This episode looks at the scope of practice of a Pilates teacher. Understanding what your Pilates teacher can (and can't) do for you helps you to manage your expectations as a student and see how Pilates can fit into a bigger picture of health and wellness.
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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. I'm Olivia, and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual. You can support the podcast by visiting buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. Let's learn something new.
[00:00:46] Hello, hello, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Today we're going to be talking about what your Pilates teacher can do for you and kind of diving into what the scope [00:01:00] of practice is for a Pilates teacher. Because a lot of times both when I'm taking a class or I'm teaching a class, I'm either looking to the teacher for guidance. Of course, you're trusting their expertise. You may have a question, you know, why does my hip do this? Or why does my shoulder do this? Or, you know, I was really struggling in this exercise. Do you have any tips? Things like that. And then, you know, as a teacher, having clients approach you and be like, Hey, there's this kind of weird thing that happens. Like, can you shed any light on that?
[00:01:32] And your Pilates teachers are highly qualified individuals who are good at what they do. And they're a really great resource when it comes to all things Pilates. And, you know, some Pilates teachers have gone above and beyond to study anatomy or work with other professionals in the field and may have an even greater amount of knowledge, you know, in certain areas. Some teachers specialize in [00:02:00] prenatal postpartum Pilates, or they work specifically with clients who are recovering from breast cancer. So they can be a really excellent resource, but they don't have all the answers to all of your questions. Even more unfortunately they can't wave a magic wand for you and sort of solve any issues that you're having.
[00:02:26] So, what I really want to talk about today is something that the Pilates Method Alliance, which is a organization, a kind of a professional membership organization for Pilates teachers, they've put forth a set of guidelines that they call the Pilates teacher's scope of practice. And those guidelines really clearly describe what Pilates teachers are allowed to do as Pilates teachers and what they should not be doing as Pilates [00:03:00] teachers.
[00:03:01] I talked about this a while back on Pilates Teachers' Manual, because there are limits to what a Pilates teacher can do in a given situation. They're trained to teach Pilates and they're capable and competent, but they can't do everything that you may be looking for. And so this is a really great way to manage your expectations as someone taking a class about what your Pilates teacher can do to help you, we'll be talking about the cans and the cannots, uh, in this episode.
[00:03:40] So your Pilates teacher can design an individualized Pilates program for a client, potentially you. That is what they're trained to do in their training program: to use the Pilates exercises to meet your needs. They can adapt exercises, make [00:04:00] them more challenging, and modify those exercises so that they can support you if there's anything going on in your body, some injury, you know, just something that you're really struggling with. Pilates teachers can create that Pilates program for you.
[00:04:20] They can and should- these, I feel like these are also can and shoulds- but recognize conditions that would mean Pilates is not a good fit for an individual. So one thing that teachers may have you do is a self assessment where they might ask questions about your general health. Things like, you know, do you get dizzy while exercising, or do you feel like your heart's racing? You know, if you have diabetes, is it under control? You know, things that a, an exercise plan or any form of exercise [00:05:00] may not be a good fit for you. Um, one thing that they have you do this form and there's any of those red flags that are like, you know, maybe Pilates isn't great, then they may ask you to get medical clearance where you'll have to chat with your doctor. And they will either say that you are cleared for exercise or that you are not cleared for exercise. And that is something that your Pilates teacher may have you do.
[00:05:28] Pilates teachers can coach and provide general information about exercise, about Pilates, about wellness, and also- and this is an important one- direct clients to seek medical attention, that there is a limit to what Pilates can do for you. It's like, you wouldn't come in with a broken leg and being like, you know, well, I've heard great things about Pilates. Like you need to have that taken care of. And you know, [00:06:00] once that's the immediacy of having that taken care of is there, then coming to Pilates, it might be great. Or it might be something if you did have an injury, jumping right into Pilates, especially group classes may be totally fine, but you may want to do physical therapy first, something like that.
[00:06:21] So, if you are in a class and your Pilates teacher says, you know, I think privates might be a better fit for you, or I'm concerned about you and about, you know, something that I noticed that was going on. I really think you should visit with a doctor and maybe get medical clearance, or maybe just, you know, I think that there's something going on and I really recommend that you speak with your doctor.
[00:06:50] This is another one that's really important. And this is the idea that Pilates teachers can communicate with other medical professionals to [00:07:00] either assist in building the client's program or progressing the client's program. And this is so awesome because if you were injured and you did go to PT, your Pilates teacher, with your consent and permission, of course, can talk with your physical therapist, or you might choose to share your physical therapists exercise with your Pilates teacher, and they can look at the stuff that you've been doing with the other professionals in your life, and then build that into your program or incorporate it in a way that everyone's working together as a team to get you better or to help you there. I love it when my clients share their physical therapy exercises with me.
[00:07:46] They can, your Pilates teacher can document your progress and share that with other medical professionals, again, with your consent, with your permission. But this [00:08:00] is very much, we're all a team and we're here to help you get better. And so if these are the exercises you've been working on in PT, I can share, you know, what else we've been building on what we've been working on. And there can really be some communication because sometimes you'll be in PT and doing Pilates at the same time, you know, and we can be just working together again to get you well.
[00:08:24] Pilates teachers can and do promote exercise as a way to improve overall health. And this comes all the way, I think, from Joseph Pilates, thinking that exercise is good for everybody and can have benefits beyond physical benefits. There are mental benefits. There's a million benefits to exercise and your Pilates teacher will be happy to share them with you.
[00:08:50] Pilates teachers can and should request permission before touching a client. And know that as a client, you can also [00:09:00] say, no, I would not like to be touched or I would not like a hands-on assist or adjustment. COVID has really, in a lot of ways stopped the hands-on assists from being a thing. And now, like I doing a ton of virtual teaching, so there's no hands on assists. But if you are in an in studio class and there's an option for a hands-on assist, you can always tell your teacher. Yes, I would love that, or no, I'd rather not.
[00:09:30] And Pilates teachers can use appropriate touch to facilitate movement or help get a client into position or prevent injury, all of those things. But again, that is with consent of the client and also depending on local state guidelines.
[00:09:52] So is that as big of a scope as you thought it was going to be? Cause that's, I mean, that's it, that was the last one. That's what Pilates teachers are allowed to do. [00:10:00] I think it's also important to note that depending on what other qualifications your Pilates teacher has, they may also be a dietician, or they may also be a physical therapist, in which case they would be able to do a few more things. But if your Pilates teacher is a Pilates teacher, PMA scope of practice says these are the things that you are allowed to do. So there you have it.
[00:10:29] Coming up after the break, we'll be talking about what is beyond a Pilates teacher's scope of practice, which in addition to being interesting, will just help you manage your expectations about what kinds of things your Pilates teacher can do for you in class or outside of it. That's coming up next.
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[00:11:54] Let's talk about what's beyond your Pilates teacher's scope of practice. [00:12:00] The big things to keep in mind when you are talking with your Pilates teacher, is that your Pilates teacher is not a doctor. They have not gone to medical school. They are not a physical therapist. That is not something that they are. Um, they're also not a massage therapist, or a counselor. So while your Pilates teacher is awesome and amazing and ideally a force for good in your life, they are not those specialists.
[00:12:34] So what I mean by that is your Pilates teacher cannot prescribe an exercise program to you. They might give you homework and things to work on, but they are not saying with any authority that oh, these three exercises are going to cure your sciatica or something like that. That's not a claim that a Pilates teacher can make. [00:13:00]
[00:13:00] They are also not allowed to diagnose medical conditions. So one of the examples I gave in the first bit where they might have seen something in a class and they said, you know, I really think you should visit your doctor and get it checked out. Even if they have, you know, maybe from previous experience or maybe, you know, the symptom or whatever was, they saw, they may have some idea of what they think is going on, but they cannot diagnose you. And we don't have any sort of medical instrumentation or like we're not running tests on you or anything like that. So your, you know, your Pilates teacher can't say, oh, I think you have Parkinson's disease or something like that is not an appropriate thing for your Pilates teacher to say. But they might recommend you to see someone to receive a diagnosis if that's the [00:14:00] case.
[00:14:01] A Pilates teachers should not continue to train a client who has some condition that's beyond their knowledge. So if you have something going on in your body, maybe it's multiple sclerosis. Maybe it's a hip replacement. Maybe it's really anything. If your Pilates teacher doesn't feel comfortable working with you because that's beyond the knowledge that they have, they might refer you to work with another teacher. They might say something like, I think physical therapy might be a good fit for you. And this isn't something that you should feel bad about at all, because you of course, want to work with someone who's familiar with what's going on with you, who can give you the care and attention that you need. And so it is really important that a Pilates teacher says, you know, I'm not really the person who can help you. That is a totally [00:15:00] fine thing for your teacher to say.
[00:15:01] Pilates teachers are not dieticians. They are not registered dieticians. So they cannot prescribe you any supplements or diets or anything like that. That is beyond the scope of your Pilates teacher. We do not study, um, nutrition or metabolism or anything like this in Pilates teacher training.
[00:15:23] Pilates teachers should also not be claiming to treat or rehabilitate any injuries or diseases. When I have clients who come up and they say like, oh, you know, I've got this going on. What I usually tell them is that Pilates is a piece of your recovery. It's not a panacea and it's not going to be the only thing that you're doing, but it can be a piece in your recovery.
[00:15:53] Pilates teachers do not measure client progress in [00:16:00] objective terms. Like we're not monitoring you with heart rate monitors or, you know, taking your, any sort of like, I don't even know what those tests would be, but we're not measuring range of movement, like using a tool that we're saying, oh, it increased from 17 to 18 or something like that. Like that's not how it works. Progress in Pilates is really subjective. I actually have an episode talking about it because depending on what your goals are, your progress could look different. It's not getting closer to doing the splits necessarily. And even if it was, we're not measuring that in a way that it's recorded in a log book, you know what I mean?
[00:16:46] As I mentioned, Pilates teachers are not counselors. So I know in a lot of especially private sessions, a client might be, you know, sort of unloading their stuff that's happened in their day or [00:17:00] things like that. Depending on the Pilates teacher, they might be fine holding space, but they can't give you really, you know, any advice or anything like that. They can listen, and they can also say, um, it's totally within their boundaries to be like, you know, I'm not really able to help you with this. And I really want to focus on Pilates and you shouldn't feel surprised if that happens because that's just another thing that we're not trained to work with people in that way. We're trained in Pilates.
[00:17:33] Using inappropriate touch is a big no-no. So whether that's a client has asked to not be touched or that touch is just inappropriate, really in any way, that is a big no-no. And then the last on PMAs list of no-nos is continuing to train a client who's exhibiting symptoms of a stroke or heart attack with. It seems like common sense. So I'm, I mean, I'm glad that it's [00:18:00] there, but if you're having, you know, tingling, numbness, dizziness, increasing pain in your chest, there's a bunch of red flag movements. That would mean that we're going to stop the session and potentially seek medical attention.
[00:18:18] I think it's really important to have a little bit of a conversation about this because it seems natural. Your Pilates teacher is an expert in Pilates. That's why you're going to take classes from them. But one of the things I would always say when people were asking about things, as you know, I, unfortunately I can't see inside your body, so I'm not sure if the shoulder pain that you're experiencing is severe or unusual or a result of tissue damage. Like I can't tell you, um, what your feeling, you know.
[00:18:59] [00:19:00] I can say that what we've know about pain science that working through pain, if that pain is tolerable is fine. Like, I might give you some other options for the exercise, but pain itself does not mean tissue damage. But I can't tell you what is tolerable pain and what is, you know, sudden pain. Like I can ask, is this pain a result of a trauma, or is this a persistent pain that you've dealt with for a really long time? I can ask questions about it, but I can't make a diagnosis. I can't offer you any sort of treatment. If you are really concerned about it, I'm going to refer you to talk to a specialist.
[00:19:43] I like that Pilates teachers have a limited scope because it allows them to excell in their field and really work with a network of medical professionals to make sure that you're getting the care and the attention that you need so that we can all work [00:20:00] together to get you on track or help you meet your goals, or just better understand what's going on with you and your body.
[00:20:09] So I hope that helps you understand what your Pilates teacher is able to do and ways that they can help you and also ways that they are not able to help you. I think that's an important thing to know.
[00:20:23] Big thank you to all my supporters on buy me a coffee, including Dayna. Thank you so much for your contribution to the podcast. I appreciate it. I appreciate you all so much. Thanks for tuning in. I'll be back in just a couple of weeks. Talk to you soon.
[00:20:47] Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. Be sure to check out the podcast Instagram at [00:21:00] @pilatesstudentsmanual and subscribe wherever you're listening. Interested in teaching Pilates too? Check out Pilates Teachers' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.
[00:21:11] I hope to see you next episode. Until next time.