How to Teach Group Classes in Small Spaces


A common dilemma I see when teachers select exercises for their classes is that they do not plan so that the students have room to move fully. Over the past 10+ years of working in San Francisco where space is always limited, I’ve taught in the tiniest spaces. Having spatial limitations just means that you need to consider the room and think strategically while planning for your class.

My favorite example of lack of spatial planning in a Pilates mat is arm circles. Picture a big class in a small space. The teacher instructs the students to go into arm circles which requires the students to use a full wing span, or about 2-3 feet on each side of each student. Everyone smashes into one another. The teacher either ignores the students’ issues or makes a negative comment about the space. The client must be thinking, “This teacher doesn’t know what will work” or “I’m going to find a bigger studio to take class.” Not a good scenario.

If you know you’re working with a small space, why advertise it and potentially highlight what clients might see as a negative? In this example, all the teacher needed to do was select arm scissors instead or doing arm circles with the fingertips on the shoulders like chicken wings. Easy peasy, problem solved.

Planning ahead is the key. Go through various scenarios in your head: if ten students show up I will remove exercise X and replace it with exercise Y.Experiment with alternating clients head to toe or stagger every other person’s facing.


Shorten the limb or lever length for an exercise so clients work with bent arms or legs positions. In some cases this will make the movement harder and in others easier, so be sure to test it out on yourself ahead of time.Get to class early and set-up the room. If you put the mats down, you’re more in control of their arrangement, distance between, and can maximize every inch of the room. If you set-up eight mats and only four people attend, no problem. Just remove the extras after you complete the warm-up. Waiting until the warm-up is complete will allow for late comers to join.Choose a prop and stick with it throughout class. Selecting one prop will minimize the number of objects on the floor. If you decide to use a prop, think about ways to use it throughout the class to minimize the time it will be laying on the floor.Plan into the class time to pick-up props. Say you decide to warm-up clients on the foam roller. Immediately after the foam roller exercises, plan an exercise that requires very little space per person, such as cat stretch or hip rolls. This is your opportunity to weave between clients and pick up all the foam rollers.In order to teach your best class in small spaces, all you need is a little forethought and planning!Keep your comments coming.

And as always, thank you so much for reading.

Until next time,



Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.