The making of a Pilates instructor

Pilates doesn’t have to be your life’s calling. I have seen many instructors succeed when they view their position simply as a job to make money or a career advancement tool. Wherever you decide Pilates fits into your life, do it well, make the industry great and know that every single one of your actions has a ripple effect too. 

Becoming a Pilates instructor is gruelling right? We spend hundreds of hours studying, exploring, absorbing and experiencing movement from every angle. We spend so much time in our Pilates study bubble that our dreams become a part of our reality – literally.

I remember when I had completed my Pilates course. I had spent 7 months sitting in a studio 6 days a week, observing, listening, practicing and querying. 7 months of waiting tables, washing dishes and living in a shoe box apartment so that I could immerse myself in the experience to become the best possible instructor I was capable of becoming at that time.

I passed my exam, just. She said I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t good enough, I hadn’t spent the time and I didn’t have the know how to hold that certificate in my hand. After 7 months of 6 day weeks waiting tables until midnight, spending hundreds of unpaid hours in the studio and she told me I wasn’t ready??? Shocked and shattered I remember sitting in front of her, my examiner, attempting to decode what it is she was trying to tell me and how I could have possibly ‘put’ in any more. 

Now, standing in her shoes, mentoring my own students, looking in from the outside, carrying the flame, seeing it all from where she sat, I finally understand what it is she was trying to tell me. 

She was talking to my future self. She was telling me that this was the beginning of a lifelong apprenticeship. She was asking me to uphold a legacy that we are so fortunate to succeed. She was telling me that no matter who I was or what I did or how much time and effort I put in, there was no end, there was only a journey, and that the path is forged by those of us who have the strength and the commitment to carry on the work that began many moons ago. 

“Trust in your craft enough to admire it, study it, perfect it, breathe it. Never stop getting better at whatever it is you love to do.”

Reyna Biddy

So when my students ask me if they are done, I say “no”. If my students ask me if they are good enough, I say “not yet”. If my students ask when they will be ready I say “maybe never” and if my students ask me how will they know I tell them to wait.

Two years into my teaching I thought I knew what I needed to. Five years into my teaching I wondered if I’d ever know enough. Seven years into my teaching I realised I was on the very tip of understanding something precious and today I am more conscious than ever that the layers of learning are many and that the means of understanding are complex, deep and ever changing. 

On reflection, I could say that it took me 10 years to gain the skills required to truly understand Pilates in depth. It took me the first 5 years to decide whether this venture was merely a job or whether it was my true calling and it took me another 5 years to start to develop my worth.

There is no overnight success, no high paying job at the end of it all, no paid holidays, overtime or lieu. There is only a drive to serve, a deep need to give back, to take part in and to share. Over the years I have experienced a shift in my World, an innate understanding that the difference I make in my community, the influence I have on an individual has a ripple effect way beyond my own realisations when I started. Pilates instructors are not paid in dollars. We are paid in Karma, in experience, in life value and in self realisations.