Teaching Pilates from an Anatomy or Trauma Informed Perspective

Beth in purple top, black leggings seated on teal Pilates box, feet in floor, leaning back with hands on small Pilates dowel leaning rotating and leaning back

Written by Beth Sandlin

November 18, 2021

Since I’ve opened the Trauma Informed Pilates Approach Continuing Education Course for Pilates teachers in 2019, a question I continue to get asked about is scope of practice. So I wanted to take the time to address this head-on. 

If you teach Pilates, how you were taught to teach and your knowledge of best practices for how to work with people is informed by anatomy. You learned about muscles, bones, contraindications,….

But this doesn’t mean that you can diagnose someone like a doctor would, or teach in the same way that a Physical Therapist does. 

You stay within your scope of practice, even though you, physical therapists and doctors have all learned about anatomy in some way. 

In a sense, you are all Anatomy-Informed. And each person and profession applies this knowledge in different ways so you stay within your scope of practice. 

This is what I like to term the mechanics of Pilates. Knowing best practices and contraindications from an Anatomy-Informed perspective. And we need this. It’s necessary as a Pilates teacher. 

Yet we don’t advertise that we are Anatomy-Informed because it is part of the minimum requirements to be a Pilates teacher. 

As a Pilates teacher you can learn, use and apply a Trauma-Informed perspective similar to how anatomy has shaped how you teach. 

  • It’s about learning the many different aspects that can be considered trauma. Just like there are many bones and muscles you learn for anatomy. 
  • It’s knowing the neuroscience of what occurs in brain, body and mind when people experience trauma. Just like you know the impacts of pregnancy or breast cancer. 
  • It’s identifying the potential impacts, short and long term that trauma can have on individuals, communities and systems. Just like you know short and long term impacts of riding a bike or a knee replacement. 
  • It’s understanding the principles of a Trauma Informed Care framework and being able to apply these to teaching Pilates. 

The difference between Anatomy and Trauma-Informed is that not many Pilates programs or continuing education programs take a Trauma-Informed Care framework into consideration when teaching best practices. This is why many times there is a different designation by people who use a Trauma-Informed Approach, as  it goes above and beyond traditional aspects of their education.( Side note: my wish is that one day it’s what we all learn because it is so helpful for anyone who learns and applies this information, but we are far away from that.)

The difference is that most people will tell you about their knee replacement surgery, spine surgery or pregnancies, but won’t share their trauma. Sometimes, they don’t even realize they have been impacted by Trauma. 

So the question, how do we know when to use a Trauma-Informed Care Approach when you teach Pilates and when not to? 

The answer is, you use it all of the time and apply it in different ways depending upon you as a teacher, the people you work with and the environment in which you teach. 

So another difference is that sometimes with anatomy based teaching there is a “right or wrong” way. In a Trauma-Informed Pilates Approach it’s learning the foundations and personalizing how you teach, getting away from the mechanics of Pilates and allowing more personalization beyond just another exercise variation. 

And really when you use this method of teaching, it takes away frustration, sheds Pilates perfection, and empowers both you and the people who work with. 

So all Pilates teachers and many professions use an Anatomy-Informed Approach to their field of expertise. And now that we know more about trauma and the impacts, more professions are adopting a Trauma-Informed Care approach to their profession. From movement teachers to doctors, any person in these professions can be Trauma-Informed.

In a field where we work closely with people and may use hands-on assist, it’s even more important to foster a welcoming, safe, supportive and collaborative environment from a Trauma-Informed perspective.

This has been transformative in the way I teach Pilates and the way that so many Pilates teachers from around the world who have taken the Trauma Informed Pilates Approach teach as well. 

A Trauma Informed Pilates Approach compliments any skills and experience you already have as a Pilates teacher and transitions from being Anatomy-Informed to centering the people you work with.

Pilates Teachers

Get the Trauma Informed Teaching Tips Guide.

Skip to content