I have been teaching Pilates for a long time and I have seen a lot of changes along the way. Some of these changes are good and others not so good. For example, although large group classes are great and allow for more people to do Pilates on a regular basis, they don’t really help the student learn the form necessary to benefit from Pilates. In a big group class, the beginner can easily get lost in the shuffle. If the teacher has not been teaching long, she may not be equipped to handle this. After all, everyone in the group needs the teacher’s her attention even though some need it more. It can get very complicated.
There are many benefits to starting a Pilates journey with a few private sessions. Even as few as five or six can make a huge difference. Here are a few examples of what one can expect from a one on one session with an experienced Pilates instructor:
- The first few sessions will be focused on learning the equipment, understanding the Pilates principals and setting on a path to meet some of the client’s goals. Pilates is different from other forms of exercise in that the technique requires a bit more concentration and focus. If the client puts more into it from the get-go, the benefits are considerably higher.
- Even after the first session, the client gains a much larger understanding of the method. I teach both large groups and private sessions and I can see a big difference between what students get out of a private session and what they get from a large group class. Even though my teaching is very similar in both groups, the private will gain a much deeper understanding of the movement because the entire class is focused on him or her.
- So much of Pilates requires control. As a matter of fact, Joseph Pilates did not name the method after himself, rather he called it Contrology or the science of control. In a group class – even one taught by the most experienced instructor – the pace will be faster and less controlled than in a private.
- The equipment is important in a Pilates session. I remember a large group class where a student did not know what the straps were. The class was several minutes into the exercise when I realized she was frantically looking for something called ‘straps’. There isn’t always time in a mixed level class to teach everyone about the various components in each of the pieces of equipment so one must assume that they already know it. Sometimes NOT knowing can also be dangerous.
- Safety is crucial in all exercise, but especially when working on equipment that has springs. Things can and will go wrong if the teacher is working with many students at the same time and if the student does not understand the equipment. For example, in a group class we were getting ready to do Short Box which requires that both feet are in the loop which keeps the person from falling off the box onto the floor. In the back of the room, a student didn’t hear my cue and was about to lean back when I caught her. In a private session that would never happen.
It’s true that private Pilates is more expensive than group classes. However, one does not have to exclude the other. When I first began teaching at a large studio, the requirement was that each student had to take anywhere from 5 to 10 private sessions before being allowed to join a group. That requirement has been suspended in many studios because the competition is no longer requiring it. Market forces have made studio owners change the way they teach.
For a truly safe, effective and way more fun session, taking a few privates before or along with group classes will make a huge difference in your Pilates journey.