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The Art of Pilates Cueing
Effective cueing can make the difference between a great Pilates session and a mediocre one. In a Pilates class, where body awareness and proper technique are crucial, good cueing skills is essential. Here, Devra Swiger, owner of Ab-Solutely Pilates in Huntington Beach, California, shares her tips on clear cueing.
The goal in teaching Pilates is to communicate with the clients or class so they understand just how they need to move. Carefully chosen words can often convey the quality of movement you’re looking for. For instance, “lift your head off the ground for The Hundred” just doesn’t have the same feel as “float your head off the ground.” Clients immediately respond to small changes in vocabularly like these. When a cue works, the client responds and your job as teacher gets easier.
I’m a linguist by education, so selecting and using just the right word has always been important to me. I could debate the value of using one word over another for hours on end. This obsession with language has evolved into my concern with proper cueing skills. I always feel a lot better about my classes and client sessions when I have successfully communicated via concise, clear cues.
I break cues into four categories:
Directional cues: Use the facility to orient the client. For example, ask students to circle the leg towards the clock or away from the stereo, lengthen the leg towards the ceiling or reach the pinky finger towards Main Street. Instead of simply saying Left and Right (and you’d be amazed at how many people don’t know the difference) use reference points both inside and outside the studio.
Anatomical cues: Stick with what people know. Few clients know where their anterior serratus is, but everyone can relate to abs, arms and legs. As clients become more familiar with Pilates lingo and more aware of their body, it’s okay to introduce more technical terms. However, use them sparingly. A few examples of effective anatomical cues: Feel space between each vertebra; soften through the sternum; or feel the ribs pull gently together.
Analogous cues: These are the fun cues and require a bit more creativity. I find that these are the cues that really seem to be effective. For example, when teaching neutral spine I ask students to imagine a glass of wine balancing on a very expensive white silk shirt to remind them to stabilize the pelvis. This cue works because clients can relate to it—who wants to stain a perfectly good shirt? In Short Box with a round back I suggest a softball in the belly to reminding clients to scoop. In Short Box with a straight back I tell clients to imagine they are wrapped in mummy tape to prevent the ribs from poking out.
Sound cues: Clicks of the tongue, snapping of the fingers or whooshing noises can be used to create a sense of flow in the class. This particular way of cueing is not as easy to describe in writing, but it adds a nice ele...
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