Why You Shouldn’t Use Music for Your Pilates Class

Episode 24

There is so much polarisation around whether or not music belongs in Pilates classes. This episode forms part two of our three-part series, which explores different viewpoints on the topic and focuses on why you might want to consider turning the music off in your Pilates class.


Although these choices are deeply personal, today’s conversation explores how music can impact different people depending on their contexts as they step into your class. From timing and tastes to the flip side of music’s ability to trigger emotions, we cover multiple perspectives and experiences of music in Pilates class.


Join us as we consider how music influences teaching and learning and the key role of silence in supporting the process. Thanks for listening! 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • One reason you shouldn’t use music in your Pilates class: our lives are too busy.
  • The unique opportunity a Pilates class provides for silence and introspection. 
  • Why music often doesn’t fit the timing of the class.
  • Understanding that not everyone has the same musical tastes.
  • The flip side of music’s ability to trigger emotions.
  • How rhythm affects movement.
  • Why different music appeals to different people and why this can be a challenge.
  • Hannah’s experience at a hip-hop dance class in Japan.
  • The possibility of lyrics interrupting spoken cues. 
  • How Hannah is influenced by music as a former dancer.
  • Music and its impact on different people depending on their careers.
  • Music’s sometimes unhelpful ability to allow a person to override certain cues from their body.
  • The role of moments of silence in supporting people to figure it out.
  • What to expect from part three: advice for how to integrate music into your classes.



HT: Having moments of silence where people get to just figure things out for themselves and they don’t need to compete. Their brains don’t need to compete with other influences. So, whether it’s me talking or the music in the background, they really get to focus only on themselves. I think that is a gift.”




[0:00:27] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We’ll be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts, and engage in healthy debate as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity. 


I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades. What I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. We, as movement teachers and coaches, have the power to help people experience this for themselves. Okay, everyone, let’s dive in. Exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives one session at a time. This is the Pilates Exchange. 




[0:01:25] HT: Welcome back to part two of our three-part series about music. This one is about, why you shouldn’t use music for a Pilates class. Now there’s a lot of polarisation in our industry in general, but I really would really would like to just go through some of the reasons why I really believe you shouldn’t be using music for these classes. One major reason would be just our lives are so busy. 


Our lives are so filled with noise. From the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep at night. I’m not just talking about like audible noises, but the entire cacophony of human-created stimulus, like it just fills our days from the screens, to the sounds, to the beeping, to the watches, everything around us. These moments of real quiet absences of extra input, like that’s just not happening in our day. We have the opportunity to provide, in our Pilates classes, a time of silence, of introspection in between our cues. It’s so rare. It’s so beautiful, and I really think that we should honour that type of silence, to be present and alone with your thoughts. Maybe the only sound that’s happening is the clang of the springs. Okay, and that’s fine or maybe it’s maybe it’s only the rhythm of the breath. Without music, you can really hear the sound of the breath, the quality of the breath. If we’re adding layers of music on top of it, we’re going to lose that. 


Silence brings renewing. It brings maybe settle, like settling into the stillness. You could be, I don’t know, having moments of clarity in silence, much more so than if you have music around. Some other reasons why you shouldn’t use music for a Pilates class. I’ve been to classes where it is so loud. You literally cannot hear the teacher. Even if the teacher has a microphone on in the music, like there’s lyrics going on, you can’t hear the teacher, they’re competing for attention, the performers are clanging around, and you can’t hear the instructions. If you’re constantly having to look up and try to figure out what the instructor is talking about, how is that good teaching? 


Music sometimes, unless it’s a very well-curated playlist, music doesn’t fit the timing of the exercise. Pilates isn’t known for being it’s musical in its own way, but it doesn’t fit normal, I would say, rhythms of like our music the 4/4 time that we would normally do. It has its own type of rhythm. If we layer music on it, it takes away from our own body rhythms that are in there. The type of music genre can just be annoying. 


I mean, not everyone has the same musical taste, right? So, like, oh gosh. There can be some really annoying music in there. If you’re just going to get clarity in your body, clarity in your movement, get a good workout on, and you are faced with a music genre that you hate. Well, it feels insulting to pay for that class, music because of its – I mean, we’ve touched on this in part one, music has the ability to play with our emotions. While that can be good, it could be really triggering for some people, depending on what their memories are or their relationship to the piece of music as people can easily slip into rumination. They could be into a place, a really dark place in their lives, depending on the music that’s happening. That’s definitely not our – I can’t say for everyone, but that’s not what my intention is in my classes to be bringing people maybe into a dark, melancholic place or triggering memories that are painful. I hope that I don’t do that in my classes. 


Another thing that I think we need to be aware of is how the rhythm is affecting the movements. I mean, I talked just a second ago about how our body has our own rhythm of moving. It’s like, I would call it body time. Each individual body has its own timing that it likes to move. Then you have the agenda of the teacher. The teacher will then have it’s that person’s way of cueing, whatever that exercise is. The exercise itself, just because of the way it is, has its own rhythm as well. Then if you add a rhythm, especially a syncopated rhythm from the music, it could be really jarring for some people. I’m speaking for myself. 


Another reason why I think that we need to be not using music is that not everyone has the same musical taste. I said that a second ago, like sometimes it’s annoying, but it’s the same musical taste. It depends on also some musical genres are more revered in different places in the world than others. I mean, just in our physical studio here in Nuremberg, Germany. We have over 20 countries represented of our clients in our physical studio. That’s a lot of different places. 


Six of us, all six teachers that I have right now, are all from different countries. We speak a combined language of – combined, I think eight languages altogether. I have to check out. That’s a lot of influences. We have one teacher from one country decides that this is the type of music that I really enjoy, and it might not be jelling with the rest of the clients that are taking the class. 


One time I was in Japan, and I was taking a, I think it was a hip-hop class. I don’t really remember. It doesn’t really matter. I’m not easily offended. Really. It sounds like I am. I really am not easily offended by many things, but I was taking this class and the teacher and the students around, obviously were not understanding the lyrics that were being sung in the songs in that class. I have never in my life have heard so many cuss words. 


Again, I have no problem with profanity, but the way that the artists that they chose were talking about women’s bodies, the words that they were choosing, the acts that they were doing, it was despicable. It was so crazy, because it was a complete juxtaposition to what was happening in the class. Everyone was great. It was such a fun class, except for the music. I could barely even concentrate on what was the movement that I was supposed to be doing, because the lyrics were like – I’m not going to go into it, but it was despicable. 


After class, I did tell the teacher, “Hey, maybe you want to find some other music. I don’t think you don’t understand what they’re saying.” But that could easily happen to anyone if you’re not very familiar with what those lyrics are in the background. The other thing, lyrics, besides them being offensive, when there’s spoken words singing, that might be competing to your cues. They might, your students might not be able to hear what you’re saying. 




[0:09:09] HT: When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense, but I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programmes leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers. 


Train the Trainers is designed to give you the tools you need to create a powerful learning environment for your students. Gain access to the vault of our collected knowledge where you can learn everything, we have to teach you, whether you are a freelance teacher or a studio owner. Get constructive feedback on your teaching with actionable tools you can apply immediately. We can’t wait to be part of your teaching journey and to help you grow in your business. Welcome to Train the Trainers. 




[0:09:57] HT: Let’s go back to this idea of the artists using, whatever words that they’re using. There’s that aspect of it, like the actual content being what it is. Then we have this whole other issue of, there’s artists out there. They’re convicted felons. R. Kelly, let’s just talk about him. R. Kelly’s music is still available on Spotify. They’re not like streaming it on radio. I don’t think so anymore, but as of yesterday, you could still find all R. Kelly’s playlists on Spotify. Unless you know what a dirtbag that dude is and why he’s in jail, you might not understand how maybe we shouldn’t be supporting him by playing his music in our classes. 


Another idea of just from me, like as I would say, I’m a recovering dancer. As a former dancer, my body just unconsciously starts to do things in the count of the music. Not only was I a dancer, but my father plays bass. I have such a strong rhythm feeling, because I grew up with him playing bass and metronomes and like music in my entire life. When I hear music, it doesn’t matter what it is, I have to make a conscious effort not to move with it, because my body will move with the music. Nothing takes me out of my movement practice more than having either music that I don’t relate to, or crappy music, or music that just doesn’t fit to that movement. 


I understand that maybe that is a really deeply personal thing. As I was thinking about this, imagine them say like you’re not a dancer, you’re a hairdresser. Actually, I’m thinking about my hairdresser. The owner has the same playlist on every single day in her work. Every day, the same playlist, she has to listen to the same songs over and over and over this hairdresser. For her to have the opportunity of not listening to music would be such a gift. 


There’s a lot of people that have jobs where they are forced to listen to music. It’s not just the dancers. It’s maybe someone is a server in a restaurant and the music, the playlists are always the same. Maybe it is a curated playlist for them, but often it’s going to be repeating over and over. Giving an opportunity to be free from that, free from that they must be listening to music, because of our relationship to the [inaudible 0:12:48] in Nuremberg, so we are used to dance at the theatre here in Nuremberg, because of that, we have many, they have a full orchestra, full opera, many musicians that are on staff over there. We do have Pilates classes for them. 


Also, for them having, when your life is music, having that freedom to not have music is so important. The freedom to listen to just noises. The noises that are in the room, other people breathing, for example, your own breath, listening to say, rolling back or rolling like a ball, where how your body is making contact to the floor. You could only hear that if it’s silent. Those subtle sounds are going to be bulldozed over with the music piece.


It doesn’t matter which one that is. To go back to our musicians, so the ones that we work with it’s not even, it’s picking out the musical genre that would work for them, like maybe you think, oh, classical music, that’ll be nice, but you put on a couple of nocturnes from Chopin. Those are so, oh gosh. It could be like psychological poison sometimes. They’re so unhappy. They’re so melancholic. That we don’t want that grief, and distress, and agony, and despair in our classes, even though it’s beautiful music. For those musicians, they study all this music. They’re going to also have not only the transportation of those emotions, but they understand the history of each piece of music of its classical music that we go in, that we’re using in our classes. 


We touched on last week how music can override that physical fatigue, that you’re no longer paying attention to those physical cues of being a little bit tired. So last week, we talked about how that’s a good thing, right? It can help you push further than what you had maybe had intended on doing in that workout. Because of the power of some music, the body can no longer sometimes recognise that extreme exertion, the rising levels of lactate in the muscles that your heart is beating out of your chest. 


Sometimes, we’re going so hard with that music that it’s competing with that physiological feedback, while it can be good to get that little bit of that extra few percentage out. It can also be equally as damaging when we’re not paying attention to how tired we are. What is my breathing? Am I feeling agitated? Am I feeling – maybe not agitated emotionally, but agitated physically? How do my joints feel? How to do those muscles feel? Am I working in an alignment that feels right and efficient for me, or am I just trying to power through? 


As that musical landscape, let’s say, overpowers our physical cues, and maybe even supporting to go further – I mean, I don’t have any studies to say either way, but I’m just noticing from myself. It can bring us a little bit too far. I think we need to be cognisant of that as well when we’re saying, “Hey, we really need to be teaching classes without music.” I think for each one of these reasons, you may identify with one a little bit more than the other, but for me personally, it’s that silence is so golden. It’s such a gift to be able to give. 


It’s not just in the music that’s in the background or more present or the playlist or whatever. It’s also in our cueing, which we’ve talked about before on this podcast when I’m sure we’ll talk about it again, because I feel strongly about it, but having moments of silence where people get to just figure things out for themselves, and they don’t need to compete. Their brains don’t need to compete with other influences. So, whether it’s me talking or the music in the background, that they really get to focus only on themselves. I think that is a gift that is really a beautiful thing that we can offer them. I hope with this second series of three, I’ve given you some ideas of why not to use music. 


Now, I’m sure you’re probably thinking, well, what are you going to do in the third part? Great question. Part three is going to be considerations you need to have before you decide to use music for your classes. I’ve given you pros. I’ve given you cons. I’d like to offer you some ways that you can integrate music into your classes that it is not going to be legal advice, but of things that you really do need to be paying attention to. Why I believe that these choices of whether to use music or not to use music are deeply personal for you as the teacher. 


Of course, you need to be clarified that with the studio that you’re teaching that there is room for both of them in the Pilates world. It’s not just yes, music or no music, but it is a continuum and that there’s room for all of us, because we are going to be, people are going to identify themselves in different classes. They’re going to say, this is my class, because you’re using heavy metal music. I love heavy metal and like I would have never do Pilates any other way, except for listening to heavy metal now. There’s a lot of opportunity that’s in there, for example. So, I’d like to go into that next week, talking about the authenticity of you as a teacher, what brings you joy, legal considerations, and thinking about your audience. With that, I will see you next week. Have a wonderful, wonderful day. 




[0:19:15] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us and the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You could also look down into the show notes and grab any one of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching everyone.



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