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I have a Type A personality and once I decide to do something, I jump in head first. One example of this is when I decided I wanted to become a Pilates instructor. I researched programs in the area around me and found a couple of studios that offered Pilates teacher trainer programs. I met with one of the teacher trainers and handed her a check that day. Now many moons later, there is so much I wish I had known to ask or look for in a program or mentor. I have especially been reflecting on this topic lately as I look to take on yoga teacher training… someday… or maybe sooner, knowing me. Here are some questions to explore when looking at yoga and Pilates teacher trainer programs and the teacher trainers themselves.
What is Your Current Physical Condition?
Teacher training programs all have different requirements in terms of hours spent practicing, teaching, and being at the space to learn. The training may be an all-in two week long retreat where upon completion you are certified or you may be able to take your time completing the coursework and hours required. Is your body physically able to practice day after day? In order to be the best teacher you can be, you must practice as often as possible to make the connections in your own body. Otherwise, you will not be able to bring your clients to their own connections.
What Style of Yoga or Pilates is the Program?
I will be honest, until I started my Pilates teacher trainer program, I had no idea how many different methods or styles of Pilates there were. I also thought I did not like yoga until I took (was dragged) to a Vinyasa yoga class. You should make sure the style is one you like and want to immerse yourself in for the rest of your life. Not to say you won’t change to another style or modify your style and teaching over the years, but you should make sure it is one that fits you. For example, you might not like a style that always requires you to perform the same sequence in every class and it would not do you well to be trained in such a method. Structure is nice, especially when you first start teaching and need that, but for me I need to free flow my classes to what meets my students needs as they arise.
What are the Credentials of the Teacher Trainer(s)?
Some people love to tell you all about their credentials, who they trained with, and what they have done and others will not. It may be up to you to investigate. Did they train with someone you know and like? Do you like the school or studio they trained at? What method of training have they been trained under and will the program they are teaching be the same? There are many different methods of Pilates and yoga and while their program may have been under one method, they may have received their teacher trainer training (say that 5 times fast) under a different method. Do you feel they have enough experience to lead you through your journey?
Are they (or the program, if applicable) certified by the Yoga Alliance or the Pilates Method Alliance? Both of these organizations set standards for what it is to be certified to teach yoga or Pilates and also bring more consistency to each of the practices. If you want to further your training, it is a good idea to have your original training be from certified programs or other programs in the future may not recognize your accomplishments. (Side note, the PMA does not certify programs, but Pilates programs should line up with requirements put forth by the PMA to ensure you are eligible to become PMA certified down the road.)
Attending a program that has been certified (or working with someone who is certified) can also give you comfort that the instructor should have a certain level of accomplishment and time under his or her belt. When you purchase liability insurance, even as a student teacher you need this, the insurer may require your certification to be from a certified body such as these two. I am not saying that other programs or instructors not certified by these alliances are not beneficial, but I think it just shows a level of commitment to the professions.
Have you Taken a Class from the Teacher Trainer?
One of the mistakes I made was to not have taken a class at the studio and with the instructor who was the teacher trainer I would be working with for the program. Take a class with the teacher trainer! Then there are many questions you should reflect on. How did they make you feel? Was their style something you like? Were they touchy feely and you don’t like that? Or where they really hands off and you don’t like that? Were they kind to their students, clients, and everyone at the studio? Did they have the same energy level that you do? Were they inspiring to you? Did you like the way they sequenced the class? Not that you are going to be a replica of them, but you will tend to teach the way they do since they will be the ones training you. What is their why or personal philosophy about yoga (or Pilates) and does that meet yours? Do you feel a connection to the trainer? This may seem silly, but you will be spending a lot of time with them and you need to believe in them and they in you. Not every personality works well with each other and that is okay, but you need to find someone you can jive with.
What is truly the time commitment for the program?
While a yoga program may be a 200 hour program, you should ask what other time commitments are needed outside of those 200 hours. Are there student teaching, observation, or personal practice hours that are required? If so, are those included in the time commitment given or are they additional? Are there any prerequisites to entering the program, like an anatomy course for the Balanced Body Instructor Training Program? If you need to complete student teaching hours, are you able to do so at the studio or do you have to find your own space? This is extremely important when it comes to Pilates because prior to starting the program I did not have one piece of equipment at my house and had to gain access to a studio to practice. If you can use the studio space, what times are you allowed to use it and does that match with the times you have available in your schedule? Will they give you classes to teach when you are ready or do you have to find your own guinea pigs? When it comes to personal practice hours, are you able to attend classes at the studio at no charge or is this an extra expense for you? If you are you allowed to attend classes, is it anytime or just certain classes/times? This is important, because becoming a certified yoga or Pilates instructor is a big time commitment and you want to make sure it can fit into your life. You don’t want to spend time stressing about making it all fit in because you want to enjoy the process and soak all of the knowledge in. There is enough other things to stress about!
What Does the Certification Process Look Like?
When I started my program, I thought the end of the program would look a certain way and over the course of the program I cannot even begin to tell you how many times this changed. Many programs require both a written and a practical exam in order to be passed and certified. If you are one who does not do well with written exams, it would be a much better idea to find out at the start there is a test instead of at the end of the program. Ask the teacher trainer, how will they prepare you for the exam and practical? Will you be teaching a full class or will it be one-on-one? Will you get to choose who you test out with in your class? Or perhaps at the end of every module or weekend together there may be a test and what does that look like? What should you do to prepare?
How is Feedback Given?
As much as having someone watch you when you start to teach can be incredibly unnerving and gave me bubble guts, it is soooo much better to get feedback and mentorship over the course of your journey instead of way down the road when you have been trucking ahead or already even formed habits. Having people critique you is never fun, but that is the only way to grow and learn. Some people’s method of giving feedback does not work for everyone so it is best to see what is expected from both parties and if that fits the program. Trust me on this, you want feedback; but in a constructive, kind, and gentle way. I have heard so many horror stories where fellow students were ridiculed or called stupid instead of being helped to make the connections they were missing. It is sad for numerous reasons, but with yoga and Pilates you kind of expect people to be all kind and Namaste and that is not always the case.
What Happens after you Achieve your Certification?
You need to decide what you want to do with your certification. Do you want to teach at home, at a studio, at a local park? Will the program make you ready for whatever it is you hope to do with your certification? If you want to teach at a studio, will the studio your teacher trainer is affiliated with offer you a position or will they make a recommendation for you to other studios? Maybe you want to teach Pilates at a rehabilitation facility, will your certification qualify and prepare you for that venture?
Are you Ready?
Are you ready to be sore often, but willing to work through it to get to the other side and the wonderment that is achieved when we push our bodies just a little bit further? Are you ready to be humbled when none of the words seem to flow out of you mouth when standing in the front of a class and you cannot remember your right from your left side? Are you ready to feel self-conscious from time to time when you aren’t feeling comfortable in your own skin? Or when no matter what words you use you cannot get the class to move the way you want them to and you have to face the hard truth it’s you, not them? But best of all; are you ready to have your mind, body, and spirit forever changed?
Lead with Your Heart
At the end of the day, my biggest advice is to lead with your heart. Make sure you feel connected to the teacher, the style, the program, and that you have space in your mind and schedule to go through such a commitment. Becoming a Pilates instructor has been one of the most challenging and wonderful things I have ever done in my life. I hope giving you these questions to ask and work through prior to starting your journey helps. If I had known to ask some of these or had thought about some of them prior to my journey, it may have saved me some heart ache! I am definitely asking all of these as I look for a yoga teacher trainer program someday! Feel free to reach out with any questions about finding a program that might work for you. Good luck on your own journey, it will be amazing.