Teaching Tips

How to Become a Pilates Instructor: A Comprehensive Guide

Hi!  I'm Alyssa!

 I do Pilates, I teach Pilates & I teach you to teach Pilates.  I'm a ballet dancer turned Pilates Instructor and I've been teaching Pilates for over 11 years. 

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You know that feeling after a killer Pilates class? Feeling taller, stronger, and ready to take on the world? Have you ever wondered how YOU could guide others to get that same feeling?

Because here’s the secret most people don’t know: teaching Pilates is a real profession! Not just a side hustle, but a fulfilling career path that lets you share your passion and empower others on their wellness journeys.

If you’re obsessed with Pilates and considering a career switch (or addition!), this blog is your one-stop shop! We’ll delve into everything you need to know about becoming a certified Pilates instructor, from choosing the perfect training program to landing your dream job. So, ditch the “can I really do this?” and get ready to embrace the “YES, you can!” journey to becoming a Pilates instructor!

There’s a lot of confusing information out there about how to start your career as a Pilates instructor, and a lot of “get certified quick” schemes that mislead a lot of people. That’s precisely why I’ve created this resource—to provide you with a clear roadmap and answer the burning questions you might have, from the very first steps to navigating your career after training.                         

Before diving headfirst into teacher training and making any investment or committing to a training program, it’s crucial to have experience with Pilates and consistently take classes.

This initial Pilates practice serves several purposes:

  • Solidifying Your Passion: Ensure your passion extends beyond simply enjoying the workout. Teaching Pilates requires a deeper understanding and commitment to the method’s core principles. Being a Pilates instructor doesn’t mean you get to workout all day, it’s about helping your clients! Passion is what will fuel your dedication and drive you to delve deeper into the method, helping your clients and always want to learn more.
  • Self-discovery: Reflect on your “why.” Why do you want to become a Pilates instructor? Perhaps you envision helping individuals with specific needs (for example: dancers or pre/post -natal), or maybe you have a natural ability to guide and motivate others and want to help people simply enjoy their workouts for once. Where do you want to teach? Do you want to open your own studio? Identifying your driving force will fuel your dedication throughout your teaching journey.
  • Client Perspective: As a student, you’ll personally experience the initial awkwardness of learning new exercises and the challenges of progressing through a Pilates program. This firsthand knowledge allows you to empathize with your clients when they struggle with similar challenges like you did. You’ll be better equipped to offer encouraging words, break down complex movements into smaller steps, and celebrate even small victories. Knowing the challenges, frustrations, and triumphs that your clients experience learning new exercises, allows you to become a more empathetic, adaptable, and effective Pilates instructor.
  • Preparation for Training: Having a basic understanding of the Pilates repertoire gives you an advantage during the training courses. You’ll enter the program ready to absorb knowledge, and go deeper into the Pilates method. Instead of struggling to grasp the choreography and breath, you can focus on the fine details of technique and teaching methodology. This translates into a richer learning experience where you can focus on the “why” behind the exercises, instead of trying to comprehend “what” the exercise is.
  • Building Confidence: The more comfortable you are doing the exercises in your own body, the more confident you’ll be guiding and motivating your clients.
  • Meeting Prerequisites: Many training programs require a minimum number of Pilates practice hours before enrollment. This ensures a basic understanding of the method before embarking on your teacher training adventure. (For example, STOTT PILATES® requires 30 hours of Pilates experience).

Before you worry that you don’t know enough to enter a teacher training program, you don’t need years of personal Pilates practice or mastery of all of the exercises, especially the advanced ones, to enroll in a certification program. The important thing is that you have enough experience to know that this is a career path you want to pursue and you have a good baseline of knowledge of the exercises so you can focus in your program on learning how to teach.

There are two main methodologies for Pilates- Classical & Contemporary. Ideally, you should experience both before choosing a teacher training program and see what resonates with you the most and feels the best in your body.

*Disclaimer* My training is through a contemporary Pilates method- STOTT PILATES®– but I have also taken classical Pilates classes, so I have experience with both. This is just a quick guide to show you some of the main differences to help you make an informed decision.

This approach strictly adheres to Joseph Pilates’ original work, teaching his 34 exercises in their specific sequence. It emphasizes the principles- breath, control, concentration, centering, flow, and precision.

Equipment-  Classical equipment uses heavier springs. Their Reformers specifically have all the same tension springs, use leather straps instead of ropes, and the wheels don’t glide as smoothly as on the contemporary equipment, which offers a different feel of the exercises.

Other classical equipment includes: the Cadillac, Wunda Chair, High Chair, Small Arm Chair, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector, Small Barrel, Ped O Pul & Guillotine.

Builds upon the foundation of the original Classical Pilates exercises, but incorporates more variations, modifications, and progressions to cater to a wider range of clients and fitness levels. One of the most captivating aspects of Contemporary Pilates is its embrace of the latest exercise science research to enhance the method, while still applying the original principles of Pilates.

A prime example is the approach to pelvic positioning. Classical Pilates traditionally emphasizes a flattened or “flexed” lumbar spine. Contemporary Pilates, however, recognizes the benefits of both a neutral pelvis and a slight posterior tilt we call “imprint.” Instructors learn to guide their clients toward a neutral pelvic position, but acknowledges that an “imprint” can offer valuable support when needed.

One of the most empowering aspects of Contemporary Pilates is the freedom it grants instructors. There’s undeniable value in the original sequencing of Classical Pilates. However, Contemporary Pilates offers the additional freedom to be creative and cater to the individual in front of you by deviating from the original sequence of exercises and using modifications. This allows for a truly engaging, personalized and adaptable practice, especially if your client has injuries or limitations. It’s the perfect blend of tradition and innovation.

Equipment: Unlike the classical equipment, the reformers have ropes, which offer a different feel from the leather. The reformers also have different spring tensions, which offers clients more options to progress and increase the resistance used in exercises or regress when needed.

Other contemporary equipment includes- Cadillac, Stability Chair, Arc Barrel, Spine Corrector, Ladder Barrels.

By understanding these distinctions, you can make an informed choice about the training path that best aligns with your teaching philosophy.

A key part of your research is to take Pilates classes from as many different instructors as you can. If you find a studio or a teacher you like, ask them about the type of training they had and that will help guide you to making a decision on what training program to choose.

The world of Pilates teacher training offers a variety of paths, each with its own advantages.

You can just get certified in Matwork, just in Reformer, both Mat & Reformer or Comprehensive- which is all of the equipment.  What you choose depends on your career goals and where you intend to teach.

Let’s breakdown all of these options:

For instructors who crave flexibility, Matwork Pilates certification is a dream come true. This versatile option empowers you to teach virtually, travel to clients’ homes, or even lead classes in non-traditional settings like parks or community events. The beauty of Matwork lies in its accessibility – clients can easily practice these exercises in the comfort of their own homes, eliminating the need for specialized equipment. This makes it a fantastic way to introduce Pilates to a wider audience and build exposure for your business, all without the limitations of a fixed studio space.

For established professionals like Physical Therapists or Personal Trainers seeking to expand their repertoire, a Mat Pilates Certification offers an excellent option. It allows you to seamlessly integrate Pilates principles and exercises into your existing practice, even in settings where larger equipment may not be available. This not only enhances your program variety but also adds significant value to your client offerings.

However, if your vision involves teaching within a studio environment equipped with Pilates apparatus, then comprehensive training is the recommended path. Studio owners often prefer or require instructors to have a comprehensive certification. This ensures you’re well-equipped to deliver a well-rounded Pilates experience, incorporating a variety of exercises that utilize both Matwork and Pilates equipment.

Many studios offer Reformer as their primary group class format, making a Reformer Certification a fantastic option for aspiring instructors. But here’s a pro tip: Even if your plan is to solely teach at a Reformer studio, consider adding Mat Pilates training to your toolbox.

Think of Matwork as the secret sauce that elevates your Reformer teaching. Here’s how:

  • Understanding: Mat and Reformer exercises complement each other beautifully. Mastering Matwork provides a deeper understanding of the movements that translate onto the Reformer. You’ll see familiar patterns, allowing you to guide your clients with greater clarity and confidence.
  • Variety: Keeping your classes engaging is essential, and Matwork is your secret weapon for adding variety. When you have the knowledge of both mat & reformer exercises, you can weave both types of exercises throughout your classes for endless programming possibilities.
  • Strong Foundation: Mat Pilates lays the groundwork for tackling the challenge of a moving carriage and spring resistance of the Reformer. Take planks, for example – a seemingly simple exercise on the Mat becomes a test of core strength and stability on the Reformer. Matwork will equip your clients with a foundation of core strength, body awareness, and movement patterns needed to tackle the challenges of this dynamic piece of equipment.
  • Unlocking Creative Potential: Combine your Matwork and Reformer knowledge, and you’ll unlock a treasure trove of creative possibilities. Props like the mini-ball can be used across both disciplines, offering endless variations and keeping your clients challenged. Imagine seamlessly integrating Mat and Mini-ball exercises into your warm-up and continuing with the mini-ball theme with your reformer exercises. The options that you have once you’re trained in mat Pilates will help you create a dynamic flow in your classes that keeps clients excited and coming back week after week!

If your vision involves teaching within a studio environment equipped with all Pilates apparatus, then comprehensive training is the recommended path. Comprehensive training equips you to deliver a diverse and engaging Pilates experience. You’ll master both Matwork exercises and those utilizing Pilates apparatus like reformers, Cadillacs, chairs, and barrels. This allows you to cater to a wider range of clients and preferences.

Studio owners often prefer or require instructors to have a comprehensive certification. This ensures you’re well-equipped to deliver a well-rounded Pilates experience for all clients.

While a comprehensive certification might require a greater initial investment, consider it a strategic move towards becoming a top-tier instructor. The depth of knowledge and the programming expertise grants you the versatility to excel in any teaching environment. This proficiency opens doors to a myriad of professional opportunities, allowing you to seamlessly transition between studios and cater to a wide range of clientele with confidence and competence.

Whether you envision a nomadic instructor lifestyle, a small home studio or a career within a studio environment, there’s a Pilates instructor training path perfectly suited for you. Consider your long-term goals and teaching aspirations – do you crave flexibility and accessibility, or do you desire a comprehensive skillset for a studio environment? Remember, Matwork certification provides a strong foundation, while comprehensive training equips you to be a true Pilates powerhouse.

Not all Pilates teacher training programs are created equal. The most important thing is that you stay away from the get certified quick schemes. Building a solid foundation in Pilates takes time and dedication. Budget-friendly options may be tempting, but remember, effective training is an investment in your future and reputable programs will take time and be more of a financial investment, but will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to be a safe and effective instructor.

The Hallmarks of Strong Pilates Teacher Training Programs:

  • Globally Recognized: Ensure your chosen program is recognized by reputable studios and organizations beyond the studio where you train. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when people take their local studio’s training program and teach at their local studio, but when they go to work at another studio, they are required to get a new certification because the one they invested all of their time and money in is only recognized by the studio that created it. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes and have to pay for your training twice!
  • Anatomy Training:  Your training program should either include Anatomy in the actual course, or require a separate anatomy course prior to training A strong understanding of anatomy is crucial for teaching Pilates so that you understand the essence of exercises and can program effectively for diverse clients.
  • Time Commitment: Effective training isn’t confined to a single weekend. Expect to dedicate at least 2-3 intensive weekends to the initial Mat and/or Reformer training. (For reference, as a STOTT PILATES® Instructor Trainer- the Mat certification is 40 hours and Reformer is 50 hours, not including observation, review, and practice teaching.)
  • Comprehensive Curriculum: Your program should go beyond simply learning exercises. Look for opportunities to practice teach and integrate the material during the course. You should also learn program design and how to modify exercises for real client scenarios.
  • They require observation, practice teaching and review hours prior to taking your exam. You can’t expect to learn everything during the time spent in a class. These hours are meant to set you up for success on your exam! Observation, practice teaching, and review hours are essential for solidifying your skills. These experiences are crucial for exam preparation and future success.
  • Examination Process: A well-rounded exam includes both written and teaching components. Be wary of programs that only require a written assessment. As a Pilates instructor, your ability to work with bodies, modify exercises, and articulate movement is paramount.

Training Formats:

The world of Pilates teacher training has expanded dramatically! Alongside traditional in-person programs, a wave of hybrid and fully virtual options has emerged, catering to our ever-evolving learning styles and technological advancements. While online programs offer undeniable convenience, especially for those with limited travel options, let’s delve deeper and explore the pros and cons of each format:

The Power of In-Person Learning:

As a STOTT PILATES® Instructor Trainer with experience teaching courses & mentoring since 2016, I strongly advocate for prioritizing in-person or hybrid training whenever possible. Here’s why:

  • The Magic of Touch: In-person classes allow for hands-on corrections from your instructor trainer. Feeling the proper alignment firsthand is invaluable for mastering technique and confidently guiding your future clients. Through this experience, you will also learn how to use tactile cues when working with your own clients.
  • Experience: Observing a diverse range of body types performing exercises in person grants you crucial insights into body mechanics and modifications. This real-world experience equips you to cater to a wider range of clients. Being in-person allows you to observe the exercises from all angles, and train your “eye” for spotting mistakes and learning how to correct alignment.
  • The Power of Community: In-person training fosters a sense of camaraderie with your fellow trainees. Learning alongside others and sharing experiences creates a supportive network that will benefit you throughout your teaching career.

These experiences simply can’t be replicated in a solely virtual setting.

 Virtual Options: Weighing the Benefits:

Virtual programs offer undeniable convenience, especially for those with limited travel options or busy schedules. Here are some key considerations:

  • Accessibility: Virtual training opens doors to internationally renowned programs, without needing to travel.
  • Cost Efficiency: Virtual training can save you money on travel expenses such as hotel and airfare, which can add up when you have to travel for multiple weekends.

Making the Right Choice:

The ideal format depends on your individual learning style and circumstances. If you have the opportunity, prioritize in-person or hybrid training to reap the benefits of hands-on learning and community. However, virtual programs offer a fantastic alternative for those with limited accessibility. If you do choose a virtual option, make sure they you have access to the Instructor Trainer for questions and that it isn’t all just pre-recorded.


The world of Pilates teacher training can be deceiving, with programs promising certifications after a single weekend. Be cautious! Building a solid foundation in Pilates takes time and dedicated learning. Reputable Pilates teacher training programs come with a cost, typically ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the program length and if you’re doing your full comprehensive training. While this may seem like a significant sum upfront, especially compared to those tempting weekend certifications, consider it an investment in your future.

Training Program Options

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, some highly respected programs include:

Choosing a program that aligns with your learning style and teaching aspirations is key. Remember, the first step in your Pilates instructor journey is to experience Pilates as a client. Regularly attending classes will not only build your own practice but also expose you to different teachers. If you find an instructor that you love, ask them about their training and that will help guide you on your path to picking a training program that perfectly aligns with your goals and teaching aspirations.

Getting Certified

The journey to becoming a Pilates instructor doesn’t end with the completion of your teacher training program. Upon completing your Pilates teacher training program, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and will be qualified to teach, but there’s a crucial step before you can sit for your certification exam: practice.

Most programs require that you fulfill a requirement of observation, physical review, and practice teaching hours. These requirements serve as vital components of your preparation. By observing other instructors, assimilating their cues, and engaging in continued practice of exercises, you’ll refine your teaching skills. Moreover, teaching a diverse range of individuals will deepen your understanding and proficiency of the exercises and their modifications.

The Pilates certification exam is a two-part challenge designed to assess your readiness to teach. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Written Exam: This tests your theoretical knowledge of Pilates principles, anatomy, and proper exercise execution.
  • Practical Exam: This is where all your practice teaching comes into play! You’ll be asked to teach a simulated client session, demonstrating your ability to:
    • Design Personalized Programs: Develop a program tailored to the specific needs of a hypothetical client.
    • Modifications: Demonstrate proficiency in modifying exercises to cater to different client limitations and abilities.
    • Cue Like a Pro: Deliver clear, concise, and effective cues that guide your client through the exercises safely and effectively.

Completing your teacher training program is truly just the beginning of your journey! Teaching Pilates is like learning a new language and the initial stages of your teaching career can feel daunting. However, with practice, your confidence will steadily flourish as you accumulate more teaching experience. Remember, each session offers an opportunity for growth and refinement, shaping you into a skilled and confident Pilates instructor.

Your most valuable asset on your journey to becoming a Pilates instructor is undoubtedly having a mentor by your side. Whether it’s the studio owner where you aim to teach, your Instructor Trainer from your program, or another seasoned Pilates professional you admire, having a trusted mentor offers unparalleled support and guidance. They serve as a resource for answering your questions, providing programming assistance, and offering invaluable insights that accelerate your growth as an instructor. Embrace the opportunity to learn from their expertise and years of experience—it’s a surefire way to advance swiftly in your Pilates career!

If you’re eager to elevate your journey as a Pilates instructor and aspire to reach new heights in your career, I invite you to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation call below.

During this call, you’ll gain insight into my comprehensive Instructor Mentorship Program, designed to empower you to become the best and highest-paid Pilates instructor you can be. Don’t miss this opportunity to take your skills and career to the next level—reserve your spot for a consultation today!

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• About Me • About Me • About Me •

Welcome Friends

HELLo, I’m Alyssa

Movement is my life!  My biggest passion is understanding the human body and I want to share it with you! Coming from a ballet background, I'm no stranger to injuries and the struggles of rehab, but I wouldn't change a thing because they led me to find Pilates and inspired me to do what I'm doing today.  
I'm here to help you feel stronger, move better, recover from and reduce your risk of  injuries, & exceed your performance goals. 

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