point, I was teaching dance at a City College and Bath University, I’ve always been adjusting and looking at bodies, so it felt like a natural progression for me to become a Pilates teacher myself.

You have been teaching for many years now, are you thinking of becoming a teacher training provider?

No.  I have been asked that in the past but this is not what I am interested in, right now.  I love doing professional development workshops because I love researching new topics for my own stimulation and benefit and I enjoy sharing that with others.  I am told I am really good at articulating how an exercise should feel and teach it in such a way that people get the maximum benefit from it.  Those could be good reasons for becoming a teacher trainer. On the other hand I have a young son and I love to travel, I don’t want to be constricted by a long term commitment.  Also, together with a friend of mine, who is a yoga teacher, I am involvedin organising and running of  overseas Pilates retreats.  We share a passion for movement and we both love to travel.  So far we have successfully completed two Pilates/Yoga retreats and it was an amazing experience.  In the beginning, the Pilates teachers want to stick to Pilates and Yogi to yoga but as time passes watching those two groups integrate and enjoy both practices, is very rewarding.  I would frequently hear a very positive feedback from the yoga teachers, how Pilates helped and improved their practice.


How often do you run the retreats?

At the moment twice a year.  This year we have each added a third one, separately.  Mine is coming up 20-27 October in Spain.  It’s a Pilates, slash walking, slash stretching with blend of yoga and tai-chi event.  I am really looking forward to it.

How is the retreat structured?

The classes go on throughout the week, plus they are optional ‘talks’ on bringing Pilates into your every day life, small themed workshops.  The retreats are designed to suit teachers and public so everyone can find something that interest them.  I bring in my vertical and functional workshops too.  However, if you don’t feel like doing anything you can hang out by the pool and soak up the sun.

Coming back to your teaching, you are know for providing vertical workshops for the elderly, what made you go in that direction?

I am very passionate about working with older people.  It stems from my experience from my 20s when I spent lots of time providing movement workshops to the elderly in LA, some chair bound.  It was very special and uplifting experience.  At the university, I studied the Alter method, which is a lot like Pilates and those were my initial classes for older people, later I integrated it with Pilates.  I have successfully run community classes for almost 18 years and received millennium grants for about 8 years, to support my project.

How do you combine it all: running a business, a home, being a mum and a wife..?

I didn’t open Pure Moves Studio until my son was 8, it took me almost 5 years to find the right place.  It all happened after the release of my DVD for over 50s.  In retrospect it was the right time.  It would have been difficult running a large studio while raising a young child, I was already doing my training and teaching dance while he was a baby which took a lot of sacrifice.  Luckily, I had a lot of support, even tough I do not have my family here I have a lot of good friends and a very supportive husband.

From a business point of view do you find your life to be more organized now that you have the studio?

No, I was always organised even when running my classes but I love to have a space to come to that is dedicated to movement, it creates its own atmosphere.. Teaching in village halls and hired spaces can be difficult, cold and dirty.  On the admin side running a business is tough, now I have couple of people helping me out, so its a bit easier but I still ending up doing some admin myself, its crazy!  If feel very fortunate and having the studio is worth the work.

Last year you have given a workshop at the APPI conference, can you tell me more about it and how it came to be?

Last summer (2011) I received a phone call from the APPI; they were referred to me through the Pilates Foundation, which was very flattering.  They decided that they wanted their conference to be completely and totally inclusive of all the organisations.  They wanted to attract teachers to attend and the best way to do that was to invite lecturers and teachers from different organisations.  It was a huge honor to represent the Foundation.  I was very nervous.  Luckily, I had been to the Royal College of Physicians many times for the Body Control Development week.  I could picture the rooms.  I thought of the room I wanted to be in and I got it! It was the smaller and more cosy room.

The title of my workshop was Progressing Function and Essentials in Pilates.  The reason I chose that topic was because I’d already been doing my vertical workshop, I’d done my gait workshop and I was very interested in function however I wanted to something I hadn’t done before.  ‘Essentials’ is a very big title, it can meant many things but it wasn’t the principle it was the essential movement and patterns that we see in Pilates that I wanted to address.  The patterns that we keep seeing recurring, whether they be to do with thoracic flexion, coming up in the C-curve, so I wanted to talk about ways to improve that, the queuing and handling, how to get that thoracic cue right or how to make sure when people know how to stabilise in sidelying work, whether that be from your sidekick series.  If you teach these things from the very beginning, the very essential stuff, in the oyster, not allowing people just to cave in on their side or whatever, you’re teaching the essentials from an early stage, people will progress quicker through strength. So it was looking at those essential movement patterns that recur in Pilates and how to teach to improve them in the early stage and then show in the workshop how they progress and how it makes them easier to progress to an advanced level and then once they get it and understand it, they’ll be able to achieve the advanced exercises more readily, quickly and technically.


The workshop was full and was received very well.  I received a lovely email from Glen Rivers, inviting me to come back this year again.  This year I will be talking about spinal flow, about getting the spine flowing more and getting more articulation in the spine in all movements not just flexion and extension, but also in side flexion and rotation. Looking at rotation and not just rotating around the middle Ts but getting rotation around the whole spine, and looking at spirals to achieve that as opposed to just looking at seated and standing rotation. It’s just really about evolving those upper thoraces and looking at how you can create spiral throughout the whole circle and also through the pelvis. Suzanne Scott uses a term called flossing.

Last question Liz, what is your favourite Pilates exercise?

Well I have two, if I’m allowed: Swan – that extension.. I just love to help people improve with that. Extension is so important, and to see someone finally achieve a Swan and achieve the sense of opening i

s very gratifying. My favourite one to do for fun is the open leg rocker, it’s fun and challenging and brings a smile to my face!

Liz, thank you so much for taking the time to see me.  You have a beautiful studio, with a garden I may add – we are actually sitting in the garden, in the lovely sunshine! Looking forward to seeing you at the APPI conference and Pilates Foundation workshops.

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