Years ago, exercise buffs stepped their way to fitness. Later, they
were kickboxing. Now, the latest exercise trends focus on slower, deliberate
movements. They emphasize reducing stress and enhancing one's mind-body connection.
Pilates and yoga, as well as Tai Chi, are particularly hot in fitness centers
and workout studios across North America. Participants tout these exercises
as bringing life-altering benefits.
A recent study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association shows that
Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi are by far the exercise activities with the highest
According to that study, Pilates grew 40 percent to 2.4 million practitioners
in the United States. Yoga and Tai Chi combined grew 32 percent to 9.7 million
Why the Growth?
In a word: stress.
Heather Stevenson found new professional and personal fulfillment through
yoga after an advertising career left her with burnout. She's co-founder of
a company offering on-site massage therapy and yoga classes to various Dallas-area
"Our society is finally starting to realize that high-stress, fast-paced
lifestyles are slowly killing us," Stevenson says.
"And I think especially with recent events of terrorism and war, people
are aware that life is precious and that we need to take good care of ourselves
so that we are then able to take better care of those around us."
Another factor driving the growth is the changing needs of baby boomers.
To keep fit and fight aging, they became a generation religiously exercising
in step, kickboxing and other aerobic and strength training classes.
Over time, however, they discovered the negative consequences such high-impact
workouts have on their bodies.
"Research was then driven to show that these high-impact activities were
not necessary to provide the health benefits people were looking for," says
Eva DaSilva. DaSilva is a Pilates instructor and owner of a workout center.
And it's not just the baby boomers that are benefiting from these practices.
"I see everything from teenage children to seniors," DaSilva says. "This
type of exercise appeals to all ages and can be adapted to all levels of ability."
Becoming an Instructor
Those in the field recommend studying with a reputable, certified teacher
and earning credentials from a well-known school. Instructors can build their
careers around working part time and full time in a variety of settings, as
well as running their own studios or fitness clubs.
Make sure your class and teacher are recommended and registered by national
associations, such as the Yoga Alliance or the Pilates Method Alliance.
"One should expect to pay over $2,000 for tuition at a reputable institution,
and the full-time training can take two to five weeks depending on the tradition,"
says Bernard Slede. He is the principal of North American Studio Alliance,
the trade organization for mind-body professionals.
"Serious yoga and Pilates training generally requires a few hundred hours
of training and practice, and certification is recommended. One-day training
offered by gym-related institutions may not offer the depth which will allow
teachers to progress."
Keith Jeffery is a 25-year Tai Chi veteran. He created a teacher certification
program. "Teachers learn to teach a small number of moves well, rather than
dozens or even hundreds of moves superficially," he says. "The program is
complete, and no experience is necessary."
"A yoga or Pilates teacher with a wealthy personal or corporate clientele
can earn well above $60,000 a year in California or New York City," Slede
says. "Rates for private classes can sometimes exceed $100 an hour."
In semi-private classes, independent teachers charge less per client, but
can earn more in this group setting. "However, it takes time to build a private
practice and most instructors start by teaching in a studio and treat yoga
as a part-time or secondary activity," Slede says.
"Studios sometimes pay instructors based on attendance, sometimes they
pay a flat fee. In many cases, the instructors are independent contractors
rather than studio employees."
Most fitness professionals agree that mind-body exercise programs are here
to stay. Through gentler exercise programs, people of all ages are simultaneously
strengthening their bodies and minds.
American Yoga Association
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Pilates Method Alliance
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