Sorry seems to be the hardest word’
Elton John
One of the toughest things I have to do as a Pilates teacher is to explain to people who wish to start this unique form of exercise is that they must show a reasonable level of commitment to get results. Also to be commercially viable, and to guarantee continuity of a class, I have to insist that people commit themselves to paying for blocks of, normally, 5 sessions.  Depending on the cost of the hall or studio I use, and the distances I have to travel to get to a venue, these costs can vary between £8-10 per session (£40-£50 per block).
Certainly it’s important you commit yourself to the initial sessions just to gain an understanding of basic principles. Then if you miss the odd session or two (holidays, illness, etc) it’s no big problem. Unfortunately, I have to insist that clients have to pay for their block sessions on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. This may seem a little harsh but there are things to consider; for example, I still have to pay for the venue whether I have a full class size or not. Strange as it seems, many of my clients will pay £40-£50 per half hour for a weekly visit to a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath or alternative health practitioner, etc. Yet are shocked that I insist that they pay for 5 sessions up-front. When even if they miss 2 sessions the average cost per hourly session equates to between £13.18 - £16. 36. Considering some of my classes (Malmesbury Chiropractor Clinic) consist of nothing but referrals from such above mentioned health professionals and I have a waiting list for that venue-you can draw your own conclusions.
Now to the crux of this article. I could allow clients to ‘drop–in’ to a so called basic level session. With a class that is full all the time on the ‘bums on seats’ revolving door principle.
However, imagine if you’re a client who has committed themselves to a reasonable amount of sessions and has worked hard in class to gain an understanding of Pilates and is now reaping the benefits of your commitment. Suddenly 2-3 new people suddenly hove into view with no Pilates experience whatsoever; but theoretically they are still joining a ‘basic’class. The instructor’s attention is now diverted from the regulars to try and integrate the newcomers into the class. Who quickly become aware of just how far behind the others they are and all of a sudden they are under unnecessary pressure. Whilst the remainder of the class must wonder if they are getting value for money because they are not progressing as they should. Especially if they’re just left to ‘get on with it’ whilst the newcomers are being taught the very basics. For example, the STOTT Pilates® (firmly recognised as an industry leader) basic matwork schedule consists of 10 warm-up and 34 main schedule exercises. Some of those exercises have between 4-6 main coaching points to be executed properly to maximise the benefits for the client. You could be a beginner joining a ‘basic’ class who have already accomplished a significant number of those exercises. How would you feel? Also if your have committed yourself to the process but the class keeps stopping and starting because new people are arriving all the time (and initial class member are leaving because lack of progression), again how would you feel?
Another practice, again extremely prevalent, which I’m firmly against is large class sizes. I’ve been to many a STOTT workshop where experienced instructors are put through their paces both physically and academically by some of the top Pilates trainers in the world. Period. The class size? Only 10! This is experienced and fully certified mat work instructors who have gone through the most rigorous training and assessment process imaginable. Not beginners. Yet I frequently here tales of beginner’s class sizes of 15+. Personally I only operate with a class size of 7 people maximum. In my opinion, and I must stress it is just my opinion, it may seem OK to be in a large class and ‘making the shape’ of a so-called Pilates exercise. Yet if the instructor has no idea, or time to check, if: your posture is correctly aligned; your breathing properly; the muscles are engaged in the correct sequence and you’re aware of how to release yourself from an exercise safely is it really Pilates, or just another exercise class? I’ve already picked up quite a few ‘Pilates refugees’ who hurt their backs from other people's classes. To be fair, no exercise is risk free. But invariably when I question those individuals about their previous Pilates experience a large class size and the statement,"I wasn't quite sure of what I was meant to be doing," seems to be common denominators. Incidentally, some folk are just not suitable for a class situation because of certain physical disabilities or illnesses. So there is the option of 1-2-1, or small group, sessions for them. This is also the most effective way to progress in Pilates due to the intense individual coaching and correction.
You may be getting the impression that everyone attending my Pilates sessions is wearing a ‘hair-shirt’ and is put through their paces by a grim faced ex-services physical training instructor (which I’m proud to say I was- though never grim-faced!).  I guarantee that is not the case. Particularly, because we (notice I said we) create a small class ambience where banter and frequent bouts of downright hilarity are as much a part of the sessions as the serious business of trying to develop the client physically and mentally. Indeed, I've been teaching some of my clients ( who have also become my friends) for well over 6 years now. So if you really want to reap the benefits of Pilates consider all the above mentioned points. I look forward to seeing you in my Pilates class soon.