Pilates Community Forum > The PMA Certification Exam

I am a longtime teacher who is a founding member of the PMA. I have not taken the Certification Exam. On the PMA website it states:

“The PMA's mission is to protect the public by establishing certification and continuing education standards for Pilates professionals.”

Many PMA members have yet to take the Certification Exam. It is also true that many very well qualified instructors/teachers have yet to join the PMA. Here is a chance to voice your opinions and concerns about the PMA and the Exam and where it is leading/has led us as a community.

What are the reasons that you have or have not joined the PMA?
What are the reasons that you have or have not taken the PMA Certification Exam?

Thanks for your voice!
Carole Amend
AIM Academy for Somatic Integration
Mill Valley, CA

November 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarole Amend

Hi Carole:

I have yet to take the PMA exam and I can give two reasons other than just being someone who seems to procrastinate.

Reason 1: I am not the world's best test taker. I tend to freeze up with multiple choice questions reading more into the questions and answers than was intended. I especially have a tough time with the All of the Above or None of the Above type questions.

Reason 2: I am in frugal mode here. My husband recently lost his job and we are living on my Pilates income which is hardly enough to pay our huge Southern California bills. When I spend money on workshops, books or videos it has to directly translate into something that I can honestly feel will help me to increase my business. By saying I past the PMA exam I doubt very much my current clientele will come one extra time a week and I hardly feel it will help me to attract new clientele. However, by coming up with a few new moves or a new style of doing an old exercise, I might just convince someone to add a new session or they might just brag about me to a friend. Tough times require rethinking how we spend our money.These are very tough times and as much as I'd like to know that I can pass this exam, it just doesn't make sense for me to do so right now.

November 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDevra Swiger

I haven't taken the PMA test because I'm already certified by a 1st generation teacher. I've also let my PMA membership lapse because they refuse to list me as a teacher, only as a member. Excuse me, but I don't need yet another certification to be a valid certified teacher, and if the PMA can't recognized me as a teacher, I can't recognize their 'authority' to exclude me. Where would the PMA be without the 1st generation? How dare they say their certificants aren't valid?

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Same here. I'm certified by a 1st generation teacher. I have no use for the PMA. None of my clients knows what it is and no one has ever asked me if I'm certified by this organization. Why bother, I ask myself.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdropshot

I have been a member of the PMA since it started. I have had a hard time getting any of my phone calls returned. Also, when they did the study w/ACE on whether Pilates is cardiovascular, I expressed my concerns about the validity of a study where they only used part of Pilates, mat, to establish research. I pretty much got the run around. Also, when I tried to have a Pilates Day event last year, I got zero help, again another phone call unreturned. So, I'm not so much impressed with the group. As far as the test goes, I am on the fence. I would need to see something more from the PMA then what I have.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdaw

I just wanted to make a correction in the study mentioned above on whether or not Pilates is cardiovascular. The PMA did not know about, support or have any involvement what so ever in that study. We are also sorry that you did not get he support you needed in the Pilates Day event you hosted. It was coordinated by volunteers who conceived the event thinking it would be a good way to help Pilates teachers and studio owners publicize their studios and contrbute to the organization simultaneously. Elizabeth Anderson, the new Executive Director is doing a fantastic job in reorganizing the whole administration and I think that you should see many changes in communication and efficiency during this past year.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSherri Betz

I have also been a member of the PMA since the beginning when I made donations for the class action lawsuit. Any organization struggles with building infrastructure, staffing and communiations at its inception. I hope people can be patient as the organization grows and evolves in service to the Pilates Comunity. The current exam is an "entry level" exam created based on a vote by the membership and in response to the "weekend" certification programs that proliferated after the Pilates trademark was overturned. This exam is BASIC competency. It does not show or prove expertise that teachers of 15 years would have. The vision of the PMA is to create a master or advanced credential that this caliber of teacher would be able to take to show competency to the public at a higher level. The barrier to this higher level exam is money of course...when enough teachers have taken the basic exam then we can pay back the $300,000 debt for creating it and begin to work on the advanced exam.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSherri Betz

I want to respond to Sherri's post about the PMA exam being considered entry level. Once again, a slap in the face to those of us certified for years by 1st Generation teachers - not being permitted to be listed on the PMA website as a teacher - only as a member.
the "Alliance" is a misnomer. If you pay for their test and pass their 'minimum' requirements - then you are certified in their eyes. It's myopic and self-serving and doesn't represent me.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

There are many points of view to be shared and discussed but I will only participate in this dialogue in an open hearted and repectful way.

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSherri Betz

I’d like to thank Carole Amend for opening this discussion. I hope I can provide some information that will clarify these issues. My name is Elizabeth Anderson and I’m the Executive Director of the PMA.

I’d like to clear up a few misunderstandings above. The PMA has never taken part in any study with ACE on any topic. I’d appreciate it if ‘Daw’ could let me know where he/she obtained their information, as I’d like the chance to correct it at its source. I’d be curious as to whom he/she expressed their concerns to on the topic. This sort of misinformation is damaging to us and I’d like to nip it in the bud.

As a bit of background, the PMA is 8 years old. That is very young, in fact, it is ‘infancy’, in the lifespan of an organization. Companies, like people, go through stages of maturation. The early years are often very difficult, unstable and volatile, as a company and a community ‘finds its feet’, slowly learns how to crawl, stand, walk and later run and dance. The PMA is working hard to move from the crawling stage into being able to stand and walk.

For a long list of reasons, the PMA went through extremely hard times financially in 2006 and 2007. Suffice it to say that at that time, the organization was teetering on the brink of survival. I joined the organization in June 2007 as Executive Director, right at the PMA’s lowest moment, and I’m happy to report that we were able to pull back from the brink and after the last 17 months, we are now on a much more stable footing and looking to the future with optimism and hope. Since the time I joined the staff, I and the rest of the team have worked hard to re-organize, revamp many of our systems, re-staff, eliminate waste and increase our efficiency and productivity. We have been extremely successful at it – although of course there is still much to do to improve and we are not perfect by any means. We are a very small, understaffed and under-resourced organization that is struggling to meet the needs of the community, and we need more time to invest in our infrastructure, grow and stabilize before we can become the sort of ‘powerhouse’ we’d like to be. We have to ask you to bear with us while we grow and mature as an organization. I know that the PMA has had a period where it was very difficult or impossible to get through to anyone, or to get calls returned. Those days are over. Please give us a chance to demonstrate that.

I want to explain the distinction between a ‘certification’ and an ‘assessment –based certificate program’. In order to do that, I’m going to tell you more than you ever wanted to know on the topic, but it’s necessary to understand this. In short, most Pilates teacher training organizations have been misusing the term ‘certification’ for decades, as they have not been aware of the distinction that I will explain here. Some knowingly misuse the term, because their customers want 'certification', and at present, they believe they need to say they offer it to sell courses, when they actually know it's the wrong term. In any event, the PMA is now in the unfortunate position of needing to re-educate the industry about these distinctions, which is a painful and difficult process.

To summarize: PMA Certification is the only certification in the Pilates industry. The paper you receive when you graduate from your teacher training program and pass their exam is by definition, an ‘assessment-based certificate’. This is not something the PMA made up. These are terms and definitions given to us by the National Organization for Competency Assurance, of which the PMA is a member. (See noca.org)

The PMA seeks to establish the teaching of Pilates as a ‘profession’. That means, among other things, that we need to define what a Pilates teacher is. What knowledge do they have, what skills do they have, what is their scope of practice, and their code of ethics? For any profession to have a definition – there must be boundaries around what that professional ‘does’, and ‘does not do’. Furthermore, in order to establish the teaching of Pilates as a ‘profession’, we have to position it in relationship to other professions. That means that we need to have a credential that recognizes when the professional is competent to perform that job, as other professions do. Other professions that require certification are for example, nursing, engineering, and financial planning. There are many others obviously. That is why the PMA, with a mandate from the PMA membership, commissioned a 3rd party, standardized comprehensive competency exam for Pilates teachers. We need not only to define our profession for ourselves, but to define it in ways that the ‘outside world’ recognizes, respects and understands.

In order to create the exam, the PMA commissioned the services of a leading psychometrics company called CASTLE Worldwide, Inc. Castle’s ‘psychometrician’ (a psychologist who devises, constructs, and standardizes psychometric tests; ‘psychometric test’ meaning a test that measures mental knowledge) worked with a group of leaders in the Pilates industry to create a ‘role delineation document’, which outlined the ‘performance domains’ relevant to being a teacher of Pilates. There are 3 performance domains: Assessment, Teaching, and Reassessment. Under each of those performance domains, there is a long list of skills and knowledge that the person must have, in order to be deemed a competent teacher of Pilates. Groups of Pilates professionals from across the US gathered together to write ‘items’ (questions), for the PMA exam – each question had to be referenced, and had to relate to the skills and knowledge listed under each performance domain. Each question was weighted and classed, depending on its importance within each performance domain.

That is the bare bones explanation of how the exam was created. Believe me, I could go on . . .

To reiterate, the exam was created by (and is administered by) an organization that has nothing to do with the teaching of Pilates – Castle Worldwide, Inc. It is independent of any commercial or personal bias. It facilitated the creation of the test via consultation a wide variety of leaders in the field who both determined the exam content, and wrote the questions. The fact that the testing company is NOT a Pilates education provider, is what it makes it 3rd party, independent, non-biased. Also, as long as eligibility requirements are met, exam candidates can sit for the exam no matter where they did their teacher training program.

As you can no doubt see – this is completely different from the end-of-course assessment that the teacher training companies give to their students. Teacher training companies are by definition, ‘assessment-based certificate programs’. They create a syllabus, they have a set of learning outcomes, the deliver training and instruction to their students, and then the student goes through an end of course assessment which is linked to the learning outcomes the teacher training school chooses. The test is administered by the teacher training school. It is a closed loop. Only students that go through School A’s program can sit for School A’s exam, etc. Furthermore, the exam that School A, School B, and School C give – have no relationship to each other. They may be measuring very different things – and yet – most schools claim to grant ‘certification’. ‘Certification’ from School A may mean something completely different than ‘Certification’ from School B, etc. The Schools never sat down and agreed on what they all believed to be necessary for the training of a competent Pilates teacher, and they never agreed on how to measure these skills. Their syllabi can differ radically. Therefore, from the viewpoint of the prospective student, and the client, there is no consensus regarding what ‘certification’ means in this context. That’s because ‘certification’ is the wrong word for what teacher training schools offer! They provide ‘assessment-based certificates’.

This is a message that the PMA disseminated before my time in the job. Since I’ve been at the PMA, we’ve had more pressing matters to solve, and have not had much capacity for getting our message out. However, this will change in 2009 and this discussion will come to the forefront. Please note that this ‘discussion/debate/argument’ or whatever you want to call it, is par for the course in any industry that is professionalizing itself. ACE (American Council on Exercise) is still going through this growing pain. They are also trying to stop use of the word ‘certification’ by personal training education companies who actually provide ‘assessment-based certificates’.

NOW – to address Colleen’s comments above:

First – nothing the PMA does can be characterized as a ‘slap in the face’ to a First Generation Teacher. I don’t know which teacher you’re referring to, but the PMA has good relations with Mary Bowen, Lolita San Miguel, Kathy Grant and Ron Fletcher – all of whom taught at our conference in Phoenix this very month. Every year, we invite Romana Kryzanowska to attend the PMA conference as our guest, and to teach, or not teach, as she prefers. She doesn’t answer our invitations – but it’s an open one and a sincere one. I know that there are other First Generation Teachers out there, but you’d need to tell me which one you mean. We have nothing but respect for them – they are the most exalted members of our community. If you choose to interpret the fact that we are making a distinction between ‘certification’ and an ‘assessment-based certificate’ (as defined by the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) of which we are a member and whose guidelines we follow), as an insult – well, what can I say except that it’s an extreme distortion of the facts, and/or you truly misunderstand the issue.

Secondly, the PMA lists on its website PMA Members, and PMA Certified Pilates Teachers. We don’t list teachers who are not ‘certified’ by the PMA – because there’s no way to know what ‘certification’ means in a context other than that PMA’s, as explained above. The purpose of the PMA exam is ‘competency assurance’. It is a way for the public to know that the practitioner can perform at a minimum level of competency and safety. This is what ‘protecting the public’ means. When I say a ‘minimum level’, I don’t mean a ‘low’ level or a ‘bad’ level. I mean the 'minimum to be competent and safe'. Obviously many teachers out there working have a level infinitely higher than that. But the purpose of the exam is NOT to demonstrate that someone is a master teacher who has 20 years of experience. The exam is meant to demonstrate a level of competency and safety that the public can trust in. Remember, this applies to all other professions. For example, you may have someone who goes to law school at Boston University School of Law, and someone else goes to Harvard, and someone else who goes to the New England School of Law. They each do their education and sit for their school’s exams. Then, they ALL take the Massachusetts Bar Exam. And then – they might turn into great lawyers, or mediocre, or poor, or one might be great and the others terrible. The Bar Exam demonstrates a minimum competency required to practice law.

You’re right Colleen, you absolutely don’t need to be a PMA Certified Pilates Teacher in order to be a valid, highly accomplished teacher - and we've never said that you do. All we're saying is that by definition, you do not hold a ‘certification’ in the sense that the ‘outside world’ uses that word. Again, the PMA is seeking to establish the teaching of Pilates as a profession by creating a 3rd party credential that can stand alongside other credentials for other professions. You do not hold a 3rd party credential. And that’s OK! You don’t have to. You probably have a thriving business that is doing just fine without the PMA, and at the moment you don’t see any reason for our existence. That is perfectly OK, and you may go through the rest of your career without needing us. Remember, the PMA is not a regulatory authority. We are not the law or the police. We cannot tell people what to do. By definition, a ‘certification’ is voluntary. Here is NOCA’s definition of the word:

Certification is a voluntary process by which individuals are assessed against predetermined standards for knowledge/skills/competencies and granted a time-limited credential. The primary purpose of certification is assessment and the assessment process is independent of a specific course of study or any education/course/curriculum provider.

The PMA and PMA Certification is for people who WANT it. It’s for people who want to work with their peers to establish the teaching of Pilates as a recognized profession which can have a place in the world of professions – as nurses, engineers and financial planners do. Those that support this movement don’t want Pilates teaching to continue as an underground activity without definition, without a trade organization, without a legal protection. (The PMA credential is ‘legally defensible’ – a legally defensible credential discourages frivolous lawsuits and ensures that the certificant is likely to win a court decision if the law suit goes to court.) We want our Pilates clientele, present and future, to have a way of being assured of the competency and safety of their Pilates teacher, so that they don’t fall into the hands of the ‘certified’ Pilates teacher who got their ‘certification’ in a weekend course, or God forbid for $14.95 over the internet. In our industry there will be those interested in these aims, and those who aren’t. Both are OK. However, of course the PMA seeks to attract those who are interested, to join with us in this movement to improve, secure and protect the profession. This is not ‘myopic and self-serving’, to use Colleen’s words. It’s the exact opposite. We are looking at the big picture, at securing a place for Pilates teaching as a respected profession with a professional credential that can sit alongside credentialed professionals in a wide variety of other industries. We know that not everyone understands or shares in these aims right now, but we hope that with greater communication and understanding, that our ranks will swell, and we will keep moving toward the day when the teaching of Pilates has the stature and professional standing that it deserves.


November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Anderson

Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

My intent is to bring all "sides" together for a "discussion." I believe we are all good people trying to do good work from our respective vantage points. As for myself, I have serious issues with the PMA, even though I know that the intent of the PMA is for good. I would like to see major changes that have much more to do with discussing movement, than "business."

So, I hope that the discussion does not end with the explanation of "certification." (please see mine in answer to karina, 11/24, under the community section "certification" post--many of us do understand the meaning;it is also helpful to have a 15-second soundbite)

There is much more conversation that needs to happen for the growth of our profession.

Since, as Elizabeth states above:

"The Schools never sat down and agreed on what they all believed to be necessary for the training of a competent Pilates teacher, and they never agreed on how to measure these skills. Their syllabi can differ radically."

I would like to pose another question to readers:

What does it mean to you, as independent, knowledgeable, passionate teachers of the work of J.H. Pilates, to fully "embody" the work and how might you measure it?

Sincerely yours,

Carole Amend
AIM Academy for Somatic Integration (AASI)
Mill Valley, CA
info@aim-academy.org

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarole Amend

I’d just like to comment on Carole’s statement, ‘I would like to see major changes [in the PMA] that have much more to do with discussing movement, than "business."’ I’m not sure how she is defining ‘business’, but I’m gleaning that perhaps she means that ‘business’ is anything other than ‘movement’?

The PMA is 2 things: a professional association, and a credentialing organization.

At present, given that the PMA is very small, there is a finite scope to what activities we can undertake. Our primary focus is the development of our professional credential and continuing education standards however we also provide member services, advice and support, host an international educational conference (which we did earlier this month which was attended by 800 people from 28 countries and 48 US States), we develop and support our professional credential and continuing education standards, and we engage in outreach services through our Pilates Day and Pilates in the Schools programs. I’m not sure if Carole considers all of that to be ‘business’ or not, but I believe the list represents activity in the areas of education, community building, member support, policy development, services to children and activities to raise the profile of Pilates to assist studio owners in business development by increasing awareness of the Pilates Method.

I think the issue might be how best to create a channel or forum for the issues Carole would like to work on, to be linked to the PMA. Perhaps a special interest group should be set up. We don’t have any at present, but that might be the right form for it to take. The fact that the PMA is not engaged in a particular activity doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be. We cannot do everything at once, or be all things to all people. But it’s reasonable to expect that as the years progress, we will do more and more. It’s important that if individuals want to pursue a particular area of research and inquiry, that they go ahead and do it, whether or not the PMA is currently able to facilitate it. When we have more capacity, we will be able to facilitate more for our community.

Lastly, while some people do understand the definition of ‘certification’, most in the Pilates community do not. In Katrina’s question you can already see the misapprehension. She says: ‘Recently I have been thinking about getting certified for teaching mat pilates but do not know what certification program to choose.’ She needs to be made aware that she’s actually looking for an ‘assessment-based certificate program’. Unless she speaks with the PMA, or to Carole, who helpfully pointed her in the direction of a correct understanding, she will most likely be told by whatever companies she approaches that they will offer her ‘certification’, and she will believe them.

Elizabeth Anderson
Executive Director
Pilates Method Alliance

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Anderson

Thank you, Elizabeth. You have explained the stance of the PMA quite well; what it can do, what it can't do, as well as important information for all about how it was "set-up."


November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarole Amend

The PMA is a joke. No one knows what it is; the explanation is too little, too late. I teach at a large studio where all the instructors are certified by the original Pilates certification - that's three levels of certification and 1,000 hours of teaching time. Who needs some new "certification" that doesn't recognize these people? As far as the "gym teacher" thing goes: we should be secure enough as teachers to believe we can and will outlast any local gym class. The PMA has wayyyy too much energy on this. The reason people take these classes is because they are cheap and not as intimidating as a studio with complicated equipment. We can't expect the consumer to know the difference. It's our job to market ourselves and to educate consumers about "classical" Pilates vs. gym teachers. The PMA is not doing this because they only reach other Pilates people. Plus, by refusing to recognize 1st generation teachers (which I am not, by the way), the PMA contradicts itself. Bottom line: PMA doesn't gain me a single client. I already know I'm a professional; don't need them to tell me.

November 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM. McDonald

Elizabeth—So sorry to hear about PMA’s financial difficulties. I should have told you that starting a “ Pilates Community” was a no- win situation. Remember-- I started one in Santa Fe, in February 1991 after meeting Eve Gentry ( first generation) and Michele Larsson( second generation). I was so grateful to have Pilates again having missed it so much after leaving New York in 1988. Remember, it was just an accident that I found Eve’s studio which was 3 blocks from where I lived!! Since obviously neither generation could spell Marketing, I thought I could help them and the 200 other teachers worldwide to get the word out. And I did and it was fun and easy. Everyone joined the Institute for the Pilates Method( PMI)—including Romana. And because my only speed is fast forward, we soon had a number of FIRSTS: A Certification Program, Pilates videos, Pilates exercise encyclopedias, the Pilates Forum newsletter, a patented personal Reformer and hundreds of members. Like I said, it was fun and we were all high on its promise… until 1994 when Romana & Gang started suing everyone who wanted to talk about neutral. But I digress. Let’s get back to your statement that “PMA is only 8 years old.” Because it is not. See back then in the early Nineties when this community thing seemed such a good idea certain Institute members questioned why Joan Breibart should own a Pilates Institute when she wasn’t even a teacher!! ( Actually, I only owed half—Michele Larsson was an equal partner.) Whatever. The facts are that this group didn’t like my involvement. And the fact that none of them had the Brains, the Balls or the Bucks to start such an organization didn’t matter one bit because they decided that they had to have their own PMI. Sorry, PMA.

But let’s get back to the money-- since it is only going to get worse. If you have been reading Soros, Volcker, Summers, Roubini, etc. you know that now they are talking first quarter 2010( translation late 2011). Although none of these gents are Master Teachers or even First Generation, they have been pretty accurate in the past. Have to digress here, again. What a mistake we made in 1991 calling those who had been at Joe’s place Master Teachers. Thanks so much for kicking them “upstairs” and calling them Elders. Anyway, back to the money-- since without it-- worrying about whether we are a PROFESSION won’t be an issue. And since the majority of Pilates teachers today have had the benefit of the biggest and longest publicity binge ever, they have no recollection of the slim pickins before 1991. Most of them just had to answer the phone to get another new client! What can you say. Nothing lasts forever.

And now to your main point about the issues of assessment vs certification. Some organizations—mine for sure—try to set up a system of checks and balances. So our Teacher Trainers use a syllabus and materials that they didn’t create. One degree of separation. When these students are done, they test with someone who not only doesn’t know them.. but who also administers a written test and practical protocols designed by yet another person. More separation. Still, no system is perfect as the U. S. financial system meltdown so totally proves.

I’d like to close with some optimistic thoughts. When the U. S. population is questioned about why they exercise, a whopping 80% say it is to lose weight!! Wow… not a word about correct alignment, core strength, functional fitness, etc. But now, with the price of food still rising while our incomes are dropping maybe that issue will solve itself ( not overnight… the extra poundage estimate tops 6 billion). But with time on our side, can we look forward to the public recognizing the deeper benefits of our exercise method and seeking it out to combat stress and pain and aging?? Maybe with an involved and aware clientele who doesn’t need to be “protected” from not so great trainers, we can finally, finally get together—regardless of whose initials grace our Certificates. joan breibart


November 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjoan breibart

There is much elitism and snobbery out there concerning schools and training programs. I studied at a school that required prior knowledge of intermediate level mat and reformer, a basis of 600 hours of training and 4 written exams, 4 practical tests and 4 teaching tests, a separate anatomy test as well as a case history that involved charting the progress of a client over 6 months. I completed the program, passed the tests and became "certified" in 2000, Since then I have spent a lot of money and sweat and hours and hours and hours of time reading not just about Pilates, but about the body and movement theories and anatomy, biomechanics, injuries and physical therapies and going to workshops all over the country presented by "The Elders" as well as many eminent second gereration instructors. I don't want to be negitive but at a workshop with Elizabeth Larkam,my friend snapped a picture of her doping an exercise, and Elizabeth flipped out because as she said, she get paid lots of money for for her image. She was rude and abraisive and I was really turned off by her attitude. IF thats what it means to be certified by PMA I'll pass.

December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLA

In response to the 4 last posts:

To Carole – Thank you very much for your kind words.

To M. McDonald – I’m not sure what you’re referring to as ‘the gym teacher thing’. In my 17 months in the job, I haven’t spent any time on anything related to gym teachers. So, no time is spent on that, whatever it is. In regard to your comment ‘I already know I'm a professional; don't need them to tell me.’, we at the PMA are very aware that there are many, many excellent, beautifully trained professional Pilates teachers out there. You’re correct that we don’t need to tell you you’re a professional, and we have never said you are not one. The issue we’re dealing with is trying to establish the teaching of Pilates as a proper ‘profession’, so that it will be regarded as such by the wider world, OUTSIDE our tiny industry. We want it to stand alongside other professions. To establish that, there needs to be a 3rd party certification exam, and that is what we’ve established and are trying to promote, for the good of the field. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation whereby because we did not organize ourselves and establish our own professional credential, we have regulations imposed on us by the fitness industry.

To Joan – Thank you for writing, and how nice to hear you. Yes, happily we are now on a stable footing financially. Just to clarify for our readers, the Institute for the Pilates Method was a ‘for profit’ company set up in the early 90’s, and it was owned 50/50 by yourself (Joan Breibart) and Michele Larsson as equal partners as Joan mentioned above. The PMA, in contrast, was set up in February of 2001, (10 years later) as a ‘not-for-profit’, 501(c)(3), which is not owned by anyone, but is governed by a Board of Directors who are elected. That’s the distinction people should understand. It was good to hear your optimistic closing remarks. There is an ever increasing opportunity for people to understand the benefits of the Pilates Method, and through the excellent work being delivered in so many areas of the industry, that understanding is seeping into our culture. Long may it continue!

To the last writer ‘LA’ - there is no connection between the fact that someone is a PMA Certified Pilates Teacher™, and rudeness or politeness. Elizabeth Larkham is a person whose image and stature is so well known that she is virtually her own brand – she earns her living as a model and presenter by selling her image which is an essential part of her ‘stock in trade’. There are many presenters in the Pilates industry, in addition to Elizabeth, who would be very irritated at someone taking their photo without permission. That is because people sometimes do that and then abuse the image. Some of the First Generation Pilates Teachers have complained to me that students ask to have their photo taken with them, and then post it on their websites to give the impression that the teacher was their mentor, or to gain some kind of status by association. I’m not saying this is what your friend was doing, but this sort of thing occurs, making our ‘celebrity’ teachers very wary. Your friend might consider that she/he should have asked permission to take Elizabeth's picture. In any event – none of this has anything to do with being PMA certified.

Elizabeth Anderson
Executive Director
Pilates Method Alliance


December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Anderson

I was proud to take the first PMA certification exam when it was offered. I was shocked when I realized it wasn't a test of my knowledge as a Pilates teacher or the Pilates work.

There is absolutely no upside to taking the PMA certification test unless you want to be tested on your knowledge of anatomy or PMA ethics. The test was a joke, and was not an accurate test of your knowledge of Pilates.

As a member of the PMA, you have to be prepared to follow their philosophy, bi laws, and whatever else THEY deem appropriate.

The PMA does not support any teacher that does not follow their definition of "scope of practice", so please read their "do's and don't" before you consider renewing your membership.

I am no longer a member of the PMA.

December 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Dreisbach

To Elizabeth, the idea that Elizabeth Larkam and istructors of her ilk think of themselves as celebrities rather than mentors, teachers and inspiration for those of us who humbly strive to become better is very sad. I find it difficult to believe that these istructors have gotten so taken with themselves that they really think instructors spend money to travel to a workshop or convention not to learn but to get a photo-op. How rediculous. Maybe they should remember that if it were not for us buying their books, videos, and attending these workshops they would not be celebrities.

December 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLA

It seems everyone has had the opportunity to voice their concerns here and I thank Pilates Pro for allowing us to have this debate. After reading through the comments posted I have come to the conclusion there are lots of opinions and egos present, but few facts. The fact is we live in an age where lawsuits are on the rise. The question I raise is if I find myself in a court of law someday and have been “certified” through a legitimate training facility…will this be enough? Or, will I be asked if I am PMA certified and if not be found negligent? Everything else aside, will the PMA Certification trump in a court of law?

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM D

To start with, I want to commend Elizabeth Anderson for both the energy and change she is creating for not only the PMA, but the Pilates industry as a whole. This appreciation also is extended to all of those before her who have volunteered countless hours in an attempt to make the PMA and this Pilates industry better. I have to admit, I am biased toward the PMA. I have just been elected as an incoming board member for the PMA. Hearing this may create somwhat of a knee jerk reaction to assume that I have always been fully behind the idea of the PMA. To be honest I've been on both sides of the coin. In the early years of the PMA, I too wondered what the PMA was going to do for ME. Why join an organization if it won't effect my day to day function? Why join an organization if none of my clients care, let alone even know what the PMA is? I already have a "certification", why do I need another?

Whether you come from a classical or contemporary training program, I think that it is important to keep in mind that we are in this business to change people. Body, mind and spirit. We may disagree on how to breathe, exact positioning, or sequence of exercise, but we all still want to change the people that we are working with day in and day out. So does the PMA matter? Is the PMA exam necessary for your business to function, change people, make a profit? Maybe not in the past or even today. I believe however, that this is changing. I would encourage everyone to turn their focus from the past just a little bit and look to what we want this industry to be in the future. Whether you are a studio owner with employees, a business owner that consists of only yourself, or an employee in a studio or fitness center, we should all be thinking of what OUR industry should look like in the future. In any industry, the larger it gets...the more power it generates...the more attention it gets...the more regulation it will get. Maybe we can be independent for now with what ever education process we've gone through, whatever assessment based certificate program we've completed, with however we think a teaser should be done. There will be a point that someone will want to determine the legal rules of how you can practice. Our independance at some point will be limited unless we can see that we are much stronger in consistency and in numbers than we are separated.

Is the PMA the answer? I believe at least in part it is. Hopefully you will grow as a practitioner outside the PMA. But after talking with many different people at the last PMA conference, there sure seem to be a lot of people that do need guidance, moral support, and community. I believe when the PMA and its certification exam was created, it came from the passion to make an industry better. We do need standards whether we like it or not. We need community. Without a strong industry both from a practice side and a business side the industry generally will fail.

Should you take the PMA exam? That is up to you. I would encourage everyone to take it. The PMA exam BY ITSELF may not make me or anyone else more credible to our clientele. Maybe not today, but I believe it will sooner than you think. The challenge is seeing the forrest through the trees. It isn't just simply about an exam and a certification. It's about an industry. One that you're apart of and one that I'm a part of. Someday it will be important to be "on the same page" no matter how we got to that page.

There is surely much misinformation on the PMA both as an organization and with the certification. There have been both good and bad experiences with it. What I believe is that I see the future of an industry. I've seen and talked to the people who run this organization and those who go to the conferences to become better. Better at what they do and who they are. On the same page for an industry that is becoming much bigger than the sum of its parts.

If you don't want to take the exam that's obviously your choice. If you don't want to be a member, that too is your choice. It may however, be time to take a step back and reevaluate the future of our industry rather than focus on it in the rear view mirror.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShawn Healey

Carol Amend asks: What does it mean to you, as independent, knowledgeable, passionate teachers of the work of J.H. Pilates, to fully "embody" the work and how might you measure it


I will answer this by saying I embody the work of Jos. Pilates by being honest and open to learning from others no matter where they studied or certification they have. I aspire to be a student of the work for as long as I am alive and breathing. I express my passion about pilates to my clients and students in the way I teach them and help them experience the joy of moving, breathing and being alive and I measure my work by watching my passion for Pilates awaken in them.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLA

I think it’s important to share, as the creator of this post, that I had a different hope than to be withdrawing my membership from the PMA, as I have done just today.

"Our community" exists with or without the PMA; that is certain.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarole Amend

Elizabeth,
I was remiss when I stated PMA had participated in the study with ACE. I saw the study in my ACE newsletter, so I called/emailed/faxed Kevin Bowen about it. I felt this was the perfect opportunity for PMA to establish itself as a "voice" for the Pilates community. Kevin finally did email me but, he did not understand my concern about the methodology of the study. I am ACE certified and did send a response to ACE about the study,but also got nowhere. As I stated, I still am a member and will probably still continue to be, but as far as the certification goes, I have not yet seen the benefit to taking it.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdaw

This blog was brought to my attention....as I read it I am both happy about the idea of a practical discourse about a relevant topic - the PMA Certification Exam - and dismayed at the egos and lack of true community presenting themselves here.

Pilates is a "journey" for all teachers and practitioners. It is a journey into body, mind, and spirit. It is clear that Mr. Pilates wanted "everyone" to experience the brilliance of his work. The PMA as a not-for-profit National organization exists to do what Local organizations cannot do alone - Educate the Public about the Pilates Method. The fact that 5 prominent 1st Generation Masters support the PMA and realize the necessitiy of the Organization, should be legitimizing enough.

There is no question that there will always be a "Pilates Community". There is, however, a legitimate question about the status of a Pilates Instructor in the eyes of the court. For those of you who have 20 yrs of teaching and were taught by a 1st generation Master....do you want to be grouped with personal trainers or weekend certified mat or reformer only teachers, if no National, unified body, or CREDENTIAL for our Method exists? You must get past yourselves!!!

What good does deriding the PMA do for you personally or the Pilates Community?

There will always be people who disagree....the Organization is under exceptional direction with Elizabeth Anderson as Executive Director, and is poised for significant development and advancement in the coming years. It is the duty of a Membership organization to hear its members. It is unfortunate that many of you are not members or have revoked your membership. As a Not for Profit - the Organization is defined as a Membership Organization and can only recognize Members as opposed to Teachers. Members do not have to be PMA Certified.

On the PMA Certification Exam - the exam is not an insult to anyone who has 20 years of expericence - if you have, it should be a non issue for you to pass. For those concerned about "all of the above" or "none of the above" questions - those types of questions are not permited in the format of our CASTLE credentialling examination. Having served as an item writer for the test, I would like to give you all the real facts that the test is Comprehensive at an "entry level" - yes, topics can include PMA Scope of Ethics and anatomy - as they should, but as the Study Guide clearly delineates - there is also historical information and a full spectrum of "traditional" work on all apparatus. The test taker is required to know how to use the apparatus not only mechanically but with clients in varied situations.

The reality is that anyone who has not gone through a formidable "Assessment Based Certificate" Program would not be able to pass the test with the Study Guide alone. If some of you think it's a joke - the test was not intended to challenge the Master level instructor. It was created to ensure that the mat only and reformer only instructors would not be able to sit for or pass the exam. That fact should be relevant in clearly showing the validity and necessity of the PMA. Where I come from, being PMA Certified legitimizes my PROFESSION. Pilates is a Profession, and until there is a Credential that is Nationally/Internationally recognized.....you can be the best and most saught after instructor in the universe but our Method is something undefined, illigitimate, and will remain misunderstood in the public eye.

If you all want to keep Joe's vision alive your support and open dialogue are a necessity. Your personal agendas are not.

December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCeleste Zopich