Pilates Themes: How to plan a training

The pilates method is brilliant as it is, whether you teach the classical or a contemporary approach.

There is nothing wrong with sticking to the exercise plan and order.

But…. if you are craving more creativity for your teaching, adding a theme can do wonders for your own inspiration and your client’s participation. 

Using a theme or an overarching idea creates a cohesive and focused experience for your students. It can tie together the movements, breathing techniques, and intentions making it more meaningful and impactful for your students.

Novelty in class increases your student’s attention and focus and, thus, their motor-learning skills!

Another bonus, a unique class is far more likely to be talked about and recommended to others. We all know word of mouth goes a long way in advertising your classes!

GET your FREE 100 Pilates class themes EBOOK

We want to encourage you to be creatively and authentically you, not just follow another exercise plan. 

Here is a quick formula for integrating a theme into your class. 


Start simple. Choose a theme that feels exciting to you and that you feel confident in. 

Or, you can use your choice of theme to develop your own knowledge. For example, if your understanding of human anatomy needs to improve, you could choose a different physical theme each week and research the exercises that work with that part of the body. 

Teaching something to others always helps it to stick in your head! 

Opening and Closing 

Decide how to start and end your training based on the theme.
ie: Physically, are they standing, lying down, or seated at the start?
Where will they end up according to your physical goal?
If the theme is to create confidence and a journey inward, consider starting with easier exercises and building up to that surmountable but exciting challenge at the end.

Once you know what positions your students will be at the start and end note, you can begin to weave in your theme [with poses, practices, verbal cues] from start to finish.


Pick out exercises that clearly relate to your idea. If it’s a physical theme, that will be easy. 

If your theme is more psychological, be aware of how the exercises can make people feel depending on their own emotional well-being and life experiences. 

To develop confidence, strength, and resilience, choose exercises that strengthen the body’s center and make the student sit and stand tall. Some exercises can create intense feelings of vulnerability or fear in individuals (Tendon Stretch on the Reformer, for example.) Remember to be aware of how things feel and to encourage taking a break whenever the student needs them.

Begin to structure your class plan so that there is time to warm up and lead up to the most challenging or technically demanding exercises once the body is appropriately warm and mobilized, and then gently come back down into softer finishing before ending your class. 

This is a suggestion for structure; it may be completely different, depending on the style of pilates you’re teaching, the equipment you are using, or the intention of the class. 

As you build your structure, note anywhere you can bring your students’ awareness back to the class’s theme. 


Once you have a plan for your training, make sure you have some appropriate variations to adapt to anyone attending your class.

Are you confident that you can provide necessary modifications for different students in each exercise or variations/progressions for students who want more challenges? If not, then do some more research! There are lots of resources online to help you develop your teaching skills. 

We would also be happy to help you develop this skill in our workshops or continuing education. 

Try not to be too attached to your class plan. 

Sometimes, you’ll walk into a class with what you think is the perfect, intelligently sequenced, and dazzlingly themed plan and find that it just isn’t right for the people who have shown up to train. 

That’s fine! You can keep the theme in your mind and use elements of your plan that are appropriate to adapt as needed. 

You might find that the class becomes even better than you imagined – because you listen and respond to your student’s needs.

If you are ready for some more inspiration, grab that Ebook here

Wishing you many happy hours of teaching!