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Yoga and Pilates Instructors

The Job

Yoga and Pilates instructors teach alternatives to the more traditional exercises of aerobics, weight training, or interval training classes. With yoga, the instructors' methods vary greatly based on the type of yoga they teach. Some instructors begin class seated or even lying down, encouraging class members to relax their muscles and focus on their breathing. After a few minutes of breathing exercises, the instructor leads the class into the various asanas, or yoga poses. These poses have Sanskrit names, though the instructor may use the English terminology for the benefit of the class, instructing students to get into the downward dog position or child's pose. Again, depending on the yoga method, poses may be fluid, with quicker movement from position to position, or instructors may tell class members to hold poses for as long as three or four minutes, encouraging strength and control.

Most yoga classes are done barefoot on the floor, using a thin, rubber mat to keep class members from slipping while in poses. Other equipment, such as foam blocks, ropes, or cloth straps, may also be used in the poses, usually to help with form or assist in the tougher positions.

During the class, yoga instructors verbally describe and demonstrate moves in front of the class. They also walk around and survey the movements of class members, making slight adjustments to members' form to prevent injury, encourage good practice, and improve their skills.

Pilates is similar to yoga in that class participants are led through different motions. However, unlike yoga poses that are often held for minutes at a time, Pilates encompasses more fluid movement of the arms and legs using what is called core strength. This strength comes from the body's torso, from the top of the rib cage to the lower abdomen.

The job of the Pilates instructor is similar to that of a yoga teacher. Pilates teachers also demonstrate and describe motions and check class members' form and technique. Some classes include equipment such as an apparatus called The Reformer, which is a horizontal framework of straps and strings that is used for more than 100 exercises. Class members can tone, build, lengthen, and strengthen muscles by adjusting the equipment's springs to create different levels of resistance.

Both yoga and Pilates instructors have to prepare for their classes ahead of time to choose the exercises and equipment to be used or whether to focus on one method or area of the body. Good instructors are available after class for questions and advice. Instructors should also be open to class suggestions and comments to make the class the best it can be.