I recently wrote a post on Instagram that, unlike other posts, which usually get shared three or four times, was shared over thirty times.
The post was about how the Pilates industry needs more instructors who have disabilities.
Many instructors shared the post to their stories, and I had lots of positive and supportive comments thanking me for shining a light on this issue.
A few of my clients, who have been working with me for over two years, have told me that they won’t work with anyone else because I don’t intimidate them. The fact that they can see that I have a disability and I can both do and teach Pilates helps them realize that they can do it too.
If you’re thinking about a new career, and you’ve been doing Pilates for a while, consider becoming a Pilates instructor, especially if you have a disability.
We need more people of colour, more members of the LGBT+ community, and more people with disabilities in all areas of the wellness industry: yoga, massage therapy, kickboxing, personal training, cycling, and Pilates. The more representation and inclusivity we have with instructors, the more people might be inclined to try Pilates.
So many people say to me, ‘I would do Pilates but…’ and they tell me they’re inflexible, or that they can’t touch their toes, or that they don’t have the time. When my doctor first asked me to try Pilates classes, I made the same assumption: that I wouldn’t be able to do it because I am the most inflexible person in the world. I thought it was only for people who were already flexible, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have treated so many clients who are inflexible, whether it’s from stiffness, surgery, or a sedentary lifestyle, and Pilates has helped them become more flexible. Pilates is what makes you flexible when you’re not.
More inclusivity and representation in the wellness industry can help people see that their size, fitness level, or disability are not barriers to entry. I am plus-size myself, have a disability, and have taught many clients of size and treated all sorts of disabilities and conditions. I recently helped a client who has burning mouth syndrome and one who is diabetic, and several of my longtime clients use Pilates to manage their arthritis.
I spent several months teaching chair-based Pilates classes for adults with intellectual disabilities, and I helped them to manage their discomfort and pain, easing the tension from their necks, shoulders, and hips with simple stretches they could do while seated. Pilates is endlessly adaptable.
How do you become a Pilates teacher?
- Look up Pilates in your city, and find an instructor trainer (IT) who can mentor you.
- Take the classes and workshops that teach you how to teach Pilates.
- Use your disability, difference of gender expression, or size as the way in, the thing that makes you different from others, the strength that can make clients relate to you.
- Teach as many different kinds of clients as you can, and challenge yourself to continually learn new exercises and stretches, especially with props like flex bands and stability balls. It keeps the work interesting and is one of the best ways to address immediate concerns.
There are times when I wish I could do some of the exercises that I can’t do. Sometimes, when I see more experienced instructors teaching, I feel inadequate and small. Some days, I wish I were thinner and prettier. But then I remember that my disability serves a purpose for others, and that my work as an instructor has never really been about me. It’s about the people I want to serve, and the people that my disability allows me to reach.
Clients tell me that I am calm, patient, caring, and thoughtful, and I attribute that to the mentorship I have received and the kind of instructor I want to be. I want clients to look forward to classes with me, and to believe that Pilates is within their capability, that they can use it to feel comfortable, relaxed, happy, and pain-free.
I was just saying to a client recently, ‘I wish this had been my first career.’ I wish I had trained to be an instructor when I was eighteen, right out of high school, but I am so grateful that I have this career now. It’s the perfect job for me, and I will be so happy when other people with disabilities train to be instructors.
We need representation in the industry.