Posts tagged #Pilates Workshops

Don't Say the C Word!


I first recorded this webinar over 5 years ago in order to explain to teachers how cueing the core is ineffective, out-dated and detrimental to natural and spontaneous movement. In some Pilates training schools teaching core activation was and still is ingrained in the syllabus, clients are referred to us after being told to “strengthen” their core by medical professionals and core stability classes are taught in gyms and health clubs.

To really understand how this false interloper came to be so entrenched in the exercise and rehabilitation world, we need to look at where it came from and then consider the reasons why it should be banished and forgotten!

Please click on the link below to listen to “Don’t Say the C Word!” and I would love to hear your comments and thoughts.


The Myth of Core Stability Eyal Lederman

Posted on December 11, 2018 .

How to teach a beginner class to an experienced exerciser

Recently I have been asked by several Pilates instructors how to teach beginner Pilates classes to experienced exercisers without boring them to death! Often these clients are used to training at high levels of intensity and it can be difficult to strike a balance between encouraging precision, integrity of movement and technique and maintain suitable intensity, focus and interest. First and foremost we need to understand and recognise the needs and goals of the client- why are they attending the class?

Since September I have been teaching at the beautiful, newly opened Reformer studio, Akasha Wellness. Almost all of the clients are new to Reformer and are attending in order to increase strength, flexibility and to be challenged!After ensuring that there are no injuries or conditions that may impact on their exercise programme, I teach fairly demanding classes, designed to enhance their strength, mobility and flexibility. Although I constantly embed and cue correct movement and technique, I see the achievement of precision as on-going task which can take weeks, months even years to attain. Perfect movement is not something that can be taught in the first few classes and in attempting to "over-correct" and "over-talk" we can restrict natural movement and reduce the sense of well-being. We need to allow clients to make mistakes without fear of failure. This is how we learn. Giving time to make mistakes and self correct teaches increased body awareness and self-responsibility for ones own practice.

Both instructors and clients should acknowledge that to achieve results, Pilates requires dedication and commitment. As Joe Pilates stated, “PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour” It is a long-term, lifestyle choice giving you time to strive for and achieve precision, control and flow.

For JPilates Associates, this month's Class Plan is a Matwork plan for the beginner but experienced exerciser. Contact to request your copy.

Side note: We always need to have full understanding and knowledge of any injuries or conditions which may impact on exercise choice and intensity and seek medical consent if necessary.

You're hired! Top tips for success when auditioning for Pilates jobs.

alan-sugar-amstrad-and-the-apprenticeWith our Autumn Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Mat Pilates students due to sit their final assessments in a few weeks, we have been discussing the practicalities they will face once qualified and ready to launch themselves into our industry. One of the areas we have discussed is auditioning for jobs at Pilates studios-just what are studio owners looking for? Michelle Smith from the Pilates Pod, Hitchin has recently been interviewing for Pilates instructors to join their studio and here are her invaluable top tips!

  1. Arrive with at least 10 mins to spare. This will allow time for an introduction, to check out the studio, equipment and bodies participating. Arriving at the last minute or late makes me think you are unorganised and will be the same in the job. Saying “I didn’t have time to do that” just won’t cut it!
  2. Be confident but subtly so. We want to see you’ve got the confidence in your teaching, what you’re saying and having a good rapport with the bodies in the session and staff.
  3.  Be calm and prepared. Despite whatever stresses you’ve had in the day getting here, appear calm and in control. Plan your lesson in advance so you know what equipment you want, stay within the time limit and know what you want to get across.
  4. Treat the teaching as if it was a normal class. We want to see your style and personality, see you correct, modify and have fun  with the bodies in the session.
  5. Know your environment. What works for a gym style class with fitness adaptations, stretches and tone of language may not work for a  Pilates studio setting so remember to do your research in advance and plan accordingly.
  6. Swot up on the business you are applying for. The teaching part is one part but with a quick interview chat after we also want to see you know a bit about the company you are wanting to work for, and why you want to work for them.
  7. Impress us! This is your 15 minutes of fame so remember to show us the best bits about you and your teaching!

When looking for work at Pilates studios, I would strongly recommended offering to audition as often studios have cover lists.  Jo Webster from Akasha Wellness says "The key to a successful instructor audition is that they demonstrate a passion for Pilates, an ability to build a rapport with clients and a have a level of professionalism that will support the studio / brand"

So with all these fabulous tips success will be more or less guaranteed! Break a leg!

Pilates Pod are looking for instructors for full time positions and cover. For more information please contact

Just Love JPilates Associates!

I have to admit that JPilates Associates is the best thing I have ever created! The founding principle of JPilates has always been to constantly support and develop a friendly, vibrant Pilates teacher community where any question can be asked, any concept can be openly discussed and ideas can be shared so that we constantly learn and progress and creating JPilates Associates has completely fulfilled this.

One of the areas I most love in my work is creating new adaptations and variations of exercises and then choreographing classes to further inspire instructors. Being able to offer Instructor Only Classes and Daily Fixes to you means that I can help bring fresh ideas and also practically address any areas you wish specifically targeted such as Pre Natal Pilates. This month I am so excited to have added a slow motion video of The Boomerang so you can really analyse the different elements of this fantastically dynamic move.

Another really rewarding aspect for me is being able to have individual mentoring time with you. This can either be for your own personal development where we work on your Pilates practise or further developing, focusing and structuring your business and marketing plans and ideas.

The Associates Area ensures that you keep up with recent research and continual professional development through articles and updates. We also review books & DVDs for you to help expand and enhance your own Pilates library.

I love being a part of this amazing Pilates community and our Virtual Night’s Out have been so successful with us enjoying a glass (or two!) in the comfort of our own homes chatting about all things Pilates. I love to hear us being able to support each other and offer advice and experiences.

So thank you to everyone who is part of this special community!

For more information please click here

Music- To Play or Not To Play!

images-4If you ask a Pilates instructor if they use music in their classes the answer is often an emphatic "Yes!" or a shocked "No!" The question of whether music enhances or distracts during Pilates is often a hotly debated one. Some may argue that it distracts from  the precision of the exercises and  the search for the mind-body connection especially for those new to the method, whereas others believe that music can immediately create the calm ambiance and focus which can be hard to achieve initially.

Music causes  incredibly powerful and profound effects  involving several response mechanisms. These include:

  • The psychosocial response- the spiritual and psychological response we have to music
  • The cortical response- creates visualisation and imagery
  • The limbic response-how we react emotionally
  • The thalamic response-automatic body response to the rhythm of the music
  • The corporeal response-our physical reaction to the different sound vibrations.

In the light of these responses surely music would help deepen and enhance our mind-body connection, breathing and awareness?

Music should always create and support smooth movement sequencing, integration of breath and enhance inward focus. It should never intrude, detract or dominate the class.

MFP Logo (For Jo)Lisa Horner, the co-founder of Music for Pilates, definitely believes in the importance of music in Pilates.

"I personally love using music in my Pilates classes. I find it creates a calm relaxed atmosphere so clients can really focus on the areas that we are working on, giving them that whole mind-body experience that Pilates requires. As a teacher I also find it calms my soul which reflects in my voice helping the clients to work in a more intensified, slow, controlled rhythm. This is why it is so important to me to find that right music, which was surprisingly difficult and frustrating. I would find a lovely piece and then right in the middle a random squawk or screech from an unrecognisable animal or a deep boom from a Didjeridoo, shaking you and the clients out of your serene place. There is also that "small" problem of paying for a PPL licence or finding music that is licence free. My husband Perry, is an international song writer and music producer, so it only seemed natural to create our own licence free music, forming "Music for Pilates". We set to work tweaking the bits I knew would not work and testing in my own classes, until we found the balance of rhythm and calmness just right for Pilates."

Music can also be used to choreograph the movements. This is definitely for the more advanced student where the movements seamlessly flow through a choreographed sequence adding more challenge and enhancing the movement dynamics. The Pilates Instructor Only Class on 22nd November will be a fully choreographed class set to some beautiful tracks from Music For Pilates. To book your class please contact
As always I would love to hear your thoughts!

Why Dynamic Stretching is Perfect for Pilates

All Pilates movements require a good balance between strength, mobility and flexibility for correct execution, but due to postural issues some additional flexibility work is required to establish good functional length and movement. Every stretch is either static or dynamic and passive or active. Static-passive stretching is the most commonly used and most recognisable, where the muscle is gradually taken to a point of mild tension and maintained for a period of time, relaxing while outside assistance is used to aid the stretch, such as a strap, body resistance or another person.

Dynamic-active stretching is performed by moving through a comfortable yet challenging range of motion repeatedly whilst actively contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you are stretching. The movement should be smooth and controlled and requires more co-ordination but improves functional mobility in sport and daily activities.

Research has shown, Herda TJ et al (2008), that although static-passive stretches are beneficial, dynamic-active stretches are more functionally effective. Strength is being built while performing the stretches as muscular force is required to generate the stretch but they can be lower risk as no external force is being applied.  The stretches are movement orientated which can help generate heat making the muscles more pliable and as there is muscle activation and contraction present, muscles are triggered to relax more. As one of the original principles is Flow, dynamic-active stretching really compliments Pilates classes bringing fluidity to the stretches and releases.

Please click here for a short video of a dynamic-active hamstring stretch.

Breathing- Is It That Important?

diaphragm[1]A short while ago I was contacted by a highly experienced instructor who was concerned as a newly qualified instructor had attended one of her classes and at the end had said that teaching the breathing is very out dated and no longer important. To me this demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how important breath and the act of breathing was to Joseph Pilates and his work. The importance of breath in Pilates can be seen as far beyond the crucial role of respiration. It is the link between body, mind and spirit. It can promote awareness and attention, can enhance natural movement and aid relaxation. This relaxation or release of tension will then allow increased mobility and fluidity of movement.

Correct breathing patterns can enhance the connection between the deep abdominal muscles, pelvic floor and diaphragm, reversely if the diaphragm's movement is restricted, its can affect not only spinal stability and activation but also cause metabolic, respiratory and digestive issues. This can be apparent in clients with forward head posture where the phrenic nerve (the nerve that runs from C3-C5 and looks after the diaphragm) can become compressed and alter the neural feed to the diaphragm. If the diaphragm becomes inhibited it can mean less oxygen is reaching the body leading to a slower, weaker circulatory system which can cause dysfunction and complications.

The breathing patterns recorded by Joseph Pilates in "Return to Life Through Contrology" reflect how the breath enhances the movement patterns. Lateral, posterior breathing allows the lower ribs to remain mobile, so with the inhalation the ribcage expands upwards and laterally facilitating spinal extension. The opposite occurs with exhalation facilitating flexion. Joseph intuitively applied this to his instructions for movements such as Swan Dive and Double Leg Kick.

As Joseph stated, "Breathing is the first act of life, and the last... above all, learn to breathe correctly". When teaching, the breath forms the foundation to all the principles which are essential and integral to Pilates, it's importance should never be diminished.

Here's a short video showing an exercsie which can help to develop lateral, thoracic breathing.[youtube]

Sources:, ADAM

Posted on October 20, 2014 and filed under The Anatomy of Pilates.

The Amazing Pilates Reformer!

Pilates.I recently have started teaching weekly Reformer classes at the beautiful Akasha Wellness Studio in Bishops Stortford. Each class I teach reinforces the absolute elegance and grace of the Reformer repertoire. We all know the fantastic benefits of Pilates including flat abdominals, strong  back, long, lean muscles, flexibility, overall body conditioning and injury prevention and there is no piece of Pilates equipment more cleverly designed to deliver and enhance these benefits than the Pilates Reformer.

The Reformer is one of the most recognisable pieces of Studio equipment and holds an excellent reputation for producing amazing results.  One of the many advantages is the fact it's raised above ground level, therefore providing the instructor with an excellent vantage point to observe and correct alignment and technique. Invented by Joseph Pilates, it consists of a series of springs, straps, pulleys and a gliding platform, the machine offers a versatile, impact free workout that enables the client to perform resistance exercises whilst lying down, sitting, kneeling or standing.

It is because of the versatility of the Reformer that the whole body can be dynamically trained in so many varied and different ways. There are literally hundreds of exercises to enhance strength, length, mobility, flexibility and balance. You will work your whole body from head to toe in challenging workouts that promote natural body movement and alignment.

Oh yes! Every week I feel like a child in a sweet shop!

In the UK more and more Matwork instructors are further enhancing and developing their training by certifying in the Studio Equipment and in 2015 we have added Equipment specific workshops and more Reformer training dates to our calendar

For full details about our Reformer Training visit

8 Steps To Keep Your Pilates Classes Bone Healthy!

As Pilates instructors it can be daunting to work with a client suffering from Osteoporosis or Osteopenia especially in a group setting. With 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 at risk from an osteoporotic fracture in the UK1, we need to carefully consider the exercises and modifications we teach. The main contraindication is spinal flexion due to the high concentration of trabecular bone (honeycomb like) in the bodies of the vertebrae and with over 75% of the Mat repertoire performed in flexion, we can sometimes feel very restricted and apprehensive about what we teach.

One of the main goals of the Pilates for Bone Health workshop was to put a positive spin on working with clients suffering or at risk from Osteoporosis, to focus on what can be added to sessions rather than what needs to be omitted and to encourage bone health throughout our classes.

Every time we exercise muscles, tendons and ligaments are pulling on the bones and the bone responds, stimulating bone formation and retention of calcium at the sites bearing the load. So in our sessions we need to promote,

  • Weight bearing exercises- standing, on all fours

  • Resistance- using bands, Pilates circles, weighted balls

  • Impact

Pilates is an excellent exercise system for those with Osteoporosis or low bone mass so keep your sessions bone healthy by following these 8 steps:

  1. Emphasise alignment throughout the sessions

  2. Focus on strengthening the back extensors and scapula stabilisers

  3. Promote dynamic stability

  4. Encourage spinal extension especially thoracic

  5. Strengthen site-specific areas- hips, spine, wrist

  6. Enhance joint mobility

  7. Challenge dynamic balance

  8. Include weight bearing exercises.

As always I would love your questions or comments.

For more information please contact or email


1.  Van Staa et al, 2001

Shoulders- please do not melt down!

shoulder tensionWhen I first trained in Pilates I remember being told to draw my shoulders back and down, to melt them down in a soft V and many other cues which were meant to encourage shoulder stability and correct alignment for those who carry their shoulders up by their ears. But does creating downward tension actually help elevate the upward tension in the upper back and neck? These cues also tend to encourage scapula depression which in turn tends to block thoracic mobility. Try this- begin to do The Spine Stretch, firstly draw your shoulders down in a V shape and then try to flex the spine. Can you feel how restricted you are? Does the movement feels very forced? You can also try this in Roll Down, Roll Up from seated and so on..

Then I attended a class with a wonderful instructor who cued "easy shoulders". Suddenly I could move so much more fluidly, with improved articulation and the movement felt completely different.

We can find so many other cues similar to this where the shoulders are encouraged to relax, to soften, to open outwards from the mid back. Even bringing the focus away from the shoulder and cue lengthening the neck, elongating the spine and having heavy elbows.

So now we are encouraging dynamic stability not rigidity of the scapula (this is the same for the pelvis-no fixing- but that is for another blog!) To explain further, as we lift our arms overhead the scapula should rotate upwards, the humerus should slightly depress and externally rotate (this is called scapulohumeral rhythm. If we try to fix or depress the scapula as we do this, we cause a huge amount of unnecessary tension and potential harm. Again try it- raise one arm up focusing on keeping the shoulders relaxed and feel the fluidity of movement then try it again with scapula depression-ouch!

Mark Leyland explains the biomechanics of motion in more detail in his fantastic article The Pilates Shoulder

So over the next few classes try some cues to relax your shoulders- stop drawing them down and let them go! Free your shoulders!

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback as always!

Pilates Instructor Dilemmas-What Would You Do?

dilemma 2Over the past few weeks I have had some very interesting conversations with Pilates teachers and other exercise professionals. There appears to be a common theme of reflection and introspection of teaching styles and beliefs, of evaluating businesses and class structures. One conversation was with an instructor who had been working freelance for a Pilates studio for quite some time and who had been told to change their teaching style. The owner has asked for a more "Go for the Burn" style class whereas the instructor strongly believes in balancing attention to technique with fluidity of movement and allowing adaptation dependent on client needs.  I can understand both sides as the studio owner clearly knows the type of client they wish to attract and the style of classes they wish to deliver whereas the instructor's beliefs are an integral part of their teaching style and identity. So what would you advise? I believe there needs to be a balance of respect between the two parties but ultimately as an instructor you need to be fully committed and passionate about your method of teaching otherwise it shows!

Several other conversations evolved around how a very popular, established class can suddenly drop to very low numbers. For the instructor this can be really demoralising and can lead to self-doubt. But so often clients do not attend for some many reasons outside of our control especially at this busy time of year. So what would you advise? On further analysing the reasons why we realised that the term itself was 8 weeks long and for these clients it was too much commitment at this time of year. One solution was in offering a 4 week block which has now filled the class and another was to offer a "pay-as-you-go" term which has been also very successful. This demonstrates that even though we prefer a certain payment structure we may need to be flexible. Again balance is the answer.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these dilemmas and remember JPilates has a fantastic closed Facebook forum where you can discuss, share experiences and ask questions in a supportive and friendly group. Please just click here and request to join. Also always feel free to contact me with any questions at

Posted on November 19, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Pilates Studio in a Bag

Are you looking for some inspiration and fresh ideas for your classes? Would you like to expand your existing repertoire and explore the Studio Equipment exercises but find that you just don’t have the time, space or finances for a Reformer or Cadillac?

Did you know that we can fit a whole Studio in a Bag?!

The Studio in a Bag Workshop explores classic exercises from the Equipment repertoire demonstrating how with small equipment e.g. foam rollers, mini ball, dynabands etc. you can incorporate these moves in your Matwork classes adding further variety and intensity.

Get a feel for the workshop with this short video: [youtube]

Contact us at for further information.

Great feedback, from one of our lovely Instructors:

"Fantastic day! SO many ideas to take away to use with the small equipment already in my kit bag. This was the day that got me thinking about the value of equipment training even for a matwork teacher!!" Michelle Ormrod, Pilates Instructor

Shhhh! Don't Mention The Pelvic Floor!

shhhAs Pilates instructors we understand the importance of teaching correct activation of the pelvic floor muscles to our clients. We know that the pelvic floor musclesare an essential part of spinal stability, working interdependently with the other trunk stabilisers (Sapsford 2033). Yet in spite of its fundamental importance in spinal health, posture and every day functions there can be a tendency to be vague about how exactly to activate the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is shrouded in mystery, for some it can be embarrassing, for others non-existent and not only for our clients but for ourselves as well. Surrounded by women in a group session, does the one man really want to be told to "draw up his testicles?" Also if we can not feel or see the muscles working it seems to be a blind act of faith to just believe it's working whilst quietly questioning " Am I doing this right?" So how can we effectively activate and train the pelvic floor whilst sparing the blushes? The answer could be in changing our cueing from isometric contractions to dynamic training, by using myofascial tracks and the co-contraction with the diaphragm.Try these examples and see if you feel the pelvic floor activate.

  • When standing, lift up the inner arches of the feet.
  • Before lifting into the 100 imagine squeezing a small ball between the knees without reducing the space.
  • In the Shoulder Bridge hover the heels off the floor.
  • On exhalation sound gently sound "HHHHHHHH"

More ways of cueing the pelvic floor through dynamic movement will be explored on the Pilates-The Next Step workshop. For more information on our courses and workshops please visit or contact us at

References: The Female Pelvis Blandine Calais-Germain Pelvic Power Eric Franklin                                                                                                 Image form