Flow, rushing, pacing…what’s it all about?

October 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm 14 comments

Cog and Wheel Flow

A colleague wrote in asking our community for assistance on a question a client asked him.  Great stuff!  Here’s what he wrote:

“So a client asked me a direct question today!

Direct questions give so much away, tells you so much more about whats going on, but the best bit is, she made me think, and I have thunk, and now I am here!

Me; Try not to rush! (or “don’t” rush through it) she’s always in a rush, but I love that energy, its precious!
Me; Try to flow through it (or “do” take a little more time) she just can’t wait to finish the race, and I can’t take that zing away from her!

30 mins in she say’s “Whats the difference between rushing and Flow”?
Now I know the difference, In me, I can see it in her, but I don’t think I answered her properly, and we were busy in her session!

Its a simple question, and the answer could probably be discovered by her in time, but shouldn’t I have been able to answer then? irrespective of her knowledge and maturity in pilates!

I couldn’t and may still not be able to put it into context for her!”

I’m glad that he’s asked about this…and is thinking about it!  It’ important for us to be able to understand what we say and why we say it.  If a client is going to trust us and follow us, we ought to be able to really understand everything that we’re saying and asking of them.  It’s  a process.  Staying present and understanding beyond the action but deeper into the whys and wherefores.

Flow (in Pilates) is continuous movement.  The connection of one move into the next, one repetition into the next, one exercise into the next.
Flowing movement has rhythm.  That rhythm is set by the teacher’s voice.  What rhythms do we use?  Mr. Pilates’ rhythms.  He had a set rhythm to every exercise (this is why we don’t use music in classical Pilates.  The rhythms of outside music would conflict with the rhythms of the exercises.  Perhaps some would be congruous, but most would be incongruous.)

Tempo is speed.  The tempo or speed of an exercise can be fast or slow or somewhere in between.  They rhythms remain the same, but the speed can be altered to either challenge or assist the body or the mind.

So, we can have fast flow or slow flow.  As long as it’s continuous movement, it’s all flow.  Flow is continuous movement.  That’s all.

If your client is racing through an exercise or is lagging behind, they are not keeping up with the rhythm or perhaps the tempo that you were desiring.  We have to ask the following questions:
1 – Did I set a strong rhythm and tempo?  And do I maintain that tempo long enough for my client to pick it up?
2 – Have I taught my client to follow the rhythms and tempos that I’ve created?
3 – Have I done 1 and 2, but my client is not focused enough to pick it up?

If the trouble lies in 1 and 2, then you have take a look at your style of teaching and make sure you are commanding your class/session in the flow department with rhythms that you set verbally/vocally.  If the trouble is 3, then you have to notice that your client is not doing a mind/body workout.  S/he is stuck in body only and not connecting mentally.

How do you take care of 1 and 2…come to my Flow and Rhythm workshops.

How do you take care of 3?  Kindly, you have to teach your client that concentration is an important part of Pilates.  To get the full-value of the Pilates workout, it’s important to make  a mind/body connection.  S/he will benefit more at actually get whatever s/he wanted to get from Pilates if s/he works to focus and stay present.  The rhythms and tempos are important.  Encourage your client to listen strongly for your rhythms and tempos and coordinate the movement with them.  Also, encourage your client to use this hour to put outside cares aside.  The time spent in the Pilates studio focused only on this method will help align all that is going on in the outside world, too, but not by thinking about it while s/he’s working out.  Instead, let it go for the hour and return to it refreshed afterwards.

Now, I wonder if the confusion from our colleague comes in from the Power Pilates technique of teaching Technique Flow Cue.  It’s a great formula, but many teachers get confused and most do not clarify.  “Flow” is a teaching component.  A useful tool for teaching your client.  There are other useful tools like hands-on touch, spotting, cueing, etc.  Being able to use your voice to create a sense of continuous movement is a tool.  In the formula laid out by Power Pilates, Flow is also the key factor to teaching repetition #2 of any new exercise to a client.  What that means is that you focus on the rhythm, tempo and accents of that exercise on the 2nd repetition, in the attempt for the client to have continuous motion.

So…what to share with this client?  Some exercises are fast, some are slow.  All exercises have a set rhythm.  I pick the tempo/speed.  It’s my job to give you that rhythm and tempo clearly, your job to follow it.  When you rush, you are usually going faster than the set tempo and losing precision.  It’s absolutely possible to be fast and precise; however, you’re losing your precision and therefor some of the benefit.  It’s a partnership between teacher and client…a dance together in a way.

I hope this helps!

Please let me know if this sparks any questions, positive changes in your teaching, challenges in your teaching, etc.
Thank you for taking the time to read and continue your education in this way!

If you’re in NYC and want a Pilates session e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com

If you’d like a workshop and/or semi-privates at your studio, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com  I travel all over the world and would be thrilled to come to you!

In fact, I’m at
ALL Wellness in Burlington, VT – Oct. 16,
Pilates Internacionale  Barcelona, SPAIN – Nov. 5-7,
Pilates on Fifth, NYC – Nov. 13

If you’d like to set up a meeting on the phone or in person to ask questions about the teaching or building your business, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com

Enjoy!- Shari




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Purpose and Legacy Pilates Teachers, what do you need?

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alex  |  October 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    You get stuff so quick it’s scary, its quite erm, intimidating! Or maybe you just worked your arse off to understand! I don’t care, its hugely helpfull.
    I now have more pieces of the puzzle to help me teach this client, and that is where I believed I was at a loss and failing her.

    I had mis-understood flow & tempo, that is going to help massively in the teaching. Its not as bad as it sounds, her sessions are a reflection of her life, we talk about this, and I try to compare with what she finds familiar.

    I talked to her about staying with me for 55mins only, thats all I want, sounds terrible written down! Her reply “belive me you get more than most” so I know she is, I can’t ask for more.

    She does eventing, she say’s “cross country is my thing, bang and I’m off, at my level I can get away with the show jumping, just going for it, trouble is the dressage lets me down”!

    Then she asked a simple little question, which cracked it all wide open, I now have a place to take her, that I am looking forward to, teaching this woman is so like a dance, I only just realised that!

    Again Shari, you owe me another one, I am just a vessel for you to shine through…;)


  • 2. John Steel  |  October 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Right on!!. Joe had very definite flow between exercises, and in his near inimitable way, very specific ways to move off and on the appartus, and adjust it. Frequent “corrections” for activities between exercises, all to keep the flow even. Took huge concentration because he was usually watching from a distance. And to this day, 45 years later, still rmostly remember how to do it.


  • 3. paco florido  |  November 6, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    gracias por abrir una nueva perspectiva a la vida en la práctica del método.

    • 4. theverticalworkshop  |  November 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm

      ¡Hola, Paco!

      ¡gracias por leer el blog y comentar!

      Siento que yo no hable español bien. ¡Espero que lo que escribo tengo sentido! ¡Gracias por su paciencia!

      – Shari

  • 5. Fernanda Millions  |  February 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I have a client that is so concetrate, that seems she is analizing everything, and in the place of moving she just get stuck. I tried to get her moving, just following my voice, she asked me about the mind/ body connection… and I told her first to learn the motion and avoid to racionalized it, the mind part should just “listening ” the sensations of the body
    It was the way I tried to get her flowing without tension…
    Perhaps all depends on the persolality of the client and how he/she trust on you…

    • 6. theverticalworkshop  |  February 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      Yes, indeed, Fernanda, some people are so very cerebral…they cannot allow themselves to be physical…and release. While Pilates is a mind-body experience, it has to be physicalized and not intellectualized by the client. So, we have to do whatever we can to ween them off of intellectualization. Giving a little bit of information about what and why is good to satisfy their addiction to over-thinking, but keeping that through-line of movement and workout is most important. Your way of asking your client to listen to his/her body’s sensations seems very effective!

      Thank you, Fernanda for your helpful thoughts! And thank you for taking the time to read this blog and write!

      I hope to hear from you in the future!

      – Shari

      • 7. Fernanda Millions  |  February 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm

        Thank you so much, to be there. Don´t worry, I have so many questions …. sure you will hear from me soon

      • 8. theverticalworkshop  |  March 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

        I’m so pleased! Questions are a really important part of being a good teacher! That means you’re a critical thinker and not just a robot! Wonderful!!! I look forward to hearing from you!

        – Shari

  • […] Flow, rushing, pacing…what’s it all about?2010/10/07 […]

  • 10. James  |  August 24, 2011 at 5:12 am

    Flow – not wasting time. Rush – squashing time.

    I tell my clients that flow is “never rushing, never resting” (originally a description of Anna Karenina´s tedious husband, Alexis).

    You do what you are doing then you do the next thing, always in the moment.

    Just discovered your blog and love it

    • 11. theverticalworkshop  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Hello, James,
      Thank you for reading this blog and sharing your thoughts! I appreciate your participation…and a good solid Anna Karenina reference! Nicely done!
      I hope to see you here again!
      All the best,
      – Shari

  • […] Flow, rushing, pacing…what’s it all about?2010/10/07 […]

  • 13. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    […] Flow, rushing, pacing…what’s it all about?2010/10/07 […]

  • 14. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    […] Flow, rushing, pacing…what’s it all about?2010/10/07 […]


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