Clarity in Pilates Cues Sets You Up for Success
Lately I am having a lot of discussions about language and Pilates cues. Pilates teachers are asking me how to cue the spine, and clients are sharing with me how confusing they often find other teacher's cuing.
Verbal Cues Should be Clear
Communication is always best when it is clear, short, and to the point. For example, say I am teaching someone to squat. Once they are set up standing with feet at hip width or a little wider with a bench or chair behind them, I say, "You are going to sit down on a bench, which is behind you. All I ask is that you keep your heels down and that you don't move your spine. Just sit down and stand right back up."
Then I move the bench away. "Now, pretend the bench is there and do the same thing. Go to sit, and then stand right back up. Spine doesn't move." Now I can layer in breathing if necessary, I can introduce weights, and/or different leg positions.
Note that at no point did I discuss "differentiated movement at the hips" or "pressing your abs into your back" or even knee alignment. I didn't have to, because the original cues were clear and simple.
Because We Work With the Spine, Pilates Cues Should be Super Clear!
Most people, myself included, tend to compress their spines to stabilize. We push the lower back down, shove our shoulder blades together, tuck the pelvis, and wonder why everything is so hard!
I find that spine cuing can be easy if we just remember that in everything we do, we want to lengthen and decompress the spine. No matter where we are, in any position, we want a heavy sacrum and a long, lifted spine. I always say, "The trajectory of your spine from the sacrum should always be forward and up towards your skull!" Shoving the spine down is the exact opposite of what we want it to do.
This is how we maintain length without compression, which is a hallmark of Pilates. And yes, this concept works for flexion, extension, side-bending, and rotation!
How does cuing effect your workout? If you teach, how do your Pilates cues effect your clients' workout?
Hear some of my cues for pelvic stability in Pilates in this video: