the 4 Essential Skills to Look for in a Pilates Teacher

What criteria is important when looking for a Pilates teacher?  First start with thinking back on your time in school. What qualities did one of your favorite teachers have?  Then, recall your least favorite teacher and why you dreaded his or her class.

 Of course, our preferences and needs are personal and unique.  But all educators, regardless of their field, must attain certain skills that define their abilities to have lasting, positive impact on their students.  This applies to great Pilates teachers as well.  

Here’s what to look for in a Pilates teacher 

Pilates certification

First and foremost, an effective Pilates teacher should be well educated and certified.  Pilates is a challenging movement practice with over 800 exercises.  Many of these exercises can be complicated and initially require modifications for many body types.  A skilled Pilates teacher understands this.   

Based on their years of practice and study they can develop a well rounded program for you to incorporate your goals and objectives.  As important, they can provide movement modifications that assist a student in both learning the repertoire and avoiding injury.  This is especially important when learning a new movement vocabulary.

Excellent communication

In addition to being knowledgeable and well educated, look for a Pilates teacher that is a good communicator and one who is passionate about movement and this work. The best Pilates teachers use their passion for movement to inspire their students to their maximum potential.  Moving well and understanding the Pilates repertoire is crucial. 

However, being capable of articulating that understanding into descriptive words and motivating imagery is a priority.  A masterful teacher will help you deeply experience the work physically and mentally, as well as understand where you should be feeling a specific exercise.  This should be true whether you are in a group or private class.    

The Four Essential Skills For Every Pilates Teacher

Lee Pilates Method

Beyond certification and communication, the Pilates Method Alliance has identified four major categories that all Pilates teachers must acquire to become successful teachers.  At Lee Pilates Method, I work continuously to improve each of these.  They are Observation, Communication, Demonstration and Inspiration.  Let’s break them down.


Keenly observant Pilates teachers develop a strong, discerning eye for movement.  To do this successfully they must be very focused on the student or group class throughout the session. They continue to assess their students’ alignment, muscular imbalances, stress indicators and compensatory movements.  

You will feel this attention and presence directed toward you which will challenge you to rise above what you think you are capable of.  In fact, it is one of the primary reasons to invest the time and money for this help.  

Observation also means that your teacher is moving throughout the class to observe you and other students from multiple angles and movement orientations.  In addition to detailed instruction for a one-on-one session, a competent Pilates teacher has the ability to monitor a group Pilates class as a whole while making specific corrections to you or other individuals.  


The second skill set is communication.  For a Pilates teacher successful communication includes both verbal and tactile cueing.  

Verbal cueing requires using a quality of voice and rhythm that both challenges and progresses students.  It means knowing the appropriate amount of talking a student needs to understand and absorb information efficiently.  Good verbal cueing is specific.  

It includes educating without being too technical.  Skillfully incorporating imagery to convey information and avoid misunderstanding is also very effective.  Words like “hollowing, gliding and imprinting” are a few examples.  These words describe an experience of what an action should feel like.  

Tactile cueing is also a crucial skill for a teacher to use in a Pilates class or one-on-one session.  Tactile cueing means touching you as the student in an appropriate and specific manner.  It brings awareness to an area of your body that needs to have muscular activation.  This literally focuses your brain towards a targeted muscle or group of muscles.  The Lee Pilates Method uses tactile cueing as an integral part of teaching communication.  

However, some methods have a policy of refraining from touching students altogether.  Your teacher should always ask permission to place their hands on you prior to doing so.  If you are a person who would prefer not to be touched in a Pilates or any movement session, tell your teacher this at the beginning of your appointment.  Lastly, tactile cueing involves your teacher using the palm of the hand placed lightly on an appropriate muscle group that she or he is encouraging you to feel.  Never, under any circumstance, should you feel uncomfortable.  


A successful and compelling Pilates teacher should be able to demonstrate a movement in a way that motivates you and enhances visual learning.  Demonstration helps to see what a movement should look like.  You as a student will learn more quickly by observing movement performed correctly by your teacher.  

However, in order to demonstrate proper form and precise and effortless movement, your teacher should have an active Pilates practice that keeps them in excellent condition.  Look for a teacher that can be a role model for what is possible, based on your desires and goals.  

A responsible Pilates teacher will explain the time and commitment that goes into mastering any given exercise.  The Pilates curriculum takes years to perfect.  Your teacher’s demonstration should inspire you.  

However, their guidance in understanding the time it takes to gain competency is important for pacing the achievement of your goals.  


The fourth, and possibly most important skill is inspiration.  If you’re not inspired, you won’t return.  Sadly, you could miss out on the opportunity to learn and change your life in such a powerful way.  You and all students will be inspired by a teacher who uses positive feedback to encourage and acknowledge progress over time.  We all need corrections to improve in any endeavor.  This can happen more quickly and with more enthusiasm when feedback is given in a non-judgmental and supportive way.  

Look for a teacher who maintains a high energy level to motivate and stimulate you.  If you’re in a group class your teacher should be able to keep the entire class motivated while giving attention to you as if you were the only one there.  And, very importantly, a skilled Pilates teacher has the  ability to motivate and care for differing levels in one class.  

Your Pilates Teacher Should Focus On Your Potential

We all want to have our attention focused on our potential, not our problems.  ​In the end, whether in the Pilates studio or the classroom, the teachers we remember the longest and treasure the most are those who share their experience, knowledge and excitement.  The Pilates teacher that gives you the gift of their focused attention while they observe you.  Someone who communicates clearly and succinctly.  Demonstrates movement in a way that has you motivated to try and try again.  And inspires you with their passion and encouragement.  These skills, in addition to the extensive education and knowledge your teacher should have, provides the foundation for life-changing experiences.  These outcomes, can and will, positively affect all areas of your life.   

Do you want to feel motivated and inspired?  Do you need personalized training that will help you achieve your movement goals and give you the outcomes you desire?  Set up a session with me today at to get started, get stronger and enjoy the vitality a Pilates practice can offer you.  You can click here to contact me.

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