Pilates Certification:

Does Your Teacher Have One?


Is It Important?

Have you ever asked your pilates teacher about his or her training? Are they constantly pursuing education opportunities? Does it matter to you? I believe it should!

Fitness trainers and pilates teachers are not licensed like Massage or Physical Therapists so the entire industry is not regulated. While its true that certification doesn’t guarantee a great trainer ... and there are lots of amazing teachers without one; I feel it’s critically important!  For our industry to be exceptional we must maintain professional standards, honor our roots, and keep teachers constantly up-to-date with the latest information, research, and approaches in the field.

When I looked for a certification program in 1998 there were only 4 or 5 certifying bodies located in the US between New York and California. (See Sidebar below) Today there are thousands of programs all over the world that indoctrinate teachers into the Pilates Method!

Sidebar: Who Are the Elders?

The First Generation teachers include:

Romana Kryzanowska,

Carola Trier, Eve Gentry,

Ron Fletcher, Bruce King, Robert Fitzgerald and Kathy Grant.

As of 2020 only three other elders are still alive -- Lolita San Miguel , Mary Bowen and Jay Grimes.

It’s believed that Lolita and Kathy Grant are the only two that were ever officially certified by Joe to teach ... though Romana took over his studio in the 70’s and is widely known as Joe’s “second in command” (after his wife Clara.)

I have been fortunate to take workshops from Ron, Kathy, Lolita, and Romana before they died; plus learn from many Second Generation teachers!

Which Certification?

Today, any “respected” comprehensive teacher-training involves a minimum of 250 hours and up to 600 hours of training, observation, personal practice, and apprentice teaching. Most clock-in at around 500 hours.

Pilates certifications are typically modularized and taken over the course of several weeks to a year -- often with a “test out” for each module. Comprehensive programs involve a written exam plus a “practical” hands-on component at the completion of all the modules.

Most programs:

  1. Bulletbegin with anatomy and movement principles

  2. Bulletthen teach the Matwork first (which is the basis of the apparatus work)

  3. Bulletthen teach beginner, intermediate, and advanced work on each piece of equipment (Reformer, Cadillac/Trapeze Table, Chair, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector & small props)

  4. BulletSome programs integrate Pilates for special populations -- like spinal issues, pregnancy, neurological issues, sports specific, aging populations, etc.

Mat training usually takes two or three weekends and costs from $300 - $900. Comprehensive can take a year or more to complete and costs around $3,000 - $10,000.

A good program will require teachers to complete continuing education credits to maintain their certification. Teachers do this through attending workshops, conferences, and online training - usually delivered by their original certifying organization -- or workshops by second and third generation teachers hosted by local studios.

Teachers can go on to certify in post-graduate programs for specialties like cancer specialist, scoliosis, barre or equipment-specific tools like foam rollers, Orbit, Core Align, Tye-4, etc.

Some of the more structured programs now offer “bridge” programs to experienced instructors with certifications from other schools.

Enter the Pilates Method Alliance

In 2001 the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) was formed as a not-for-profit professional association dedicated to the Pilates field. The PMA serves as an “umbrella” organization for Pilates teachers, and embraces all the different schools and approaches.  Now 6000 members strong, The PMA’s mission is:

”... to advance Pilates as a profession and to promote and perpetuate the teachings of Joseph and Clara Pilates. The PMA endeavors to establish standards for the industry for both the instruction of the method and the education of Pilates teachers.”

In 2005, the PMA launched a rigorous certification exam (which I now help write) to uphold standards for teachers of the method -- regardless of their training. It is the only third-party certification program in existence and is administered world-wide.

An accreditation by the NCCA (National Commission on Certifying Agencies) was achieved in 2012 and represents a milestone for standard setting in the Pilates industry. (No other Pilates certification holds this designation!)

To further integrate the ever-growing list of schools, The PMA launched the Pilates School Approval Program (PSAP) in 2017 in order to establish standards for Pilates schools offering certification outside of the PMA. The approval status identifies “schools offering comprehensive Pilates teacher training that have gone through a rigorous process to demonstrate their compliance with the PMA’s 10 Educational Standards.”

In 2019 the PMA Certification Program was re-branded and is now called the National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP) to better represent its status as the only nationally accredited certification program for Pilates.  Over 500 applicants across many countries pass the exam each year to earn the designation of Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher (NCPT.)

The Mind 2 Body Fitness Staff

If you are a new or experienced Pilates student, I urge you to ask your teacher, “Where did you get your original certification? How many hours? Do you maintain your certification with continuing education? Have you done a bridge program or any specialty certifications?”

My original certification came from PhysicalMind Institute: 500 hours taught by an exceptional teacher, Jean Sullivan who went on to found ITT Pilates Training in San Francisco.  In addition to my Pilates certification I have maintained a Personal Trainer Certification with ACE (American Council on Exercise) -- also NCAA Accredited -- for over 20 years.

I have been a member of PMA since close to it’s inception - and took the certification exam in 2007.  I am such a proponent of PMA that I serve on the committee that writes the exam questions. While I do not offer comprehensive teacher training, I do deliver post-graduate workshops that provide both PMA and ACE continuing education credits.

Sidebar: Widely Recognized Pilates Certifications

Some of the original programs are:

  1. BulletPhysicalMind Institute (this is my original certification)

  2. BulletThe Pilates Center Boulder - started by 2 sisters, students of Romana

  3. BulletPower Pilates - started in New York by a chiropractor, classical

  4. BulletRomana’s Pilates - also known as “New York Pilates” or “True Pilates” - dedicated to carry on Romana and Joe’s legacy

Some programs originate from equipment manufacturers like:

  1. BulletBalanced Body (M2B’s Equipment)

  2. BulletPeak Pilates

  3. BulletStott Pilates

Other licensed teacher training studios world-wide include:

  1. BulletBASI Pilates -- Body Arts and Science International founded by Rael Isacowitz

  2. BulletPolestar - with a physical therapy focus

  3. BulletFletcher Pilates - known for percussive breathing and Fletcher Towel Work

Some other programs worth mentioning:

  1. BulletThe Kane School (now called Kinected)  -- known for its anatomy and physiology focus, offers FAMI which includes a cadaver lab in collaboration with Mt Sinai Med School

  2. BulletPHI Pilates in PA -- started by Physical Therapist Chrissy Romani-Ruby, has online classes

  3. BulletUnited States Pilates Association (USPA) - very classical, mostly Romana trained

A Little History

Most teacher training programs are based on the “classical” method that Joe Pilates himself created. Some have a more  “contemporary” approach; and some lean more toward anatomy, fitness, dance, or physical therapy ... but almost all certification programs are rooted in the the original principles and exercises created by Joe Pilates in the 1920’s and taught to his students until his death in 1967.

Joe never created an official teacher training program, but many of his New York students in the 60’s and 70’s went on to open studios, serve the dance community or teach in schools and universities. 

These “First Generation” teachers (also called the “Elders”)  were like disciples -- spreading the word of Joe’s techniques to the public while preserving the integrity of his method. Formalized teacher training programs did not appear until the 1980’s -- mostly by second generation teachers — students and apprentices of the Elders.

Pilates Explosion

A historic moment occurred in the year 2000 with a Trademark lawsuit which determined that the term “Pilates”  was an exercise method (like “yoga”) and therefore could not be trademarked. The result was an explosion of studios and teachers - all in need of more formal, structured education - and a way to keep Joe’s work from being diluted.

Want to know more about the Trademark lawsuit? CLICK HERE

Joe, Clara and his Niece in the Original 8th Avenue Studio, NY

by Maria Andresino, Owner Mind 2 Body Fitness in Providence, RI

As an owner of a studio, certification is vitally important to me and I won’t hire anyone without it. Mind 2 Body Fitness teachers have a mix of  certifications. We make it a point to attend workshops and conferences regularly for continuing education credits to maintain our certifications ... and even more importantly, to always keep learning from the best in the industry!

Want to know more about M2B staff

and our certifications?   CLICK HERE

Maria at a CEC workshop with Blossom Leilani Crawford, long-time student of Kathy Grant and Second Generation teacher

Want to know more about Joe and the first Generation teachers? CLICK HERE