Gentle Exercise: Instructors Wanted The Buzz


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 growth.

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 participants.

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 businesses.

"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."

Earnings, Competition

"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.

Links

American Yoga Association
Get information on yoga instruction and educational resources

Pilates Method Alliance
This organization is dedicated to unity and professionalism in Pilates

Yoga Journal
Read the magazine devoted to yoga