Pilates Instructor- A comprehensive look at a career instructing this life-changing form of exercise.

Allied Health World had a conversation with Pilates instructor and lifelong fitness enthusiast, Graza Doyle. Talking with Graza allowed us to take a closer look at how this decades-old form of physical training has in recent years become recognized for its ability to change lives. Drawing from her many years of involvement in the fitness industry, Graza provides thoughtful responses to the questions most frequently asked by aspiring Pilates instructors and offers her uniquely experienced perspective on the career in practice:

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a method of exercise performed with fluid, flowing movements that draw energy from the deep torso muscles at the body’s core. The Pilates method incorporates both floor exercises, and exercises performed with specially designed Pilates-specific exercise machines and equipment. Pilates is defined by elegant and graceful movements performed with almost dance-like qualities of control and precision. The exercises seek to strengthen the core muscles that surround and support the spine based on the understanding that all movement done in proper form originates at the core. Based on this understanding the original pioneers of Pilates coined the term “powerhouse” to describe the core muscles. This term is still used by today’s modern

The six principles of Pilates; breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow, place a unique focus on movement that is done with perfect form and full presence of mind.

To students of Pilates teacher training programs, and certified practitioners alike, Pilates it is much more than just an effective way to work out. Pilates is intelligent exercise in which all movement is honored and recognized as having purpose.

Pilates is a philosophy, and when mastered becomes a way of life for those who practice it. It engages the mind as well as the body to create supreme mind-body awareness with the goal of ultimately teaching the body how to move with balance, grace, and proper form on its own, without the intervention of conscious thought.

Pilates exercises are used for many different reasons: To some Pilates is a from of rehabilitative therapy, to others it is a physical and mental discipline, while others see it as a way to take their physical fitness to the next level by directly working on strengthening the core muscles. In all its uses Pilates is extremely effective.

What makes Pilates “intelligent exercise”?

The term “intelligent exercise” is often used to describe Pilates, and for good reason. This has to do with the fact that Pilates requires participants to be fully mentally vested in the exercises they are performing, and also because Pilates has a logically linear and well thought-out approach that addresses all aspects of the physical form.

Rather than an outward focus on muscular strength in the extremities, as is often the goal of strength training, Pilates has presented the idea that a solid foundation must first be established. This means first working to achieve skeletal strength and mobility with a specific focus on the spine and surrounding core muscles. Pilates also gives great attention to the strength, flexibility, and elongation of fascia and other connective tissues of the joints, so an in-depth exploration of anatomy is a key focal point among Pilates instructor courses. All of this is done with the logical understanding that a strong skeletal system and spine, surrounded by strong core muscles all held in place by strong and limber connective tissue, is the ideal foundation upon which to build muscle.

Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, explains, “To me it was logical; not only intellectually, but also I could feel it in my body because its about stretching, its about lengthening. Muscles and fascia become long, and supple, and strong. If you think about human anatomy, what moves the skeleton is the joints. Some joints have a very sophisticated system of tendons and ligaments. It’s about learning how to properly align your spine with each movement and giving time for ligaments and tendons to develop their strength, so you are moving in proper form. Next you address the muscles. Pilates is about strengthening the core, which is actually hundreds of thousands of tiny muscles that are like rubber bands that support you all around like a belt to hold your spine up.”

Graza went on to say, “Where does the human body begin? I see it as the skeleton. And can we ever divorce ourselves from our own mind? Intelligent exercise is allowing your mind to take you and lead you through the sequence of a logically set-up method that has been proven to work very well on people of any age, in any situation for over 90 years. Now that is intelligent exercise.”

What is the origin of the Pilates method?

Joseph Pilates, the creator and founder of the Pilates method, started life as a sickly child growing up in Germany in the latter part of the 19th century. He battled many childhood diseases from which he drew the resolve to achieve unprecedented levels of strength and fitness. Through this resolve he worked to transform his rather weak physique so dramatically that by the age of 14 his body was being used as a model in the creation of anatomical charts.

Pilates was always a man of great inspiration and a true pioneer of new ways of thinking about physical fitness. Pilates studied yoga, and martial arts, and very early on began to combine these Eastern disciplines with Western physical activities like gymnastics, boxing, and bodybuilding to develop a whole new approach to fitness.

He moved to England and was interned along with other Germans when WWI erupted. It was during his internment that he began working with his compatriots to develop the method that he would go on to call “contrology”.

Following his internment he went to work as a nurse orderly attending to the war wounded on the Isle of Man. Working with veterans who had suffered catastrophic injuries that prevented them from performing his floor exercises, Pilates began to design and build resistance apparatuses from bed springs and wheel chair parts. Regardless of the extent of the battlefield injury suffered by the patients that were in his care, Pilates was able to assist them with regaining their strength by building an apparatus to accommodate their needs and then coaching them through its use.

After the war Pilates immigrated to the U.S. where his revolutionary method was discovered by famous entertainers and dancers in the New York stage scene. Slowly it grew into a fitness movement as prizefighters, entertainers, and athletes of all kinds embraced his methods. Today the name Pilates is synonymous with extraordinary levels of strength, balance, control, and grace as it is the most recognized and effective method employed by celebrities and professional athletes.

Become a Pilates Teacher

Allied Health World spoke with certified Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, for her experienced perspective on what it takes to effectively teach others how to perform Pilates. Graza’s thoughtful responses to our questions will help aspiring Pilates instructors better understand the process by which one enters this profession and the personality traits of those drawn to this type of work:

Steps to becoming a Pilates instructor

  1. Most people who pursue a specialized form of exercise like Pilates do so after some personal experience. It is worth taking Pilates classes to become familiar with the exercises and to experience the results personally to better determine if you would enjoy a career instructing. The time spent in Pilates classes also provides an opportunity to observe instruction in progress.
  2. Choose the level of Pilates training you are most interested in and that is most appropriate for your skill level. This would either be a course specific to just Pilates mat exercises or more advanced comprehensive courses that would include training on how to instruct students in the use of the various Pilates apparatuses. Remember that you can always go on to take a more advanced class after successful completion of a basic Pilates mat exercise training program.
  3. Upon graduating from the Pilates teacher training program of your choice, consider becoming a certified member of the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA). This membership is completely elective.
  4. Find work as a salaried Pilates instructor in a health club or Pilates studio. For the more entrepreneurial, an independent practice may be more to your liking.

How might one choose to become a Pilates instructor?

Often an individual will choose to become a Pilates instructor after having had a life-changing personal experience through practicing Pilates. Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, explained to Allied Health World how after spending years in the gym she found herself moving towards a gentler and more graceful form of exercise, “In the 80’s when everybody jumped on the aerobics wagon, I began weight training, and being a member of a health club, and doing lots of running, and 10ks, and starting to see these incredible results not only in my physical appearance but also in my energy level. One thing led to another, but I started to feel burned out. I started moving into a different decade age-wise and started developing my own system that was low-impact because I was feeling pains in my joints and I felt like my posture wasn’t good. At that age there starts to be a concern about osteoporosis, so I started to pay attention to the bones. At the time I had a lot of physical demands in my life. As I was moving and packing boxes I

What are the personality traits of a good Pilates instructor?

When we put this question to Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, she responded with concise enthusiasm, “Pilates instructors have to really like people and have high energy. If you love to dance, love movement, if you are graceful, and very much able to focus on the body-mind connection, you will be a great Pilates instructor. When performing or instructing Pilates have to believe in the mind-body connection, because you can’t separate the two.”

What is the job market like for Pilates instructors?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects significant growth in the area of personal fitness training and projects that the number of jobs for fitness workers will increase much faster than average for all occupations. In fact, the BLS expects there to be a 27% increase in the number of fitness professionals employed in the U.S. between now and 2016.

Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, said, “There’s such an opportunity for Pilates instructors of all ages. For the new generation of fitness enthusiasts Pilates seems like such an obvious choice knowing what we know now about how the body works. For my generation of personal trainers and fitness lovers you can add onto your existing fitness experience by learning Pilates.”

Why become a Pilates instructor?

When we asked life-long fitness enthusiast, Graza Doyle, why she chose to pursue a career as a Pilates instructor after so many years in the fitness industry, she took an introspective pause and closed her eyes for a moment. Breaking from her typically exuberant cadence, she answered calmly, “The amount of satisfaction that you get: Can you ever get tired of dancing? Can you ever get tired of feeling high and joyful and elated because you’re agile and flexible and fluid, and you look graceful. You are only as old or as young as your spine is. What could be a better incentive? My incentive is not to make money, my incentive is to stand on my feet gracefully for as long as I can.”

Pilates Teacher Salary

How much do independently employed Pilates instructors earn?

For the more entrepreneurial individual, opening an independent practice may be a much more lucrative alternative to employment. Some certified Pilates instructors opt to open their own independently run Pilates studios. Some choose to partner with a group of practitioners of other types of movement training, like yoga instructors, to create integrated multi-practice studios.

Whether going totally solo or partnering with other professionals, an individual who withes to become a Pilates instructor will find it worth noting that the take-home income associated with independent practice is always factored against the expense of running a studio business. The overhead that is most worth noting before entering into practice independently is the cost of leased space and insurance. The cost of studio space is largely affected by the location of the studio, but this typically balances since space leased in more upscale neighborhoods of affluent cities can expect to serve a larger clientele that is prepared to pay more for the service. Just like personal trainers, all independent Pilates instructors are required to carry professional liability insurance in the event that a client experiences bodily injury in the course of a session.

Job TitleBottom 10% Annual WageAnnual Median WageTop 10% Annual Wage
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors-U.S.$19,640$39,210$74,520
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Job TitleProjected Job Growth Rate
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors-U.S.9.8%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Pilates Instructor Courses

Through independent research and conversations with certified Pilates instructors, Allied Health World has explored both the didactic and applied coursework that are included in the different types of programs designed to prepare the next generation of Pilates instructors:

What are the required courses associated with Pilates trainer certificate programs?

Using an affiliated school as an example, Allied Health World outlines the Pilates instructor courses specific to both basic Pilates Mat Trainer programs and more advanced Comprehensive Mat and Apparatus Trainer programs. These Pilates instructor courses are the same or very similar to those required by all schools offering Pilates teacher training programs:

Mat Trainer:

  • Movement Anatomy for Mat Instructors (5 hours)
  • Essential Pilates Exercises (20 hours)
  • Intensive Mat Class (20 hours)

Comprehensive Mat and Apparatus Trainer:

  • Comprehensive Pre-Training (10 hours)
  • Movement Anatomy for Mat Instructors (5 hours)
  • Essential Pilates Exercises (20 hours)
  • Mat Intensive (20 hours)
  • Reformer Intensive (20 hours)
  • Reformer Labs I & II (6 hours)
  • Cadillac Intensive (20 hours)
  • Cadillac Labs I & II (6 hours)
  • Auxiliary Equipment (15 hours)
  • Auxiliary Lab I (3 hours)
  • Postural Analysis and Program Design (10 hours)

What are the six principals of Pilates?

Being a unique chimera of exercise and philosophy that has been refined over decades of practice and observation, Pilates has a clear and well thought-out set of principals that are the foundation of its practice:

Breathing: Concentrated, controlled, and precise inhalation and exhalation are part of every Pilates exercise. Joseph Pilates is known to have said, “Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly.” Proper breathing charges the blood with oxygen, activates the circulatory system, and works to purge the body of waste gases, toxins, and sloughed off cell debris known to cause fatigue. Pilates postural lateral breathing involves deep inhalation that expands the back and sides of the rib cage. This involves engaging the deep abdominal and pelvic muscles both while inhaling and exhaling.

Centering: What is commonly referred to now as the core muscles- the large group of inner-torso muscles that make up the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks and which are responsible for spinal stability- Joseph Pilates originally called the powerhouse. Core muscle strength is the very foundation of Pilates’ philosophy on fitness. All Pilates exercise draws from the strength of the core muscles. The powerhouse is responsible for coordinating all body movement; even outward movement of the arms and legs begins with the core muscles.

Concentration: Part of what makes Pilates so unique is the mind body connection that it seeks to promote. One must be totally present while performing Pilates exercises. Intense focus is required to remain mindful of specific core muscles even when performing exercises that are seemingly unrelated to these muscles. Pilates is all about being mindful of body and form of movement; being conscious of breathing while also being conscious of every muscle that is engaged in the course of movement.

Control: Joseph Pilates coined the term “contrology” to describe the exercises he developed. This is because absolute control of the body as well as the mind is key to performing each exercise. Pilates uses smooth, elegant, controlled, and precise movements, each having a specific purpose. Pilates exercises never involve any sudden, haphazard, or meaningless movement. This special attention to control is part of what makes Pilates a safe form of exercise unlikely to result in injury.

Flow: Pilates exercises are performed with graceful, fluid, dance-like motions free of jerky or fragmented movement. Once the flow and proper form of a given exercise is mastered, participants work to apply that to the entire routine such that each exercise smoothly transitions into the next. This works to seamlessly thread the exercises together causing the body to be in constant motion, working the muscles even in between exercises.

Precision: There are no wasted movements in Pilates and each exercise looks to accomplish a specific goal. Pilates uses minimal repetition and focuses rather on a few repetitions performed with perfect precision. The philosophy of Pilates asserts that every movement should be honored, so great attention is given to integrating all six Pilates’ principals while performing each exercise with perfectly precise movement.

Pilates Instructor Certification

To help make it easier to navigate the certification options specific to a career as a Pilates instructor, Allied Health World has done the research for you. We’ve compiled information from reliable sources, including Pilates professional organizations, and corroborated information with practicing Pilates instructors to answer the questions most frequently asked about certification and licensure requirements for professional Pilates instructors:

What are the Pilates instructor certification requirements?

There are currently no licensing requirements set on either a national or state level for those who are actively teaching or with to become a Pilates instructor. In New Jersey; however, there was a bill recently put before congress called the Fitness Professionals Licensing Act that proposed that a state license be required for a broad classification of “fitness professionals”. Included in this classification were Pilates instructors who have been listed as a subset under personal trainers and other fitness instructors.

What is the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA)?

The PMA exists as the largest professional certification organization specific to Pilates method exercise. It is a not-for-profit organization established with the following stated goals:

  • Establish and maintain an exam for national certification.
  • Function as a resource for Pilates instructors and practitioners.
  • Maintain an international registry of certified Pilates instructors made available to the public.
  • Define and standardize various levels of expertise for Pilates instructors.

PMA certification is widely recognized in the fitness community and beyond. Membership in the PMA requires that Pilates instructors graduate from PMA approved programs, pass a PMA administered exam, and pay annual dues of $150.00.

PMA membership is totally elective. There is no legal requirement to carry or maintain PMA membership in order to be able to instruct Pilates. However, there are considerable benefits to making the effort to become a member. Among these benefits is better pay and reduced professional liability insurance premiums. PMA certified instructors would also enjoy peer and client recognition for having graduated from Pilates teacher training programs that properly represent Joseph Pilate’s core philosophy and ideals.

Pilates Instructor Careers

In a conversation with certified Pilates instructor and life-long fitness enthusiast, Graza Doyle, Allied Health World learned what’s involved in working with the public as a certified Pilates instructor. Graza helps our readers understand the unique level of dedication to clients and unwavering commitment to health and fitness required of Pilates instructors:

What is the demographic of people commonly practicing Pilates?

Pilates instructors are tasked with making the unique benefits of this revolutionary form of exercise attainable by all who wish to learn. One of the beautiful things about Pilates is that it can be tailored to fit the skill level and physical ability of anybody. This would include the elderly and even people whose physical capabilities have been dramatically limited by severe injury. It is a form of exercise that truly belongs to all people; therefore Pilates instructor jobs will involve working with a very diverse demographic, and Pilates teacher training programs will focus on the need to adapt routines to the ability of the individual client.

Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, described the group of people she instructs, “I have in my class an 18-year-old dancer, and I have a woman who is in her 70’s, and I have a 90-year-old three-time cancer survivor that comes to my class. And I have a guy who is an

Why is Pilates the best exercise for injury rehabilitation and injury avoidance?

When we asked Graza Doyle, life-long fitness enthusiast and Pilates instructor, why she began practicing and then instructing Pilates, she told a story of how her personal understanding of what it means to be strong and fit changed after sustaining injuries: “I’ve been into health and fitness all of my life. I was a very weak child with scoliosis and multiple childhood diseases. I started dancing and when I started to dance I felt an increased sense of well-being. It stuck in my mind that when I’m active, it promotes life in me, the life force. Being cognoscente of that I started running in my 20’s and hiking. When I had children I thought it was good enough to just chase after children for exercise, that I’d still have my strength. I was proven wrong when I tried to water-ski and injured myself very badly. I tore my sciatica, tendons and ligaments, and was laid up for a long time. That showed me that it was not okay to just be slender and active. There has to be form. You have to be watchful of how you move to prevent injury.”

Graza went on to explain, “Mainly it’s about preventing injuries. We all develop certain bad habits with regard to how we hold our bodies as a result of our professions or certain tasks we perform repeatedly. If we don’t develop posture that allows our spines to be in plumb line, these bad habits become acute conditions, muscular conditions, joint conditions, so forth.”

To this point Graza said, “Sometimes you see the guys in the gym pumping weights, isolating muscle, jerking on the spine in one direction and they wonder why they have a stiff neck. You often see people who are very powerful in the gym, but if you see them walking to their car in the parking lot you would almost laugh because they often have funny posture, they’re stooping, or their hips are pushed forward. They are not really healthy. They are an accident waiting to happen.”

How do Pilates instructors typically structure the routine for new students?

In Pilates the focus is on performing exercises with perfect form and total concentration. Pilates instructor courses highlight the importance of patience, as this often means that mastering each exercise can be a discipline that takes a considerable length of time. Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, explains the general structure of each class, “We always start with a warm-up. My students get themselves a matt, they take their shoes off and they lie down and relax. Then we start breathing, we’re going to teach them how to breathe before we teach them how to move. Then we do what we call imprint and release so as to learn how the student’s spine moves in his or her lower lumbar. We perform hip release, and spinal rotation. There are about 12 very small movements new students will learn to do including Shell Stretch, Cow-Toe Stretch, the Pilates Hundred and ab prep. It takes about 5 or 6 weeks just to learn how to warm up properly.”

What equipment might be used when performing Pilates exercises?

Those aspiring to Pilates instructor careers will be made familiar with some highly specialized and elegantly refined pieces of exercise equipment. Sophisticated machines known as the Pilates Reformer, the Pilates Tower, the Cadillac, and the Pilates Chair have evolved tremendously from the original apparatuses Joseph Pilates built from parts of hospital beds and wheel chairs.

Using any of these machines properly will require some familiarization and instruction provided by an experienced Pilates instructor.

All of these machines were designed specifically for performing Pilates exercises. A series of springs and pulleys provide the resistance which works to strengthen core muscles while stretching and elongating the spine and connective tissues based on the principals of Pilates: control, flow, precision, and centering.

More simple equipment is also incorporated into Pilates mat exercise. This often includes a Step Barrel and Half Arc, sometimes called a Spine corrector.

Pilates Teacher Training

Allied Health World has researched and corroborated information with practicing Pilates instructors specific to the academic and field training necessary to begin a career as a Pilates teacher. This information on training and degree programs answers the questions most frequently asked by those looking to begin a career instructing Pilates:

What are my options for Pilates teacher training programs?

Pilates teacher training programs are most often offered at two levels: Basic Mat Pilates instructor training which would prepare graduates to teach mat exercises only, and Comprehensive Trainer programs which would prepare graduates to teach both matt and apparatus exercises involving Pilates machines like Reformers, Towers, and Cadillacs.

What are the prerequisites for a Pilates trainer certificate program?

Having some personal experience with Pilates exercises before beginning a Pilates teacher training program is a requirement of most programs. However, the experience doesn’t have to be extensive since most training programs are designed to first teach students how to perform many of the exercises themselves, before going on to provide training in how to properly instruct students. In fact, most basic Pilates mat instructor training programs only require incoming students to have participated in between five and twenty Pilates mat classes before being eligible to begin instructor training.

Prerequisites for comprehensive Pilates instructor training programs are considerably more challenging to satisfy. Those entering comprehensive programs are typically required to have had about ten private sessions on the various Pilates apparatuses. In addition to having two years of experience in some form of movement like dance or yoga, students entering comprehensive training programs are also expected to have already completed about 30 hours of personal Pilates practice.

Depending on the school, incoming students of Pilates instructor training programs may also need a letter of recommendation from a certified Pilates instructor or other movement teacher. This is often necessary to show competency and aptitude before beginning a program.

What hands on training and observation do Pilates teacher training programs involve?

The applied hands on training portion of Pilates Mat Trainer certificate programs will also require participants to complete 15 hours of mat teaching practice and 15 hours of mat personal practice under the observation of a veteran certified Pilates instructor. This basic certificate also requires 10 hours of observation in which the student either observes a class in progress or actually attends class him or herself.

The more advanced Comprehensive Mat and Apparatus Trainer certificate programs take students through 75 hours of personal practice and 100 hours of student teaching practice under observation so as to prepare them adequately for real world experiences working Pilates instructor jobs. Students will also be expected to observe 60 hours of Pilates classes in progress.

What is the duration and cost of Pilates Trainer certificate programs?

Pilates trainer certificate programs are a great option for working students since the schools offering these programs very often accommodate students work schedules by holding class on weekends. This is also done so as to allow students to satisfy requirements for observing classes in progress during the week.

Basic Pilates Mat Trainer certificate programs are typically earned in three months at a cost of between $1,000 and $1,500 depending on the institution.

Comprehensive Mat and Apparatus Trainer certificate programs typically take just under a year to complete. These programs can cost between $3,000 and $5,000 with discounts sometimes available to those who have already completed basic Pilates Mat Trainer certificate programs.

Request Information from Pilates Instructor Colleges

The pilates teaching degree program you need in order to get your career started is listed below among many pilates instructor schools, colleges, and universities. This page was designed to provide you a resource to find what you need quickly and efficiently. Request information from several pilates schools, colleges, and universities below in order to find the right program for you.

Pilates Instructor Schools