Book reviews

Book Review : The Professional Pilates Teacher’s Handbook – Maintaining your Health, Sanity and Passion

Title : The Professional Pilates Teacher’s Handbook – Maintaining your Health, Sanity and Passion

Author: Laurette Ryan

Date of publication: 2013

Pages: 93

Availability: amazon

I bought this book some time ago, but life got in the way of reading it – as life tends to do. Stumbling across it recently, I started thumbing through it and discovered to my surprise that it was a little gem.  Its short size  – 93 pages – is an advantage.  With thousands of Pilates books on the market these days, authors seem to feel compelled to stand out by cramming everything and the kitchen sink into their work  – a strategy that often backfires because busy Pilates teachers rarely have much time to devote to reading.  Sometimes you look at that huge book on your table and you become  Scarlett O’Hara – “Tomorrow – I’ll start reading it tomorrow.” Not so with this book – which is user friendly and useful as a reference after the initial read because it is also a workbook with lists and space for notes.

Laurette is a Pilates teacher and mother of four – like me.  Unlike me, she somehow manages to run a teacher training program in several states and author books, including “Basic Cuing for Pilates Teachers – a Guide for Pilates Teachers and Other Movement Modalities” and “Ready for Pilates for Everybody”, a Pre-Pilates book.  She also writes Pilates articles and has a workout blog.  Clearly, she is more organized than I am!  I briefly think that she must be one of those annoying teachers who make you (meaning me, of course) feel bad for letting your kids eat too much processed food and pasta and spend way too many hours on the computer playing Minecraft.  Happily, she does not seem to be the judgmental type.  Rather, her book is full of the advice you wish your Pilates teacher trainer gave you but did not (at least mine did not– mine was actually pretty mean).  The book is primarily aimed at newbie teachers but even veteran teachers will find some helpful tips. If social media forums are any indication, many, if not most, Pilates teachers struggle to find balance between work and family, dealing with the physical and often emotional needs of their students, and handling the financial aspect of teaching or running a studio.  This book will hopefully help teachers avoid some of the pitfalls that may accompany their choice of career.

The book is divided into two parts.  Part One addresses the four aspects of self – physical, rational/mental, emotional and energetic.  The section devoted to the physical aspect of self includes topics such teaching posture, moving equipment and changing springs, assisting clients, and demonstrating.  The reader is encouraged to note his or her postural habits, such as standing on one leg or tilting his head to the side.  Of course we movement teachers know this stuff – we know that we should not stand on one leg, slouch over the equipment or put our bodies at risk, but the reality is that we all probably are guilty of not applying proper body mechanics a hundred percent of the time while teaching.  I, for example, notice that I like to spot from one side more than the other, particularly when I put my foot on the bar for an exercise like elephant.  This book (complete with “Do!/Don’t” photos) is a friendly call for increased vigilance.

The rational/mental aspect of self is the section I found most useful.  It includes tips for avoiding burnout, and also addresses subjects such as setting boundaries with clients – financial and emotional, selling things, training friends and family and navigating the teacher/client relation when a teacher becomes friends with his client.  Although I have been teaching for many years now, I have only run a home studio for a few years.  I realize that some of the boundaries discussed in this section have indeed become blurred.  I don’t mind beating clients up during class, but when it comes to addressing things like late cancellations or price increases, I tend to shy away from conflict.  And I do have a few clients who have become friends.  This section underscores the importance of firm boundaries as an essential ingredient to a professional environment.

Part Two is entitled Grow Your Business with 6 Steps to SASS (Steps Above Service System).  The title is fairly self-explanatory.  With Pilates studios now cropping up on every corner of the globe,  the most important quality for a studio is superior teaching.  However, the details and personalization of the global experience, not just the lesson itself, will significantly impact business growth. The details bring clients back. Laurette provides some suggestions for ensuring exemplary service.

At the end of the book, Laurette offers three free handouts –  “What are the Principles of Pilates?  And How Will They Help Me?”, “Pre-Pilates Exercises to Improve Your Performance”, and “Pilates Builds Fascial Fitness”. She encourages teachers to distribute the handouts to their clients.  She even offers to send the articles in a pdf version.  This is a generous, refreshing touch in a world where everything seems to carry a price tag.

I recommend this book, in particular to new teachers, or perhaps as a gift to students you may be mentoring.  It is also a useful resource for teachers who have been teaching for some time, especially those who may be opening a studio of their own.  If you decide to use Laurette’s handouts, please remember to give her credit.  You can check out her blog at