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So You Think You Can Teach Pilates? Sydney Morning Herald 17 March 2018

Sharan Simmons, PAA Vice President and Educator Officer, was approached by the Sydney Morning Herald for comment on Pilates Instructors and their education. 

Below is the article printed 17 March 2018

So you think you can teach pilates?

Holly Gibellini-Davis urges world-be teachers to find good mentors.

Holly Gibellini-Davis urges world-be teachers to find good mentors.

Pilates instructor Holly Gibellini-Davis steps carefully between twenty prone forms, adjusts a shoulder position here, corrects a hip alignment there, guiding her students with vivid images – the spine as a string of pearls, waist wrung out like a wet towel, thigh bone rotating like a pestle in its mortar.

Her packed class at Bondi’s Balance Moves is just one of hundreds of pilates classes across Australia on any given morning as more than 1.25 million Australians strive for the long, lean look, strong core and dancer-like posture for which the practice is renowned.

With the rise of pilates as a popular form of exercise has come increased demand for instructor training courses but, in an industry still largely self-regulated, navigating the huge number of training options available can be harder than holding a perfect side plank.

Vice-president and education officer at the pilates Alliance Australasia Sharan Simmons advises aspiring teachers to make sure they choose courses accredited under the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

“Don’t try to take short cuts,” she says. “You wouldn’t expect to become a professional in any other field in a matter of days, so why would you with pilates?”

Donna Oliver of the Australian pilates Method Association echoes this caution, explaining that an accredited course should have anatomy and physiology as prerequisites, involve at least five hundred course hours and another four hundred of personal practice and supervised teaching.
“And don’t pay too much attention to word of mouth,” Oliver advises. “People don’t know what they don’t know.”

For the development of your unique strengths and approach, Gibellini-Davis would stress too the importance of great mentors and exposure to a wide range of teaching styles.

“Try before you buy,” she suggests. “Take different classes, talk to instructors, get the feel of a studio, see what speaks to you.”

The PAA and the APMA are both informal regulators – part industry bodies, part professional associations – aiming for consistency across the industry and encouraging smart choices around education and professional development Australia-wide.

At a time when fitness is as much about Instagramming the latest activewear as it is about actual wellbeing, Oliver and Simmons are at pains to explain that pilates is not merely a fashionable add-on to a gym class but a way of life; poor quality teaching can put clients’ bodies at risk and undermine the credibility of the method.

Apart from excellent training, what other qualities make for a first-rate instructor?

“Empathy,” says Oliver. “Hard to teach, hard to learn. But an essential ingredient nonetheless.”
Simmons agrees: “An excellent instructor doesn’t just teach what they know. They teach what the client needs on that particular day.”

“Bums on mats are pretty telling,” says Gibellini-Davis. “If people aren’t showing up to your class, that should indicate something, so I always ask myself ‘if I was a student in my class, would I be getting what I need?’”

Becoming a successful instructor involves not only embarking on rigorous accredited training, but committing to a holistic approach to the physical and mental aspects.

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