The success of a Pilates instructor is strongly linked to their ability to communicate with their clients. An integral part of teaching Pilates is in the use of visualisation to convey movement, positions and alignment. Visualisation is an incredibly powerful tool in helping to create the mindful movement required to reap fully the incredible benefits of Pilates. Visualisation can either be direct- anatomical or biomechanical cues or indirect- metaphysical cues. Both types of visualisation create a strong link between the mind and body but need careful consideration.
Some clients do not connect to cues such as the pelvis as a clock or bucket, it can cause them to disengage or alienate them. On the other hand , should our cues be scientific, anatomical terms such as transversus abdominus, glutes, thoracic spine? It is essential that as an instructor we need a thorough, in-depth understanding of anatomy but is it really necessary for our clients?
The importance of good cueing is especially evident in group sessions where many clients may not have the knowledge or indeed the interest in learning the anatomical language required to fully understand these visualisations.
As instructors we develop our own repertoire and style of visualisations which work for us and our clients but we should always be aware of the effectiveness of these cues.
Many exercises begin with the instructor cueing activation of the core, our postural muscles. But it it is important to consider the fact that we do not have conscious control of these muscles- they are controlled sub-consciously by our nervous system in anticipation of movement. Most of these postural muscles work at a sub-threshold state so actively cueing them can interfere with their function in organising the spinal segments and actually cause accessory muscles to contract. As you are reading this you are naturally holding your head up, you do not need to think about it. So how do we overcome this?
The answer lies in cueing the bony landmarks such as hip bones, sit bones, pelvis and so on. Often these landmarks are used to set up positions, anchor the sit bones, hip bones in line with pubic bone, but take this a stage further and use them to cue the movement itself.
For example, let’s take the Roll Up at a low level.
Can you feel how the deep postural muscles activate naturally with the movement? Why not try to teach your next session without cueing muscle activation using bony landmarks only? I would love to hear if you found improved movement and some new visualisations.
Image from www.67notout.com