As Pilates teachers, we know that each client's journey to wellness is personal and unique. However, when you're faced with the task of teaching a large Pilates class, maintaining that personalised touch can be a bit more challenging. But fear not, because, with the right approach and some strategic techniques, you can still provide a top-notch Pilates experience to a larger group of enthusiasts. Of course, it will never be the same as smaller groups or personal one-to-one training, but if it's the only way people can access Pilates, we have to make this the best it can be.
1. Preparation is Key, Including Pre-Screening
Before the class begins, take a moment to set the stage. Ensure that your studio space is well-organised with enough Pilates equipment and props to accommodate everyone. Make sure the lighting is appropriate, and the temperature is comfortable. A well-structured studio environment can make a big difference in managing a large class effectively.
In addition to physical preparation, consider implementing a verbal pre-screening process for new clients. This might involve a short personal conversation with new clients to inquire about any underlying health conditions, injuries, or specific goals. Communication during these conversations is essential, as many clients may not volunteer this information unless prompted. Pre-screening helps you tailor your instruction to individual needs and ensures the safety of all participants.
2. Start with a Thorough Preparation Section
Begin each class with a preparation section. This not only prepares your clients' bodies for the exercises but also their minds to be able to switch off from the outside world and focus on themselves. It also allows you to gauge the group's diversity and any specific general postural needs they might have. As a teacher, you have to think on your feet and adapt the class for the people in front of you.
3. Clear and Concise Communication
One of the most crucial aspects of teaching large Pilates classes is clear communication. Speak slowly and articulately, using concise instructions. If needed, demonstrate an exercise effectively, emphasising the key points.
4. Teaching Techniques
As a seasoned or new Pilates teacher, you're well aware of the importance of alignment. In a large class, it might be challenging for students to follow verbal cues alone. So face the class as your clients and perform the exercises to ensure you can observe participants. This can make it easier for your students to grasp the movements. Also, don't do every movement with them; even during the preparation section, set a movement and allow them to continue without you doing the movements with them.
5. Provide Options and Modifications
Recognise that participants in your class will have varying levels of experience and abilities. Be prepared to offer modifications and progressions for each exercise to cater to different skill levels. Start at a low level and give at least three options for each movement and tell them what to watch out for if the level is not the correct one for them. Breath is a good monitor as if they suddenly stop breathing it's normally a sign the level is too much for them. Also, encourage clients to listen to their bodies and choose the level that suits them best.
6. Walk Around and Observe
Even in a large class, it's essential to circulate and observe your clients. This allows you to identify any form or alignment issues and offer corrections when needed. A watchful eye can make a significant difference in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the session.
7. Encourage Questions and Feedback
Create an open and welcoming atmosphere where clients feel comfortable asking questions or seeking clarification. Their feedback can help you tailor your teaching to better serve their needs. Also, be mindful that if someone speaks, it could disrupt the class, so offer them the opportunity to seek your attention quietly, and you might be able to correct them discreetly.
8. Time Management
Maintain a well-structured balanced class. Allocate appropriate time to the preparation section, exercises, and closing section. Avoid rushing through exercises to fit everything in – it's better to focus on quality over quantity.
9. Be Mindful of Group Dynamics
Each class will have its own unique dynamic. Pay attention to how the group interacts and adjust your teaching style accordingly. Foster a sense of camaraderie and support among participants.
10. Balancing Movements and Safety
Large classes can be fun and motivating but also challenging as a teacher. Ensure that the choice of movements in your class is balanced, considering different postures and abilities. While it's tempting to offer more advanced movements, remember that safety is paramount. Some advanced movements, such as the roll-over and jackknife, require significant spine mobility and may not be suitable for everyone in a large class. It's better to focus on challenging but safe exercises.
In conclusion, teaching large Pilates classes can be a rewarding yet demanding experience. With careful preparation, clear communication, and a commitment to individualised attention, you can continue to inspire and guide your students toward their Pilates goals, even in a larger class setting. Keep sharing your passion for Pilates and helping your clients on their wellness journeys!