Based in London, Dionne teaches Pilates from her own space in East London and in studios across the city. We asked her to tell us about her journey to becoming a teacher, why she chose Pilates and her life now as an instructor. Here’s Dionne…
When did you decide to become an instructor and what was it that drew you to pilates?
I started practising Pilates after living with chronic back pain for a number of years. It was actually my GP who recommended that I try it and after just a few sessions, realised it relieved a great deal of tension and made me much more aware of my posture and breathing. Fast-forward a few years and it was on a spa weekend away during a Pilates class when the penny dropped… ‘why don’t I make this my job’… and here I am doing it and loving it!
What would you say to someone who hasn’t done any Pilates in the past and is nervous to try a class?
Literally everybody can benefit from doing Pilates exercises. It gives great benefits and like with all new things, they might be small… but as Joseph Pilates (the father of Pilates) himself said: ‘In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body’. I wouldn’t like to create unrealistic expectations but the point is that with consistency, focus and getting to know the principles and exercises you’ll create a great environment to reap some amazing benefits.
What are the benefits you have personally experienced from a regular Pilates practice?
I feel stronger, more flexible, have a better posture and drastically reduced (if not entirely removed), my back pain. The more I keep working on strengthening exercises for my core, back and glutes – the better I feel. It’s as simple as that! I also wasn’t really aware of ‘proper’ breathing before I started doing Pilates and stretching to release tension – this has made a massive difference moving from the countryside in Holland to one of the biggest cities in the world.
Have you always been an instructor, if not, what was your previous career?
I trained in Amsterdam to be a social worker, specifically with children who have developmental challenges. When I moved to London in 2014 I worked as a special needs tutor for a few years and teaching Pilates part-time on on the side. Last year I got married and now live in East London. This was a huge moment of change in my life, and so I decided to take a leap of faith with my career too and teach Pilates on a full time basis.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a career as a Pilates instructor?
Do it!! It is challenging but so rewarding, and what an amazing gift you can give your body and to others – to be working to make yourself and others feel great. I would also say – arm yourself with knowledge. Ask around, read articles online; do your research. Find out your options for training and what might best suit your schedule and ambitions as a teacher. I’d recommend going to many different classes and perhaps doing a private class to figure out the types and styles you’re most drawn to.
Other than Pilates, what activities are in your fitness regime?
On my day off I always attend a HIIT (high intensity interval training) class – that may sound bonkers as I’m active as a teacher most days of the week but it always makes me feel incredible. Other than that I love cycling, coffee, food markets, hot baths and going for a stroll with family and friends.
When you’re not teaching, where is your favourite place to practice and who are your superstar instructor recommendations?
At the moment I practise at home or with instructor friends at studios/ gyms where we teach. When online I love the mix and style of Boho Beautiful. My superstar recommendations are Welly and Rosaria – they both really inspire me! Their teaching styles couldn’t be more different – mixing from a dynamic Pilates workout to a more instructive in-depth style … but both are so amazing in their own way.
What does a day in the life of a Pilates instructor look like?
Even though I teach Pilates as my job – each day couldn’t be more different. The variety of clients, studios, equipment, prenatal or postnatal classes, big groups, small groups, 1:1 private clients, rehabilitation post surgery or injuries; it’s so diverse and so much fun. My aim on a daily basis is to help people develop good posture habits, build strength and improve flexibility and breathing.
What have your best and worst teaching experiences to date been?
To be honest, I’ve had loads of great teaching experiences. From pilates in the summer-sun-soaked park, in a meadow in the Dutch countryside, hen-do-Pilates in fancy dress, teaching my pregnant sister, sessions over Skype, organising pop-ups..Overall, the best teaching experience is getting amazing feedback, wide smiles and gratitude people show at the end of the class. I just crack on with the lesson – but it is so appreciated when people stay at the end to thank or give a positive comment. It gives such a boost and makes you realise that it really is a worthwhile activity to be doing on a daily basis.
Find out more about Dionne and discover her Pilates classes here.