Pilates Teacher Training begins…

[Joan is a writer/editor and currently under performing athlete whose background and interest in sport and sport medicine fortunately brought her to Pilates as a practitioner. Her idea of teaching is through the written word so she’ll continue to blog on the TT journey to share the learning.]

My head and my body are sore. But in a really good way, not like the chronic pain I used to feel every day. It’s simply muscle fatigue (and brain fatigue) from working hard and well all weekend.

In this first weekend of a 10-month teacher-training program, the agenda was jam-packed. The beautiful well equipped studio with high ceilings and natural light made for an ideal setting as we found ourselves on mats for pre-Pilates release work both mornings. None of us can figure out how we managed to start our days before! We will certainly want to channel and duplicate Tanis’s style and script for centering ourselves (and others in the future). Joining us are a couple of graduated teachers observing and taking copious notes they promise to share with us later. They confirm what we suspect already—that this course is a gift, an opportunity to more fully integrate the methodology, the science (and maybe the magic?) of Pilates. We five wannabe-apprentices may come from different worlds and be on different paths but we have all found something in Pilates that seems unique, yet works for each of us. Together this year we expect to learn why.

We start with a brief history of the famously fit Joe Pilates, his brilliant system of Contrology and why only since the turn of this century Pilates has been considered a generic term and thereby found in both classical and diluted forms—Piloga, Piloxing, ski-Pilates, etc. Interesting but no matter, we have found our way to the real thing for which we are already starting to discover why there is no substitute.

The main trainer Tanis is not only super-experienced and an excellent teacher, but Amy’s own mentor, a key catalyst inspiring Amy to set up her studio in lucky Bragg Creek. Together with Corinne, a retired physician whose interests are in the integration of the neuroscience with the musculo-skeletal system as well as self-directed education, the three clearly make a sophisticated and dynamic trio. While Tanis will supervise each of the ten weekends, Amy and Corinne will provide the support in between for the self-directed and business parts of our training (three times a week in addition to our private sessions).

But that’s not all. We each received what we thought was a swag bag, full of books, manuals, videos (i.e., self-directed learning!) and well, what looked like a fancy 2×4. It was indeed a block of wood, upholstered with a yoga mat, and an aid for our all-important footwork practice. Another bonus we would investigate further/later was the special access to two websites packed with teaching ideas and lesson videos for expanding our future practices.

Our pre-workshop prep had included “playing” with an app to help us with our comprehension of anatomy and terminology. This practice already stimulated questions to our trainers about the thoracolumbar junction (the troublesome T11-12) and the psoas, with which a few of us already are acquainted from physiotherapy visits.

Some of the other things we learned on this first weekend or at least what has stuck so far:

  • Mat work is not the beginning as many think but the goal. Most of us need the specially designed apparatus for getting us safely to the proper alignment, strength, and movement pattern. I personally flunked out of mat class so I know this already.
  • The universal reformer is actually an appropriately named apparatus and where all students can and should start.
  • Pilates is not just choreography or movement but physically and mentally difficult WORK, under the control of the body not an apparatus or machine.
  • Footwork, as it’s called somewhat misleadingly, is incredibly important for the whole system and body.

Tanis promises us that we will cover not just all the apparatus (apparati?) in detail but different learning styles, common errors, Pilates’ adaptability to different bodies and special issues, the many and various levels of intensity, while always returning to and incorporating the key principles of Pilates like breath, concentration, precision and flow. Some of these concepts are familiar to some of us, but we will all get to know them all very well, we’re told. What we won’t need as much is the reinforcement of these basic facts: how you can be fit without being strong, strong without being fit, and if your spine doesn’t move, it can be problematic now … or later.

One of most exciting ideas of our weekend came from the retired MD, Corinne, who said “we are on the cusp of a paradigm shift” and better understanding how movement changes bodies and brains, referring to the neuroplasticity of the brain and the neuro-connectivity of fascia. But even if the science is hard to understand or explain just yet, we can already agree with her: “our brains really like Pilates.”

The more I learn, the more I know how much more there is to learn or understand better, so I’m grateful for the many private and group sessions with Amy that gave me a foundation to build on. There’s no better motivation than your own body dysfunction to experience Pilates’ genius!

Now back to the books and videos and my notes to solidify and further unpack this brief overview/intro…then I’m looking forward to integrating it with a few hours self-practice in the lovely studio this week.

This is indeed a journey, as Amy likes to say, but also impossible not to see as both an investment in one’s own body and future. Amy’s vision, like Joe Pilates’, is to spread true Pilates through educated and passionate teachers. With so much to know, some of us wonder at the end of the first weekend — up we up to the challenge?


When we gather again later that week for self-practice, we finally get to share how we each came to Pilates and the TT program. In our small group, there are teachers, coaches, injured athletes and holistic practitioners, all movement-oriented and interested in exploring further how Pilates is “more than an exercise program.” Each express desire in helping others, and/or paying forward the successes they have experienced.

Given our various levels of comfort with teaching or the principals or the apparatus, I expect the others to be as tentative as I feel but Corinne and Amy are right there with coaching and tips: “offer one instruction at a time; don’t overwhelm with detail; keep a careful watch on form; back off when necessary; minimize chatter, distractions…” With this kind of focus and support,  my fellow teacher trainees seem to get comfortable quickly. In the meantime, we must get back to the books, and to the regular posts in our group mailbox, to be prepared for our next session.

Stayed tuned for more updates on our progress.