What do I look for in a Pilates studio? (and yes I own a Pilates Studio in Carlsbad, California).
Would you consider a person who owns a Pilates studio to be good source about how to pick a Pilates studio? Yes, I’ve owned and operated California Pilates Center in Carlsbad, California since 2003. I’ve also owned a couple of Pilates Studios in different areas of Los Angeles and I’ve been a practitioner and Pilates Instructor for over 25 years. Well obviously I know something about the subject, but in addition to owning a studio in I’ve been to a lot of Pilates studios across the United States and Canada. I continue to visit different Pilates studios often, as a matter of fact I take regular classes at a studio that is not my own. There are awesome Pilates studios all over, with wonderful teachers and this is what I look for.
When making a recommendation to a student one of the first things to consider is where is the person’s body at? Is this person a Pilates’ beginner or a very advanced enthusiast? Are they in shape or not? Does the Pilates studio in question offer different levels of instruction, do they offer beginning but not advanced classes? Do the instructors have experience working with disabilities or pregnancy? Call first or visit the Studio’s web site and explore the offerings.
Pilates grew very rapidly during the last twenty years and the experience level of some of the instructors was quite frankly sometimes lacking. That there is now a Pilates’ industry and overseers of the Pilates work is a good thing. There exists a grouping of very qualified programs that instruct “instructors” how to teach and verify the person is qualified to teach the Pilates method. The studios should publish on the studio’s web site or printed material the qualifications and certifications of the instructors. If not call the Studio and ask. You can then explore those on your own. Furthermore does your instructor continue to update their knowledge and experience with additional education, workshops, etc.
Certified, but in what?
First does your instructor have a Pilate’s certification? I was at a trade show years ago in San Francisco and because it was at a general fitness themed event we had different types of fitness professionals in attendance. Two ladies who had taken a 20- minute demonstration joked that they were now qualified to teach Pilates. The most basic question should be are they qualified to teach Pilates and by whom?
How do you know what is a good certification program? Not all Pilates’ programs are created equal, or even have the same basic philosophy. There exist different schools of thought about what to do with the volume of information Joseph Pilates left to the world. It seems most fall into either a Classical approach (follow the Pilates method as they understand Joseph Pilates taught), a more Contemporary approach (honoring what Joseph Pilates created and building on that with modern understandings of the body), or what I call a “Fad” approach (creations capitalizing on the recent popularity of Pilates, but not necessarily the whole of the Pilates Method).
My personal bias is towards the Contemporary approach building upon what Joseph Pilates started and adding new discoveries and growing with the work as I think Joseph Pilates would. I feel it is important to offer the full body of work that Joseph Pilates taught because the work itself is very balanced. Adherents to the Classical approach might feel that the original work becomes diluted or polluted when compromised with other things or when only one aspect is emphasized. I certainly understand not wanting to pollute the original teachings with silly fad like practices.
Some of the better known and accepted Contemporary Certification Programs would include Body Arts & Sciences, Intl. (BASI), Stott Pilates, Balanced Body, Physical Mind, Ron Fletcher, and Polestar. Classical Certification Programs would include Core Pilates, Power Pilates, Romana Pilates to name a few. Graduates of these programs stand the best chance of offering better Pilates classes.
Some of these programs offer the teaching of what has become know as the ‘Pilates Elders’, people like Romana of Romana Pilates who were actual students of Joseph Pilates.
Does the Pilates studio in question have a specialty? Do they work with pregnancy, or rehab? Is the emphasis on fitness and toning? Make sure to inform your instructor of your body’s needs, and then note how your instructor reacts to them?
I have heard stories of instructors not looking at the student while cueing and instructing the student. So much for private instruction, so private not even the student is in on it.
Location & Price
Obviously important and perhaps how many people eventually pick a studio is the location and price. I would and do travel farther to get to a store or restaurant that I prefer, and I do so with a Pilates studio as well. The best one is not always the closest. For our Studio in North San Diego County we have people coming from surrounding areas such as Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and farther for Pilates as well as Carlsbad, which represents quite a distance.
Additionally, many instructors as they become more experienced and in demand charge more than the average instructor charges. Sometimes it’s worth it, other times maybe not depending on your experience. Sometimes one of the best indicators is whether or not the Studio and or the Instructor are booked up or completely available.
At our Pilates Studio in Carlsbad, California I charge a little more than the other instructors at the studio and in the surrounding area studios. I’m not saying I’m better than others but some people think it’s a worthwhile investment in their health. I’ve always thought it’s better to pay a couple of dollars more to make my experience that much better. I know when I go to another Pilates’ instructor for my own private instruction I go to the better instructors if I have the budget for it.
How often should you go?
Ideally it’s nice to workout with a Pilate’s program 3 times a week. For some budgets that might be too much, but most Studios offer different types of sessions that can be easier on funds. Mat or group sessions are generally a lower cost option and can supplement one or two private sessions for your weekly Pilates program. Semi-private sessions also can be easier on the budget and still offer quite a bit of individual instruction.
One trick to gaining a wee bit more private instruction out of a Mat or group class is find one that is just forming and not as full. Even in a mat or group class I will offer words of instructions as most instructors do, and I know that in a smaller group you as a student can benefit from less people. It is just a physical fact that with less people in a class there is more opportunity for the instructor to view and comment on the students who are there.
Why is private instruction important?
I know how to do all the Pilates’ exercises but I still do my private sessions with another instructor because they keep you honest. As human being we sometimes want the easy way and if you don’t have anyone watching you sometimes we cut corners and don’t really do all we can. But even more importantly we might not be doing the exercises correctly even if we think we know how and this can lead to injury. You get the most out of the program if you’re push to be the best you can be and to make sure you are doing it correctly maximizing your workouts.
You should feel good after your sessions although you might be tried or even a little sore, (I tell my students they might be experiencing “new awareness’’ of their body). But overall you should feel good, the best barometer of how your class was.
Style & personality
Assuming you have found a studio that does good work still a comfortable setting is important and personalities that agree with you. If you come to the California Pilates Center in Carlsbad a very friendly Golden Retriever named Buddy might greet you. While some might not like dogs most of my clients love Buddy and miss him when he doesn’t come to the Studio. But this might be for you.
Another thing to consider is sometimes (especially during peak hours) we have multiple sessions going on. When I operated the original Studio in Carlsbad it was smaller and did not accommodate additional instructors at the same time. Well we grew and have several instructors at the same time often, and it took a session or two for some of my clients who were use to secluded private sessions. They soon understood the private was in instruction and not the Studio. But overall they all grew to love the interaction with everyone including the dog! We have a fun time and we work hard.
Best to experience it yourself.
Let’s face it some of these questions can not be answered until you’ve taken a class or several, but you can ask yourself these questions after you’ve seen the instructor and make the determination to continue or not. But hopefully the ideas listed above can help guide you in making a great decision. You have already made one great decision to practice Pilates.