My Week With Alan Herdman - Day 3

Respect On Saturday, I taught a full day and met up with Alan in the evening. Alan invited me to join him and meet a few of his teachers. They were meeting at a bar on the Thames River near the Millennium Bridge to celebrate Brian’s birthday. He is the teacher I met at Alan’s studio in the Reebok Club. Alan had told me about two of his teachers who I would be meeting. He spoke highly of them as a proud teacher would of their best student.

I ended up sitting between Sarah and Alan. At first, there was quite a bit of bantering between them, all in good humor. Listening to their dialogue, I am working hard trying to understand some of their expressions. I realized that their use of light sarcasm is a way to be direct with a comment without being blunt. Alan told me that in one of his trainings, a student asked him when will they have the lesson in sarcasm. It is all in good fun. Alan and Sarah are very good at it!

Madeline and Sarah at Alan's studio, March, 2012

I had been talking all day in workshop so listening was perfect. Sarah is also a teacher for Alan’s training program. She and I discussed teacher trainings, especially in England. Sarah confirmed an impression I have of Pilates training in Europe having taught in Italy, Ireland, Germany and now England through a story she told me. The story is, a Pilates teacher from the US had arrive in London. After a long flight, she felt she needed to do Pilates to counteract the affects of the flight (stiffness!). Near her hotel was a place that offered a mat class. The visiting teacher also had a back issue on top of being stiff from sitting for so long. When she set up her place to start the class, she placed a folded towel under her lower back to ease into flexion. The teacher of the class came over to her, grabbed the towel and told her she does not need the prop and that she needs to stop pampering herself. This teacher of the class then pushed on her in a way that increased her discomfort. The visiting teacher, who was a student in this class, experienced a teacher who had no regard for her student. Sarah and I discussed that this mat trained teacher most likely did not have enough knowledge to deal with many issues. One, a new student arriving in your class, knowing if the student has any issues, how do deal with a person with issues and respecting the body. Sarah shared this story with me to paint the picture of how comprehensively trained teachers are educated with more depth and understanding of the body. Also, a comprehensively trained teacher spends more time looking and adjusting movement in a variety of ways. Mat only teachers’ course work and hours of practice are limited compared to the comprehensively trained teacher. Sarah and I also wondered why this teacher did not get up and leave the class. We agreed that both of us would.

In Germany and England, people have divided up Pilates work into two categories. One is the mat teacher, and the other is called equipment or studio certified. Mat trainings are generally done in a short time period of time, say two weekends. The teachers are taught mat class sequences. For some, the training stops there. In England’s governing body over fitness declares a mat teacher qualified to call themselves a Pilates teacher. In fact, in England, there is an accreditation of training programs that teach only mat yet no accreditation for a fully comprehensive program like Alan’s, which is 1000 hours. I understand from a teacher at Studio M, who taught in France for two years, that the government required Pilates teachers to take the fitness exam where the questions had no information or similarity to Pilates. A personal trainer, who already passed this exam would be allowed to teach Pilates even though they had no formal Pilates training.

In the US, the training programs, vary in terms of as hours, requirements and qualifications of the teacher training programs. Over ten years, the PMA has worked to set guidelines and standards, giving us a reference for qualifications. In Europe, the government, who has little or no knowledge of Pilates lumps us into the fitness arena. With this view, I can see why the government in England has a mat accreditation if it thinks it is similar to an aerobic class. I became aware of how important it is that we regulate ourselves for the longevity of Pilates with its unique whole body approach not a fitness fad. I know that sounds a bit Republican but I must say, we know our work. It makes me feel that having the PMA’s third party certification exam and standards gives us, the teachers of Pilates, the power to direct the future of Pilates in the US. I hope that the in the future, other countries may have the same opportunity to live Pilates beyond our life time.

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