First Things First…
Which came first – The Chicken or The Egg? Well…this one is a conundrum. But what about in Pilates? Which cue first?
If you’re the sort of person who likes to teach Pilates, you’re probably a pretty detail oriented person. You enjoy the challenge of coordinating many different and intricate actions in the attempt to balance your own body and mind…and then have the ability to see the imbalances in your clients…and want to “fix” them. You love this so much that you almost see the errors of movement more than you see what’s working well…and just want to teach your clients everything that you know so that they can be “fixed”.
You are a good person! You want to help. You have a good eye and want to use it. You cue the shoulders, the ribs, the abdominals, the hips, the length, the breath, the everything.
However…we have to make sure that we’re really doing our clients a great service. And that means prioritizing. First things first. Literally. First…get your clients moving in the shape of the exercise. Next…cue only what’s necessary.
But what’s necessary? Isn’t everything necessary? Don’t we need to breathe, stabilize, lengthen, etc.?
No. (Said like the true Brooklyn-ite that I am…thank you for your enduring patience with my bluntness.)
We need to move our clients, first and foremost and then…what do you cue? Well, we have cues of stability and cues of precision. We need to cue the most important things first, make sure they can accept/utilize/do that action before we go and cue something else…the next most important thing.
Stability cues are those that encourage balance and steadiness of a joint by strengthening the muscles that surround the joint. Cues for the abdominals, shoulder girdle, midline of legs (or other limbs), opposition, squaring of the box, etc.
Pull you abdominals in and up to lift your lower spine.
Open your collarbones.
Hug your heals to work your inner thighs.
Reach your sitbones forward and your abominals and lower spine back.
Precision cues are those that make the exercise look more ideal…the placement of body parts.
Curl your chest up higher to the tips of your shoulder blades.
Reach your legs lower to the middle of the wall.
Pump your arms bigger…4 to 6 inches above your abdominal wall.
While everything is important…not everything is important right now. Your job as a teacher and what makes a big determination on how your client physically and emotionally progresses is what you choose to cue and how much effort you put into making sure positive changes actually happen. You need to be specific, patient and repetitive.
You’ve got your client moving in the version of the exercise that is appropriate for her and then you cue…the abdominals and lower spine. “Pull your abdominals in and up to lift your lower spine.” Keep your client moving and working on the action of the exercise and this stabilization cue for the appointed number of repetitions and then move on. That’s it.
If your client can accomplish the action of the exercise and this stabilization lower spine through abdominal strength and opposition/length (because that is what the cue “Pull your abdominals in and up to lift your lower spine” does), then you might find that you can cue some precision. If your client is advanced enough, you might layer on another stabilization cue. “Might” is the operative word.
First things first: move your clients and get them into their abdominals to lift their lumbar spine.
Over time (and remember your clients are coming to you multiple times a week for a long time…or that’s what we hope), you will cue more and more because they will be able to do and coordinate more and more. Take your time.
It’s remarkable to me how many instructors don’t cue the abdominals…and don’t ensure that positive changes happen. It’s stunning how many cues of shoulders, ribs and everything else is going on, but abdominals are popping out and exercises are failing…because we really have to just focus on one thing at a time.
Now, again, I know you love precision and are really great at seeing all of the things that are “going wrong” in your clients’ bodies. You want to fix them all. Of course! But you have to shelve most of the troubles and just deal with the most important things first. Give your clients time to accomplish one thing at a time. See the shoulders, the ribs, the other stuff…and hold off until your client is really ready to coordinate several different actions at once. It really is a coordination. And it really is an accomplishment to do one thing at a time…and really well.
When we cue too many things at once, our clients can’t accomplish what we’re asking. We’re asking for too much. So, our clients get frustrated and feel diminished. We feel frustrated, too. We’re asking for too much.
Beginner clients just need to move, connect to abdominals, discover their back bodies and get used to the apparatus.
Intermediate clients must maintain what they learned as beginners…and build on it one stabilizer at a time.
Truly advanced clients get many, many cues of stability and precision, but even they need them in a layering manner. Cue one thing, then make sure they have done it…then cue another…make sure that happens, too.
Be patient and teach.
I just had a fantastic time in Istanbul teaching workshops at Pilates with Gerda. As we were working on exercises, participants would say, “but what about the shoulders?”, but what about the ribs”? And in all of my silly bluntness, I would say “I don’t care about the shoulders until her abdominals are in and up and she’s lifting her lower spine. I see the shoulders. I see the rest…but I have to make sure I take care of the most important parts first.”
I remember when I used to cue everything, too. Oh, boy, did I feel like a great teacher! It was how I was taught to teach. My clients were sooo impressed by how much I could see and how little they were aware! It was so delicious. Well…it’s not delicious. It’s too much. It was how I was taught to teach and I proudly did it well, but it didn’t actually help my clients all that much. They moved, they got stronger, but the results would have been so much greater if I had worked in the way I do now…in the way I am explaining. When we go with one stabilization action at a time and repeat it over and over again (of course with different words, different images, different hands-on, different apparatus) and ensure that they “get it”, accomplish it, can repeat it and apply to other activities in their lives and each new exercise…then we are really teaching our clients something and not just instructing. Big difference between teaching and instructing.
So…teach thematically. You’ve heard me say before because it’s important and works. First and foremost, make sure your clients are making an abdominal connection and create space in the lumbar spine. Make sure you do, too! Practice on yourself. 3 workouts a week where your one and only goal in every single exercise is to Draw Your Abdominals In and Up to Lift Your Lower Backbones. Then give the same thing to your clients. Every single exercise.
Then we can layer the next stabilizer on once that is a certain action…
What is the next stabilizer? It depends. We’ll discuss another time. First things first.
****Thank you for taking the time to read this post and continue your education in this way! If you have any questions, comments, etc…please drop me a note in the comment section. Then read below about workshops coming your way or sessions. Thank you, again!****
Joseph Pilates created somewhere between 500-600 exercises. You know some of the repertoire…it’s time to learn more. In this workshop, you will learn you rarely seen and immediately useful exercises on multiple apparatus (Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Standing Arm Springs) all created by Joseph Pilates. You’ll leave feeling confident in the purpose and technique of teach exercise, have time to do exercises, practice teaching and ask questions. You’ll walk away with your own special archive of exercises for your strong intermediate clients…and yourself!
CHICAGO – Body Endeavors/Chicago Pilates Collective
Sessions: Privates and Semi- Private Sessions
Contact Liv Berger for more information at LBERGER31@CS.COM
or call 312.202.0028
There are many more versions of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today. Variations, modification, combinations of multiple exercises in one! Fascinating, challenging and all the rest! These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago. They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need the modification or challenge! Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!
Semi Private Sessions
Creative Spine Corrector Workshop
The Spine Corrector is one of the most underused yet extremely versatle pieces of equipment designed by Mr. Pilates. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to transform your Spine Corrector into one of the most useful pieces of apparatus in your studio! You will learn how to do and teach an entire flowing workout/ session on the Spine Corrector as well as how to use just a handful of exercises to enhance a full workout. With over 40 exercises, there’s a lot to work on and discover. You will also learn how to organize the exercises, how to position the clients on the apparatus and where to be spot and cue the exercises as the teacher. It’s surprising how special and important you’ll find the Spine Corrector.
Dates, times and rates coming soon!
Go to www.RhinebeckPilates.com for more informaiton
NYC – Re:AB
Enhance Your Teaching Skills – 2:30-4pm
(3PMA CECs pending)
The more you teach, the more you need. Great Pilates doesn’t come from more and more exercises. Mr. Pilates created a set number of exercises in the classical Pilates Method. We work within those exercises. Great Pilates is about digging deeper and deeper in to the physical understanding of the Pilates Method. In this workshop, Shari will teach you to see more of what you need to cue in your teaching. We cue precision and stabilization in layers. Develop your eye and your understanding. If you do this, you will always be able to challenge your students as well as yourself for a lifetime of Pilates!
To register, contact Emilie at Re:AB at 212.420.9111 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Boston, MA – Atelier Pilates (Somerville, MA)
Though it’s not set in stone, yet…it looks like we’re planning for the following:
All workshops will have PMA CECs…information to follow soon!
Workshops in Your Studio:
If you are interested in my teaching workshops and/or semi-private sessions for your teachers at your studio, please contact me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com I’ll be thrilled to put together a program with you for your needs!
While my vocabulary is classical Pilates, the principles behind my teaching and workshops apply to every style of Pilates.
We have countless topics to play with within technique workshops of classical Pilates and teaching skills workshop that apply to all!
If you’re in NYC and want a Pilates session e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com
And I’m at Purchase College (Near White Plains/Westchester, NY) on Thursdays.
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!
If you’d like to set up a meeting on the phone or in person to ask questions about teaching or building/maintaining your business, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com
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