Commanding Your Class – A question from a reader

September 8, 2010 at 3:48 pm 11 comments

Many teachers ask me wonderful questions that I either answer directly or through the comment section of this blog. Katie, a teacher in San Diego, asked me a question about commanding the class. I thought I’d share my entire response with you all:

On September 4, 2010, Katie wrote this to me:

Hello Shari, First of all, you’ve been doing a fantastic job giving advice and providing a forum for Pilates instructors to discuss important topics and I want to thank you for that! Second, I came across an article you wrote regarding being able to command the class with authority. It was a short paragraph ( so I was hoping if you might be able to expand more on that topic in future blogs.

I am currently undergoing a certification program, and one of the requirements is to practice teaching for mixed level group classes. Along with the many difficulties of teaching group classes, the most difficult part of teaching for me is being able to command the session. I often find that some clients are rushing through the exercises while others are leisurely performing the exercises, and as a result, the faster clients end up waiting. I often tell the faster clients to slow down the movement and do the exercises with control and precision, but sometimes they don’t listen! What can I do to take a more authoritative position in my classes?

Thank you!

On September 6, 2010, I responded with the following:

Hi, Katie,

Thank you for reaching out to me…and for reading my blog!

I understand the challenges of commanding a session whether it be one person or a group. You are not alone. A lot of people have trouble with this. Because you are aware that command slips away from you or, perhaps, it takes all your energy and will to maintain command of the class, you are already on the road to overcoming this. However, there are definitely ways to move forward strongly.

1 – Be well prepared. That means you have to truly know the material inside and out. You have to practice it all on yourself, often, and teach as often as you can. If you have questions, you ask the most senior teacher available to you and get those questions answered.

2 – While you are certainly concerned about every client in the class, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to control them all. You can’t. You give clean clear instructions, strong rhythms to exercises, direct cues that even if they are only for one person, you direct them to the entire class so that everyone can benefit. If some people rush…let them rush. If some people are too slow…let them catch up. You set it all strongly and make them work to your pace. You are the expert. If clients are rushing or too slow, don’t hestitate to say, with kindness, “Listen to my rhythm and stay with me”. That means, again, that you have to set strong rhythms. Do you know your rhythms and do you set them by the 2nd repetition and maintain them?

3 – There are often a few people who disrupt the class making it seem as though the class is their private session. While not ignoring them, you must not give them power. You can have a talk with these people after class and remind them that this is a group class. You can’t stop the class to answer their questions, but you are more than willing to talk with them after class or they can take private sessions to learn more. Keep those talks very, very brief. They really ought to take private sessions if they want more from you.

You mustn’t be afraid to be the teacher. You are the expert.

Take more and more sessions and classes, continue your education, study up and keep asking questions.

Does that help at all?!

Thank you for reaching out! Please reach out again!

All the best,
– Shari

On September 7, 2010, much to my delight, Katie wrote back with this:

Hi Shari, Thank for such a detailed response!

You mentioned setting a rhythm for the class and I found that advice very useful when I taught because I saw that clients knew what the right pace for the exercises were.

I really appreciate the time you took to answer my questions and I look forward to reading more blog posts!

Are you still holding workshops in Beverly Hills or have you moved to New York?

Thanks again!

***I do hope this gives you all some ideas of how to help yourself command your classes. I always say, “command with kindness”. You do not have to beat your clients up to maintain their attention or respect. Please let me know if this sparks any questions, positive changes in your teaching, challenges in your teaching, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to read and continue your education in this way!  Please comment, ask questions, say hello!

If you’re in NYC and want a Pilates session e-mail me at

If you’d like a workshop and/or semi-privates at your studio, e-mail me at I travel all over the world and would be thrilled to come to you!

If you’d like to set up a meeting on the phone or in person to ask questions about the teaching or building your business, e-mail me at Enjoy! – Shari

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Breathing – That’s What Your Nose Is For! Purpose and Legacy

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Aliceann Grusin  |  September 8, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Another spot on blog! Thanks Shari!

    • 2. theverticalworkshop  |  September 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      Hi, Aliceann!
      Thank you, too!
      – Shari

  • 3. Mareile Paley  |  September 9, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Hi Shari,
    Thanks for your great blog. I very often find useful input and answers to questions that I have posed myself or have been asked before. As a budding teacher with a lot of passion for the job, you make me feel like I am right on track.

    PS. Maybe you could be a guest teacher at one of my retreats on day…

    • 4. theverticalworkshop  |  September 9, 2010 at 10:13 am

      Hi, Mareile,

      Thank you for reading and reaching out! I’m so pleased that this blog adds to your confidence as a teacher!
      Please feel free to ask me questions as they arise…and enjoy!

      All the best,
      – Shari
      P.S. – I would love to guest teach at a retreat. E-mail me if it’s ever want:

  • 5. Marija  |  September 15, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Thank You, dear Shari!!!

  • […] Commanding Your Class – A question from a reader2010/09/08 […]

  • 7. Gregory youdan  |  November 1, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Hi Shari,

    Your blog is a terrific resource. I’m a budding teacher myself, and feel like I continue to grow from your tips and advice. I’m even more excited to take your workshop Enhance Your Teaching this Saturday. Thanks again and looking forward to meeting you.



    • 8. theverticalworkshop  |  November 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      Hi, Greg,
      Thank you for letting me know that this blog helping you build a good foundation for your relatively new career. I’m glad to be part of it!

      Thank you, too, for reading and seeking out how to continue your education.

      I’m glad that we’ll have a chance to meet and work with each other this weekend!

      All the best,
      – Shari

  • […] Commanding Your Class – A question from a reader2010/09/08 […]

  • 10. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    […] Commanding Your Class – A question from a reader2010/09/08 […]

  • 11. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    […] Commanding Your Class – A question from a reader2010/09/08 […]


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