Name: Kara Wily
Job Title: Pilates Instructor
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Years of Experience: 13 years
Salary: $12.00-$100.00 per hour
Employer: Self – Kara Wily Pilates
Pilates Teacher Job Description:
I teach students the Pilates Method of body conditioning: a systematic, choreographed, chain of exercises that help to improve strength, stretch and control of the student's body. The system can often be applied to people who suffer from pain due to a chronic misuse or overuse of a particular area of the body. My job is to identify the weaknesses and imbalances in the student's body and to teach the student exercises to improve those deficits.
What is your background?
I am a trained professional dancer. I began dancing at the late age of seventeen, but went on to study it during college and thereafter received a scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. This program is an intensive course of study, like a conservatory program, and trains dancers for modern dance and Alvin Ailey 2, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, or dance jobs with other companies. As part of my college training, we also studied Kinesiology. For my Pilates training, I studied through both the Physical Mind Institute and, in New York, under Romana Kryzanowska.
How did you become a Pilates instructor?
I ruptured my anterior crutiate ligament in a skiing accident in 1992. I had heard of Pilates prior to my reconstructive surgery and was advised to wait four months post-op to begin classes. I did therapy on my own; weight-lifting, walking, pool therapy, and cycling for four months. At that time, I attempted my first mat class and discovered that I still did not have the strength to do many of the exercises.
Pilates enabled me to see many of the weaknesses that I had never corrected, having started dancing at such a late age. I knew that if I really ever wanted to be serious about a career in dance, I was going to have to work the “right” way and stop taking the short cuts that I used during the first three years of my training. This was a combination physical therapy continuing education pilates program.
So I went about starting the hard work of correcting the way I performed both Pilates exercises and my work in dance class. When a Pilates teacher of mine suggested that I learn to become an instructor, I knew it was a better way to support myself than waiting tables while I pursued my dance career.
What do you love most about your Pilates career?
I like helping people feel better. Intellectually it makes a lot of sense to me that this technique works, however I still am slightly surprised when students give me their reports of how this or that pain does not bother them any more, how they start to engage in more activities, and people start offering compliments on how they look.
No matter how intelligent you are, connections and money you have, or talented you may be, if you cannot employ your body as you wish, it impairs your ability to meet your potential. Possessing control of your body frees you to meet your potential in life.
Do you have any funny moments from your job as a Pilates teacher that you can share?
There is an exercise called the “stomach massage” that is performed in a very-difficult-to-sustain seated-position. These are good abdominal exercises, but most people lose their pants as they are performing the exercise. I always tell them, you know that you are doing it correctly when you keep your pants on.
What advice would you give to those looking to be a Pilates teacher?
Do the work yourself. Try to find an instructor who can do the work as well. You cannot teach exercises well unless you can articulate what those exercises do to you. They have various types of pilates these days, including pilates videos for pregnancy.
What can you tell us about Pilates teacher salaries?
I believe the going rate these days for Pilates teacher salaries is $26 to $80 per hour. More experienced instructors do generally charge more. However, I think that a lot of instructors create their pay rate based on what the competition is charging. In a studio environment, a Pilates teacher receives roughly 40 percent of the fee that is incurred by the student.
I only receive 50 percent of the fee charged when I work from my alternate location (not my home). In general, I believe that gyms will pay you a set pay rate and that may increase if your class is well-attended or if you’ve been with the company for a long time.
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