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instructor of the month

Joakim Valsinger

July 2019


My studio, Bälans Pilates is in Scone just outside Perth in Scotland. Although the building looks like an oversize portacabin from the outside, it is truly lovely on the inside, with Scandinavian design, including a driftwood wall. The whole business is so lovely, in fact, that in 2018 we won the best fitness business in Scotland. Bälans is where I teach classes and private clients, but in the last three years I have also started travelling to present at Pilates conferences and Retreats. 

Your teaching tips

Teach the body in front of you.  Pilates is a wonderful Method, broad ranging and accessible as well as challenging, and it should be used and modified to suit the person you are working with.  Creativity, experience and understanding of good movement will allow you to tailor the experience to the individual client.  The exercises should fit the client and their personal needs today, instead of making the client fit into a rigid set of movements just because there is a list of exercises to be done.

Favourite Exercise and reason why?

Snake and Twist on the Reformer

This exercise is challenging on several levels, and although I have the upper body strength to hold my own bodyweight on my arms, trying to apply spiralling twists, flexibility, breath control and flowing movements at the same time makes it a very interesting movement for me.  I find it is a great example of how all aspects of fitness are drawn together by Pilates and I enjoy visiting the Snake and Twist once in a while to check on any changes I’ve achieved.

tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in the industry

Prior to setting up Bälans Pilates studio in 2005 I was a Personal Trainer and Sports Therapist.  I came to the UK in 1998 to work as a Beach Lifeguard just after I had earned my Green Beret with the 1st Commando Regiment, part of the Australian Army Reserve.  When I moved here, I continued to work with the British Reserves and became a Physical Training Instructor, later working for British Military Fitness.  As a Sports therapist it dawned on me that most of my clients would be able to improve their capacity if they did Pilates, so I undertook training with the Pilates Foundation and finally qualified as a Pilates Teacher through Body Control Pilates.

In 2014 I was awarded the Spirit of Flame at the UK Active Awards ceremony where the best and the brightest in the Fitness Industry are recognised for their efforts.  Amazingly, I pipped some very worthy candidates from some of the biggest gyms all over the UK in the category which applauds individuals for going ‘above and beyond’ with the aim of getting more people more active more often.

I later gained Level 4 Lower Back Pain Specialist Pilates accreditation with REPs, before going on to test and hone my skills under the watchful eye of Lolita San Miguel when I undertook her Pilates Master Mentor Program (PMMP) in 2015. Lolita is one of the 1st Generation Pilates Elders, having trained and been certified by Joseph Pilates himself in New York City in the 1960s.  The qualification I gained from her makes me a 2nd Generation Pilates Teacher.  At the end of the PMMP I was invited to attend further training to become an Educator for her Comprehensive Pilates Teacher Training Course – Lolita’s Legacy™.

We now run Lolita’s Legacy™ courses at Bälans, nurturing the next generation of Comprehensive Pilates Teachers.

Pilates for the Military was the title of my Thesis during the PMMP.  It was a project which produced an increase in the Fitness Test scores of participants (currently serving Military personnel) by an average of 39%.  The Military are keen to see tangible results, and the process I explored with Pilates for the Military can be easily transferred to any walk of life where clients are looking for results. 

I have presented this topic and several others at the Pilates Heritage Congress in Mönchengladbach – Joseph Pilates’ hometown and have done the same in Switzerland, Puerto Rico and Brazil.  I present regularly at the Pilates Gathering in Edinburgh; Pilates Festival in Dunblane.  Internationally, I have presented in New York City as part of the Pilates Day Celebrations, as well as at AzulFit on Fuerte Ventura.  This year I am presenting at the Pilates Method Alliance Conference in California The PMA is the largest Pilates Conference in the world.

Emma Newham came to Bälans in 2012 and ran a BarreConcept course.  I joined in for a laugh and was severely bitten by the BarreConcept bug within minutes.  It was hard work, but great fun, and I was the first man in the world to qualify as a BarreConcept Instructor. I’m no ballet dancer, so my classes are not pretty, but they are brutal.

In 2018 I took the Pilates Method Alliance Certification Exam, and I am very proud of the PMA®CPT title as it is the most senior International Comprehensive Certification. Additionally, I now make regular trips overseas as a Fitness Instructor and guest Pilates Instructor. I have lead the Exercise Active Archipelago series on a remote island in Sweden, and taught at SunFit for British Military Fitness, and the beautiful AzulFit Pilates & Yoga Retreat, both on Fuerte Ventura.

Do you have a motto or mission statement?

Be Kind

Be kind to others - you never know the story which has shaped the person in front of you.  Everyone has done the best they can under their own circumstances.

Be kind to yourself - give yourself a break.  Accept where you are and move forward from here.  It is amazing to be here in the first place!

Be kind to the world - socially, economically, environmentally

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

During the last five years, I have found my niche in the Industry taking the Pilates for the Military to Units in the UK and USA, as well as presenting the project in Europe and across the Atlantic.  In the next five years, I hope to bring this to a wider audience and to show the results which can be achieved by regular Pilates training to engage populations which currently don’t believe the Method to have any value for them.

My life has changed a lot in the last five years, and I now have two beautiful children.  My son has a rare genetic condition called Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS) which at this stage of his life means he is hypotonic and has developmental delay.  Adapting Pilates exercises to his requirements has been a very good way for me to take a positive role in his development and has given him improved capacity.  In five years’ time, I’d hope to present at Medical or Special Needs conferences on the benefits of good movement, and at Pilates conferences about the ways in which we can help children with special needs gain access to Pilates practitioners like all of you.


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