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Ask Jo


In response to all the questions I am asked, I thought it would be a good idea to create a page where you could browse and find answers to the most commonly ask questions. Please email me with any questions you may have at

Why and when would you use Pilates stance versus feet in parallel?

Pilates stance is a term we often hear in the industry and read in many Pilates books. It is often confused with a dancer's first position. Pilates stance is where the heels are together and the toes are apart in a slight turned out position. If performed correctly it helps to engage and stabilise the lower body by activating the buttocks, hips and front and back of the thighs.  Personally I use this as the "ultimate" final layer of an exercise, all the other jigsaw pieces need to be in place before I add this in. For example, the 100, I look for full and wide breathing, correct spinal curve, strong centre connection, strong arm movements, all before I add in the pilates stance. The other issue is that the stance should be constantly maintained throughout the move, many clients tend to just "hang out" in a slight turned out position rather than keeping a strong focus.

Parallel stance is a much more functional position I believe. The feet can either be sit bones apart or with in the inseam of the feet touching. Feet and knees are pointing forwards. This position really emphasises elongation and grounding. It encourages a strong midline connection which many clients lack. This would be my go to stance unless there was a specific reason why I would want to work in Pilates stance.

What is the difference between feet pointed and feet flexed in the Roll Up?

Flexed foot gives an excellent connection to the back line of the body and so increases stability, giving you a stronger base to articulate from. In flexion moves such as the roll up, it lets the whole body system know you are going to flex and therefore you flex better. Pointed feet enhances the front of the body and as the quads and hip flexors are already too dominant may create an incorrect movement pattern.

I have a couple of clients who are feeling it in their necks when they bring both legs to tabletop position (they are fine lifting single legs). Apart from propping up their heads, what other modifications could I make to alleviate this please?

So this could be due to the added load of lifting the legs pulling on the spine and causing them to tense through the neck and shoulders to anchor. There are a few strategies we could use:

  • Make sure the knees are in and not directly above the hip, bring them a little closer. This allows the lumbar spine to slightly flex and the abdominals to support the move more. It will also balance the "grippy hip flexors"
  • Make sure they exhale as they lift the legs and do it gradually to stop the upper body "snatching" to hold the load.
  • Lift one leg and then only lift the heel of the second leg as a prep to lifting the whole leg
  • Cue lifting the leg from the inner thigh rather than the front of the leg
  • Start the move with the knees pulled into the chest and then let them move out into the 100 position, rather than lifting from the floor.

How do I plan for a 121 compared to a group class?

121s have a very different dynamic to a group class. For my initial meeting of a 121 client, I tend to plan a session which uses all the spinal movements, hip movement and strength and pelvic stability. From my observations I would then plan a flexible, progressive programme. I would discuss the client’s goals to make sure that the sessions deliver what they want as well as what they need. A 121 can easily turn into a “chat” with some clients so I tend to really briefly outline the session at the beginning and say things like “Oh! We need to keep going to make sure we get to this great exercise at the end!” Flow can be on of the hardest things to bring to a 121 so I always pay close attention to my transitions, releases and stretches.