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Personal Trainers Integrate Pilates and Yoga into Sessions

Personal Trainers Integrate Pilates and Yoga into Sessions

Pilates and yoga are finding their way into more personal training sessions as trainers incorporate some of the core techniques of each modality to round out their clients’ workouts. But doing so requires these trainers have the right training themselves.

If personal trainers understand the benefits of yoga and Pilates but are not certified or educated in either, they often refer their clients to yoga and Pilates classes. But if they understand how to integrate it into their training and how to assess deficiencies in balances, they can enhance their training by teaching yoga and Pilates postures. For trainers who understand these practices and have a certification, they can offer personal training sessions that are purely yoga or Pilates based, says Kim Lavender, national director of team training at GoodLife Fitness, London, Ontario, where she manages the personal training departments at 300 GoodLife clubs throughout Canada.

The awareness of the benefits of yoga and Pilates often determines how personal trainers use the techniques in small group training or one-on-one sessions, Lavender says. Some personal trainers add short Pilates or yoga sequences to enhance warm-ups or cooldowns while focusing on principles of strength, flexibility and balance. Others may add the techniques to emphasize mind-body awareness.

Trainers offering either or both disciplines are using the advances in movement science to improve their training and their client outcomes, says Nora St. John, director of education at Balanced Body, Sacramento, CA. The mind-body component of Pilates and yoga can enhance any form of training if done properly.

“Pilates is both a series of exercises and a philosophy of movement education,” St. John says. “The same exercise may be taught by a personal trainer, a Pilates teacher or a yoga teacher with equal success as long as the teachers are able to accurately assess the client’s goals, level of fitness and special needs; create a program that addresses the client’s specific needs; accurately teach, observe and correct the exercises assigned; and understand the purpose of each exercise and appropriate ways to modify or progress it for the client or class at hand.”

Maintain Quality

The challenge with taking bits and pieces from different systems is that while any individual exercise from Pilates or yoga could be useful, the overall power and the integrity of the system may be lost.

“Personal trainers should take reputable courses in the discipline they want to incorporate in order to get the most out of their training,” St. John says. “They should choose programs that explain the purpose, philosophy and rationale behind the system, not just the choreography of the exercises. Programs in Pilates or yoga that are taught by someone with a background in personal training can help to bridge the gap between the different systems.”

However, as more personal trainers become more knowledgeable in these modalities—from their own personal practice or from taking workshops— a certification may not be necessary, says Kathie Davis, executive director of IDEA Health & Fitness, San Diego, CA.

“If a personal trainer is dabbling in yoga and Pilates, they have a personal training certification or a B.S. in exercise science, there is probably no need for them to get certified as a yoga or Pilates teacher unless they want to specialize in that area,” Davis says.

Even if trainers do not seek a certification in these modalities, the popularity of adding these practices into sessions suggests that personal trainers must be well-versed in a number of training modalities so they can market themselves better and better serve their clients.

“The best teachers in the fitness industry have their clients’ well-being as their first priority, and often different clients have different needs,” St. John says. “As a teacher, if you can offer your client a wide range of skills from the strength and endurance offered by personal training to the enhanced motor control offered by Pilates to the flexibility and focus offered by yoga, you have the tools needed to address any client effectively.”

Pilates and yoga programs tailored to personal trainers are good ways to introduce trainers to these disciplines when they may have shied away from them in the past, says Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit, Los Angeles, which offers yoga training for trainers. Introducing key principles of core control, spinal mobility, coordination and balance shows trainers practical applications they can use in conjunction with functional training, weight training or cardio training to address the needs of clients and leave them more balanced at the end of the session, Shaw says.

Fusing yoga and Pilates into personal training sessions can offer a more wellrounded approach to fitness, but personal trainers need to ensure they find a balance that compliments the modality and their clients.

“Although exercise fusions are important to vary up exercises, there is a thoughtful and mindful awareness behind one’s training that needs to happen in order to receive full benefits of a training program,” says Sarah Jarvis, programming coordinator of education for Merrithew Health and Fitness, Toronto. “Bringing awareness of this to trainers has definitely improved over the last 10 years, but there is still a high percentage of training certifications that need to emphasize this more.”

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